Braid, half-up or chignon? Vintage-style curls or smooth waves? Wreaths, tiaras, hair pins or leaf crowns? And you thought choosing the groom was the hardest wedding-related decision you’d have to make. 

There’s more to wedding hair than meets the … follicle. You want it to feel authentic to you. But you probably want it to be a cut above your day-to-day style. And you want to be able to dance. (Sweaty hair is no fun for any bride.) 

Longtime wedding hair stylist Susie Ruckstuhl Mcnair has styled hair in every imaginable way. 

“Every bride is different. I usually ask them to go through Pinterest to see what styles they like,” she said. “Almost every bride has a vision in their head when they walk in for their hair trial.”

The trial is a great time to experiment with styles and make sure you are happy with your hair before the big day. Susie recommends using the trial as a time to see how your hair will look exactly on the wedding day — so bring any hair pieces you want to wear, and wait until your hair is around the length it’ll be for the wedding. 

“I try to work with the bride so we can create something together, so they get exactly what they want,” she said. 

It takes work and intention to make hair look natural. Many brides are opting for rustic, natural, romantic and messy looks, inspired in part by Meghan Markle’s messy bun style for her wedding.

“On the day of, my hair stylist had the brilliant idea of weaving leftover flowers and sprigs from the floral arrangements into my hair, which made the style look unique and kind of rustic but in a classy way,” said Leigh Shapiro, a D.C. resident who got married in 2018 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. “I was so happy with how my hair turned out.” 

Keeping the hair in place for the entire day (and night) is a primary concern for many brides. 

“When I thought about how I wanted my hair to be for my wedding I knew I wanted to set it and forget it,” says Jackie Black, a D.C.-based bride. “To me, this meant having my hair up so that I don’t have to worry about the wind blowing it around or getting too hot while I’m dancing.”

Shapiro says her biggest concern was figuring out a low bun style that wouldn’t start to look messy the second she hit the dance floor. 

“I was very conscious of the fact that a chunk of sweaty hair stuck to my forehead could ruin an otherwise beautiful professional photo, so I definitely wanted to make sure my stylist and I had a plan to keep my hair in place all night. My hair didn’t budge throughout the ceremony, a vigorous horah and the four hours of dancing that followed.” 

Photogenic hairstyles are important to many brides. The wedding may be one day, but the photos last a lifetime. 

“The style is important because I still want to look like me, but I also want it to look good for pictures, and be somewhat classic and timeless, rather than uber trendy,” said Black.

Your wedding is not the time to experiment with totally new hair lengths and colors. Mcnair, who has been written up in glossy magazines for her wedding work, says the week of the wedding is not the time to change things up. 

“My wedding hairdo was basically a glam version of how I wear my hair every day — half up, half down, with soft waves,” said Dana Bloom. “I wanted to look like me.”

Mcnair has seen everything in the bridal suite while the bridal party gets ready for the big day She loves when the bridesmaids sing and dance around the room, celebrating the bride. 

Wedding hair trends have changed dramatically over time, but some things — like the veil — are timeless.

Bloom said she didn’t always want to wear a veil, but she is glad she did. “I really loved the way it looked in pictures and I’m planning to lend it to family members who get married in the future so it can be their something borrowed,” she says. 

For Mcnair, the best moment comes after she’s put her finishing touches on the bride’s hair. 

“When the bride’s hair and make-up are finished, I often stand on a chair to put on the veil and any hair piece. Everyone in the bridal suite is standing around taking pictures. I feel like that moment is really special privilege for me.” 

Now, it’s time for the bride to get married. Mazel tov! JN

Anna Lippe is a Washington, D.C., area writer.

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