I got married four weeks ago—these are the 6 wedding beauty risks I took that *really* paid off

Brides to be: read this now

Shannon Lawlor having her wedding beauty and make-up done
(Image credit: Shannon Lawlor)

Today, I learned about a new trend from a Gen-Z colleague—anti-bride. When I got married just four weeks ago, I had never heard of this term, but I think if I had known about it, I might have labelled my wedding as anti-bride. Essentially, it refers to a trend towards non-traditional wedding ceremonies and parties. Mine was very much so—no big ceremony, just a party for me, my husband and 100 guests. We drank margaritas, ate pizza by the slice and danced the night away. All tradition was fully out of the window. One thing I wasn't prepared to strip back on? My wedding beauty routine. I knew what wedding hairstyle I wanted, what wedding-day fragrance I'd be opting for, and exactly the sort of bridal manicure I would choose.

And it makes sense that I had some very specific goals for my bridal look—I am a beauty editor, after all. But, at the end of the day, I simply wanted to look and feel like my very best self. With many years of writing about wedding beauty treatments under my belt, I felt as though I was very well equipped for this. And, actually, I was. I loved my entire look and absolutely adored the images I got out of it. How did I manage this? I took a whole load of risks—risks I wouldn't have advised anyone else take. But as a journalist who craves high-stake investigation, I rose to the challenge. So, here you go, the six wedding beauty risks I made that really paid off.

1. Avoiding bleach in the immediate run up

Shannon Lawlor wedding-day hair

(Image credit: Shannon Lawlor)

Everyone who saw me the week before my wedding had something to say about my roots. "When are you getting your bleach done?" they would ask. When I told them I wasn't, I received many words of concern. My game plan was clear from the get-go—have my final balayage appointment two months before the wedding. Of course, this makes room for regrowth and roots. However, instead of leaving it be or touching up the roots with bleach, I opted for a root smudge and tone the day before the ceremony.

Why? Well, for a few reasons. First of all, I really don't like the way fresh bleach looks. In my opinion, it always takes at least a week or two to settle and blend properly. Secondly, the idea of a straight-lined root, even just a millimetre, filled me with dread. Lastly, I wanted to make sure that my bleach was looking bright and vibrant.

So, while getting my hair done the day before the wedding might seem like a risk to some people, it wasn't to me—particularly because I had a no-bleach rule and that I trusted my stylists (Maxine Heale and Samuel Broadbent at Hershesons Fitzrovia, if you're wondering) implicitly. My bleach was toned, my roots were smudged and my ends were cut with perfect precision. It meant that the night before, all I had to do was wash my hair with my usual shampoo and conditioner, and I was good to go.

2. Keeping skincare cheap (but treatments expensive)

Shannon Lawlor wedding-day skin

(Image credit: Shannon Lawlor)

My skin is oily and acne-prone, and it was the thing I was most worried about in relation to my pre-wedding beauty plans. While you might expect a beauty editor to be slathering her face in the most expensive and extravagant lotions and potions before her wedding day, I took a different approach. I stripped everything fancy out of my routine (and it pained me to do so). For six months before, I stuck to a simple cleanse, tone, moisturise scenario—and each product was relatively affordable. Keeping my routine simple and pared back meant that my skin stayed impressively clear, providing the ultimate canvas for some heavier duty stuff...

Enter: the treatments. The money I saved on skincare was invested straight into more effective and hard-hitting treatments. I used an LED mask every single night, which I'm convinced helped keep any breakouts at bay. I also had a couple of facials in the run-up to the big day (the Sunday Riley ICE Clear). Of course, the treatments you opt for will depend on your skin type and desires—mine were all geared towards avoiding angry spots.

3. Skip foundation where you can

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This particular risk filled me with fear. I really didn't plan on not wearing foundation on my wedding day, but it appeared that all of the hard work I put into keeping my skin looking its best really paid off. When I went for my make-up trial (more on this coming up next, but my make-up was a full face of Dior), the make-up artist told me he wanted to avoid using it entirely. Instead, he utilised some very clever concealer placement and lent on a glowing tint to 'perfect' my base. Looking back, this was the single best make-up decision that was made. I looked and felt entirely like myself, just more alive and radiant. If, like me, you're someone who doesn't wear heaps of foundation often, I highly recommend you do the same. I also didn't have to worry about getting any smudges on my dress, which was a total win.

4. Have one reference picture

As I've already mentioned, my make-up was all Dior, and I was lucky enough to have the master that is Jamie Coombes, International Pro Team Make-up Artist at Dior, create my look. I had utmost trust in him to deliver a look that felt like me and was exactly as I wanted, which made this 'risk' not so scary. Essentially, I left my make-up trial right up until the last minute, having it just one week before—and I'm so happy I did. This way, I knew roughly how my skin was going to look on the day, so it was as close to the real deal as we were going to get it.

Secondly, I didn't go in armed with loads of inspiration. At the time, I felt ill-prepared and unsure of what I wanted, but now I consider it to be the best decision I could have made. Instead of scrolling Pinterest and finding separate inspiration images for my eye make-up, base, blush, lips, the list could go on... I found one image that captured the mood and general vibe of what I was after. I didn't want Jamie to copy it like-for-like, but instead, use his expertise as a creative to adapt it to my face. I admit, I'm lucky that Jamie is the best of the best, but if you too are working with a make-up artist who is a real master at their craft, I couldn't recommend this more highly.

The picture in question was an image of Sharon Tate. To me, it showcased striking beauty with a hint of imperfect unease—drooping doe eyes, sunkissing that look accidental, and a slightly dishevelled sixties bouffant. I showed Jamie the picture, he studied it for a few minutes, and he got to work. The result? The best make-up look I've ever laid eyes upon.

5. Avoid wedding scent experiences

Shannon Wedding Day

(Image credit: Shannon Lawlor)

This is very controversial of me to say, but honestly, not doing a typical wedding scent experience was such a treat for me. I'm a beauty editor who specialises in all things fragrance, so I was torn about the way in which I wanted to decide on my wedding scent. A part of me really wanted to try out all of the in-store wedding experiences out there, but another part of me trusted my own instincts in the sense that, deep down, I knew what perfume I wanted to wear.

I appreciated that whatever option I went for, I'd always feel like I'd made a mistake and wish I'd gone with the other. Instead, my now husband and I made an event of it ourselves. I borrowed this idea from one of my fellow editors, who told me she did this a few years ago with her partner for their wedding. One evening, we both sat down with a bunch of fragrances in front of us that we had personally selected. There was a mix of bottles we already owned and testers that we had collected over the course of our engagement. We sat down for a full evening and asked each other which one we liked the most, whittling the rejects down as we went. By the end of it, we each had a fragrance we both loved and would forever remember as our wedding-day scent.

When it came to candles for the space, I must admit this wasn't such an 'event'. We had discussed it, briefly, and both agreed it was Diptyque Tubereuse or nothing. It's a smell that fills our home day in, day out. When you're dropping a lot of money on scented candles for your wedding day (particularly when you want the smell to project in a big space), please go for something tried and tested—you'd hate to be let down.

6. Spend less on your photography

Shannon Lawlor wedding

(Image credit: Shannon Lawlor)

This is, without a doubt, the best decision we made as a couple in the run up to our wedding. You see, our wedding was a budget one. The idea of dropping £5k on photography and videography made us both feel sick, so we decided we just wouldn't—no professional photos, no professional videos. I can't even begin to tell you how many people warned me I'd regret this decision. The unsolicited advice was rife. It got so bad the month before the wedding that I started panic searching for a photographer before my husband brought me back down to earth. Many of my married friends told me that they weren't happy with the way they looked in their wedding pictures, and my husband and I know we aren't the sort of people who find joy in having our photos taken. (For me it feels like work, for him it feels like hell.)

Why is this a beauty tip, I hear you ask? Because I had absolutely no pressure to look picture-perfect. I wore my teeth aligners all day and had zero stress about the fact my treatment wasn't complete in time. I had a scratch on the side of my face. I hadn't plucked my eyebrows or had my moustache waxed. I ate croissants in the morning and fries for lunch. Not feeling the pressure of having to look good for a set of very expensive photos was the single best thing I could have asked for.

What's more? We've still come out of it with hundreds upon hundreds of incredible images. Our guests snapped away on their phones and the various film cameras we had dotted around the room. And as for video? As somebody who very much lives their work life on social media, I enlisted the help of @contentofhonour to capture heaps of social-first video content throughout the day. Now we have keepsakes and really fun social content, and we're both beaming in every snap because we could spend the day being in love instead of worrying about how we looked in photographs.

Shannon Lawlor
Executive Beauty Editor

Shannon Lawlor is the Executive Beauty Editor at Marie Claire. With nearly a decade of experience working for some of the beauty industry’s most esteemed titles, including Who What Wear, Glamour UK, Stylist and Refinery29, Shannon’s aim is to make the conversation around beauty as open, relatable and honest as possible. As a self-confessed lazy girl, Shannon has an affinity for hard-working perfumes, fool-proof make-up products and does-it-all skincare.