Pretaluma wedding pro offers DIY makeup tips

Saying ‘I Do’ can be less stressful, says Elise Bigley|

Weddings are many things - meaningful, beautiful, romantic, sacred, memorable - but most people don’t think of a wedding, and the moments leading up to it, as being “tranquil” or “relaxed” or even “stress-free.” Relaxation is possible, though, says Petaluma makeup artist Elise Bigley, assuming the bride and groom are properly confident that all of the details are being attended to without their needing to become too involved on wedding day. Those details, of course, include the hair and makeup of the bride (or brides) and/or groom (or grooms), and the rest of the wedding party.

And that’s where Bigley comes in.

“In most cases, on the day of a wedding, a bride and groom are the most relaxed when they know everyone and everything is being well taken care of,” says Bigley, of Lips ‘n Lashes by Elise. She estimates she’s been doing makeup professionally for about 18 years now, and has seen hundreds of weddings, both stress-free and stress-full. “It’s when they are worried about falling behind schedule, or concerned that someone’s going to drop the ball on something, that they begin to get stressed, which can be a problem. But hair and makeup does not have to be part of that problem.”

It’s a rainy day today, as Bigley takes a break for a cup of coffee near downtown Petaluma. Despite the weather, the promise of spring is all around, with trees and flowers starting to bloom, and the average outdoor temperature edging incrementally upward on a daily basis. With warmer days, of course, come the first stirrings of “wedding season,” and as a professional mobile makeup artist, Bigley’s calendar is filling up with wedding gigs. Although she also works regularly on movie productions and all manner of photo shoots, Bigley says that weddings, like many makeup professionals, are a major part of her “have-makeup-kit-will-travel” business.

“A wedding is a potentially stressful time, and for the bride and groom, there is so much that they are thinking about,” says Bigley. “The more things you can take away from that pile of concerns and tasks, the better. For some people, knowing that a professional, or someone who really knows what they are doing, will be taking control of the makeup part of that, can really help them relax a little and enjoy the experience.”

While having a trained makeup artist on the premises on wedding day goes a long way to allaying the fears of most brides and grooms, Bigley says there are those of a DIY nature who feel most in control when they - or often a member of the wedding party - handles the makeup duties themselves.

“If you can teach someone to do some of these things, and then they feel more confident if some need arises, then it’s just all the more rewarding to me,” she says. “It’s nice to be pampered sometimes, granted, especially on your wedding day. But sometimes it’s just nice to know you can do your own makeup using some of the techniques that professionals use.”

In such cases, Bigley often consults ahead of time to help the artist-in-question to prepare for the big day. She will set up a strategy meeting ahead of time - either in person or through a computer conference program like Zoom or Skype - to determine what kinds of products the client plans to use on the day of the wedding. Such “appointments” generally take place about four weeks ahead of time.

“It’s useful, because I can see what you have, and we can talk about what you think you need, and make suggestions about what else you might want to get if necessary,” Bigley says. “You shouldn’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on new stuff, just to achieve one thing. A professional can help with that part of it.”

One of the trends Bigley sees in wedding styles these days, in terms of popular styles of hair and makeup, is a move toward more of a soft, natural look, stepping away from the somewhat harsher, more extravagant approach that has been the norm for the last few years.

“For a while, we saw a lot of sparkles in weddings, more of an over-the-top makeup style,” she says. “Now we’re moving toward a more romantic, realistic, less theatrical vibe. The same with hair. For a while, hairstyles in weddings has been very put-together, super constructed, and now the Sonoma County vineyard weddings I’ve been working with are bringing a more lived-in kind of look, which is definitely more authentic and romantic.”

Asked about other wedding trends that have arisen in recent years, Bigley describes a special pre-vow photo shoot that has been dubbed “the first look.”

“Some people still prefer not to see each other till the actual wedding, but more and more, couples are staging a ‘first look’ photo where they meet in some quiet place and have a moment together before they take their places for the wedding,” she says. “It’s like the calm before the storm, the moment where the couple gets to remind themselves that all of this is about the two of them, their relationship, and what this whole elaborate production is really about, which is love.”

Of course, ever since federal marriage equality laws abolished restrictions on same-sex weddings, Bigley says she has gradually been assisting with the makeup on more weddings with two brides or two grooms. Wedding makeup for men in general is another trend that has been increasingly on the rise as well, she allows.

“With men, the makeup I do is usually to deal with face-shine in the photos,” she says. “But the basic dynamic of a wedding is always pretty much the same whether it’s two men or two women, or a man and a woman. What stays the same is the level of excitement, the nervousness, the keeping apart and getting ready separately until the ‘first look’ or the wedding itself.”

When Bigley does consult on DIY makeup projects, she says that one of her primary tips is to remind the artist that there is a very fine balance between too much makeup and too little. Maintaining that balance takes practice, so she always recommends a trial run or two, leading up to the day of the wedding.

“I always tell people, the camera tends to absorb about one-third of the makeup,” Bigley says, “so you have to strategically overcompensate for that, in terms of the intensity of the pigment you are using. But you don’t want to go too far, or it can look jarring when you come face to face with the person you are marrying. It’s important to remember that it’s always easier to add than subtract. Start our very light, and gradually add more as needed, but don’t go in all excited and then have to do a lot of damage control.

“Damage control,” she adds with a laugh, “is never really a very stress free situation.”

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