Getting Married Abroad? Here’s How To Do Your Own Bridal Makeup

Earlier this summer I jetted off to beautiful Lake Garda in northern Italy for a client’s wedding. As I don’t usually get away during the summer, my boyfriend came out too and we made a mini break of it. We spent a few days swimming in the lake, hiking in the mountains and sipping Aperol spritzes in the town square. Bliss!

Being asked to do a wedding in Italy got me thinking. Nowadays more and more people are choosing to get married abroad. If you’re planning on a limited guest list, it can be no more expensive to get hitched in a sunny European destination as in good old Blighty. But when it comes to make up, things can be tricky. Popular destinations (such as Malcesine, where I stayed) tend to be beautiful but remote. You may be restricted to the make up artist who is included in the wedding package or there may not be much choice of English speaking make up artists in the area. Bridal fashions can also be very different in other parts of Europe.

For brides who don’t have the budget to fly a makeup artist to their wedding destination, I thought I’d offer some advice on doing it yourself. If this sounds scary, read on. There’s no reason you can’t get a flawless look by yourself.

My client, Sarah with her new husband Ollie at Malcesine Castle, Lake Garda. Photograph by Flawless Photography
My client, Sarah with her new husband Ollie at Malcesine Castle, Lake Garda. Photograph by Flawless Photography

Have a Makeup Lesson

If you’re not feeling confident about applying your own makeup, ask an expert. Many brides head straight to their local department store make up counter for advice, which can be a hit or miss experience. The advantage is that you can try the products you’ll be using and buy them there and then. The downside is that makeup counter staff are primarily sales people. Don’t get me wrong – there are lots of skilled and talented make up artists working on counters but there are also some for whom it’s a retail job and who have no training in makeup artistry.

If you’re planning on having a counter lesson, choose the brand wisely. MAC are known for training their counter staff well but their style tends to be designed for the catwalk, rather than weddings. Think about brands such as Bobbi Brown, Laura Mercia and Bare Minerals if you’re wanting a fresh, natural look.

Alternatively, many bridal makeup artists offer make up lessons, usually for around the same price as a trial. The advantage of this is that the make up artist will have specific experience in bridal make up and  can help you recreate the look you’d like while giving you lots of tips for a long lasting and professional effect. Because they won’t have a sales target agenda they can help you to get the most out of the products you already own, as well as advise you on any additions you may like to buy next time you’re shopping.

The elegent hairstyle I created for Sarah's wedding
The elegent hairstyle I created for Sarah’s wedding

Hot Weather

The most obvious reason people choose to marry abroad is to escape the unpredictable British weather. Destinations like Italy, Cyprus and Greece are popular for the guaranteed summer sun but the downside is that it can be really tricky to keep your makeup flawless when the mercury is in the 30s. If you’re going to be outside you also don’t want to risk ending up sunburned by the end of the day. Even if you’re a sun worshipper I’d recommend wearing a high factor sun screen on the day (and a couple of days before).  You really don’t want to have to spend your wedding morning covering up painful sunburn. Apply sun screen as early as you can on the morning of your wedding, such as just after showering to give it plenty of time to soak into your skin before you apply makeup.

I find that the less product you apply, the less there is to come off. So try to avoid the temptation to slap on thick layers of foundation and concealer and instead gently build up thin layers of product with soft, fluffy brushes. I love my MAC duo fibre brushes for blending and buffing products on the skin. My favourite foundations for hot weather are Estée Lauder Double Wear (full coverage), MAC Studio Fix (medium coverage), and MAC Face and Body (light coverage). All are waterproof and stay put all day. Fix your foundation with a pressed powder and keep it handy for touch ups later on.

A good primer such as Laura Mercier Foundation Primer can really help your make up last longer. Again, a light layer is better than a thick one. When it comes to eyeshadow and blusher, avoid cream textures as they have a tendency to shift or crease. Opt for more stable powders where you can. It’s a good idea to spray a light layer of fixative such as Urban Decay’s All Nighter Makeup Setting Spray when you’re done.

Photograph by Flawless Phtography
Sarah’s bridesmaids cool off. Photograph by Flawless Photography


Once you’ve decided on the look you want to go for, make sure you practice. The last thing you want to do on the morning is panic about your makeup as you can easily end up making a mess of it. Set aside some quiet time on your days off and set up a mirror where you have good natural daylight. Take yourself through each stage step by step. Try not to get frustrated if you don’t get it right first time – just take it off and start again!

Eyes First

A lot of make up artists I’ve worked alongside over the years have a great technique to make the job quicker and easier. Begin by applying a base onto the eye area only, then apply your eye makeup. When you’ve finished, use a cotton bud and a bit of oil free cleanser or MAC Strobe Cream to tidy up the area beneath the eye where eyeshadow has dropped. I really like these cotton buds from Boots, which have a flat end and a pointy end for more accurate work. Now you can finish by applying foundation to the rest of your face without messing it up.

Watch and Learn

We’re so lucky today that we have such a huge library of online resources. Even if you are going to have a make up lesson, I’d still recommend checking out some of the great how to videos you can find around the web. I’m a huge fan of Lisa Eldridge. She has two brilliant videos – Bridal Make Up Tips and A Classic Bridal Look where she creates a modern, fresh make up look on herself and also gives advice on how to tailor the look to suit you. Check out some of her “basic” videos too, such as Natural, Flawless Skin.

Another great video resource is Pixiwoo. Watch their simple Bridal Make Up video for advice on creating a pretty, summer look and Winter Wedding Make Up for a slightly more evening style.

Photograph by Flawless Photography

Did you get married abroad? Did you hire a make up artist or do your own? I’d love to hear your tips!

Rebecca x


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Hi I’m Rebecca

I’ve been a makeup artist and hair stylist in the fashion industry for 15 years. Welcome to by blog where I write about all things beauty, makeup and skincare. Check out my Instagram below for daily content and mini tutorials.