Dear Prudence

Dear Prudence Uncensored: “Makeup Take-Off”

This week, Jenée Desmond-Harris and Lauren Williams discuss “Makeup Take-Off.”

Jenée Desmond-Harris: I thought about asking you how many of your friends have Slate Plus because I need to know how much we can complain about past bridesmaid experiences.

Lauren Williams: I have an anecdote I want to share! But I wouldn’t mind her reading it. So it’s fine.

Jenée: Ok but first, the “Makeup Take-Off” dilemma …

Lauren: The LW asks a simple question, which is whether it would be rude to basically change her makeup look at the wedding, and I think the simple answer is yes! To me it’s the same thing as deciding to change your dress color because you think it’s unflattering to your complexion.

Jenée: So she can’t change it at all?

Lauren: I guess it’s fine after pictures, but I agree with you that being a bridesmaid is really just not your moment at all. And when you agree to be a bridesmaid that is part of the contract. The best-case scenario is that you and the bride are on the same page about what your best look is! But that isn’t promised.

Jenée: Not at all. My grandmother had a plaque in her kitchen with the quote “Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.” Which is very sad advice for life but it fits bridesmaid duty perfectly.

Lauren: It also just really depends on the friend! I think the kind of friend that painstakingly picks out a trendy makeup color palette for her bridesmaids might really care about that particular thing.

My anecdote: I was once a bridesmaid in a wedding that was taking place in the Bahamas, and the wedding party took a cruise to the destination. My friend wanted bridesmaids to wear their hair straight.

Jenée: OMG I remember this.

Lauren: This part might go over many readers’ heads, but bear with us: My hair is very not straight. It does not like to be straight. It VIOLENTLY and AGGRESSIVELY resists being straight. Particularly on the high seas! I warned my friend about this. I asked her many times if she was sure. I didn’t want to be the weak link in the bridal party. But of course, I’m also kind of vain and didn’t want to look terrible!

Jenée: Did you end up looking like hell?

Lauren: She insisted on her vision, and it rained torrentially on the wedding day. A huge droplet of water hit the top of my head and an enormous curl sprang up over my forehead. She thinks it’s hilarious and we laugh about it. The moral of the story is that it doesn’t matter that I was right about my hair! She had a vision, and I was there to help her execute it.

Jenée: Exactly. I actually haven’t had any horrible experiences. Once the makeup artist really caked it on in a way that felt excessive and one of the bride’s uncles came up to me outside the church with a disgusted look on his face and said “too much, too much” while shaking his head

and he was probably right. But the pictures looked okay.

And I thought it was going to be a disaster when I had my hair done for a wedding in Australia by a hairdresser who announced he didn’t have much experience with “Afro hair” before approaching me with a flatiron. But it actually turned out to be some of my best hair ever! And the point is, I would have had to deal either way.

Lauren: Sometimes people, as with the LW, are uncomfortable with heavy makeup and things that are considered “trendy,” but that doesn’t actually mean it doesn’t look good. It doesn’t mean her crush will think she looks bad. She should be open to being surprised about how it comes out on the day of.

Jenée: So true.

Lauren: It seems a bit like she’s stressing herself out in advance because of this guy, when she should be open to a new look that she would never have tried for herself otherwise. Ultimately, her friend doesn’t want her bridesmaids to look like hell in her wedding pictures.

Jenée: Right, for all we know the bride is worried that left to her own devices the LW will put some Chapstick and a dab of concealer on and look all washed out.

Lauren: I’m sort of interested to know what trendy makeup colors are. I feel behind the times.

Jenée: Me too! I read it as “bright,” but now I want this person to send a picture.

Lauren: A red lipstick? Now I’ve fully talked myself into this woman needing to open herself up to new experiences. Live a little! Wear some eyeshadow!

Jenée: I also just want to recognize that if you have any insecurity about your hair, face, body (or in some cases dancing ability—once I, a person with NO rhythm or coordination had to learn and perform a line dance called the Michael Jackson Shuffle) being a bridesmaid will really trigger it because you’re on display and so much is out of your control. But also, nobody is really paying attention to you and it’s fine. And like you said, it’s potentially an exercise in living a little.

Lauren: I agree it is a lot of personal pressure for a role that no one is really paying much attention to in reality. It’s a very strange tradition. But also a bit of an excuse (like a school uniform) to shed some of the pressure of putting together your own look for the occasion and just being like, eh, the bride made me do this.

Jenée: Totally. And I forgot one last tip for the LW: If it fits your lifestyle, start drinking champagne in the makeup chair.

Lauren. Very important. And keep going! (Don’t forget to eat though.)

Jenée: Correct. Okay, LW, if you’re reading this please send us a picture so we can tell you that you look great.

Lauren: Jenée and I are really good at that!

Jenée: … and also so we can learn about what kind of makeup is trendy.