The Bridal Business Bible (Part 4)
Photo courtesy of Heidi Akpaette/A.R.T. Photography
Ever since you were a young beauty school student (and even before that), your dream was to be a bridal hair stylist. You dreamt of helping women feel beautiful on their special day. You envisioned placing the veil on your bride-to-be right before she walked down the aisle. You imagined stepping in at the last minute to help with the bustle. And when your job was done? You’d be the one sitting in the wings as she walked down the aisle. You’d be choking up as the vows were exchanged. You would be filled with pride that you got to be a part of one of the most important days of her life.
If this sounds like you, then you’re in the right place. We asked seven successful bridal stylists to share their top tips on how to get your business up and running—and they weighed in on everything from how they manage their schedules, to social media tips, to how they price their services. Here’s their best advice for building a prosperous bridal business. (Read part 1, part 2 and part 3 here!)
On how to price your services…
“Pricing is a very personal thing,” says BTC bridal expert Stephanie Brinkerhoff (@hairandmakeupbysteph), who boasts 5 million Pinterest followers. “No matter what, people will always tell you that you’re too expensive or too cheap. So do what works for you, depending on your competition, where you live and what’s worth your time.” In Utah, Steph charges $125 for bridal styles. However, she notes that The Knot ranks Utah as the cheapest state for weddings. For destination weddings, she charges that same rate but takes those out-of-salon dates into account. This way, she’s recouping lost profits from traveling—even if she’s simply on the plane after the wedding.
Owner and lead stylist at 139 Hair by Heidi, Heidi Akpaette, who is based in Minnesota, charges $250 for brides, which includes a trial run, wedding-day hair, a touchup kit with hairspray and bobby pins and veil placement. She charges $85 for wedding party hair and $30 for flower girls, with $25 extra for extensions if needed. “But make sure to raise your prices as you get more skilled and based on your demand!” she says.
Melissa Melissa Brooke (@mbhairmakeupmaui), an on-location stylist based in Maui, has separate base prices for hair and makeup, and she also offers packages for both. She increases her prices if the bride is wearing her hair in an updo or if she uses extras such as extensions, lashes or airbrush makeup. LoLa Beauty also charges a flat rate, but offers discounts for the grandmother of the bride and flower girls.
On travel fees…
Another pricing factor to consider is whether or not to charge a travel fee, and how much to charge. Lauren Parker and Lorena Molano, founders of LoLa Beauty in Austin, Texas, don’t charge a fee within Austin city limits. Outside of Austin city limits, they charge based on mileage. Similarly, travel is free within 20 miles of Heidi’s studio. When updo guru Heather Chapman (@heatherchapmanhair) worked as a bridal stylist three hours outside of Santa Fe, she charged a day rate of $1,200, plus travel to the city and her hotel.
On styling the groom…
We also asked our experts if they ever style the groom or groomsmen. “Sometimes I’ll do very light touchups for hair and makeup on groomsmen,” notes Melina. “For the most part, they like to do their own stuff, but sometimes the brides will request it. I usually apply some powder to their faces—just to make sure they don’t have any shine—or fix any stubborn hairs. And it’s usually complimentary because it doesn’t take long.” Adds Melissa: “Sometimes I’ll wet the [groom’s] hair down, style it, put product in, use a tinted moisturizer and add powder and lip conditioning, and that I’ll charge for—especially for destination weddings because grooms will get sunburned and will need extra attention.”
On weather challenges…
As destination weddings become more and more popular, knowing how to deal with challenging weather conditions becomes an increasingly important part of your job. Melissa says she always makes sure to talk to her brides about realistic bridal styles for the humid and windy weather in Hawaii. “They might say they want their hair all down, but that’s unrealistic for our weather, so I usually try to talk them into having at least a little bit—if not all—of it pinned back in some kind of pretty braid or loose updo,” she shares. “I learned from my own wedding in Maui. I wore my side-swept bangs down, and I spent the whole ceremony with my hands in my hair holding them back.” In hot, humid Austin, Lauren and Lorena usually recommend an updo. “We’ll say, ‘If you really want your hair to last, we suggest at least a side-swept upstyle. We think an updo will look good in photos throughout the night.’” If they insist on all down, Lauren and Lorena set the hair in pin curls and let them down right before the ceremony.
Stephanie, who has done her fair share of tropical destination weddings, says her go-to style is loose beach waves. “Beach waves are great because they are already so messy looking that you really can’t mess them up anymore!” she notes. “The messier the better, which makes them great for any kind of element. Just be sure to have a brush on hand to brush out tangles caused by the wind, and hairspray is a must!” Adorn these waves with bright flowers or jeweled embellishments for added tropical oomph.
And if she’s insisting on a style that is clearly unflattering…
She has her heart set on a shape that you know will add 20 pounds and make her hate her wedding photos for eternity. “If she’s showing you a photo, take it as your cue to explain how her face shape or hair type is different,” says Steph. “I often say something like, ‘This hair is very curly, but yours is completely straight so I won’t be able to recreate the texture you like.’ Another way to dissuade her, and I use this all the time, is to say, ‘Sometimes this type of hairstyle doesn’t photograph well—it looks harsh. So we’ll do something similar, but change it up so it photographs better!’”