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Last updated: June 15, 2017

Your Ticket to Paradise

More and more couples are skipping the home town church and opting instead to walk down the aisle on a pebble-strewn beach or through a bucolic vineyard. The trend is causing a surge in the destination wedding business for hairstylists. If you have an interest in jetting off to faraway places to be the on-site stylist for happy bridal parties, here’s solid advice on how to get your business up and running and keep it going strong.

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More and more couples are skipping the home town church and opting instead to walk down the aisle on a pebble-strewn beach or through a bucolic vineyard. The trend is causing a surge in the destination wedding business for hairstylists. If you have an interest in jetting off to faraway places to be the on-site stylist for happy bridal parties, here’s solid advice on how to get your business up and running and keep it going strong.

The Promotion

The first step is to let the world know that you’re in the destination wedding business. And nothing speaks louder to potential clients than photos of your awesome work—posted on Instagam, Pinterest and Facebook.

“Social media is huge—it exposes your work all over the world,” says BTC’s resident bridal expert Stephanie Brinkerhoff. If anyone understands the power of social media, it’s Steph, whose every style move is followed by five million fans on Pinterest! Social media allows potential clients to see your work on real brides—so pay attention to Steph’s success. Pinterest boards are the new business card!

Another avenue for stylists is concentrated marketing, suggests Steph. “It helps to advertise on wedding blogs like The Knot, Green Wedding Shoes or Style Me Pretty,” she says. “They often have preferred vendor listings, and you can pay to advertise with them. A lot of brides-to-be go to these types of sites when planning.”

But although the internet puts you in front of a wide audience, nothing is more effective than good word-of-mouth! “Reach out to specific wedding planners and wedding photographers that specialize in destination weddings,” suggests Steph. “If they’re going somewhere, they’re going to need great hair and makeup artists to go with them. These are valuable connections, as brides ask them for their opinions on a lot of things.”

The Consultation

Once you’re on your way, it’s time to concentrate on doing the best possible job. And the first step is your consultation—more crucial than ever for a destination wedding. “You need to sit down, type it out and have her fill in the blanks,” advises Charles Penzone Salons Vice President, Debra Penzone. Topics to cover include the exact number of people whose hair you are styling and the schedule for the trip; the allotted time for each client and the logistics of your on-location workspace. “You don’t want to arrive somewhere to discover you’ll be working in a back room without power or extension cords,” warns Debra.

Sometimes, however, the consultation can’t be done in person—say your client fell in love with your work online but doesn’t live in the area. In that case you have to be even more thorough with your consultation. Get as much information as you can about her hair texture, color and thickness, whether or not she’ll be wearing extensions, and what kind. “One bride told me her hair was kind of thin and she was getting extensions,” remembers Steph. “That was fine, but when I got there, I found out the extensions were the plastic kind that don’t curl! I learned from that experience that you have to be very detailed with your questions.”

It’s also important to set the expectations for the big day at this stage, thinking about all of the miniscule details. “We’re seeing a lot of brides who want an elegant upsweep bridal ’do at the wedding and then they want to wear their hair down in a fun style at the reception,” Debra comments. “Make sure you know what you’re expected to do. Are you expected to do the hair and makeup for the rehearsal dinner, the wedding, the reception and the photo shoot? It’s all about those little details that sometimes the bride doesn’t think about. She just thinks, ‘I have my own personal stylist all weekend.’”

The Contract

Even if the bride is a living doll, and you’re sure you could be besties, don’t lose sight of the fact that this is a job and you are a service provider. As such, you can and must expect your client to sign a contract and pay a deposit. “You want to cover yourself,” warns Ted Gibson, owner of Ted Gibson Beauty in New York and Fort Lauderdale. “You probably booked this event weeks and weeks in advance, and you’ll be away from your salon for two or three days. A lot of things go into making sure everything is top-notch and everyone is on the same page, and a contract will spell it all out! It will also help in the event that she decides she doesn’t want to get married or cancels on you.”

A contract reiterates the agreement from the consultation and makes it clear that stylists are not responsible for fulfilling requests not previously discussed. “If the bride wants to add people or events, I can’t guarantee that there will be enough time or that it will work out,” says Steph. “I only can guarantee what we agreed to in our contract.”

The Fees

Establishing your pricing structure can be complicated. “You are missing those days behind the chair,” Debra points out, “so ask yourself, ‘Is it worth taking that day or weekend to travel and be out of the salon, not making money and tips—which is how I survive?’ I think stylists need to feel the self-worth to say, ‘I’m worth it and if you want me at your wedding, this is what I need.’” At Charles Penzone Salons, wedding style prices depend on the look’s complexity, hair length and who is styling the hair. Their stylists charge $57, their designers charge $62 and their senior directors charge anywhere from $74 to $115—and this is for in-salon services! When it comes to traveling, some argue those in-salon prices should be doubled.

In Utah, Steph charges $125 for bridal styles. However, she notes that The Knot ranks Utah as the cheapest state for couples to get married in. When she travels for weddings, she charges that same rate but takes those out-of-salon dates into account and has clients put down a $500 deposit. This way, she’s recouping lost profits from traveling— even if she’s simply on the plane after the wedding. “Pricing is a very personal thing—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, what’s worth your time,” says Steph. Location is key! Ted Gibson’s New York City salon charges $250 for the trial and a bride must inquire for her wedding day price. Because of his location and reputation as a destination wedding guru, Ted is able to charge this amount.

After establishing your price, factor in other expenses that will arise. Consider your flight, accommodations, a per diem for meals and ground transportation in your fee. As Debra encourages, do not sell yourself short: “You think of brides and what they pay for the flowers and monogrammed napkins—they pay top dollar for all of these things—and what ends up being the most important part of a bride’s day is how she looks and feels!” she says. “You’re worth it!”

The Trial Run

Working out the bride’s hairstyle before any wedding is important, and before a destination wedding, it’s a must! “You can never have enough trials, and you can never start far enough in advance,” believes Debra. How serious is she? Charles Penzone offers discounts and free makeup to ensure a trial run happens! “It not only makes the bride feel more comfortable but the stylist as well. For a woman, the wedding is the most important beauty day of her life! As a stylist, it puts a lot of pressure on you if you don’t do a trial.”

If you can’t perform a trial run in the salon, do it at the destination. “Obviously if it’s someone you’ve never seen, you have to learn what the hair is like, get a clear idea of what she wants and make sure you leave yourself enough time,” advises Steph.

Another important agenda for the trial run is to plan the overall look. “As stylists, our guests are sitting in the chair so we see them from the neck up,” comments Debra. “But we need to think about the bride from head to toe. Not just what you are going to do with the hair, but how it’s going to look on her body shape and with the structure of her dress. You have to think of the complete picture.”

The Kit

Now it’s time to pack, and essentially, you need to fit your entire salon in your suitcase. When it comes to your tools, bring lots of backups, along with power adapters, outlet multipliers and extension cords. Consider packing miniature thermal tools to make sure you have a wide variety of curling irons, flat irons and blow dryers. And don’t forget batteries and chargers!

All of the products you use normally for weddings? Double or triple the bobby pins, elastics and clips you would need. And don’t forget to check the Weather Channel! Are you traveling to the Caribbean in July? Undoubtedly the forecast calls for hot, muggy humidity, so stock up on anti-humidity hairsprays, frizz reducers and heat protection sprays for all textures and types of hair. Also, keep track of all of the products you use during the trial run, as you discover the best formulas for your client’s hair. Pack as you go through the entire process!

Some stylists prefer to ship their products and tools in advance, rather than drag it along on the flight. If you opt to do so, mail everything far in advance so it gets to the destination in time. And still carry a few things along just in case the airline reroutes your box to Prague.

Your Bridal Emergency Kit!
These products and tools will help you be ready for anything.

The Decorum

If you rarely leave home, you may look at this opportunity as a free vacation. It is not—unless you build in extra time before or after the event. You will be at the bride’s beck and call for the whole trip, with little time for poolside mimosas. “If you view the trip as a vacation, you’re going to overstep a boundary,” cautions Debra. “Even though you’re there styling everybody’s hair and you’re a part of everything at the beginning of the day, do not act like you’re a part of the bridal party. If you have that mentality, you’re going to drink a little too much, get on the dance floor and make some mistakes.”

Ted agrees. “Keep business and pleasure separate,” he advises. “Be on your best behavior and make sure the bride looks her best by being supportive and ready at all times.”

But even though destination weddings are jobs and not vacations, they can still be a way to liven up your routine and refresh your creativity. “They give you the opportunity to get out and see new things,” Ted points out. “Doing something different can change your whole outlook once you get back to the salon!”

The Look Book

Your bride is coming in for her trial run. Perfect! Here’s your chance to get a good feeling for her hair, and go through your wedding Look Book. You do have a Look Book, don’t you?

For outdoor events, perfectly-coifed bridal styles won’t cut it. Between the wind, the sand, the humidity and the unpredictable tropical weather, traditional looks may not survive the walk down the aisle. “If you are doing hair on the beach, be prepared for the hair to become messed up,” warns Steph. The upside? Chances are if your bride is getting married in paradise, she’s much more casual than the traditional bride. She’ll experiment with her look and select a contemporary style that’s able to hold up to the elements. “Start with something that is either going to be rock solid and able to withstand wind, or something that is already messy and will look good even after it does get messed up,” shares Steph.

Here are three top styles that should be in your Look Book for destination weddings. And for everyone’s sake, it’s a good idea to skip the veil!

Beach Curls
Nothing says I’m getting married on the beach quite like these namesake curls! “Beach curls are great because they are already so messy looking that you really can’t mess them up anymore! The messier the better, which makes them great for any kind of element,” says Steph. “Just be sure to have a brush on hand to brush out tangles caused by the wind, and hairspray is a must!” Another tip? Adorn these curls with bright flowers or jeweled embellishments for added tropical oomph.

Off The Face
Any style that is lifted entirely up and off the face, like this braided chignon, will ensure the groom doesn’t get a face full of hair when he goes in for that kiss.

1. Divide the hair into four sections—one on each side, and two in the back.
2. Braid the back sections, securing each with an elastic.
3. Pull a small piece on the bottom of each braid and push the rest of the braid upward with your finger. After that, gently pull on the sides to loosen the shape.
4. Take one of the braids and tuck the end, then roll it up until it reaches the nape and secure with bobby pins. Repeat this step with the second braid.
5. Create loose French braids on the side sections that incorporate the fringe. Direct these braids across the top of the previously secured back braids, tuck in the ends and secure with bobby pins.

“These styles are great because they add a little bit of security to the front and crown area, but still look natural and flow nicely in the wind,” says Steph.

1. After creating loose waves with a curling iron, begin backcombing the crown area for added volume.
2. Lift and scrunch the back with one hand while misting with hairspray to add texture and volume to the curl.
3. On the heavy side, section the hair off the part from the ear forward and secure the section over the ear. Gather the crown section, twist it loosely and secure with bobby pins.
4. Gather more hair just below the twisted section, gently scrunch and secure with bobby pins.
5. Release the clipped side section and begin creating a loose, three-strand French braid, omitting the fringe section.
6. Extend the braid toward the back, draping it across the pinned sections. Secure the braid with bobby pins on the opposite side of the twist.
7. Use your fingers and bobby pins to loosen, soften and secure the braid.

Your Bridal Emergency Kit!
These products and tools will help you be ready for anything.

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