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ou’ve been planning your reception, orchestrating the bridal party and designing the centerpieces down to the last twig. But don’t let all that attention to detail force you to skimp on some of the most important elements of all: your bridal makeup and hair.

That’s why we’ve stepped up to make all the primping and prettifying less taxing. With hair and makeup tips from celebrity stylists and aestheticians from Hollywood, Chicago, Dallas, New Jersey, Toronto, London and even India and Pakistan, has your bridal beauty covered.

See All Nirali Weddings Here!

“The key is to be not too made up while looking dramatic at the same time,” says Shahzad Raza of Pakistan’s famed makeup and photography duo Ather/Shahzad. Follow these tricks from our experts to find out how:

1. Find “the one.”

You’ve already found him, so now it’s onto a whole new hunt: finding a makeup artist. Good ones get booked early, so give yourself at least six months before the wedding to find a suitable match. Getting makeup artist referrals from friends who’ve had positive experiences is a good starting point, says New Jersey-based salon owner and aesthetician, Salma Ismail, whose work has been featured on the Discovery Channel’s Buff Brides and in Modern Bride magazine.

(Above and here) Saima Bukhari does Jeena Mathew’s makeup on her wedding day at Glow Salon & Day Spa in Dallas, Texas.

“If you liked the way [her] makeup turned out on the wedding day and it crossed over in their photos, ask her where she got it done,” she says. “She will most likely let you know what worked for her and what didn’t.”

If you’re drawing a blank, start doing your homework online. But, warns Ismail, always ask to see the artist’s bridal portfolio and be wary of those who claim they’ll give you a better price without the essential pre-wedding makeup trial. Ask how many years they’ve been in the biz to back up their asking price, which can range from $75-$500+ for hair and makeup, depending on experience and location. Also check if they’re using professional makeup brands. Try to meet the artist beforehand to gauge how comfortable you are with them. “It’s going to go a long way on the wedding day,” she says.

2. Get a trial—to avoid error.

Once you’ve found a makeup artist, set up a makeup and hair trial. Many artists include a trial in their makeup package price. Having a trial two to three months before the wedding is ideal, says Mehwish Khan, a Chicago-based professional makeup artist, whose credits include Bollywood’s Hero and the indie film Creating Karma.

Bridal makeup by artist Shalini Vasisht (pictured, right bottom).

“You should bring a matching purse, veil or shirt from your wedding dress if you’ve got one,” Khan advises. “Also bring pictures from magazines or Web sites that appeal to you so the artist has an idea of your taste. A little makeup for one bride is a lot for another.”

Don’t wear black on the trial day, adds Ismail. “Indian colors are bright, and wearing black won’t give the right results.” She also suggests bringing some of the accessories you will wear.

Sultans of Style

From Lahore to Bombay, there is one duo synonymous with stunning South Asian style: Ather/Shahzad. Comprised of photographer Ather Zahoor and makeup artist/photographer Shahzad Raza, this team has styled and photographed a bevy of South Asian glitterati, including Pakistani models Vaneeza Ahmad and Aaminah Haq and Bollywood starlets Bipasha Basu and Riya Sen. Non-desi clients include former Miss World and Miss Universe runner-ups.

The pair from Sheikhupura, Pakistan, emerged onto the scene 13 years ago with their first photo shoot of famed Pakistani actress Zeba Bakhtyar. “Photography enticed us because even when we were studying, we appreciated aesthetic beauty and always wanted to somehow capture and preserve it,” says Raza. Their wish has certainly been granted: Since then, models and actresses alike clamor for the duo’s time. In fact, model Iman Ali prefers to work solely with Ather/Shahzad and credits them with the launch of her career.

Says Pakistani fashion journalist Zurain Imam of the pair’s work: “They are highly stylized art tableau montages with dizzied models lounged languorously in sumptuous settings; or regally upright like maharanis or courtesans; or in acrobatic modeling stances outside in an open field or under an oak tree. The makeup is perfectly coordinated to the outfits and the setting and texture are also expertly connected to the texture and colors of the clothes.”

But desi brides have perhaps benefited the most from Ather/Shahzad’s skills. A few years ago, the pair opened up a salon and studio in Lahore; brides book far in advance to have Ather/Shahzad do their wedding makeup and photography. They frequently travel to Europe and North America for weddings, albeit for a pretty penny. While they will not disclose their rates, preferring that clients contact them for individual quotes, several brides have hinted that their rates for going abroad reach into the thousands.

For more information or to book, contact:
Ather Shahzad Studio & Salon
1-C, Block P, Gulberg II, Lahore, Pakistan

—Ismat Mangla

Bollywood celebrity makeup and hair expert Shalini Vasisht, who’s primped actresses such as Aishwarya Rai, Sushmita Sen and Sharmila Tagore, suggests taking a digital camera to the trial. “It’s a good way to see how the makeup looks in pictures and for your own reference when deciding on an artist,” she says.

A look featuring strong eyes and light lips by Dimple Shah.
3. Skip the dreaded “cakey” effect.

“The whole trick to makeup is not to look overdone,” says Hollywood celebrity makeup artist and beauty expert Shalini Vadhera, whose Global Goddess Beauty makeup line includes top sellers at Sephora and Victoria’s Secret. “Pick one feature and make that pop, like dramatic eyes and light lips, or red lips and soft, champagne gold eyes.”

“The pancake look is gone. We put nothing on the face or use sheer bases if the skin is good,” adds Raza. Vasisht agrees: “When the face starts to look chalky and opaque, that’s a sign of too much makeup. The right amount of makeup shows in pictures as translucent skin and well-balanced eyes and lips.”

The amount of makeup that’s right for you should be determined at the trial. Though some makeup artists suggest coming to the trial sans makeup, others, like Vadhera, suggests coming in wearing your everyday amount of makeup. “I always tell them to come in the way they usually look so I can gauge how much makeup they would be comfortable with and see ways I can play it up differently. If they don’t use any makeup at all, I don’t want to scare them with layers of it.”

Natural and dewy makeup on Pakistani model Aaminah Haq by Ather/Shahzad.
4. Focus on fabulous, glowing skin.

Let’s face it: Makeup is only as good as its canvas. “Start with a skin care regimen almost up to a month before. Don’t try anything new too soon before the wedding in case your skin reacts poorly,” says Vadhera. The same applies to threading and bleaching, which should be done at least a week in advance to avoid any rashes.

For that healthy, natural glow, exfoliate and moisturize regularly, suggests Khan. “I cannot stress this enough. The better your skin, the less makeup you’ll need.” Start from the inside out by drinking plenty of water.

A basic spa facial is great for cleaning out the pores, says Saima Bukhari, owner of Glow, a salon and day spa in Dallas. “Try a mini microderm with a facial or add a cooling oxygen treatment to help your skin glow. Both of these services require little downtime,” she says. If your skin requires a little more, Bukhari suggests a chemical peel or deep medical microdermabrasion, which should be done a few months in advance. You’ll experience full benefits if it’s done in a series of six (just consult your aesthetician beforehand!).

New to facials? Know that they may cause irritation to sensitive skin types, so start early to know how your skin will react—at least two months in advance and every 28 days (when the skin starts to shed), suggests Ismail.

5. Match makeup colors to your face—not your clothes.

“Many South Asian brides have the misconception that their makeup needs to match their outfit, but how many of us really look good in red-orange lipstick?” says Khan.

Left: Soft, natural makeup by Afsana Karim. Right: A flawless look by duo Ather Shahzad.

Vasisht agrees: “The trend is for the entire look to blend and be of same palette, not the colors of the outfit.” For instance, a red or bright magenta lengha can be worn with gold and bronze eye makeup and plum lip gloss. Softer outfit colors, like peach or pink, are complemented by pearly or coral eyes and rosy shades of pink for the lips, she says. And you don’t have to stick to the reds and golds, adds Raza. Branch out by considering greens, blues or purples.

One color desi brides usually miss: Pink. “I never see Indian brides in pink, and it’s so flattering on our skin tone,” says Vadhera. Try her Global Goddess “Chowrasta” blush; for deeper skin tones, use the “Sattva” blush shade.

6. Play up the eyes.

When it comes to wedding makeup, the eyes have it. Use primer and, of course, waterproof mascara to add length. For more drama, some brides use fake eyelashes. But if you’ve never worn fake ones before, your wedding day is not the day to try it out, warns Vadhera. “I definitely don’t recommend using a full set if you’re having a summer wedding,” she adds, due to a higher chance of them peeling off.

Dramatic eyes by Afsana Karim.

If you really want to try falsies, get individual lashes put in the corner of your eyes for a much more natural look. But make sure one of your bridesmaids is carrying an emergency tube of glue—just in case.

Afsana Karim, a London-based makeup artist who worked as a model before becoming a heavyweight on the South Asian bridal scene, urges brides to “go wild and try something different!” The latest trends include “dramatic eyes, lots of color, long lashes and nude, glossy lips. “The key to making your eyes look dramatic,” she says, “lies in the black smolder pencil from MAC. Carefully apply the pencil in the whole inner eye and around the eyes. L’Oreal’s black mascara is perfect to complete the eyelashes. To finish the look, use your fingertips to smudge the eye pencil for that smoky look.”

Bridal makeup by Dimple Shah.
7. Keep essentials handy for quick touch-ups.

No matter how great your makeup looks, you’ll probably need some fine-tuning throughout your day. Vasisht suggests creating an emergency kit containing compact powder to dab on when you experience shine overkill; lipgloss for touch-ups, and a Q-tip for kohl or mascara smudges.

8. Get your nails done—but not always in red.

If you’re more traditional, Vadhera suggests dark reds for nails that are short and freshly manicured, but French pink can be a much more appealing alternative. “It’s the prettiest on our skin tone and gives a more finished look,” she says.

9. Get gorgeous hair.

Updos look neater for the wedding day and will show off your neck and jewelry better, says Ismail. She believes leaving your hair down can get messy, especially if you’re having your wedding in the summer or planning on dancing later in the night. Sport a more casual look for the next day or at the less formal events. And if you can plan ahead enough, opt for a lighter veil. “The heavier it is, the harder it is to work with and can weigh your hair down,” says Ismail. Of course, always opt for what’s best for you. If you know that loose hair looks good on you, don’t be afraid to break the rules.

Bride Ayesha Khan Bangash by Ather/Shahzad.

Always wash your hair the night or day before—not the day you’re getting it done. “Super clean and silky hair is hard to work with because the hairspray won’t hold. If you have oily hair, take a shower early in the morning, way before you’re getting it done,” says Ismail.

Toronto-based makeup artist Dimple Shah says she likes to use hair extensions for some brides. “They’re great if a bride’s hair is too thin or too short or if she’s looking into an elaborate style where it’s needed.” The price can range from $25 up to $100, depending on the type of extensions. Talk with your stylist about what would work for you.

Finally, good hair care is essential, so start early. Use the proper protective serums if you’re using heat tools, and get regular trims to avoid split ends. If you’re planning on coloring your hair, do it at least two months in advance, suggests Vadhera.

10. Relax and enjoy your day!

Easier said than done, right? But remember, this is your time to pamper yourself, so get a massage, take up yoga, rest well and eat well. “I ask my brides to try not to get edgy because it will show up on their face—and no makeup can hide that irritation.” Adds Karim: “Focus on enhancing your best features and feeling comfortable and beautiful within your self. It’s your big day—just enjoy it!”n

Shyema Azam won’t be getting married anytime soon but is planning to cheat and use some of these tips for her brother’s wedding this summer. She is an editor at Marie Claire.
Published on June 7, 2007.
Photography: Opening image credited to Huy Nguyen of F8 Studio. Additional photographs courtesy of the makeup artists featured.
Comments are closed.
  1. August 3, 2008, 11:35 pm Punita

    Hi Zara,

    I can totally understand not wanting to go after Thanksgiving to the mall. The Mario Tricoci salon I went to is not in the mall and is located in Schaumburg, but I am not sure where Lincolnwood is located. Good luck with your search.

  2. August 4, 2008, 3:55 am barbie

    hi heena i am your big friend of yours and i want you accept me as a friend
    happy friendshipday

  3. August 5, 2008, 3:10 pm Sam

    Can you please recommend a person who does hair and make-up for a desi bride in New York City?

  4. August 5, 2008, 8:04 pm Zara

    Punita, Lincolnwood is located between Skokie and Chicago.. its about 30-40 min away from Schaumburg.. but thank you for your help I appreciate it! =)

  5. August 7, 2008, 2:39 pm reshma 222

    araay motherchodo tm logoon ko marna nahe hai kia itne piyaree piyaree larkion ki man chod de ….saly bhenchod

  6. August 7, 2008, 2:44 pm reshma 222

    aayee beauty polar jab qabar main jao gay to tatti jam ho jai gee tmharee khus main alam channa ka lund jai ga ….phir kia karoo gay hein….?
    band karo yeah dhanda aur Allah Allah karoo… chaloo jao shabash…..
    wasay aik baat hai k aisay khubsurat cheray dekh kar buddhon k lund bhi kharay ho jaein gay…..hahahahahah
    u all mother chod…….

  7. August 12, 2008, 12:21 pm nilly

    can someone recommend makeup artists in NJ that are reasonable? Thanks

  8. August 26, 2008, 12:29 am nimi

    i want to have a very gorgeous/elegant/modern style lengha for my reception that is a fishtail style with a unique blouse. Does anyone know where I can get such a lengha made? I live in Houston, TX. Is there some designer out there? I just want an outfit that’s different from all the rest i’ve seen :).

    Also, anyone know of any awesome hairstylists in houston? …thanks!!!

    love the pics up there!

  9. August 28, 2008, 6:25 pm Saima

    Hi Nilly,

    My name is Saima and I am a makeup artist/hairstylist located in NJ. I also offer services in NY, and CT. Give me a call at (973) 885-5988 for pictures of my brides and more information.

  10. September 13, 2008, 9:19 am Bethza

    I am a professional makeup artist giving services in Chicago and Indiana,Michigan,Ohio….rates vary by location.
    Here is my site: and I specialized on tan-dark skin.
    Try me!!

  11. October 11, 2008, 7:21 am AMIT

    you like me very very much

  12. October 13, 2008, 6:53 am crown


    Can any1 please reccomend a good hair and beauty stylist here in the UK, birmingham preferbly.

    Thank you

  13. October 21, 2008, 9:08 am Vidhya Senior


    I am going to have a big Indian ceremony in Chennai(Madras) in 9th Nov 2008(couple of weeks time). Do you have any branches in Chennai? It’s amazing all of these images theri makeup is perfect.

    I am eagerly waiting for your reply.


  14. November 6, 2008, 4:25 am Pranali

    my weddin is in 1st week of december and i have blemsihes on my cheeks.can u help me 2 get a clear skin.
    pl reply back soon

  15. November 6, 2008, 9:25 am Sara

    Hey There,

    I Freelance and by trade i am also a Makeup Artist 🙂 It has been my profession for the past 7 years and I also work for one of the Top leading Makup Artist (Napoleon Perdis)

    I am located in Sydney, Australia..

    If you are interested and would like to get in contact with me, Your more than welcome to contact me on

  16. November 8, 2008, 5:56 pm marlien lily

    hi, i like all the girls but i want to ask u one think do u ppl have any contact number in Abu Dhabi, UAE . plz do reply me

  17. November 17, 2008, 4:28 am Mul

    Ather/Shehzads contacts are already listed at the top but for those who have missed it here it is once again

    Ather Shahzad Studio & Salon

    1-C, Block P, Gulberg II, Lahore, Pakistan

  18. December 28, 2008, 3:47 am Sidrah n Hina

    Cool pics…secondly nice makeup

  19. December 28, 2008, 5:02 pm Alexiz Moreno

    lovely ladies. I love the photography too. You’ve done well.

  20. December 28, 2008, 9:04 pm Seherezaade

    I second a few of those comments above… would be nice to see some dark-skinned desi brides as well considering we make up the MAJORITY of the desi women population! Thank you.

  21. March 10, 2009, 7:34 pm AZ

    I am trying to help my siser find a makeup artist for her wedding in Philadelphia. Does ANYONE know of one that is similar to Ather/Shahzad from this article?