You Can, in Fact, Get Married Without Doing Any Beauty Prep

Photography by Christine Doneé

The wedding beauty to-do list I created shortly after my engagement was extensive: Botox, filler, laser facials, spray tan, a possible mole-removal surgery, Morpheus8, HydraFacials, and anything with platelet-rich plasma. I vowed to finally be consistent about daily use of gua sha, Nutrafol, and tretinoin. I committed to frequent chemical peels, a smattering of face masks, and expensive new serums.

My goal was straightforward: to look the best I have ever—and will ever—look at my wedding. I poured over “bridal prep” lists with 18-month lead times and watched before and after TikToks where beautiful women smiled at me with glistening white teeth (add teeth whitening to the list) and shared their 8 to 13 “must-dos” before the Big Day. I watched in awe alongside the millions of others on #bridetok. Slowly, knots began to form in my stomach. Despite my wedding being 598 days away, it felt like time was running out for me to hone my routine, to ascend to an aesthetic nirvana.

Predictably, this “do everything all at once” approach did not hold. I was unable to employ seven new habits overnight. I did not have unlimited money for a medley of luxurious medspa treatments. Nothing was going as planned and as I got closer to my wedding, the knots in my stomach continued to tighten. I tried Botox for the first time, I dabbled in different lasers, I went through tubes of tretinoin and, despite checking things off of my bridal beauty to-do list, I continued to get more anxious. Until one day, I gave up on everything. I took a long hard look at my face, as is, acne scars and uneven eyebrows and moles, and decided: this will have to do.

As soon as I gave up, my stomach unclenched for the first time in months and almost by chance, because of my job as a beauty writer, I ended up in the office of esthetician Shani Darden for a facial. As I rattled off my ambitious beauty to-do list and all the ways I was falling short, she stopped me. To my total surprise, she told me that my approach was flawed from the beginning. When it comes to wedding prep, less can sometimes be more.

The writer in her natural state, pre-wedding.
The writer in her natural state, pre-wedding.
Courtesy of subject

“The most important thing to remember is finding a routine that you will actually stick to and working on your skin-care journey with a trusted professional,” says Darden, whose clientele includes Jessica Alba, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Chrissy Teigen. “The biggest mistake brides make is not spacing out trying new products or treatments. It's important not to rush your skin.”

Inspired by Darden, I made a new plan that prioritized simplicity over extremity.

  1. A gentle skin-care lineup (with sunscreen, of course)

  2. Regular facials a few months before the wedding (with Shani, of course)

  3. One “extra” treatment (she recommended microneedling to address my acne scars, but you should always work with a professional to choose something that works best for your skin needs)

  4. An LED mask, when I remember to use it (great for calming skin, building collagen, and improving texture; not messy or overly involved)

“One of the most common skin-related mistakes brides make before their wedding day is overusing products or introducing new ones too close to the event,” says Marisa Garshick, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City. “With the abundance of skin care options available, it's easy to feel tempted to try them all, but simplicity often yields the best results.”

Before I saw Darden, I had compiled my to-do list via a mix of TikTok, Reddit and years of experience in the beauty industry. However, nothing accounted for my skin’s unique needs quite like talking to a seasoned professional. HydraFacials? The suction ended up being not ideal at all for me, who struggles with broken capillaries. Morpheus8? Most painful thing I’ve ever experienced—and I really didn’t look that different, probably because the results from radio frequency are far more dramatic on mature skin. “Anything you do needs to align with your skin type and skin goals, not just because you saw an advertisement for it on TikTok,” says Darden. “Everyone’s skin is so different.”

So how do we brides get so tangled up in the more-is-always-better approach?

“Comparison is the thief of joy,” says Rebecca Cavallari, a 2024 bride whose New York wedding is mere days away at the time of our chat. When she first started planning her wedding, she made a similarly ambitious list of interventions, from filler to orthodontic interventions, based on what she was seeing other brides post about on social media.

Rebecca Cavallari was married in New York City earlier this year.
Rebecca Cavallari was married in New York City earlier this year.
Photography by Nicole Gatto Photography

“I got really overwhelmed. I felt like I had to take care of everything before the wedding. I got a new retainer to straighten out my teeth, but I honestly haven't worn it at all. That is kind of a theme,” says Cavallari. “I really thought I would do a bunch more, but I haven't.”

In the end, Cavallari arrived at her wedding week without a refresh of Botox or filler. She didn’t have the time to squeeze in a facial or a chemical peel and the only item on her prenuptial to-do list is an underarm wax. “The idea of: ‘this is the prettiest I have ever looked’ is so much pressure, thinking about it all makes me go into a shell,” says Cavallari. “I’m glad I’m not mad at myself because I didn’t gua sha. I didn’t and that’s that.”

For Anneliese Dominguez, a Los Angeles-based bride, working in fashion and beauty made her even more aware of all the ways she was “falling short" as she compared her wedding to those of the uber-rich and uber-famous who flock to those industries. “I actually still, to this day, have to skip over wedding things that I see [online] because I get in that mode of comparison,” says Dominguez. “I see people getting married in the south of France, literal models, and it is hard.”

If you look at the expectations set on TikTok, rhinoplasty and major weight loss are celebrated as wins; the more intense the changes a bride-to-be makes before she walks down the aisle, the more congratulatory the comments. That said, let me make it clear: I celebrate all the approaches to wedding preparations—after all, we are all entitled to do whatever we want to ensure we feel confident and beautiful on a day when all eyes are pointed squarely in our direction. Get the filler! Remove the tattoo you hate! Do whatever makes you happy!

Where it starts to get sticky is in the notion that if we do not do these things, we are somehow lacking. Thinking about bridal beauty as a catalyst for total transformation often brings insecurities to the surface. It robs us of the joy of wedding planning when it starts to feel like a countdown: 140 days to fix every flaw, lest we immortalize it forever in our bridal portraits.

“Ultimately, it's about feeling like the best version of yourself on your special day,” says Dr. Garshick. She advises patients seeking aesthetic interventions to “prioritize one or two main concerns, focusing on enhancing your natural beauty rather than aiming for drastic changes.”

In fact, all the experts I spoke to agree that you do not need to do anything drastic before your wedding day. That gentle can be just as effective. I wish someone had told me this before optimizing my face became my full-time job.

In the end, Dominguez opted for simple facials at Heyday over medspa treatments. “I was so scared of lasers, especially having darker skin which is more prone to hyperpigmentation, there is no f*cking way I am messing with that before my wedding,” says Dominguez. She started gentle facials four months before saying “I Do” in 2022 and she felt great on the day.

Anneliese Dominguez was married in California two years ago.
Anneliese Dominguez was married in California two years ago.
Photography by Christine Doneé

Dominguez’s favorite pre-wedding beauty treatment was not so much aesthetic as it was for the soul: “I got a massage membership, and it kept me calm,” she says with a laugh. Similarly, Cavallari's biggest transformation ended up being internal rather than external.

“I started talking to myself in the mirror every day like I was my best friend,” says Cavallari. “I hype myself up. It makes me feel good.”

When I was the deepest in my bridal beauty prep list, I was at my most stressed. I felt like an exposed nerve. I found myself wondering what good any of this could be if I was in a state of total panic?

“Staying hydrated, eating a balanced diet, and managing stress levels can also significantly impact the overall health and appearance of the skin,” says Edyta Jarosz, an aesthetician at Shafer Clinic Fifth Avenue in New York City. “Brides should focus on getting adequate rest for healthy, glowing skin on their special day.”

Stress causes inflammation in the skin, New York City-based board-certified dermatologist Amy Wechsler has previously told Allure. This is triggered by a rush of the stress-hormone cortisol, and can result in bumps, rashes, and stress acne, she said. Of course, a lot of wedding-related stress is unavoidable: red wine stains and rain delays are out of our hands. What we do have control over is what we prioritize in the lead-up to our wedding.

For anyone who has been feeling guilty about not doing enough, let me assure you, you do not owe your guests a jaw-dropping transformation. You could show up to your wedding day exactly as you are today, the pimple on your chin be damned.

“You do not want to look back and look like a completely different person on your wedding day,” says Dominguez. “You don’t want to look back at your photos and be like wow I was so beautiful…then.”

When we imagine future generations stumbling upon our old photo albums, we imagine them remarking on our dimples, our porcelain complexion, and the perfect curl of our hair. As for me, I’d rather it be clear I was happy.

More beauty ideas for brides to consider (or ignore!):

Watch the evolution of bridal makeup:

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Originally Appeared on Allure