The Avoidable Beauty Mistakes I Made Before My Wedding

By Ariel Okin
Photo: Erin McGinn

Given that I write about weddings for Over the Moon,, and, you’d think that I’d have a firm handle on what not to do in the lead up to my own wedding. I got married relatively recently, and beforehand, I logically knew the beauty basics and could recite them backwards: don’t try anything new on your skin, no big cosmetic procedures before the big day, no drastic diets, etc. Yet somehow, when I found myself soon-to-be-betrothed, all logic went out the door.

I learned two things after going through an experiment-fueled bridal beauty experience. One, widespread wisdom is generally widespread for a reason. And two, (or, rather, first and foremost), you must be happy with who you are. Magazines and the media place such a high premium on “looking the best you’ve ever looked” on your wedding day, and it’s an extremely enticing, and dangerous, mindset to get sucked into. But no face cream, dermatologist, or diet will ever be able to replicate the glow on your face the day of your wedding. I wish I knew that before I ended up inflaming my face with highly concentrated retinol, but I digress. (More on that later.)

Below, I share a few avoidable scenarios of first hand beauty mistakes I still can’t believe I made during the weeks leading up to my wedding, and why I highly advise you avoid them, too!

DON’T try a new skincare product.
Somehow, an investigatory itch scratched my curiosity incessantly leading up to my wedding day. I felt implored to research all the “best” skincare products and try them individually in a determined quest for zygote-like skin. Mind you, I was working with clear and bright, albeit sensitive, skin to begin with. Why mess with something that isn’t bothering you in the first place? I honestly couldn’t tell you.

After binge reading all of the Top Shelf interviews on Into the Gloss, I landed myself in the dermatologist’s chair three days before I left for my wedding in Newport, R.I., with contact dermatitis from an extremely strong retinol product sold by a celebrity facialist and touted by many famous, smizing women as “the secret” to their glowing complexions. Don’t trust the smize. Stick to what you know, and if you are going to introduce a new product; for the love of your wedding photos, please don’t do what I did and experiment with it the week before.

P.S.: Thank heavens for my dermatologist, Dr. Jennifer Chwalek at Union Square Laser Dermatology. She squeezed me in same day, gave me an ointment, and told me to stick to basic cleanser and moisturizer, nothing else. Bless her heart, it worked. My skin cleared up ASAP and was perfect by Saturday.

DON’T try a new diet without professional advice first.
Leading up to my wedding, I put immense pressure on myself to “be the skinniest I had ever been.” Of course, as we all know, that’s not healthy, realistic, or fair. Any sane person can deduce this, yet, when racing after an illogical goal, even the insane sounds, well, sane. I heeded the advice of a friend who swore by a liquid diet—a.k.a. subsiding mainly on smoothies and soups leading up to any big event—and tried my luck at something she promised would work.

Of course, my plan backfired since my “diet” consisted of a smoothie and a cup of soup for lunch every day (breakfast and dinner were solid food). I mostly chose smoothies with tons of sugar in them and actually started to gain weight because I didn’t find them super filling, so I’d end up eating more later in the day. I actually panicked at my second fitting, because my dress was pulling a little bit at my hips. My mom saw my panic and asked me if I had changed anything in my diet, and it was like a cartoon lightbulb went off above my head when I practically yelled in the bridal atelier: “Smoothies!” My friends still won’t let me live this down.

Case in point: not every diet works for everybody. I stopped my smoothie train with enough time to lose the weight I had gained, turned to an eating plan that I knew worked for me (palm sized protein, complex carbs, and lots of cooked veggies—again, works for me, not for everyone) and I felt great by the time my wedding day came. The take home here is clear: don’t mess with a drastic, crazy diet before your big day. Focus on nourishing yourself in a thoughtful, real way; that’s all that matters.

DON’T push yourself too hard in the gym.
This is an obvious one, yet, logic seems to disappear when you’re on a one minded quest for unattainable perfection. After one too many barre classes leading up to the wedding (at one point I was going six days a week), I ended up tweaking my neck to the point where I couldn’t turn my head to one side. Out of commission for two weeks with a heating pad was not how I had envisioned “shredding for the wedding.”

The major takeaway here is: everything in moderation, including high intensity exercise. Our bodies can only take so much, and sometimes the instructor in class yelling, “PUSH YOURSELF!” doesn’t know if you’re feeling pain from working out, or pain from actually doing something bad to your body. Trust your gut, tune into your physical instincts, and pay attention to how you’re feeling.

DON’T get a drastic haircut.
This one goes without saying. A few months before my wedding (thankfully), my usual hair stylist who I adore (Lauren Thompson at Nunzio Saviano Salon) was on vacation, and I was in desperate need of a trim. Impatient, I booked an appointment with someone else at a different salon, only to have almost four inches lobbed off in one fell swoop. Naturally, I almost had a panic attack when I realized my long locks were now merely grazing my sternum, and promptly hyperventilated into the phone with my poor mother trying to calm me down on the other end of the line.

Thankfully, this happened with enough time in between to let my hair grow back to its desired wedding length; Lauren also suggested adding a few clip-in extensions for volume and fullness, which was one of the best beauty related wedding decisions I made. She gave me the name of a place in Chelsea to purchase a pack of “tracks,” and then she cut them tailored to my specific haircut and blended them seamlessly with my own hair and color. I tried them for my bridal shower (I also did my my bridal makeup trial for my shower the same day) and felt confident that I knew what I would be getting day of. Hair and makeup trials are so important, that’s one beauty tip I do recommend!

DON’T try a beauty treatment (e.g. facial!) that you’ve never had before.
Leading up to the wedding, I had been getting monthly microcurrent facials with Shamara Bondaroff at SB Skin, which kept my face glowing, hydrated, plump, and firm. About a month before the wedding, I found myself wanting to try a more “medical” facial and ended up with a sensitive reaction to a chemical peel. Not Samantha Jones-style—this was a mild reaction—but still! Please, brides, take my advice: Be easy on your skin. You can be a guinea pig; just try not to do it the month before your wedding. (You never know how long contact dermatitis or an eczema flare up can take to heal!)

—Ariel Okin