1. Get a beauty assessment. First, consult a dermatologist or aesthetician and a hair stylist to obtain skin and mane evaluations. "Many salons provide free, 15-minute consultations," points out Lisa Adams, an aesthetician and makeup artist with John Roberts Spa in Solon.
A dermatologist or aesthetician can recommend a program for your skin type and clear up any persistent problems, Adams says, adding that once you adopt a combination of products you like that agrees with your skin, don't change it. "If you change your skin-care products the week before your wedding, this could lead to unexpected blotches and breakouts."
2. Balance your diet. Adams suggests sticking with high-protein foods, such as fish, nuts and avocado, as well as vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Avoid fried foods, sugars, caffeine and diet sodas, and minimize alcohol intake. "Chemicals, especially like those in diet pop, can't be broken down by the body, so they either come out in the skin in the form of cell swelling and inflammation, causing a ruddy, unhealthy look, or they are stored as fat," she says. "The week before your wedding, stay away from high-fat foods like chocolate and chips as well to avoid breakouts."
3. Build your body. Exercise boosts circulation and flushes away toxins that cause blemishes, Adams says, suggesting that brides incorporate about 30 minutes of gentle exercise into each day.
4. Say no to tanning. Experts suggest that brides avoid tanning because it diminishes the skin's glow and, if done naturally, can cause visible tan lines, not to mention look rather unattractive against a white or ivory dress.
"Stick with the skin tone you were born with and wear sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor of 45 to minimize exposure and maximize radiance," Adams says.
5. Be comfortable. Shoes that pinch, underwear that requires constant tugging and straps so tight they cut into the skin not only wear on your body, they also show in your face and posture, says Chris Holley-Starling, owner of CHS Photo in Cleveland Heights.
Seek out wedding attire you wear vs. pieces that just wear you out. "Put on your shoes, veil and lingerie before the wedding so you can gauge how comfortable they are," Holley-Starling advises. "Any piece that you want to rip off after an hour or two because of the pain should be exchanged for something new."
6. Tend to your teeth. No bride can stop smiling on her wedding day, so ensuring a bright, white grin should be high on the beauty agenda.
Many teeth-whitening options are available in and out of the dentist's office, but even the shortest over-the-counter treatments take seven to 14 days, so Holley-Starling advises brides to plan ahead to ensure the right results.
7. Test-drive your hairstyle. Bring your veil and headpiece to a salon no later than a couple of weeks before the wedding for a trial run, advises Nadean Mattson, a stylist at Details in Rocky River. "You never want to do your hair or have your hair done for the first time on your wedding day," she says.
A bride should also bring photos of her dress and wear a white shirt with a similar neckline as her gown to the trial, recommends Denise Thompson, marketing director for John Roberts Spa in Warrensville Heights. "And don't forget to take pictures during this test drive so you can see how it looks on film."
8. Tousle your 'do. Holley-Starling points out that although a severely pulled-back look can be dramatic, it can also cause headaches, a pain that can show up in a bride's expressions during photographs.
9. Reject ringlets. Wispy locks that fall from the forehead can cause harsh shadows on the face in photographs, Holley-Starling warns. "If you must have some ringlets hanging from your updo, bring them behind the outside edge of the eye," she advises.
10. Expose your profile. "Make sure you or your stylist places your veil far enough back on the head so that it doesn't hide your profile," Holley-Starling suggests. "To ensure it's far enough back, remember to look at your profile in the mirror. And for extra security, ask your maid of honor to pull back your veil just before the vows to guarantee that your photographer captures this key moment on film."
11. Choose natural neutrals. On your big day, your makeup should be a little heavier than normal so that it shows up in your photos, Thompson says, adding that the point is to achieve a balance. "You don't want to look washed out, but you also don't want makeup so foreign to you that it makes you look like a different person," she says. "The trick is to stick with neutral colors: clean, classic makeup in browns, beiges, pinks, roses, peaches and grays."
Lipstick should be comfortable to the bride, yet dark enough to appear in pictures. Brides should freshen their makeup at each juncture of the wedding day. "You don't have to start from scratch, but if you go outdoors to take pictures, you should check your mascara, blush and lipstick prior to and after the photo session," Holley-Starling says, adding that in the evening many brides darken their makeup with a slightly deeper lipstick shade and a bit more eye shadow for extra glamour so it shows up when the flashes pop.
12. Shun glitter. Sparkle may be fine for the flower girls, but the bride and her wedding party should avoid glitter.
"Pieces of glitter can show up in photos and look like lint or dandruff," Thompson says, warning that glitter on the bride's skin will rub off onto the groom's tuxedo, as well as on anyone else she hugs.
13. Mind your fingers and toes. Adams suggests that a bride start getting regular manicures about six months before the wedding to ensure healthy nails, especially since she will be showing off her new ring to guests and in photos.
French manicures or neutral, light colors are popular for both fingers and toes to keep the focus on the bride's face, dress and overall beauty.
14. Schedule engagement portraits. Sitting for engagement portraits is a good idea for many reasons, Holley-Starling says. First, it lets the couple and the photographer build a rapport before the wedding. It also gives the couple a chance to get comfortable in front of the camera so they're used to it by the time their wedding day arrives.
15. Dine a day early. Holley-Starling says many brides are moving their rehearsal dinners to Thursday evenings instead of Friday nights.
"This way, they can drink a little and have a good time and then rest up the day before the wedding," she says. "On the wedding day, you also should avoid drinking too much alcohol early on to make sure you don't lose energy and get tired before the reception starts. Extreme tiredness in the form of a slouched body and weak smile can be very evident in pictures."