Why Are Wedding Makeup Artists So Expensive?

Image: Laura Leppert

Your wedding is almost here! It's been so fun planning and as it draws near, you release a big sigh of relief because planning is DONE! You’ve booked all your vendors and have chosen a photographer, the best one you can afford because you know they are going to be taking and editing the photos of the most important day of your life. By now, your budget is either maxed out or close to it, and there’s one tiny detail that you forgot, or pushed to the back burner:

Your makeup.

Argh! Now after all these months, you still aren't even finished! Even more annoying is, you can’t believe how expensive your local artists rates are! Because after all, it’s “just makeup.”

But it’s not “just makeup”. Ladies, we are talking about your FACE, on your WEDDING DAY. This is the most important day of your life and you are going to be constantly photographed, in your gown that cost you thousands of dollars, carrying your $250 bouquet, by the photographer you hired for a pretty penny.  You are not going to be very happy if those photos come back and your face is just “meh.” Believe it or not, when your guests look at you, the first thing they are going to see is your face. Not your dress, or your flowers, or $550 shoes. Your FACE. Ditto when you reflect back on your photos in 10 years from now. So even if you don’t wear makeup every day, or think it doesn't matter, trust me, IT MATTERS TODAY.

We all know someone with “bad makeup.” That friend whose makeup looks good in the morning, but by lunch it's all worn off. The co-worker with the overdone eyeliner that makes her look like a drunk raccoon. Your great aunt who still wears blue eyeliner because that’s what the lady at the counter at the mall recommended back in 1986. Surely this is NOT what you want for your wedding makeup, but it’s what you set yourself up for when you cut corners with your beauty budget.

Cheap makeup artists are cheap for a reason, sometimes for multiple reasons.

One of my favorite sayings is, “You can have it cheap, fast, or good. Pick any two,” No truer words have ever been written and I guarantee that if you hire a cheap makeup artist, one of the following things is going to happen:

  • Your makeup will look amazing, but take forever to complete.

Your average inexpensive artist who is truly talented and does wonderful work, is charging less because he or he or she is inexperienced (i.e. SLOW).  This leaves YOU pressed for time and stressed. That bride who was late to her own ceremony because her makeup artist took 5 hours to do 4 faces? Yeah, don’t be that girl.

  • Your makeup will be finished quickly, but look terrible.

Look, the fact of the matter is, ALL artists are doing this to make a living. So anyone who is cheap and fast is going to either do crappy work, or have sub par products in their kit (Wet N’ Wild, anyone?), because they have to cut corners someplace in order to make a profit.  And the first and easiest place to do that is the kit; and that’s even if they have a kit. Some of these folks will ask YOU to provide your personal makeup. No, I am not making that up, and yes, it really happens! And if you don't normally wear makeup, you’ll have to purchase products for your “artist” to use. Makeup isn't cheap, even drugstore products add up. So by the time everything is said and done, you could have hired a true professional for about the same out of pocket costs, or even less.

  • Your "artist" will not follow sanitary practices/have a sanitary kit. 

This is a big one because it directly effects your SAFETY. These folks will show up with a "kit" that is really just their own PERSONAL makeup.  Do you understand how disgusting and down right dangerous that is? Let me break it down: They're going to use their own mascara that is lord knows how old, and been used with the wand it came with on their lashes and placed back into the tube eleventy billion times. Their lip glosses and lipsticks that have come in contact with their mouth over and over again, and the wands dipped back into the tube. Imagine what kind of nastiness is literally growing in there! And they're going to use it on YOUR mouth. (A pro will use safe and sanitary practices that keeps their products clean and free from this sort of contamination). Did you know that beauty blenders are not to be used on multiple people because there's no possible way to completely sanitize them?  It's true. That's why you won't find a beauty blender anywhere in my kit unless I plan to gift it to my client after I finish using it them. I can guarantee there are cheap artists out there who are using beauty blenders on multiple clients and then "washing"them. I can back this claim up with posts on both Facebook and Instagram that I have seen about it from these folks. Similarly, if you have someone that maybe has an actual kit, but doesn't follow basic sanitary practices. So they double dip her mascara and lip wands, or brushes into cream products, resulting in the exact same risks to you. Is saving a few hundred bucks on a makeup artist REALLY worth getting pink eye on your honeymoon, or a lifelong case of herpes? 

  • Your makeup artist won’t show up.

Why should they? What’s in it for them? They’re charging such a small amount and stand to make so little, they just might decide they’d rather stay in bed and watch Netflix than come to deal with your wedding makeup. I know it is hard to believe but take it from someone who's gotten frantic calls from brides left in the lurch literally hours before their wedding ceremony, cheap “fakeup artists” flake all the time. 

Jen traveled to my wedding destination with all of her supplies to do my makeup, my 5 bridesmaids, and my mothers makeup. We all looked amazing! I mean picture perfect. I have had airbrush done for other weddings i was in and this was by far the best!!
— Michelle H, The Knot

A professional makeup artist spends literally THOUSANDS of dollars on their kits, stocking them with high quality (and therefore, expensive) products that are designed for HD photography and to last 12+ hours of wear. They’ve invested their time, blood, sweat and tears building a reputable business whose reputation depends on happy clients. So they will show up on time on your wedding day and get you and your girls looking gorgeous within your designated timeline. Your makeup will look fabulous for the ENTIRE day and evening, and look amazing in your pictures.

Good+Fast = NOT cheap!

What's more, what we do is hard work! It's time consuming keeping up with trends and newest products. Not to mention the actual physical demands of the wedding day. We are on our feet for upwards of 4-6 hours at a time with little to no breaks for the restroom or to eat. I have been know to skip eating until I finish because on your wedding day my priorities are as follows: You first, and everything else, including my stomach and bladder, last. If you want a professional that not only is reliable, sanitary, experienced and timely, but also dedicated and invested in YOU, it is going to come at a price.

If that’s not enough to convince you, let’s look at the financials. The average 2015 wedding cost between $29,000-$31,000 (SOURCE: www.weddingstats.org) And it’s broken down as:

Reception: 48-50%

Ceremony: 2-3%

Attire: 8-10%

Flowers: 8-10%

Entertainment/Music: 8-10%

Photography/Videography: 10-12%

Stationery: 2-3%

Wedding Rings: 2-3%

Parking/Transportation: 2-3%

Gifts: 2-3%

Miscellaneous: 8% (SOURCE: TheKnot.com)

Notice that beauty is such a small part of the budget, it isn’t even listed!   

In our market, a legitimate makeup artist charges between $200-$350 for a bride and between $65-$85 for a bridesmaid. These rates include the bride’s trial run, deposit, and the luxury service of the artist coming to your location on the wedding day to do your makeup.  But, there are artists around here that are as cheap as $150 for a bride and $50 for a bridesmaid.

If you have a party of yourself plus 5 attendants, the total investment for makeup with Moxxie would be $710. This is a mere .02% of a $29,000 budget! But if you book with the cheaper artist, it’d be $400.

You don’t have to be a genius to see that the impact to your bottom line here is minimal. That $310 you just "saved" is a measly .007% of a $29,000 budget. It’s a minimal savings that you will pay dearly for and it’s just not worth it. 

My friend & colleague Deirdre Mahon, pointed out in a similar, brilliantly written post, the fact that brides will spend hundreds on their shoes, which are going to be hidden under their dress most of the time, but then balk at a few hundred dollars for makeup for their FACE. Seems really backwards, doesn't it?

Look, I KNOW weddings are expensive, I get it. But that is all the more reason to make cuts in other, larger ticket areas that account for much more of your budget, but truly aren’t as important. It is possible to do! This article from Mint.com, and this article from Theknot.com offer great suggestions on how to make cuts where it counts. Notice how neither of them suggests cutting back on beauty services? The reason being, beauty is a drop in the wedding budget bucket and therefore not going to really impact the over all bottom line. Also, it is hugely important!

Besides, it's your FACE. Wouldn't it be nice if that was the one thing you don't have to worry about on your wedding day?