4/17 {DIY or… Live?} The Broke-Ass Makeup Conundrum

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One of the hardest lessons for a Broke-Ass Bride is that it is sometimes cheaper to hire someone to do something for you than it is to do it yourself.  Broke-Ass living can give you control issues.  You tabulate every cent you spend in a color-coded spreadsheet, you try to will yourself to be warmer so you don’t have to turn up the thermostat, you have to build the fortitude to resist the siren call of cute spring dresses (or shoes, or vintage books, or sports cars: whatever your consumerism poison).  It’s bound to make you a little Type-A. I think that’s why we love DIY so much: it’s not just the savings, its not just the fun of crafting, it’s that we get exactly what we want.

This is why I am not hiring a makeup artist for my wedding.  Because I’m a control freak about my face.  I worry that if I let a stranger make me up I’ll look like Marge Simpson after Homer shot her with the makeup gun he invented:

But I know from experience that it is often cheaper to hire someone to do your wedding day makeup.  When my sister got married in 2008, I offered to do her makeup for her so she could save some $$.  Problem is, my sister doesn’t wear makeup. Ever. So we had to buy EVERYTHING. The cost of that first makeup shopping trip would have easily covered the price of a makeup artist. And of course we had to make a second trip when we found out that the lipstick shade wasn’t quite right and the allegedly-waterproof mascara wasn’t cry-proof. That would have covered the tip. At the time, I justified that spending because hiring a makeup artist lasts for one day, but these products would be good for at least several months.  But my sister still doesn’t wear makeup. If I had to bet, she never used any of that stuff again after her wedding.

But what if you’ve already got a whole drawer full of makeup? Wouldn’t it be cheaper to DIY your wedding makeup in that case? Sure… but only if you can promise yourself you’re not going to let the wedding justify buying a lot of new products (especially products more expensive than what you normally buy).

Can you make that promise? I know I couldn’t. I have everything I need. But didn’t the wedding justify replacing my worn-out powder brush? Ye$. Shouldn’t I find a waterproof eyeliner that doesn’t flake off? Of cour$e I $hould. Wouldn’t  this be a great time to finally try foundation primer? Ab$olutely!

$150 dollars at Ulta later, I’m at twice the price of the makeup artist quote I got from my hair salon. [In a lot of areas, the price of a makeup artist is considerably more, but I could have easily spent twice as much at Ulta.  TRUST ME.]  Unlike my sister, I will use these new products on more than one day. But I wouldn’t have missed them if I just used the money to hire a makeup artist for my wedding.  I’m really not following my budget here. I’m following my heart.

Because now I know that I won’t have my eyebrow scar filled in with brow pencil by a well-meaning pro while I’m not paying attention. I won’t have to worry about my skin reacting to any strange products in the artist’s kit. I won’t have to worry about not looking like myself on my wedding day, because the same person who always does my makeup will be doing it.

So while I’ll repeat today’s lesson that Broke-Ass Wedding Planning is that DIY is not always cheapest, but add on: sometimes it’s worth it anyway. If you’re not into makeup and never will be, and you don’t have control issues about how your face looks, go ahead and hire a makeup artist.  If you’re like me and obsess over your makeup too much to outsource it, just make sure you don’t think DIY makeup is “free,” and allot some money in your budget for new products.  And if you are somewhere in between, take stock of what products you might buy, check the rates of local makeup artists, and let your budget be your guide.

Where do you fall on this spectrum? Are you hiring a makeup artist? Were you surprised how expensive doing your own makeup can end up being?


  • Lydia

    I really enjoyed this post because this is a topic that I've been struggling with a lot lately. With a tight budget for our wedding, all the little extras, like getting my hair, nails and makeup done seems like a step backwards instead of a good decision. But like the sister in this post, I never wear makeup and would probably have to make some serious purchases (items that I would very likely never use again). The only problem is that I am extremely type A, and worry greatly about the way my makeup will look when it is done by someone else. So I'm doing a test run as well as a day-of makeup application, and paying for both! I think in the long run though, I will ultimately save (I hope!) and I won't have the pressure of learning HOW to do my own makeup looming over my head.

  • Miggs

    I'm thinking of just having my hair done professionally while I do my own make-up. I'm really particular about what goes on my face and I don't really want to be done up with products I don't really use everyday, like blush and liquid foundation.

  • svartfar

    I LOVE make-up. I use to be a make-up artist for Aveda, but I will not do my own make-up at my wedding. I love the fact that I can get what ever look I want and I don't have to buy the make-up. Plus it's nice to not have to stress about not screwing up your liquid eyeliner when you're running 20 minutes behind schedule.

  • To Broke-Ass Brides everywhere, From an Actress in LA, a VERY important Makeup Note!

    Your makeup artist will put so much makeup on you that you will hate it. You will feel ridiculous, you will ask her to redo it, or, worse, wash all of it off and redo it yourself because it's just. too. much.


    You NEED to have a LOT more makeup on than you're used to so that it will show up on your photographs! Trust ME! You'll feel like a drag queen, but you NEED it to show up in your photos. You'll feel over done but your pictures will have you looking like a movie star.

    In fact, my best friend cried on the way to the ceremony because she was wearing so much "natural" makeup. She felt like a clown. But in her pictures, oh her pictures! She looked glowing, lovely, and like she had the very right perfect amount.

    For ladies doing your own makeup – go heavier with everything. In fact, I have an example of myself doing my own makeup which I might replicate on my wedding day because I love how my eyes look, but I am wearing SO MUCH and I love how I still think I look like I'm not wearing too much. http://tinyurl.com/3zbfulg

    Photography flattens your features and you need to wear more makeup than usual so that your beautiful features show up.

    Also, you're a bride "on stage" with your groom while you're getting hitched. More makeup means the back row can see your face better too.

    Dana and Hunter, fellow actors, I'm sure you both can attest to more makeup is better. 🙂

  • I've been doing my own makeup for the better part of the past 15 years, and I've gotten pretty damn good at it. A makeup artist in Boston is ridiculous-expensive, so I might as well just break out my own kit, sit in front of the mirror, and do a fancier version of what I do 5 days a week anyway.

  • I was trying to get better at makeup so I could DIY on the wedding day, but after a couple failed trips to the drugstore and buying the wrong shade of foundation (already wasting money) … I gave into having a makeup artist try stuff on me at Sephora and spending the $150 on new (much more expensive) makeup. Just like Robin I have now spent more than it would cost me to hire a makeup artist on my wedding day. But now I know how to do it myself, and better than I did before, and (I think) as good as any professional could do for me. And the engagement photos, rehearsal dinner, etc., will feature me in my perfect makeup 🙂

  • Bonnie

    I'm a total "makeup maven" AND I sell Avon, so I already have everything I need, including a finely-honed collection of shadows, liners, mascaras, and lip products that work together beautifully, so I will be doing my makeup myself. . . with a little help from my grown daughters for added flair.

  • Liz

    I'm so happy to have read this article. Make up artists in my area are crazy expensive. My original plan was to go to the makeup counter and have them do it. I did this twice (I considered them trials) and was very unhappy both in real life and in photos. I decided to do my own makeup. Although makeup has always fascinated me (I love "Making Faces" by Kevyn Aucoin), I don't wear it on a regular basis. I also had very little makeup. So after many trips to Sephora, the drugstore, and the mall, I have all the makeup and tools that I need.

    All in all, I've probably spent what it would have cost me to hire a makeup artist. However, although I don't wear makeup regularly, I do wear it when I go out. I've already gone out a couple of times with my makeup and I have some events coming up. I've also really honed my skills. I've perfected the look that I want, and can tone it down or kick it up. Recently, I did my makeup and went out to see a friend. She thought that I had stopped by Sephora to have my makeup done by one of the artists. I was thrilled. I'm constantly being complimented on my makeup skills. Even though I haven't saved a lot of money, I know that I will look the way that I want to on my wedding.

    And to piggyback off of what another poster wrote, you definitely do need to use a heavier hand for photos. You might also find that you need different colors than those you would wear all the time. I always wear pink lipstick. For my wedding, I'm using red. The color stands out and it looks great in black and white photos.

  • Fate

    Wow.. I should have read this before…. I'm doing my own makeup. So much of what I had was old and expired (I don't wear makeup often anymore) so I threw it all out and am replacing everything for the wedding. I've spent probably close to $450 so far, and I'm not even half way done yet.

    That being said, I've loved every minute of it, and even though they'll probably only get used on special occasions, at least I'll have lots of shiny products to play with for a few years to come.