In just one year, Robin Schisler has spent more than $1,000 on facials, had three complete makeovers and exhausted hundreds of dollars on cosmetics and skincare products.
There is a simple reason for Schisler's sudden obsession with looking beautiful -- she's getting married.
"The pictures will be one of the most important things of that day -- they're going to be the thing that lasts," said Schisler, 29, a Lutherville research program coordinator who is marrying in May. "To look perfect for that day, you're going to have to do anything."
Schisler is hardly unique in her costly quest for big-day beauty. Women always have wanted to look perfect for the walk down the aisle, but recently, they've seemed more willing to spend money on it. Instead of just doing their own makeup, many now hire professionals. And engaged women in America are spending months experimenting with cosmetics -- and hundreds of millions of dollars on makeup every year.
It's a fact that cosmetics companies gradually are realizing. Companies from Clinique to Bobbi Brown have stepped up their outreach to the newly engaged, in the hope of reeling in some of those bridal dollars. They've been training counter makeup artists specifically in creating bridal looks and holding events at department stores for brides and their wedding parties. And just this month, Laura Mercier launched a "Wedding Party Collection" of existing lip and eye colors repackaged specially for brides.
"We have a statistic -- there's something like 7,000 marriages that happen every day somewhere in the world," said Tracy Miller, director of global education development for Clinique, which has created ads targeted at brides and developed a "You May Kiss the Groom" pamphlet available at counters. "It's a huge market out there of women who need to look their best on one day."
Older brides have income
Part of the reason companies like Clinique have begun focusing on brides lies in the growing awareness that brides have evolved.
"The bride has been an unrecognized consumer for a very long time," said Denise O'Donoghue, beauty and jewelry editor at Bride's magazine. "But finally, she's being seen as someone who has the money to spend, who is beauty-savvy, and her engagement period is a time when she is experimenting from head to toe. She's not who she was 10 years ago -- someone who'd never had a pedicure before. She knows skin care and she's having fun with makeup."
There are several reasons for the evolution. Now that women are marrying later, they have more money to try out different skin-care products while engaged. And splashy magazine spreads focusing on wedding hair and makeup and TV specials on celebrity marriages have added to the hype surrounding the big day. Also, more couples now are opting for pricey and sophisticated wedding photography and videography.
"If brides have never been photographed before, that makes them think twice," O'Donoghue said. "Like, 'My gosh, I really need to know what I'm doing.'"
According to a 2002 Conde Nast Bridal Infobank survey, American women spent an estimated $606 million on beauty products during their engagements and forked over an additional $497 million on wedding day hair and makeup.
Loyal to brands
There are long-term benefits to making brides happy. A woman often is fiercely faithful to her favorite skin-care products, but she's likely to switch loyalties if she likes her wedding day makeup. A recent survey the Infobank conducted showed that 94 percent of women questioned said they tried beauty products they'd never used before in the year leading up to the wedding. Three years later, 88 percent reported using the same products.
And having a bride choose your makeup for her special day can be the advertising equivalent of having a celebrity showcase your products on the red carpet.
"I definitely see people saying, 'Oh I got married in Bobbi Brown and I've been wearing it ever since,' " said Ellice Schwab, director of global education for Bobbi Brown cosmetics. "Or, a girl will come up to the counter and say, 'My girlfriend got married in Bobbi Brown and now I want it, too.' "
Many women decide to stick with their wedding day cosmetics because they often don't have the luxury of having multiple makeovers once they're married.
"The engagement was when they had the time, the money and the opportunity to be selfish, where they gave more attention to themselves than ever before," O'Donoghue said. "After that, you don't have that much time."
The engagement also is a good time for makeup companies to win over women who are unfamiliar with makeup. Lauren Chew, a medical sales representative who married earlier this month in Annapolis, said that before she got engaged, she didn't usually wear makeup. And her skin-care regimen was unfussy -- she'd used Clean & Clear products for years because they were inexpensive and conveniently available at stores like CVS.
In the months before her wedding, however, she had three makeovers and spent about $125 on Clinique cleansers and moisturizers.
"I'm not a very crazy-expensive product kind of person," said Chew, 27, who lives in Monterey, Calif. "But everybody wants that take-his-breath-away moment when you walk down the aisle. And part of that was just having good, clean, healthy skin.
"I had no breakouts or anything on the wedding day or even after," she added. "I definitely plan on sticking with the products that I bought."
Money can only buy so much, however. At the end of the day, beauty experts reminded, nothing beats the radiance of a bride who's having a good time.
"Realize that no matter what you're going to do, you're going to look beautiful," O'Donoghue said. "So, take a deep breath, have fun -- and remember the reason you got engaged."
Taking care of your skin
* Start early. If you intend to hire a makeup artist, start doing research six months before the wedding. Makeup artists often book up early. Planning to do your own makeup? Experts advise hitting makeup counters at least two months ahead so you'll have time to practice before your days get hectic.
* Get to know your skin. Unless you're sure of your skin type, make an appointment with a dermatologist or aesthetician so you know how to properly prepare your skin for the big day.
* Bring a picture of your dress to the consultation. Don't forget, white comes in many shades. "The color of your dress will affect your skin tone and hair color," says Bride's magazine's Denise O'Donoghue. "If you're going to wear a creamy white, your lipstick might be a little deeper. If you're going to wear a real white, your lipstick should have more blue in the color."
* Avoid frosted makeup. It can make you look shiny in pictures.
* Ask for samples. It will help you experiment with makeup and cleansing products without overspending.
* Think long lasting. "The key to tear-proof makeup is waterproof and long-wearing formulas," Bobbi Brown says in her "Bridal Beauty" tip sheet. For the eyes, the makeup maven suggests her own Lash Lustre Waterproof Mascara and Long Wear Gel Eyeliner. As for lipstick, O'Donoghue favors Covergirl Outlast All-Day lip color or Max Factor Lipfinity.
* Take pictures of your makeover. Bring a camera so you'll get a sense of how you'll look in your wedding photos. If you're having an outdoor ceremony, remember to take some pictures outside. "It may look dramatic to you but you have to remember, the flash does wash out color," says Laura Mercier makeup consultant Marie Minge. "A lot of brides will feel the color is too much, but they'll take a picture and come back and say, 'OK, maybe we need to bump it up a little.' "
* Stay calm. Many brides get so caught up with planning that the stress takes an unfortunate toll. "One thing that many engaged women forget is that stress affects their skin more than they think," O'Donoghue says." A lot of brides don't sleep enough and they don't drink enough water. If there's a way to remove yourself mentally for a day or a week from the process and not be so overwhelmed, that can help your skin."
Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan