With a lengthy list of pre-nuptial to-dos, wedding nails can be an easily overlooked (but important) detail. Sure, compared to the dress, the venue, the flowers, your nail polish color can feel like an insignificant thing. But trust us, your digits will get a lot of action on your wedding day. After all, it’s your hand in marriage that your significant other asks for, right? From friends and family who will want to take a peek at your new bling to all those close-up pics your photog will snap of your gorgeous bouquet, your mani will be on full display on your big day (and in your wedding album forever after). Plus, there’s no easier way to infuse a bit of your personality into your wedding day than with a manicure that feels like it’s totally you.
To help you, well, nail the look, we asked essie celebrity manicurist Michelle Saunders to help us create this wedding nail handbook—with intel on how to get yours in tip-top condition before your special day arrives and some major wedding nails inspo—easy manicure ideas that are sure to match your individual style. Pin it, print it, and most importantly, don’t forget to bring it to your pre-wedding nail salon appointment.
Get Nails Ready for the Big Day
Two months out: You’ve probably noticed; wedding planning can be crazy stressful! If you tend to manage all that stress by biting your nails or picking at your cuticles, now is the time to stop. Seriously. We know—easier said than done. Try a special bitter-tasting polish designed to deter you from the nervous habit. Or, just keeping your nails painted is sometimes enough to make you think twice before chomping at the tip.
This is also about the time you want to start getting regular weekly manicures (it’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it). These maintenance manis will help get your nails to their perfect wedding day shape and length. But also, “during this time, you can ensure your nails and cuticles will be at their maximum health and you can audition some nail colors, too,” says Saunders. At home, don’t forget to moisturize your mitts (and feet) daily. Dry, scaly skin has no place in your wedding pics. We like The Body Shop Almond Milk & Honey Hand Cream ($8, thebodyshop.com).
One or two days before:This is when you want to get your wedding mani and pedi. Be sure to buy your own bottle of polish, so you have it on hand in case chips happen. Or, better yet, consider an almost indestructible gel manicure, which should last through your honeymoon, says Saunders. Cool tip alert: If you go with a sheer pink gel manicure, like Essie Gel Couture Bridal Collection by Monique Lhuillier in Blush-worthy or Dress Is More, you can paint any Essie shade on top of it to change it up, says Saunders. “Perhaps you have red in mind for rehearsal dinner,” says Saunders. “Just pop your ideal hue over the gel and remove with polish remover the next day to reveal the sheer pink gel again.” File that under: Who knew?
Find your perfect wedding nail style
There are a few ways to help you decide on the ideal nail color for your big day. Saunders says using your wedding colors and style is key. “If you have an accent color highlighted in the décor, then match your nails to that,” says Saunders. “It brings continuity to your beauty look,” she adds. While you may not want to go all matchy-matchy with your table linens or bridesmaids’ dresses, you can tie in your colors in a subtler way. “Look at your flowers,” says Saunders. Maybe they’re a soft shade of pink or bold tropical coral. “Match your nails to the brightest color in your bouquet, or the softest,” she suggests. Another no-fail way to pick your perfect mani? Use your personal bridal style as your guide. I.D. yourself and your dream wedding style below. Then find a customized manicure idea from Saunders and essie Nail Color.
Your wedding style: CLASSIC. You’re sticking with tradition and have planned a picture-perfect wedding stepped in elegance.
Your dress: a structured a-line or fit-and-flare gown in luxe satin or French lace.
Your bouquet: a lush, all white mix of roses, hydrangeas, and tulips.
Your dream venue: an elegant ballroom.
Your must-have mani: Creamy whites or pinks go perfect with your wedding day look and décor. Saunders suggests Dress is More from the Gel Couture Bridal Collection by Monique Lhuillier, a soft white with a hint of pink. You might also consider a modern take on the ultimate classic wedding nail: the French manicure. “Wear a sheer tip instead of a stark white one,” says Saunders.
Your wedding style: BOLD. You like to push the envelope whenever possible. Your goal is to keep your guests talking about your wedding day long after you’ve returned from your honeymoon in some exotic hot-spot locale.
Your dress: It’s all about the show-stopping details such as a plunging neckline or a large scale floral embroidery.
Your bouquet: bright and vibrant in punchy shades of red, orange, and hot pink.
Your wedding style: ROMANTIC. You’ve been dreaming of this day since you’re a little girl. You can bet your candlelit wedding reception will be full of feminine and sweet, personal touches.
Your dress: elegant and ethereal with lots of soft tulle.
Your bouquet: a mix of soft blush pink and creamy white roses and peonies.
Your dream venue: a fairy-tale-like castle.
Your must-have mani: “I’m in love with deep nudes to match your skin tone right now,” says Saunders. The Wild Nudes collection is a collection of eight neutrals that includes complexion-like shades such as Skinny Dip (a sheer peach), Bare With Me (an apricot with a gray undertone), and Wild Nude (light tan). To pump up the dreamy factor, add some delicate glitter just on the bottom third of nails. Try Hors D’Oeurves, which contains a mix of gold and silver sparkles.
Your wedding style: GLAM. Your ideal wedding reception takes its cue from Old Hollywood glamour, straight out of The Great Gatsby era.
Your dress: a sleek, vintage-inspired, art deco gown with beaded embellishments and geometric patterns.
Your bouquet: a mix of lush white flowers accented with crystals and feathers.
Your dream venue: a historic mansion or hotel.
Your must-have mani: “A bit of metallic is the perfect choice to bring out the glamorous touch,” says Saunders. Try a gilded or silvery shade on your entire nail such as Good As Gold. Or, go for a subtler, but cool nail art approach: Swipe the metallic shade across just your tip or on the moon of your nail plate and paint the rest of your nails a neutral shade, she says. Too edgy? Simply adorn a nail or two with Swarovski gems, says Saunders.
Your wedding style: EDGY. White and frilly is just not you. You’ll do your wedding day your way—modern, unexpected, but still incredibly chic.
Your dress: No Cinderella-style dresses for you; you’re lusting over an of-the-moment two-piece crop top wedding gown.
Your bouquet: a graphic mix of black and white anemone.
Your dream venue: an urban warehouse space.
Your must-have mani: “I’ve seen deep midnight blues on a few brides and it really brought a dramatic and sexy vibe to the manicure, especially for an evening wedding,” says Saunders. Her polish pick: Midnight Cami.
Don’t Forget About Your Toes: Add the Unexpected
Unless you’ve opted for a short dress over a full-length gown, your toes won’t get as much play time as your nails on your big day. That means even the most traditional bride can have a little fun with her pedicure color. Your guests will catch little glimpses of your feet while you walk or dance, so you might as well go something not so expected. (Read: Skip the matchy-matchy fingers and toes.) Saunders likes to use a pedicure to fulfill a time-honored tradition. “I have this one thing I recommend to all my brides,” says Saunders. “You can wear your ‘something blue’ on your toes.” Here, some of Makeup.com’s and Saunder’s favorite essie Nail Color blues, ranging from light to dark.
About the Author:The daughter of a hairdresser, Krista Bennett DeMaio likes to say she has beauty in her blood. She has well over a decade of beauty editorial experience. The former magazine-editor-turned-freelance writer has covered all things beauty from anti-aging skincare to NYFW runway trends. Her work has appeared in national publications and websites including Women’s Health, Redbook, Shape, Dr. Oz The Good Life, bhg.com, and prevention.com. She lives in Greenlawn, New York with her husband and two interns, er, daughters.