Making Sense of Bridal Beauty Pricing


woman looking in mirror while her hair is being styled

In a local wedding group the other night, an anonymous poster asked several questions about why bridal beauty prices are what they are.  Dealing with insomnia and having a love of educating clients, I of course answered.  I figured my answers might be helpful to brides outside of that group! As a caveat, I’m speaking from the experience of running brideface. I think I run brideface similarly to a lot of other teams, but every individual provider or team may be different. YMMV.

First and foremost, don’t feel bad about asking these questions: you don’t do this every day! And you rely on the internet and other people getting married for information, which isn't always accurate.  I don’t think sources like The Knot are accurate about pricing so it can be confusing. They quote an average of $120 for makeup and $130 for hair, but you have to remember that this is a national average.  It includes the $500 you might pay for each in New York or LA and the $45 you may pay in a rural area.  In Cincinnati, the average bridal makeup and hair price is about $150.

Why is the bride more expensive?
The bride’s price runs under the assumption that you are the point of contact and you’re the reason everyone else is getting services that day.  It includes months if not a year+ of emails, calls, scheduling as well as overhead. Usually a bit more time is taken day-of on the bride as well. The attendant price is less because there is an assumption that there is a bride attached to the contract, and that the reason they are receiving services is because of the wedding. There really is a lot of time that is spent on correspondence and schedules that is outside of just providing a service.
The bride's price usually includes travel within a certain area, too.  It’s a luxury to have an artist and stylist (or multiple!) go to your location with essentially a movable salon in tow, so you don’t have to worry about going to a salon for services. That’s one of the reasons it’s more expensive to have an onsite team vs. going to a salon.
Why don't you charge by hair length or amount of makeup? Most bridal artist/stylists I know of (not just in Cincinnati, but nationwide) don’t charge by length of hair or whether makeup is natural or full glam but instead by service. You're paying for expertise, training, and time. This is why whether you have hair to your tush or a pixie cut, or want either a natural makeup look or a more glam look, the price is the same. The only exception may be Hollywood waves, which take the allotted time for basically two services. 
It's also a misconception that longer hair or more makeup takes more time -- it doesn't.  A very natural makeup look can take just as long as a full glam style.  Someone with long hair who is getting an updo can take less time than someone with shoulder length hair who's wearing it down.  That's why we also book the same amount of time for each attendant-- in our case, 45 minutes-- for services.  One head may take a little longer, and another may take less time, but it evens out in the end. 
Why is a trial an additional charge? Trials are very misunderstood, which is why we call them "previews" here at brideface.  Somehow, the idea that a trial is how you "try" your artist -- and that it should be free or inexpensive-- has gotten into wedding planning culture, and that's just not true. 
A trial is an appointment where you get to preview and work through, with your artist/stylist, the look you want on your wedding day. That often takes more time than the day-of appointment because there is a lot of consulting and discussion and experimentation. It takes time and product, and is a service not unlike alterations: it doesn't happen the day of the wedding, and no one sees you do it, but it's still very important!  Not every bride does one for various reasons. I recommend them not because we want to tack on a fee, but it really does help set expectations and make the wedding day run smoothly.
Remember too that these prices include not only time but should also cover things like continuing education, licensing, liability insurance, kits that cover every skin tone and hair texture, often a studio space, transportation, marketing, credit card fees, and all of the other overhead a small business has.  In fact, when you're asking beauty vendors about their services, ask if they are licensed and insured-- they should be, like any other vendor.  
Do you have other questions about bridal beauty pricing? Comment here!