It’s pretty standard for women to have their favourite hairstylist but it would be unusual to expect your usual hair stylist to do your wedding hair if that’s not their speciality. For weddings there are wedding hair stylists that know exactly what’s involved in a forming a hair style that will not only look fantastic but stand up to the rigours of a very full day and be able to work to a time table every time.
I spoke to Kate from Hair By Kate who is based at Wamberal on the Central Coast but is a mobile wedding hair stylist. Kate is an amazing stylist with years of experience and was my first choice when it came to finding everything there was to know about being a wedding hair stylist.
Although based on the Central Coast Kate regularly works at weddings in the Hunter Valley and Newcastle. If you’d rather see my interview with Kate, you can do that here.
Wedding Hair Stylists, what’s involved?
Andrew: Thanks for coming in today Kate. I guess the idea of the interview I guess is to give the brides a bit of an idea of what’s involved in booking a hairdresser for a wedding and if it’s any different to say just normally going to see their hairdresser. Do you want to just tell me a little bit about yourself, how long you’ve been doing this for, where you’re based, what your business name is?
Kate: Yes. Okay, I’m from Hair by Kate and I’ve been hairdressing for over 15 years now and I’m currently working in the bridal industry; I’ve been doing hair for definitely over 10 years and love working with brides and their bridal parties. And I have a small studio salon which I perform all other hairdressing services as well as brides and bridal styling.
Andrew: So you’re based at home with your home-based studio, but you go out to see brides for their wedding.
Kate: Yes, I do.
Andrew: You’re mobile?
Kate: Pretty much everything is mobile with brides, they do prefer me to come to them and be in the comfort of their own motel room or home or somewhere where they’re comfortable and happy to have me come and style them in their own surroundings.
Andrew: I think as a photographer I much rather have the girls at home where they’re going to be getting ready rather than going out to a salon, is just easy because they’re all there and then they can start shooting when I arrive, there’s less waiting around which is good. So when girls come to book a hairdresser, obviously most of them have their own hairdresser that they see all the time, but they may not specialize in weddings, is that right?
Kate: No, that’s what I come across a lot. Yes, they maybe don’t do bridal styling at all or they don’t offer the mobile service which a lot of the brides do like to have these days and so that’s where I find I get a lot of interest in that I have that appeal of knowing different bridal styles that’s around at the moment and extensive training in that area, and also the mobile service.
Andrew: So how far out from a wedding would a bride and a bridal party have to book you, get that sorted and put that date aside?
Kate: Well, years gone by you’d be booked 12 months in advance for a wedding but these days it can be anywhere up to 6, 4 months before a wedding I find I have inquiries. I think that’s more due to there is more hairdressers out there doing mobile service now, offering that service, so I find that they can shop around a little bit and work out different trials and pricing and things like that, so, I find…
Andrew: Six months… four months?
Kate: Yes, maybe around six months.
Andrew: If they want you, they would really need to book in earlier to be guaranteed of having you. Is that right?
Kate: Yes, definitely to get that spot and reserve the spot for them.
Andrew: So how many weddings can you do on a day, on a Saturday?
Kate: Generally I only accept the one. Make-up artists can go more than that and do two for the time, purely for the time.
Andrew: So generally, I know it’s different for every wedding and every bride, how long do you need to do the hair of the bride?
Kate: Allow anything up to an hour for a bride or a bridesmaid. The bride can generally have a little bit longer than an hour spent on them. But yeah, I find only accepting one bridal party per day is better for hairdressers to allow that extra time. Make-up can take a little bit less than that.
Andrew: Okay and so when the girls come to book you, do they need to know already, say four months in advance, six months in advance, exactly who’s getting their hair done, how many, whether mum’s getting her hair done, flower girls?
Kate: Yes. Generally it’s good to give us an idea maybe at that six month mark. But getting up closer to the date is more the styles that don’t take as long, so blowdrys and things like that, they can let us know about closer to the day. But the up styles are the things that take the longest with styling so if they can let us know how many bridesmaids, flower girls, people in the bridal party, generally upfront.
Andrew: Additionally to know exactly how many are getting their hair done before the date and timing don’t you, because you have to be ready before I get there?
Kate: Yes, definitely I like to have the girls ready before the photographer gets there so obviously you can be photographing them getting ready, so I always have an idea of time in my head before I start, how many I have to do, what time the photographer is getting there, and in my head that’s the time I’d like to have them finished by, which is the time the photographer is arriving. So generally an hour at the most on a bridesmaid, even less if possible.
Andrew: On the day, say things are running late or something has happened; it does happen that people do run late. So the bridal party or the make-up artists, who goes first? Is it always you or can the make-up artist do the make-up a first? How does that work?
Kate: In most cases the hairdresser starts first and hopefully have a bridesmaid ready for the make-up artist when they arrive. So generally I’ve found in my experience the make-up artist will arrive about an hour after the hairdresser, and once one has been completed we move on together and work together then basically.
Andrew: I know as a photographer when I work at times with the bride, I suggest to my brides not to go last with their hair and make-up because then I hate it when they’re running late because basically they’re paying a lot of money for their photography and then we turn up and can’t do anything because we’re waiting for the bride. How do you feel about when the photographer says to the bride don’t go last?
Kate: That’s fine I don’t mind where I do the bride. I generally will start the bride first with putting rollers and getting them going first, and then I can fit them in wherever need be within the bridal party, but I agree, yes I think we do need the bride going first and have them more ready for when the photographer arrives so you can be getting them photographed getting ready, and the girls can sort of come into it later. So for me I think generally hairdressers tend to do the bride last in thinking that we spend a little bit more time on them and also that their hair has to be the most perfect and so spending that little extra time on them in our mind is probably why we do them at the end. Also have rollers in a little bit longer to have their hair having that extra staying power.
Andrew: Just in my experience I find that newer hairdressers or newer make-up artists, the ones that haven’t been doing it as long, tend to want to do the bride always last and then I just find that it gets so stressful because if she’s late then she’s stressing and then the photographer turns up and their stressing, because of it.
Kate: Yes I do know what you mean. Yes, like I say I can fit the bride in wherever need be really.
Andrew: So you just work out your time, know when you have to be ready?
Kate: Work out the time and the styles of course, because obviously the styles go to how long the time you take on the day, and yes, fit them in where need be.
Andrew: So when the girls come and see you like for that first appointment, do they need to come with cutouts of magazines, do they come and have a chat, how does that appointment go, that first meeting?
Kate: Yes, I definitely recommend a trial. It’s basically all based around good communication with the bride. They should bring to the trial if possible any hair ornaments, any hairpieces or extensions, and the veil of course, and any pictures that they may have in their mind that they might like for the day, that they think might suit them. And at the trial we can then discuss what would suit them and their dress, and their theme of the wedding too because that always comes into it. Thinking about hairstyles is the kind of wedding they have in their theme. So yes, bringing along to the trial all those things is important, very important and I like to spend quite a bit of time with them discussing those.
Andrew: You mentioned the trial, is that the first appointment? Do the girls ring you with a date and see if you’re available, and then you have a trial as the first appointment?
Kate: Yes, generally that will be the first point of meeting, and we sit down and discuss all of those elements of the day. Also obviously discuss the bridesmaids styles, mother of the bride might come into it then as well, flower girls, so we discuss basically the whole bridal party and their ideas of styling. It is not necessary to have the bridesmaids having a trial on the day; I would think it’s fine just to have the bride and get that style perfected.
Andrew: They might have the bridesmaids come along, or mum come along, but not necessarily have a trial, it’s really just the bride for the trial?
Kate: Yes, definitely, and then we can discuss different styles about the others on the day, but it’s more important that we perfect and get everything perfect for the bride and the style that she’s got in mind.
Andrew: Before you mentioned extensions, now I know not very much about hairdressing. With extensions is that something you provide or they source those? How does that work?
Kate: Both, I can provide extensions and hairpadding; also sometimes it’s necessary to give some extra height for different styles that may be chosen. These sort of things the bride might not know about until when they talk to me at the trial because I can sort of look at a style and say this needs this or it needs that. So I can supply extensions and hairpadding, also some hair ornaments I can supply, but generally I’ve found most brides provide that themselves. They sort of already have strongly in mind a style.
Andrew: So like extensions and things like that?
Kate: Yes, they generally source those things out themselves and bring them to me. But I do offer it as well if need be.
Andrew: Do you have to allow a lot more time if there are extensions involved or padding or things like that?
Kate: Yes, not a lot more time but I have to keep that in mind to allow extra time for styling definitely.
Andrew: So when the girls come and see you, if they’ve got a picture in their head and also magazine clippings and you can see from your experience it’s just not going to work, what happens then?
Kate: [Laughter] Subtle communication comes into play. I look at things like the style of their dress and the theme of their wedding as I said. I look at all those sort of things as well as their body shape and face shape and all of the normal things to come into play with hairdressing as well. But if I think it’s just not going to be suitable for their style, yes I do be honest and I do make some suggestions as to where we could keep in mind what they’re suggesting, but on the other hand may suggest something that may be slightly more suitable and come up together with something that they’re happy with.
Andrew: Does that ever happen?
Kate: Very rarely. Most brides know very strongly what they want.
Andrew: Is that always going to work though, what they want?
Kate: Most of the time I found yes; most of the girls know themselves quite well and I’ve in the past found most brides to come up with styles that are suitable for them. I have found sometimes I may make a suggestion as to their style of dress, maybe the hair might not work with that style. For instance a lot of the beadwork and quite a heavy dress design might not be something that you need a lot of detail in the hair. You may need to soften the hair in a way to complement the dress. So I do come up with suggestions in that way and have found in the past, I’ve had to do that.
Andrew: Is it really a good idea for the girls to have their dress already when they come and see you, or an idea of the dress they’re going to have?
Kate: Yes definitely, I find most brides already will, that will be their first thing is they find their dress before they come to discuss hair and make-up. So that’s great for me then, because I can do my job.
Andrew: Some weddings that I go to, particularly like if it’s an outdoor ceremony and say they’ll have hair like yours, long hair and they’ll want to wear it out, sometimes it’s just flying everywhere or it starts maybe not to look quite as good as what it was when we started the photography. Is there a way to work around that, or do you advise the girls a little bit?
Kate: Yes I do. That’s something we do talk about at the trial quite extensively in that area really because they do have to take into consideration where they’re having their wedding, their venue. Is it an outdoor ceremony, the time of year, is it summer and hot and quite humid and also is it near the beach, are they having photos out where it’s windy and things like that really need to be taken into consideration when deciding a hair style. And then for us as hairdressers it’s our job to make that style last for as long as possible because it’s a very long day, having your hair done, 8 in the morning until 10:00 at night, that’s a long day for hair styles.
Andrew: What can the girls do to manage that, or is there something you can do?
Kate: Suggestions of different styles that may be appropriate for the style of wedding they’re having and where they’re having it and also their hair type. If their hair is quite fine and not willing to hold a style for a long time, I may come up with a few suggestions as to how to keep that in the best as possible.
Andrew: So if someone had a hair style like that or hair type, and they wanted to wear their hair out like yours is now with some curls, and you just knew it wasn’t going to last, so then what you may suggest is something like an up style or something totally different?
Kate: Yes sometimes, just to give them a alterior, different type of style to think about, to keep in mind. And also if they do definitely want the out, soft look, which a lot of brides do want, then just letting them know that maybe we need to start out with a stronger curl to start with that will last the day and become a little bit more natural as the day progresses.
Andrew: I guess, if it’s the middle of a summer wedding and it’s hot and humid, it’s going to drop a lot more quickly isn’t it?
Kate: Yes. Sometimes there’s nothing we can do with that. Good styling products and tricks that we learn over the years to help with the longevity of styles always do help but we can’t guarantee it when it’s such a long day and the weather and humidity, windy and different factors come into it. So as long as they understand that and having an out style there’s those risks that come into it, as long as they realize that and yes and most brides do.
Andrew: I imagine most girls would know their own hair and what’s going to work and what’s not going to work. Is there any other sort of tips or advice you would give brides when they’re looking for hairstyles to think about for a wedding, what is the latest fashion, how do they start with that that? Bridal magazines?
Kate: Yeah sure, usually they will come in with pictures and have an idea of what they want. Most brides like to have an idea of where their wedding is heading, the style and theme and hair goes with that. So they will come in with pictures and I do offer a lot of tips as to what is in at the moment, but also some newer ideas as well because you do tend to find trends come and stay for a while, and they may want something a little bit out of the ordinary. So I do keep up with a lot of courses, long hair courses and trends so I’ve got something else to offer the girls when they’re not sure.
Andrew: You mentioned courses, are they just general hairdressing courses just to keep up to date?
Kate: Yes and no. We can do general hairdressing courses that run through the year through our hair suppliers and different companies that I may work with hairdressing, but then there are the long hair courses and bridal hair courses that are available for us to keep up to date with all the latest styles. And they’re wonderful to do and that’s something I love doing is keeping up to date with them all. It is an ever changing fashion industry really, hair as well as fashion, so it is important especially for brides for me to offer that, so I do like to keep up with all the courses and what’s available.
Andrew: As far as costs go, what are brides looking at. I guess it depends on how many are in their bridal party, who’s having their hair done, does it also go on what style they’re having, or it’s just you have a flat fee?
Kate: No, I generally would charge, and I think most hairdressers generally charge per person, so my brides are usually around $110, and bridesmaids usually around $90-$95, I can, if it’s becoming, if there are quite a few people involved I can come up with a package for the bride, and then there’s obviously different prices for mothers of the bride and flower girls depending on age and length of hair and style and all that sort of thing, so that all gets discussed at the trial as well.
Andrew: How much does it cost – you have to pay for the trial as well? So, you come and do the trial and then I guess you suggest they do that on a Thursday or Friday night and then go out afterwards, do they? How does that work?
Kate: Yes sometimes we do suggest that. I often get together with their make-up artist too, the chosen make-up artist and we can quite often get together in either of our studios and do a trial together which a lot of brides I’ve found these days like to do that, and they might plan it around their hen’s night and work it in so they’re paying for their trial for the hair and make-up, so then then they get to use it and go out for the night. Yes, I offer an in-salon trial service or a mobile trial service as well, so I do have separate prices depending on where am traveling to.
Andrew: So what areas do you cover? I know you cover the Central Coast? Where else?
Kate: Central Coast, Hunter Valley, Newcastle and Sydney.
Andrew: So I guess like a lot of the services on the Central Coast, you have a traveling fee depending if you’ve got to go too far. You factor that in when you talk to your brides?
Kate: Yes, I factor that into the package or the individual price, and I do charge a travel fee depending on where I’m heading.
Andrew: Everyone wants to have the best hair and the best photographer and the best make-up, and there’s obviously going to be some brides that can’t have you do their wedding, that may be watching this from anywhere in the world, how do you work out who’s a good hairdresser and who’s not, or a good stylist? How do they tell, because they’re not going to use you every day or every month?
Kate: That’s right. I find with myself it’s a lot of word of mouth. I find just with doing weddings over the years I’ve been recommended through previous brides and friends of the brides, so yes I find recommendations through word of mouth is a great one, or yes just looking around on the Internet is a great way to look for hairdressers that offer the mobile service in wedding hair is wonderful, and just looking to what they’re offering, how much training they may have had.
Andrew: So you’d ask that, what sort of training they’ve got? What should they be looking for? A certain number of years or how many weddings?
Kate: Yes, maybe if they’ve kept up to date with some courses available with long hair, if they have been doing wedding hair for quite a long time. Obviously confidence comes with doing wedding hair for a number of years, confidence comes with it, which then maybe is a bit more speed I think, as well, and that’s something that is handy being that you are on a very strict time restraint with wedding hair. So I just think the longer you’ve been in the industry maybe and doing hair, the better it is.
Andrew: A couple of things to finish off. I guess girls would have cut, colour and styling before they actually come to see you for their wedding. Is that something they do with their usual hairdresser or they come and see you about that?
Kate: Yes, sure. Some of the time, yes, they will like to stick with their own hairdresser, but other times I find that because I’m doing their hair on their wedding day, they like to be able to have me know the full picture and mould the style I suppose before affecting their look on the day. If I may suggest them having a slight haircut, trim, treatment and maybe even colour beforehand, generally I find yes, the girls will like me to do that pre-styling for them.
Andrew: How far before the wedding would that have to be done if you were doing that?
Kate: Generally I would say a week before just to give it that week to settle in, and maybe treatments a good few months beforehand just to get the hair up to optimum condition and shine.
Andrew: And I image on the wedding day when you turn up, you want their hair to be clean and with no products. Is that right?
Kate: Yes, generally I’ll say wash the hair the night before just so that it’s bone dry when I get there in the morning and clean, ready for styling. I wouldn’t suggest washing it that morning, it just becomes a little bit too soft then, but the night before is fine or the day before.
Andrew: Just back to the trials, what happens if when you do that trial, I’m sure it doesn’t happen very often, and they don’t like it or it just doesn’t work, you don’t just want the girls to tell you about it and just disappear and don’t come back.
Kate: Definitely, that’s something I say to all my brides, please if you’re not happy, I’m not happy, so we are there to trial a few different styles, and put the time and effort in to perfecting the look at the trial. I like to make sure that the brides walk away feeling extremely comfortable with what they’ve tried or decided on. That way on the wedding day, everything just runs smoothly, it’s just get in, do all the styles, the girls feel happy and comfortable, they know what they’re getting. So the trial is very important for that with communication and perfecting the look.
Andrew: So when you finish the trial, they never leave sort of saying, you don’t leave saying on the wedding day we’ll just change this and this – you actually do that at the trial and show them.
Kate: Yes, sometimes there might be a few little things that we talk about right at the end little things like that [flowers in the hair] if they haven’t brought to the trial, maybe changing something at the front slightly different, but most of the time yes we will perfect everything at the trial and discuss it all.
Andrew: So there’s not much experimenting on the wedding day?
Kate: No. With time restrictions and the bride being as comfortable and as stress free as possible, that’s what we want. Perfecting the trial is a big thing.
Andrew: How can girls find you, what’s the best way?
Kate: I have a website which is www.hairbykate.com.au. There are contact details and my services that I offer, some of my prices, and some photos of previous weddings that I have done. By all means email me or call me any time; I would love to hear from anybody and I’d love to sit down and have a chat.
Andrew: Awesome. Thanks Kate.
Kate: Not a problem.