The Knowledge: Ms Megan Vaughan, Make Up Artist

Bride's prep is one of my favourite times of the wedding day. There's a great buzz of excitement and anticipation as the girls fuss over each other and are transformed one by one for the big day ahead. However, I'll admit that until recently I didn't really know what was going on. It was just a big blur of brushes and powders. No good. I realised that as a wedding photographer it's my duty to understand exactly what brides go through, so I decided to get my bride on and find out what bridal make up is all about. And there's no better educator than Megan Vaughan from Makeup By Megan. I spent a few hours on location with Ms Vaughan to learn the ropes whilst watching her at work, then caught up with her again over email as she enjoyed the Florida sunshine during her end-of-season vacation.

Image: Milton Gan Photography

Image: Milton Gan Photography

So Megan, how's the US? 

Heavenly. The US has been my home away from home for the past 18 years. I have a lot of dear friends and family here and it's the perfect place to recuperate from a busy wedding season and prepare for the next. It’s also the perfect place to re-stock my kit given the high Aussie dollar and super cheap US prices!


I love watching the US version of Four Weddings because their weddings are so over the top compared to Aussie weddings. Do you notice any differences in US make up styles compared to ours?

I am obsessed with the US’ infatuation with celebrity, and a lot of the bridal makeup trends tend to stem from celebrity styles. In general it is a lot more heavy handed than Australian make-up styles, and not surprisingly, given the current economic climate here, a lot of girls are selecting to do their wedding make-up themselves.


A lot of Aussie brides will be scouring wedding blogs, magazines and of course Pinterest for make up inspiration. Do you encourage them to bring their look books to their make up trials?

Definitely! It's always best to have a visual reference to work from, and this is why I established my bridal Pinterest page. I have a lot of clients tell me that they don’t bring images with them because they know I can’t make them look like the model or celebrity pictured. But it’s not about that; images give us a reference point. It might be the eye make-up from one image and the lip colour from another. It starts the conversation about what we can and can’t achieve, and shows me your style preference. The classic request I am given is “I would like a smokey eye and a nude lip”. This in essence is a simple request, however there are a million ways to do a smokey eye, and the same quantity of varying intensities. An image clarifies that we are both envisioning the same result.   


And if a bride is set on a particular look but you don’t think it’s quite right for her skin tone, gown or theme, will you advise her?

Of course! I want my brides to look like the very best versions of themselves for their wedding day, but most importantly to be comfortable with the way they look. To achieve this, all pre-wedding trials begin with a 10 to 15 minute conversation where we discuss what the client wants and what my recommendations are. If it means we have to do one make-up style the way the bride has requested it and another with my recommended look then that is what we do. We take pictures of both styles and then the bride can decide which she prefers, even if it means something in between the two looks. To date I have not had a bride leave a trial unsatisfied and this is a record I am determined to maintain.


Unlike other elements of a wedding, make up is something that brides could do themselves. What’s your advice to someone considering doing their own?

Don’t! Your wedding day is the one day you should leave it to the professionals. It is a day you should be relaxed,and happy and should not have to worry about a thing. There are days when I need to look my absolute best, and even though I'm a make-up artist I know that when there are time constraints, nothing goes to plan and I end up panicked, flustered, and in a lather of sweat trying to get my look right. You don’t need that pressure on your wedding day! Not even the world’s best make-up artists do their own makeup on their wedding days. I hired someone else!


What do you see as the biggest misconception about bridal make up?

That it's not as important as other components of the wedding and should be inexpensive! There are a gazillion make-up artists in Sydney and over half of them are cheap. But a lot of these girls use stock images on their websites that are not their own work, they use cheap products, never wash their brushes, are not formally trained and only do makeup every other weekend when they have a wedding booking. This is not who you want to trust with your wedding day! Like everything in life you get what you pay for. Make-up artists are not out to rip off brides. Most of us have been brides ourselves and understand how expensive a wedding can be and how budgets are pushed to the limit. However, just like every other component of your wedding, a quality make-up artist is not cheap. BUT they will not cancel on the days or weeks before your wedding, they will use prescribed products for your skin type and those of your bridal party, they will arrive on time, remain with you as long as they need to, and will be a calming but fun influence on your wedding morning preparations. Most of all they will ensure you look AMAZING in real life and in your photos and that your makeup lasts the test of time!


Image: Photography by Nadean

Image: Photography by Nadean

What’s the best way for a bride to prepare her skin for the big day?

This varies from bride to bride in accordance with their skin type and condition, and it is a huge part of what we discuss at the pre-wedding trial. But the one piece of advice I offer everyone is: look after your lips! Exfolliate them with your toothbrush after brushing your teeth every morning to remove loose skin and always keep them hydrated. Nothing looks worse than lipstick or gloss on chapped lips, and this is a very difficult problem to get rid of or disguise on the wedding day.


Like me, you’re always working on location. What’s the ideal scenario for a room set up so you can produce the best results?

I request to be set up near the best source of direct natural light. I bring my own seat but do require a table to set my gear out onto. The room also needs to be cool. It's difficult to apply makeup to a sweatty face and it's uncomfortable for all involved, so I also request that the air conditioning is running before I arrive or that a pedestool fan is provided if there is no air con available.


What’s your favourite style of make up?

It varies according to the client. I personally love that Victoria’s Secret dewey, soft and natural look. But that doesn’t suit everyone. A black flick is a classic eye catching look from an era I LOVE too.


Which celebrity bride do you love for her look?

Caroline Bessett Kennedy. Classic, natural & flawless. Simple elegance!


And the most unusual wedding make up you’ve done?

Heavy black eyes and deep red lips for a gothic bride. She was one of the sweetest girls I have ever met.


 Fake tans - help or hindrance?

This is a personal choice. I can colour match skin to any fake tan shade so this is not a problem. It is my view however, that with fake tan comes risks: breakouts, uneven coverage, or rubbing off onto your dress. If my brides really want my advice on tans  I usually say don’t do it! But I will happily work with it if they do.


A wedding day is pretty long and in the summer the location photo session can mean being out in the sun and heat, so do you have any tips for touch ups throughout the day?

I prepare skin, use waterproof products and apply the makeup in such a way that it will not move even on the hottest of days, so my recommendations to my brides is simple: invest in the blotting papers that I sell, to blot any oil that comes to the surface of the skin. Blotting papers are amazing! When used correctly they will remove oil without moving the makeup, and they don't accumulate in creases and clog pores like pressed powders do. I also sell the lipsticks I apply and pots of the glosses I use, so my brides can touch-up their lips through out the day and night too. But this is all they need. These two miracle items will maintain their look for the duration of their day and night!


The size of the bridal party can vary considerably. For me that means selecting a lens appropriate for the group size, but how does that affect you? Do you have a maximum size that you’ll accept, or would you bring in a second make up artist for a particularly large group?

This varies. In peak wedding season I will rarely take on a group that is larger than I can accommodate myself, and the size of the group is dependent on the time of the ceremony and the allotted time I am given to apply the makeup. I have accommodated bookings of up to 8 people on my own and much larger groups with other artists in off-peak seasons.


Last month our celebrant friend Robyn revealed she will sometimes have three weddings in a day. Do you multitask as well?

Rarely! One of my selling points is that unlike a lot of other artists I rarely book more than one wedding per day. This is because I like to remain with my clients until they get dressed and complete final touches as they walk out the door. I do not want to be watching the clock or rushing any component of their wedding preparations. There are occasions, however, when I will have a brunch wedding in the morning which allows me to accommodate the makeup requirements for an afternoon or evening wedding as well without clock watching or rushing.


Image: Serendipity Corner

Image: Serendipity Corner

You also do a lot of work on fashion shoots where the sole purpose of the make up is to make the photos look good. Does the same thinking apply to weddings?

Makeup for a fashion shoot is very different to makeup for a wedding. In technique and the way it's applied. Makeup for a magazine shoot is generally more dramatic to counteract the heavy lighting on set. And it only needs to last from one shot to the next. Plus I am there for the duration of the job to retouch the look as they shoot it. The makeup for a wedding is applied in the morning and on average has to last at least 10-12 hours. It needs to look flawlessly natural in person as well as in images, and while I offer a full day wedding package that includes unlimited touch-ups and a change of look,  I am not always booked to be there to touch-up throughout the day and night so it has to look the same at the end of the night as it did when I applied it in the morning.


One of the easiest ways to tell how a good a photographer is from one of their photos is to see how they’ve posed the subject's hands. Is there a similar tell tale sign to judge the skill of a make up artist?

EYEBROWS! I was originally trained by Rae Morris and she has made me obsessed with eyebrows. When I look at a makeup the first thing I notice is whether the brows have been combed up and shaped correctly. An inexperienced makeup artist always leaves the eyebrows untouched, fills them with the wrong colour, overfills them, or shapes them incorrectly. A really poorly skilled makeup artist also doesn’t colour match the foundation correctly and often applies it too heavily. I could go on and on but these are the two most noticeable things for me personally.


Did you always want to be a make up artist?

I was always obsessed with makeup but didn’t always know that it was a potential career option. I had wanted to be an animator for Disney studios and a rollerskating snow flake in the Walt Disney World Christmas parade!


 Cute! When we last caught up you mentioned that make up artists wear little or no make up when they’re working. So does it help to be good looking and not self conscious if you want to get into the industry?!

Good looking might be helpful I guess but by no means necessary. It is important that you are well groomed and knowledgeable. Brows, hair, nails and toes are important. Having an interest in the fashion industry and keeping up with worldwide trends is equally important. Confidence is important in any career but arrogance is a hinderance, and for some people it’s a fine line. Determination is key. I once heard one of my mentors talking about the drop out rate for makeup artists, from when they study to when they establish their careers. I wish I could remember the exact figures but to me they were startling. And the point that stuck with me the most was that the person who was at the top of their class at graduation was rarely the person that made it to the top of the industry. It was the underdog who had to work and work at their skills and was determined to get there that was victorious. That was a wake up call to me. I was at the top of my graduating class and it's my goal to be the exception to this rule!


Finally Megan, do you have a quick and easy tip for our couples?

Relax and enjoy the day. Once the day is here you have done everything you can. Roll with the hiccups, enjoy every second, and take a few moments to yourselves as a couple to soak it all in. These will be the moments that you remember forever!


Thanks Megan! 


If you have a question about bridal make up that you'd like Megan to answer, please leave a comment below and we'll get onto it straight away.


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