When Dan and I decided to get married, we were both adamant that we wanted it to be completely on our terms. I love attending traditional weddings, but I instinctively knew that a white dress, colour-schemed country hotel, and the stress of organising a church or synagogue just wasn’t for us. We wanted it to feel personal and unusual, and to involve only those close to us – and this even extended to our suppliers. One of my oldest friends, Julia of Urban Cakes, made us a homely, non-traditional cake, my two sons’ godfather Edan flew over from Melbourne to arrange the flowers, our friends Lauren Laverne, Paul Simper and Michael Hogan DJ-ed the party, while another, Mary, came from my home town of Cardiff to take the pictures. The wedding breakfast was served in our favourite local Indian restaurant, The Chilli Pickle, and my black and green dresses were custom-made by Susie Cave of The Vampire’s Wife, whose studio is based just two minutes from my house in Brighton. To my endless gratitude and delight, it just so happened that this friends-only policy also meant that my hair and make-up was created by two of the fashion world’s most legendary artists, Mary Greenwell and Sam McKnight.
Despite the fact that I’ve written two bestselling beauty books and a beauty column in The Guardian for some seven years, I really hadn’t planned to have a professional glam squad for my wedding – never mind the artists who, between them, have created iconic looks for Cate Blanchett, Uma Thurman, Jennifer Lawrence, Keira Knightley, the late Princess Diana and over 200 Vogue covers. I was hugely fortunate to have several major beauty brands offer their artists’ services for the big day. But, despite loving my job and the industry I’ve worked in for some 27 years, I felt adamant that my wedding should be as separate as possible and I’d just do it myself (I began my career as an assistant make-up artist). It was only when Mary, a close friend and guest, said she’d like to do my make-up as a wedding gift, and a few weeks later, Sam, with whom I was working at the time, offered to do my hair, that I decided some opportunities are just too fabulous to turn down.
Of course I knew unquestioningly that Mary and Sam would make me look the best I possibly could, but their involvement had deeper resonance for me. While my school friends in Eighties and early Nineties South Wales stuck posters of Duran Duran and Bros on their bedroom walls, I’d carefully cut out fashion and beauty shoots from The Face, Blitz and Vogue. My room was plastered with Mary and Sam’s work with the original supermodels and photographers like Peter Lindbergh and Patrick Demarchelier, and I could often identify their breathtaking hair and make-up creations before I’d even checked the page credits. I moved to London as a teenager with the sole intention of being a part of the world they dominated, of writing words to accompany their imagery, and to my endless gratitude and good fortune, I somehow managed it. Having Mary and Sam first as colleagues, then as friends, then finally in my kitchen on one of the most important days of my life, felt oddly moving, like the natural but utterly extraordinary closing of a circle. It seemed so symbolic that having run away from home and worked almost without break since I was 16, here I was, with a decent career, a comfortable home, two happy children and a man I love deeply, giggling over a celebratory champagne with two of the people who’d inspired me most.
Naturally, Sam and Mary did an impeccable job of fulfilling the brief of “me, but on my best hair and make-up day” – Sam using his own Hair By Sam McKnight products and my home Dyson dryer, and Mary, applying Nars and Tom Ford shadows, Chanel foundation, Laura Mercier concealer and blush, and my usual lipstick – Charlotte Tilbury’s Stoned Rose. But I felt it would be polite to prepare for their artistry with good raw materials, and uncharacteristically, decided to make the most of my contacts book of beauty professionals in advance of the big day (people imagine me to spend my life having spa and cosmetic treatments but the truth is, I have two children and at least five jobs, and so I simply don’t have the time for regular facials, massages, tanning and the like). I look after my skin pretty diligently, but a few days before the ceremony, I visited Dr Frances Prenna Jones for a laser facial (less scary that it sounds – there’s no down time, only instantly firmer, brighter, more even skin). It had a remarkable effect on the uneven pigmentation I’d acquired during my first pregnancy and had never fully lost, and I’ll certainly go back for more when time allows. I’d trust no-one with my pre-wedding haircut but my regular stylist, Luke Hersheson at Daniel Hersheson. I also got my usual hair filler extensions (for thickness and style durability rather than length) replaced by Hadley Yates, also at Hershesons. Two stylist friends, Adrian and Jordan from the same salon, were also on-hand on the big day, to get my girlfriends (and my newly image-conscious sons!) ready.
I’m not a tanner – I generally embrace my paleness – but October is unpredictable and I didn’t want to have to wear tights, so I visited James Read at Harvey Nichols for one light coating, to take me from blue-white to natural-looking golden-ivory. My CND Shellac nails (in a decidedly unbridal vibrant rose shade) were done at my regular haunt, DryBy on Mortimer Street W1, and well over a week later, they’re still as good as new (truly, I’ve never known manicures last as well anywhere else). The night before the wedding, my girlfriends and I enjoyed a bottle of wine and relaxing, intensively hydrating Intraceuticals facials to leave our complexions plump and glowy for the morning, when I topped up with their three-step skincare products ahead of make-up.
After the groundwork, it was blissfully out of my hands. I remember the chats, the laughs, Mary and Sam’s four magic hands fluttering across my face and head; the implicit trust, comfort and warmth that exists only between friends; but most of all, I recall the magic of the day itself. Because despite being among the masters of their profession, Sam and Mary always understood my attitude to the wedding, and themselves worked on the basis that hair and make-up needed to play second fiddle to its real purpose: to celebrate and enjoy ourselves. Their calm, no-hassle manner – from Sam driving my girlfriends to the ceremony in his 4×4, to Mary offering her bed to another who’d missed her lift home, made it very clear that they’d attended as friends, and certainly not as professional contacts or beauty world legends. Consequently, the fondest memory of my A-list makeover came between the wedding breakfast and party, when I’d nipped home to change into my evening frock and ramp up my face. As we sat, a tad tipsy, with Mary nonetheless expertly daubing glitter onto my eyelids, she paused and said, “Darling, can we be bothered to apply the false eyelashes at this stage?”. “No we can’t,’ I replied. “Let’s just go and have fun”. And so she wiped her hands and we left for the drag club, where we giddily danced until dawn.
Two Cats In The Yard Photography, Twocatsintheyard.co.uk
The Chilli Pickle, Thechillipickle.com
Urban Cakes, Urbancakes.co.uk
Edan Haddock Floristry, Instagram.com/edan_haddock_floristry
The Vampire’s Wife, Thevampireswife.com
Mary Greenwell, Instagram.com/marygreenwell
Sam McKnight, Sammcknight.com
Dr Frances Prenna Jones, Drfrancesprennajones.com
James Read, Jamesreadtan.com