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The First Thing to Do: Take Stock of Your Skin
If you are breakout-prone or want to address issues such as dark spots, redness, or fine lines, you might want to consult a dermatologist ideally nine months before your wedding, but if you have less than nine months to go, as soon as possible. "Most products require a few months to take full effect," says Jeannette Graf, M.D., a dermatologist in Great Neck, New York. "If you set that first appointment for the nine-month mark, you'll have ample time to find what works best for you."
Photography: CLEO SULLIVAN2 of 9
Several Months Before: Consider How You Want Your Hair
Sure, you don't have to commit right away. But if you love a style and need to grow your hair out or get the right cut for it, it pays to plan ahead. Ideally you should bring pictures of styles you like from magazines or photos of yourself at formal occasions, as well as a snapshot of your dress to a stylist six to eight months before your wedding, but definitely do it sooner rather than later if you have less time than this. Also, be open to your stylist's suggestions -- he or she may know how to best flatter your face shape or your dress's neckline. After testing a range of styles (up, down, and half-up), settle on two looks. Then discuss your color, cut, and any necessary conditioning treatments. "Remember, your stylist needs time to perfect your wedding-day look, from adding highlights to coating strands with a shine-enhancing gloss," says Kim Vo, Los Angeles-based stylist and owner of Kim Vo Salons. Leave the salon with one goal: to narrow down your options before your next appointment.
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One to Three Months Before: Think About Brightening Your Smile
To reduce darker staining, "visit a dentist for professional whitening treatments," says Kenneth Kerman, a dentist in Brooklyn, New York. Though they can be pricey (from $400 to $800), they are very effective. If you just want to brighten up a shade or two, enlist an over-the-counter product. "They work best when applied after a professional teeth cleaning," says Kerman.
Photography: CLEO SULLIVAN4 of 9
Two to Three Months Before: Get Serious About Finalizing Your Hairstyle
Once you've decided which style you prefer, head back to the salon for a dress rehearsal. "This time, bring your veil and jewelry along so you and your stylist can determine exactly what you'll look like on the big day," says Kattia Solano, stylist and owner of Butterfly Studio Salon in New York City.
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Two Months Before: Go In for a Makeup Trial
Arrive with your makeup on as you would do it for your wedding. "It will let your makeup artist know your color preferences and how much product you're comfortable wearing for a special occasion," says Vanessa Scali, a makeup artist from Los Angeles. Also, bring photos from magazines to show her how you want to look. Everyone's version of a smoky eye is different, but presenting a picture of exactly what you want leaves little room for error. And don't forget your brows. Well-shaped ones can help frame your makeup look, but sometimes you may need to let hair grow into sparse spots.
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Five Weeks Before: Test-Run a Spray Tan
You may be an old hand at applying self-tanner, but why risk streaks and missed spots on your big day? Your best bet for a faux glow is to leave it to the spray-tanning pros. If you plan on getting bronzed before the big day, a trial application is key. Be specific about the kind of color you're hoping for (and remember to err on the side of sunkissed -- it's better to be barely bronzed than overly orange). If you're unhappy with the results or have second thoughts, this five-week period will allow your tan time to fade.
Photography: Rita Maas7 of 9
Three Days Before: Get Your Glow On
If you decide on a sun-kissed look of a spray tan, now's the time to go back for round two. On the day of your treatment, exfoliate skin, and avoid using any perfumes, deodorants, or moisturizers that can create a barrier on the skin and cause your tan to look blotchy. Eileen Bischoff, a spray-tanning expert at Eve Salon in New York City, says, "Also be sure to wipe petroleum jelly over your nail beds, the palms of your hands, soles of your feet, elbows, and in between your toes and fingers. It will prevent those areas from overdeveloping and turning orange." After tanning, dust talcum powder into your knee, elbow, and neck creases to absorb excess oils and prevent the tint from rubbing away. On the big day, repeat this step before slipping into your wedding gown.
Photography: Paul Sunday8 of 9
Two to Five Days Before: Have Your Brows Done
Most pros recommend plucking over waxing because it's gentler on the skin and lets the groomer precisely target individual hairs for a better shape overall. "If you've tweezed before, having them shaped two days prior to the wedding is enough time for redness to go away," says Yasmin Ibrahim, brow expert at Haven Spa in New York City. First time? Book at least three days in advance. Swipe just-tweezed areas with rubbing alcohol to prevent breakouts, and apply moisturizer to help soothe redness and swelling.
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One Day Before: Get a Manicure and Pedicure
By giving yourself a 24-hour grace period, you won't be rushed and your nails will have adequate time to dry and harden, and they'll look great for the rehearsal dinner, too. "To ensure polish perfection on the big day, keep an extra bottle of polish and a file on hand for last-minute chip repairs," says Jenna Hipp, a Los Angeles-based manicurist.