Photo: Bella Philly / Joshua Dwain
From the day you get engaged to your honeymoon, your hands get a lot of attention. Friends and family want to see that ring. Your wedding photographer will also get close-ups of your bouquet, the cake cutting, and the ring itself.
There’s no doubt that your nails are just as much a part of your wedding outfit as your shoes, dress, and makeup.
But perfect wedding nails don’t start and stop with choosing nail polish — nail care starts as soon as you set a date!
This full guide will walk you through taking care of your nails, picking out the best size, shape, and style for your hands, and making sure your mani-pedi stays pristine for your special day.
Starting Today: Wedding Nail Preparation
Good wedding nail preparation begins about two months out from your wedding day. You can’t start paying attention to your hands a week before you get married and hope to see life-changing results.
The sooner you start, the better your chances of having Instagram-worthy nails on your big day.
Here’s the low-down on how to give your hands, feet, and nails some TLC before your wedding:
Break Bad Habits
Nail biting, cuticle picking, and cleaning your nails with random objects are big no-nos if you’re hoping for picture-perfect fingers. If you do any of these on a daily basis, you may have to start a little sooner than others to break those bad habits.
Keep your nails clean, filed, and painted to discourage yourself from messing with them.
Strengthen Weak Nails
Buffing your nails can take a toll on them if they are already thin or weak. Limit your buffing to once every two weeks.
Use nail strengthener on weak nails to give them a helpful boost before the big manicure. Also, add more B vitamins to your diet to give your nails the nutrition they need to grow long and strong.
Establish a Mani-Pedi Routine
While you’re poring over your wedding planning, make sure you budget time and funds for a manicure and a pedicure once a week to get your nails used to the treatment.
An at-home mani-pedi does just as well if you can’t make it to the salon that often.
Prioritize Hand and Feet Care
Your hands and feet are just as important as your nails. They’ll be featured just as much as your manicure, so take good care of them with these quick tips:
-Wash your hands and feet daily.
-Wear gloves and socks outside to keep them safe from sun and dirt exposure.
-Wear rubber gloves when cleaning to protect your hands and nails.
-Exfoliate and moisturize regularly.
-File your feet using a pumice stone to get rid of dry skin.
-Use hand masks and foot masks to soften your skin.
-Wear loose-fitting shoes instead of tight, uncomfortable ones in the month leading up to your wedding.
Get your partner involved in your routine no matter how much they might protest. Their hands will be featured just as much as yours, and they should be ready for the big day too!
Do a Trial Run
Finally, get your wedding nails done at least once in full before your wedding day.
Getting a wedding manicure is the only way to ensure it’s exactly what you want. It’s the perfect way to test the shape, size, color, and style of your nails against your dress.
Plus, it gives you the perfect excuse to get your nails done for your bachelorette party!
Choosing Your Wedding Nails: Size, Shape, and Color
Photo: Bella Boston / Bean Art Photography
The number of nail-related choices out there is enough to make your head spin. Luckily you’re here, and we can walk you through each of these choices one step at a time.
The Perfect Nail Length
Nail length is the easiest thing to decide.
Get a length you’re comfortable with to prevent any nail accidents on the big day. You want to make sure that your nails are short enough to hold your flowers!
Mid-length nails look beautiful and elongate your fingers. They aren’t as easy to break or catch on your dress as long nails, either.
The Best Nail Shape for Your Hands
There are quite a few different nail shapes you can choose from. Knowing more about them may help you decide which one will suit your hands best.
Here’s a quick rundown of the different types of nails:
How your nails naturally grow, great for anyone that loves their natural nails
The end of the nail is rounded off, perfect for short nails and a natural look
Straight sides with a straight edge, good for slim fingers with narrow nails
Straight sides with a semi-circle edge, makes fingers look longer and slimmer while maintaining a natural look
A rounded rectangle, like an oval but with a flatter tip, a happy medium that suits everyone
Slim sides that taper off into a soft rounded tip, great for longer nails to give the appearance of long, slender fingers
Square nails with rounded corners, great for giving slim fingers a softer look than a traditional square
Tapered sides capped off by a flat tip, usually gel or acrylic, for bringing in a little drama
A dramatically pointed tip, usually gel or acrylic nails that give any hand a statement look
How to Choose the Best Type for Your Hand
If you’re unsure which nail shape is best for your hand, it may help to look at the length of your fingers and palm. It might point you in the right direction faster than comparing every nail shape.
Here’s a quick guide on the best nail shapes for each hand shape:
Long Palm, Short Fingers
Oval (elongates your fingers to balance your palm)
Wide Palm, Short Fingers
Oval or almond (round, tapered shapes make short or wide fingers appear longer)
Long Palm, Long Fingers
Square or rounded square (long hands can get away with blunt nails)
Wide Palm, Long Fingers
Rounded square or ballerina/coffin nails (square shapes balance a wider palm while flattering long fingers)
Almond or squoval (universal nail shapes that look good in any situation)
Of course, you can always consult your nail artist to get their opinion — they’ll have some design ideas that are perfect for your nails.
Picking a Nail Polish Shade for the Big Day
Now we get to the fun part — what color you’re going to paint your nails for the big day.
It’s important to choose a color that goes with your overall wedding look and suits your skin tone.
Pay attention to the undertones of your skin. Cool undertones and warm undertones may clash with certain colors, even if you’re wearing a neutral shade. It’s a lot like lipstick that way.
Get several shades of the same color to try out and actually put it on. It may look different on your hand than it does in the bottle.
While it’s on your hand, hold it up against your wedding dress or a swatch of fabric to get a feel for what it will look like when everything is put together. If you’re going to change for the reception, test your color against that dress, too.
Once you settle on a color, buy more than one bottle.
You never know when you might misplace one bottle or run out after a few test runs. Don’t take the risk of not finding the exact brand or shade you set your heart on in the days leading up to your wedding.
Wedding nail art is a great way to add a fun touch to your wedding nails. But on your big day when you are the star of the show, less is more.
Keep any nail art subtle so it doesn’t distract from the rest of your look and keeps the spotlight on you. Delicate white flowers or butterflies on only one of your nails is a good example.
A cute wedding nail design goes best on a clean nude base or simple French tip so your nails aren’t too busy.
Different Types of Wedding Nails
Photo: Bella Raleigh / Cynthia Delo
There are a lot of details involved in a manicure, and one of those is what kind of manicure you want to get.
There are four common types of manicure:
Let’s take a quick look at each of these manicures and the pros and cons of getting them done for your wedding day.
This is the most familiar manicure. You simply apply regular nail polish on top of your natural nails to achieve your wedding look.
-Easier to touch up
-Will require more touch-ups for chipped polish
-May need another manicure for the honeymoon
Gel nails use a hybrid nail polish that is dried under UV light. This process makes your nails hard, sturdy, and long-lasting for your wedding day and beyond.
-Lasts longer with no chips
-Difficult to remove on your own
-Lose their shine after a few days (so you have to get them close to your wedding day)
Dipped nails get their name because your nails are coated with a sealant and dipped into a powder that only sticks to the sealant. This provides a clean, beautiful manicure that’s a great backdrop for extra details.
-Lasts for weeks
-Perfect canvas for nail art or bling
-Hard to remove on your own
Acrylic nails are synthetic nail extensions that are hardened over your natural nail. This manicure makes your nails longer and more resilient for your big day.
-Adds length instantly
-Opens up all sorts of shape options
-Lasts for weeks
-May break if too long
-Can cause damage to natural nails if left on for a long time
Caring for Your Nails on Your Wedding Day
After all that preparation, decision-making, and sitting for your dream manicure, you now have the task of keeping your nails perfect until and during your wedding.
There’s always the chance that something will happen after you get your nails done. Create an emergency kit for your wedding day to make sure your nails stay in tip-top shape.
Or, add these things to your already made kit so you don’t have to worry about your nails:
-Extra nail polish
-Extra top coat
Then if anything happens to your polish before you walk down the aisle, you will have the supplies to cover it.
Wedding Nail Styles for Every Bride
You might already have a good idea of how you want your nails to look. But if you’re still on the fence, allow us to give you a bit of inspiration with these wedding nails ideas.
Maybe you’re leaning towards plain and simple nails that are clean and buffed to perfection. This nail style is usually achieved with no polish or only a clear topcoat for a little bit of shine.
Nude nails are what most grooms will be rocking for their wedding photos. There’s nothing wrong with keeping your nails low-key, especially if your wedding dress, accessories, and makeup are minimalist, as well.
Clean and Classic
Classic wedding nails run on the side of toned-down neutrals.
French manicures are probably the most traditional bridal nails you can get because those white tips never go out of style. They’re clean and crisp without ever looking boring.
If you’re looking for a classic shade to cover your entire nail, opt for nudes, pure white nails, off-white, a soft gray, or light pink.
On the other hand, why not rock a bright, eye-catching color to match your wedding colors? Bright red is an iconic nail color that flatters almost any look.
Or, match your nail color to the season you’re getting married in. Think orange, red, or yellow for a fall wedding, blue in the summer, or lavenders and soft pink nails in the spring.
A simple but glamorous way to make your manicure stand out is to match your nails to the color of your engagement ring. Silver, gold, and rose gold are more eye-catching than neutrals without being as overwhelming as a bright pop of color.
You can also add metallic touches or flakes to your neutral nail color for a bit of sparkle. Or, you can get glitter nails for a little something different that satisfies your love of all things sparkly.
Toned down or bright aren’t the only two styles out there. For some brides, something a little more moody is the perfect match for their vibes.
For an alternative look, deeper colors are your best friend.
Burgundy and navy give you color without clashing with your color palette. Taupe is perfect for an outdoor wedding. And of course, dark gray or true black nails are the way to go for anyone that adores the darker side of life.
Keep them matte to really bring out the angst.
Want to keep things neutral but feel like it’s too plain for your tastes?
Take your bridal nails up a notch with stunning ombre nails in your favorite color, or layer one neutral color over the other in a pattern for a subtle upgrade.
Some brides love bling, and your nails should reflect that.
Add a few rhinestones on top of your manicure along your nail bed for some statement shine. Just do your ring finger as an accent nail, or add a few small gems to each nail if you really want to up the glam.
How to Style Your Toes
Whether you’re wearing shoes that show your toes or rocking bare feet on the beach, your toes need the same love that you show your hands.
Style-wise, you’ll probably want to match your toes with your fingers for a cohesive look. But that’s not the only way to go — natural, buffed toenails are perfectly acceptable if your feet will be hidden under your dress most of the time.
As long as your toenails are clean and cut, you’re pretty much good to go.
For beach weddings where there may be more attention on your feet in the sand, give your color just as much thought as your hands. You might even jazz your toes up with glitter, jewels, or nail art on your big toe.
Who doesn’t love tropical flower prints on their toenails?
Your wedding nails aren’t just a one-day deal; they are an entire process that starts today and goes all the way to your big day where you finally get to show those babies off.
Getting your nails ready for your wedding starts with proper care. When you have a healthy foundation, any style, shape, or color you put on top is sure to amaze!
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