For most women, our wedding day seems to be elevated in our mind’s eye as the happiest day of our lives, and the magical day where for 24 hours, we are our most beautiful in our entire lifetime. And it’s usually photographed. We slay. All day. This is non-negotiable.
A beautiful friend of mine is getting married in the coming months and while attending her bridal shower a few weeks ago, she approached me about discussing natural hairstyles for her destination wedding.
Originally, I thought this was a simple conversation and that she already had a stylist in mind, but just wanted other opinions from a fellow natural. So I pulled out my phone and pointed her to amazing sites like Munaluchi Bride. (Their site is gorge, I’m just browsing. No man, but just browsing.)
What I didn’t realize was, I was getting set up. The bride’s mother-in-law to be complimented me on my hair and managed to tell the bride not to worry because she would be there to help and so would I. I as in me, the author.
Me the author who experiments on her own head, but rarely ever attempts to work on others because, well, I’m not a professional and I don’t want to be responsible for jacking up anyone’s hair on a regular day.
But in this case, I’m being drafted to work wonders on a nervous bride who wants to enjoy the sun, sand and watersports all week, doesn’t like weaves, and doesn’t want to wear braids (which is understandable, because it’s usually associated with vacation styles). I’ve seen elegant braids, but I get it.
So, I took a deep breath and told my friend that I would help. But we’d have to be strategic. There were a variety of unknowns: The humidity in Mexico, wedding nerves and a high pressure situation.
We needed to select a hairstyle that could be done that day, that was sleek and could hold up to the elements, but allow my friend to have the freedom to enjoy the resort like her guests, and not have to sleep in some awkward position during the night so her impeccable style would “keep.”
We scoured pinterest boards and swapped ideas for twists and buns and styles where faux kanankalon ponytails could easily be added and then removed.
Then I devised a plan where she’d come by my house and we run through the process to see how long it would take to work on her hair, what products we liked and if the ideas we saw on pinterest were completely unrealistic.
She stopped by last Saturday and we were all set to go. I was extremely nervous and I told her that I was and that she really had to be honest with me about whether or not she liked her hair and not to think about the work or the time involved. We want to be able to get it right and make the process smooth for the day of which will already be stressful. So she agreed. And she had a good laugh at my whiteboard that outlined our game plan and our challenges.
I work in project management. I think these things out.
So off to work we went, she shampooed and conditioned her hair and agreed that she could do that in the shower the day of.
Section by section, I took the blow dryer and pulled each section taught to perform the tension method to stretch her very coily hair, that’s quite similar to mine in texture. As we went along, I realized my friend had crazy shrinkage and soon her hair was reaching her shoulders as I worked.
To cut down on the inevitable frizzing I twisted each freshly dried section and added some oil.
We played old 90s music and talked about the wedding, my dating life and other things. It made me miss the old days of spending entire Saturday’s at the salon with my mother and my sister growing up. There is a kinship between women when we go through our lengthy beauty rituals and share them, especially around special moments like getting married, Easter Sunday, graduations and proms. There is an essence of black girl magic.
As I worked through each section, my confidence would build. I’d be less timid working around her head pulling her head closer to me so I can get a better look or angle or be able to part the hair just right.
I’d compliment how strong and healthy her hair is, and how incredible her shrinkage was hiding so much length and thickness. I think that made her feel better too.
We looked at the hair adornments she brought with her and ones she was interested in online.
And after two hours of blow drying and one hour of styling, slicking hairs down and adding some hair to the bun for high drama, I told the bride it was time to take a look.
During our first attempt, she found using two ponytails was too much hair and too much high drama. So we tweaked it.
Her face was very still.
I was very nervous.
We looked at the YouTube video two more times.
I put on the finishing touches and we went to the mirror. I advised her to stand with her back to the bathroom mirror and hold the hand mirror out in front of her to see our handiwork.
And finally, a slow smile. It felt super slow.
Still nervous, I reminded her she could say she didn’t like it if she really didn’t. And that I wouldn’t be offended and to speak now so we can make adjustments (like find another stylist, a professional. A non-me stylist. Lol). And she said that she did like it.
It appeared as if she was imagining the makeup and the dress. Then, we added one of the hair adornments, and her smile became broader.
She was seeing it come together.
And so was I.
Seeing her relax boosted my confidence and I exhaled.
We clocked in officially at 3 hours. And discussed her schedule on the wedding morning that involves her time for makeup with the resort salon and the best time for us to start her hair and get her to the altar on time. We made mental notes of all of our favorite hair tools and products. I warned that for the liquids, she go ahead and pack it with checked luggage.
And now we have a happy, natural bride with one less worry, thanks to the trial run.
But we still have a very frightened, wedding guest-turned amateur natural bridal hairstylist.
Wish me luck y’all.
And speaking of the beautiful connection between friends doing hairs. Check out this video of Lupita Nyong’o explaining how she used to braid her friends’ hair in college.