Here Comes the Bridal Stylist – Career

It took Jessica Domoney @jessicadomoney @glambox_artistry nine years from the time she ventured into bridal hair to take the leap of making weddings her full-time business. Finally in April 2022, she left the salon behind.

“This was really scary, but it’s the best thing I’ve done for my business,” says Domoney, whose bridal business company, Glambox Artistry, serves Naples and nearby Florida communities. “I’m working less but earning more.” Limiting her business to bridal hair cured the burnout Domoney was feeling from juggling her salon clientele, educating for a brand, and trying to fit in weddings.

Sister Industry

When you become a stylist, you jump into the beauty industry with both feet. If you add a specialty in bridal styling, you find yourself with one foot in beauty and the other in weddings, which is an industry of its own.                                                                       

More than 2 million weddings take place in the U.S. every year. While the pandemic significantly reduced that number in 2020, by the fall of 2021 couples who’d rescheduled their weddings were vying for venues with the newly engaged, and 2022 was similarly busy. Weddings are still a seasonal business, but now that season lasts nearly half the year, with 80% of weddings taking place from May through October, according to The Knot’s 2021 Real Weddings Study. At 22%, October is the most popular month.

Full Pivot

It took a 2019 tornado pulling the roof off her Ohio salon suite for Haley Garber @beautybyhaleygarber to go weddings-only with her business, Beauty by Haley Garber. For two months until the salon was rebuilt, Garber worked out of a friend’s salon in Dayton while simultaneously going onsite to do weddings and trying new adventures like creating content for MODERN SALON and CosmoPro, teaching, and going through MODERN’s Stylist Session. Like Domoney, she soon felt the heat of impending burnout.

“I realized I needed to stop working seven days a week,” says Garber who, with her husband had planned to move to Charlotte, North Carolina. The 2020 lockdown provided the perfect window to relocate and, after some soul-searching, redesign her career.

“I loved my clients, I loved doing color, and I loved educating and content creation,” she says. “But the passion wasn’t there for clients and color, not like the passion I have for bridal styling and the bridal side of educating. I realized that the salon wasn’t my ‘forever’ place.”

Decision by Demand

The only things holding back Darlynda George @londonsbeautii from trying her hand at bridal hair were fear and negative self-talk. The owner of London’s Beautii in Bowie, Maryland, George kept telling herself that she wasn’t ready. But George didn’t want to disappoint a long-time client whose bridal stylist had canceled just days before the wedding.

“I told myself I could do it,” recalls George, who limits her services to natural hair. “We tried two styles in the trial, and she chose one.” Wanting to document the process for her own use, George captured the transformation of adding an extension to a natural hair look and thought she might as well post the video.

“My video went viral!” she marvels. “You couldn’t even tell an extension was added.”

Say “I Do” to Social

As George discovered with her video, bridal styling and social media were meant for each other. After showing off the engagement ring, the first thing brides do is search for wedding vendors.

“I always encourage new bridal stylists to post videos on social media,” George says. “I didn’t intend for my video to go viral, but on TikTok it really blew up. People reached out, asking how to book my services.” It was still the off-season, so she had time to set a pricing structure and add bridal services to her website. By summer, she was booking brides.

Domoney reports success with social as well. “At least 70% of my bridal clients find me on Instagram,” she says. “Also, people give me reviews on The Knot even though I don’t pay for a Knot account.”

With so much social marketing cost-free, it was easy for Garber to start geotagging cities in North Carolina before she even moved. On Instagram she used #CharlotteWeddings and #WinstonSalemWeddings along with her own company’s hashtag, #beautybyhaleygarber. Except for referrals, social media still generates all of Garber’s business. In daily Instagram and Facebook posts plus a little TikTok, she demonstrates quick tutorials with before-and-after images.

“Once they’ve booked, my brides go to my Pinterest for inspiration,” notes Garber, winner of the Bridal Hair category in MODERN SALON’s 2022 Indie Pro Awards and a member of MODERN’s Artist Connective community. Brides can click on any of her categories, like braids or half-ups. Garber keeps her social posts professional and uses Instagram “stories” to share her personal side.

“I do a lot of cooking and baking videos,” she says. “I have a dog and a cat, work for charities, and drink a lot of coffee. That’s what Instagram stories are for—showing other sides of your personality. But when brides go to my Instagram page, they’re seeing hairstyles.”

Collaborative by Nature

Social media also connects wedding vendors to each other.

“By the time I relocated, I was on board for style shoots I’d found through Facebook groups for North Carolina wedding vendors,” Garber says. “We all cross-network—everybody tags everybody—and that helps us all to cross-promote.”

When hired to style not only the bride but also her attendants and, perhaps, the mother of the bride, and maybe do the makeup as well, the stylist typically brings a whole team. So it helps to have good working relationships with other local bridal stylists. They refer each other, too. With her focus on natural hair, for example, George refers brides who request a weave to a specialist she knows. Similarly, Garber loves creating upstyles and boho looks, which isn’t what every bride wants.

“If they’re asking for super-big Hollywood waves,” Garber says, “I know someone who specializes and really knocks it out of the park. You want her! And those brides will refer me to other brides, because I didn’t over-promise and under-deliver, or I didn’t just decline and not refer somebody.”

Haley Garber and Jessica Domoney are friends professionally. As an educator for a brand, Domoney says she doesn’t think in terms of competition, even locally.

“We all have to unite and make each other stronger,” Domoney says. “That gives every single one of us more credibility. In addition to my local network, I have a network all over the country, and we help each other navigate situations. For example, Haley and I might discuss how to add a new provision to a contract.”

Domoney found this culture of cooperation critically important in September 2022, when Hurricane Ian blew away brides’ plans for Florida venues. She had five destination weddings cancel, while some local couples rescheduled for later dates at venues in unaffected locations. That still left many couples scrambling for a solution.

“The brides’ faces were haunting me,” Domoney recalls. “What would they do? Insurance companies were filing for bankruptcy and not paying on the policies. We were also dealing with everyone’s trauma from losing so much of our community. Many of us got married in places that were destroyed—myself included.”

Because she was part of a tight wedding vendor network, it was all hands on deck to help those brides find new locations not only for their weddings but for rehearsal dinners, too. Shortly after the storm, more than 150 wedding vendors met at the beach to take a photo and get out the message: We’re still here for you to help in whatever way possible!

Contracts, Procedures, and Boundaries

Domoney wanted to help those brides even though, by contract, she was legally permitted to keep their deposit.

“Covid taught us to tighten our contracts,” Domoney explains. “But even though these deposits were nonrefundable, I felt that I had to do everything I could to help the brides after the hurricane. If they moved the date, I applied the deposit to the new date. This was a case of unforeseen circumstances—not the bride’s fault but also not the business’s fault. I know some vendors who went into debt to refund deposits because they didn’t have the right protection written into their contracts.”

Domoney recommends crafting the contract with a lot of thought. “The more you can spell out the specifics in the contract, the better,” she says.

Darlynda George agrees. She requires every bride to go through a FaceTime consultation and come in before the wedding for a trial styling.

“I take pride in what I do for my brides,” George says. “I don’t want them looking back at the photos and not liking their hair. I meet with them at my studio so we can bond before their big day. Every bride is different, and every hair type has different needs.”

Haley Garber sends interested brides to her website, which is the only way to book her services. The site gives them an idea of her prices, lists key FAQs, and provides a comprehensive form they must fill out. Through the bride’s responses on the form, Garber determines whether she wants to work with her.

Curating the Clientele

“I’m the one spending the most time with the bride, and I want to make sure there’s a good match for everyone’s sake,” Garber says. She declines brides who seem to be price-shopping, she says, because they’re sure to ask for a discount.

“Initially asking for a negotiation doesn’t bother me,” Garber explains. “But when they include a whole list of why they think my prices should be lower, or they just want to book $40 hair and makeup, we are not a good fit! Those are the people who will cancel you at the last minute—I’ve seen that happen!”

By the time you move forward together, you’ve both invested a lot of time, but it pays off.

“My brides almost always have animals, love to cook and bake, and enjoy hiking and adventure,” Garber notes. “I’m an awkward person, a little goofy, and they’re typically that way, too. We’re usually very comfortable with each other.”

It helps when the bride does her homework, Garber adds.

“When the bridal party actually reads the manual I put together about what to do leading up to and the day of the wedding, those weddings are a dream,” she says.

George recalls turning down two brides.

“I didn’t feel at peace just in the consultation on the phone,” she says. “Peace of mind is everything. On her wedding day, you want to create a gift for that bride, and the bride trusts you to do this. Her happiness lies in your hands”

Growth and Income

At first, George wanted to stick with the natural styling she knew. Some years back when clients started asking her to do Goddess Locs, a lucrative service that takes about 10 hours to complete, George was scared to put it on her menu. Finally, she practiced on a consenting client and on herself until she felt comfortable with the service. Now she includes it among her list of specialties.

“Keep your eye on the trend,” George advises now. “Choose what you think is your strength, but never feel comfortable where you are. Things change; techniques keep improving.”

Still, some styles continue to be mainstays year after year.

“Every year I think boho has run its course, and I anticipate crafting clean, elegant buns,” Garber says. “But then fall comes, and every fall it’s as if someone unlocked the floodgates to all things boho. People do what they like, and I’m all for that.”

With the freedom to set your hours and your prices, you can decide how quickly to grow but, as in a salon business, there is only so much time available. Domoney had 47 weddings scheduled in 2022, and Garber does up to 50 weddings a year in spurts of one to three per weekend in season, although weekday weddings are becoming more common as well. In 2023, Garber is trying to keep one weekend a month free for family time.

While, like Domoney, some stylists see their earnings climb with a bridal specialty, the income comparison depends on your salon clientele. George generates high earnings from her extensions clients. Domoney, too, says you can make good money either way.

“If I have a $3,400 wedding, I will pay out about $2,000 to other team members and for expenses,” Domoney says. “That means my net profit will be $1,400 on one wedding in one day plus the rehearsal the day before. We get paid an additional fee to go on location—just to show up. But in salon work you might have an extensions client pay you $1500, and that hair might cost $400.” The profit, then, is $1,400 for bridal compared with $900 for the salon work, which gets done in less time.

So it comes down to fashioning the career you love.

“Be confident in what you do, and emphasize your strengths,” advises Darlynda George. “If you have passion and excitement for bridal styling, it will take you farther than you expect.”


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