Even if you’re a no-frills kind of gal, chances are you’re going to want your hands and nails to look beautiful both before and during the wedding. Consider taking a “DIY” approach: you don’t need professional manicures to make your nails look beautiful, and there are ways to keep the skin on your hands looking youthful and gorgeous as well.
The first tip is to always keep a hand cream and cuticle oil nearby so you can moisturize when you need it. Try Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Hand Cream ($4.49, Drugstore.com) or Clinique Deep Comfort Hand and Cuticle Cream ($20, Clinique.com). If your cuticles need extra attention and you want to use a cuticle oil in addition to the rich creams, try argan oil if you already have some in your beauty arsenal. Sally Hansen Cuticle Oil ($5.59, Ulta) has vitamin E in it for additional skin benefits. Massage the oil into the cuticle each night before bed and then rub it across each nail for extra strength and to prevent breakage.
Hands are in the spotlight when you’re engaged because everyone wants to see your engagement ring. Your hands will also show up in quite a few wedding photos, up close and personal, so you want to make sure they look good. You’ll want to keep the nails painted, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune on professional manicures.
Trim your nails so they’re the length you want, then smooth out the edges with a nail file, rounding the edges just a bit so they’re less likely to catch on things and cause breakage. Buff the nail for a smooth finish.
Never cut your cuticles. Instead, push them back in the shower with a washcloth while they’re still damp (or just soak your fingertips in warm water for a few minutes if you’re not showering first). You can push the cuticles back more if needed with an orangewood cuticle stick before applying the polish. Massage the oil into the cuticles if you wish, let it set for a few minutes, and then wipe your nail clean with nail polish remover. From there, if you’re using a single shade, just apply your base coat, color, and a top coat to seal everything in. Once the nails are completely dry, apply cuticle oil to the nails and cuticles. Then clean up the edges with a cotton swab dipped in nail polish remover.
For a classic French manicure without the hassle of stickers or special manicure kits, choose an opaque white polish for the tips and a sheer peach or pink polish for the rest of the nail. Paint the tips of your nails white, but don’t worry about getting the perfect line yet. Once that has dried completely, take a flat, dense eye shadow brush or paintbrush with natural bristles, dip it into acetone nail polish remover and swoop in at the bottom edge of the white polish in a windshield-wiper motion to get a crisp, curved line across the tip of the nail in the width you prefer. Go over the whole nail, including the tip, with the other sheer shade you’ve selected. Then apply a top coat once it’s dry to prevent chipping.
Make using your hand cream and cuticle oil a daily habit in the days or weeks leading up to your wedding date, applying at least before bed. Try the DIY manicure at least the week before, just to make sure your polish choice is perfect for your skin tone and to give yourself a chance to perfect the technique. Doing your nails on the evening before your wedding may give you better results (if nervous, you may have shaky hands on the day of the ceremony), so let the manicure be a moment to relax and wind down before the big day.