For bridal makeup and hair stylist Sarah Crowley, the best part of a wedding isn’t when the bride walks down the aisle – it’s when the getting ready process comes to an end.
With her dress zipped, a veil slipped on and makeup and hair done, the bride is finally at ease after months and sometimes years of planning. And her bridal party is in awe.
“It moves me,” Crowley said, noting she often cries alongside her client’s mom and bridesmaids, tissues in hand. “The energy that happens in that moment is just amazing.”
The Milton native is the owner of Finishing Touch, a mobile hair and makeup service founded in 2010. Entering her seventh wedding season this May, she already has 24 ceremonies booked, which is where her average usually falls, she said. She’s done 200 since starting the company.
Before each ceremony though, every bride undergoes a trial with Crowley. Usually held six months before the wedding, the consultation lets Crowley get a sense of what the women want to look like on their big day.
With everything else in place, including their date, location, dress and floral choices, hair and makeup are the last piece to the puzzle, Crowley said. Brides are encouraged to bring pictures as examples for their desired eye shadow, lip and updo designs.
A trial gives time to troubleshoot. If a bride doesn’t like the look, they try again. And Crowley doesn’t take it personally.
“I say, ‘Don’t lie, because it doesn’t hurt my feelings if you don’t like what I just did,’” she said. “‘Because it’s not about me and what I did; it’s about you, what you’re gonna look like on your wedding day.’”
Crowley asks brides-to-be to about their normal, everyday makeup and goes from there.
“I use the term ‘yourself enhanced,’” she said. “No matter what your actual vision of your wedding day, what you really want is just an enhanced version of yourself. You need to look like yourself.”
During the consult, Crowley sees brides’ anxiety disappear. By the time she leaves, the bride can visualize the big day – it helps that she wears the makeup for the rest of the day, per Crowley’s instruction.
The next day, she emails Crowley to tell her how everything held up and if any changes need to be made. When the big day arrives, they’re ready.
Crowley’s business is mobile. Though this adds to the price — it costs around $550 for a bride and up to $175 for bridesmaids — Crowley said it allows her to spend more time interacting with the brides, versus going to a salon.
The list of Vermonters who do what Crowley does is short, she said, and it’s rare to find someone who does both hair and makeup.
Her fascination with beauty began at a young age, dating back to her childhood days in dance recitals. She never thought it would turn into a career, but in time, it just sort of happened, she said.
Crowley enjoys learning a family’s backstory between applying strokes of foundation and blush. This New Year’s Eve, a bride’s best friend, brother and brother-in-law were all deployed to the Middle East with the Vermont Air National Guard.
“The best friend actually took the bride’s spot because she was supposed to go,” Crowley said, tears welling.
While Crowley has a couple side gigs like children photography, Finishing Touch is her real passion. From May until the first week of October, she’s all in — and she wouldn’t dare cancel on a bride, even if she had the flu.
“I literally would have to be in the hospital or my hands broken,” she said. “Even if I had to sit down in a chair with you sitting on the floor in front of me, I would be there to take care of you.”
Of course, with a mask on, she added.
Crowley thinks her personality – and clear passion for her craft – can put brides at ease, during a high-stress time.
“It takes a certain type of person to be able to deal with brides,” she said, adding with a smile that brides aren’t normally nearly as stressed as their mothers.
When the whole masterpiece is done, everyone — including Crowley — can relax.
And that’s when the moment happens. Dress on and lipstick coated, the bride is handed her bouquet. She sees herself for the first time, with parents, bridesmaids and Crowley present.
Up next: The groom. The anticipation captured in that moment is special, Crowley said.
“I get to see something most people don’t,” she said.