It was my first wedding. I mean, not MY wedding. But my first opportunity to meet and shadow a professional bridal makeup and hair artist on a bride’s actual wedding day. Few little girls’ dreams surpass the desire to be a fly on the wall of a bride’s dressing room and here I was. Living the dream.
As I stepped onto the curb, I caught sight of Elianna Gasner unloading her gear from her car including big black boxes on wheels that make her look more like the audio-visual team coming to set up the sound system than a professional bridal makeup artist. “It’s a sort of Mary Poppins bag,” laughs Elianna, stopping to shake my hand warmly. “It holds loads of interesting stuff. And with hard work, nurtured talent and a little magic, it makes anything possible.”
Elianna Gasner travels around the country to make up brides from all over the globe, and works closely with numerous wedding planners. But she’s not your average cosmetics professional.
After studying cutting-edge bridal makeup techniques in Hollywood, she launched her career by being the first to introduce airbrush technology to the Israeli bridal makeup industry. Not only her unique talent and pioneering spirit make her one of the most sought-after artists in her eld but her ability to see each client as a person, and not just a human canvas.
“No matter how many times I come to make up a bride on her wedding day, I’m still as excited as I was when I did it for the first time. There’s an electricity in the air and it’s contagious. I feel like my job is to look into her soul and use my techniques and tools to reflect it on the surface. It’s a huge responsibility and I truly feel privileged to be part of the most special day in women’s lives.”
As we walk through the front door of the bride’s house, Elianna greets today’s kallah, Chani, with a friendly smile and gets straight to work setting up her mobile salon. “It’s warmer today than the day we met for our trial consultation,” she says to the young bride, “So one of the most important things we need to decide is what will work best in this weather.”
“Israeli summers are hot and humid,” she says, unclipping the hinge on her box and revealing the kaleidoscope of colors, powders and jars. “I usually recommend brides wear their hair in an up-do for summer weddings. They’ll feel cooler and it will help their makeup last through all the dancing and, um, perspiration. And if you do decide to use hair extensions, I recommend using two different shades to create a little more depth.”
She starts to dab here and brush there, chatting amiably with the bride as if they’re long-standing friends.
“But I try to tread carefully when it comes to hair advice for brides in frum circles. Because for most, it’s the last time they’ll be showing their hair in public and it wouldn’t be fair to expect them to hide it all away in an up-do because of seasonal considerations. Being sensitive to their needs is an essential part of my job and it won’t a affect me working my magic, no matter what they choose.”
She also recommends paying attention to how a day-time wedding would affect bridal makeup decisions.
“Friday morning weddings are gaining popularity in summer, partly because caterers charge less for day events. But this means that the wedding will take place in broad daylight, when light is harsher and skin tone is accentuated.” She suggests a lighter, softer look for summer day weddings to avoid harsh lines and maintain a natural glow. ”
“The sooner the better! The closer you get to your event, the less availability artists will have. So don’t wait for the last minute.”
Elianna reaches into her bag of tricks and produces her magic wand—the famous airbrush—and I have to admit I’m fascinated by how effortless she makes it look. Cosmetic innovation is one thing, but the level she’s mastered is another!
“You want your makeup to stay put for the entire evening so the products I use are premium quality, waterproof and specifically suited to the Israeli climate. In Hollywood, I trained on airbrush, which affords a flawless look that doesn’t ‘cake’ or wear off as the evening wears on.”
“The sky is the limit! From Fresh and Natural, to Sun-Kissed and Glowing, or Glitzy and Glam. There’s no right or wrong. It all depends on what best suits a bride’s features and personality.”
“I thought I’d feel uncomfortable with so much makeup on,” Chani glances up at me from below her matte eye shadow. “But when I showed Elianna a picture of the makeup style I like, she told me that to get that model’s look, brides need a little more makeup than they’d usually wear.”
“It means stepping outside your comfort zone,” says Elianna. “And I understand that can be hard. Makeup is a very intimate and personal thing for women and it’s important they feel comfortable with what I’m doing. Some women don’t wear makeup on a regular basis and even those who do are used to applying it themselves. Brides literally have to put their face in someone else’s hands and trust that they’ll be happy with the results.
“In any case, after about twenty minutes the makeup will settle into the skin and look more natural. You’ll thank me after you see the pictures!
“And while we’re on the subject, even the most beautiful bride in the world can look mediocre if photographed by a mediocre photographer! So don’t skimp on a photographer. Pictures are the only way to preserve the memory of everything you invested in the wedding (including your makeup and hair!), and they’re the only thing that remains after it’s over.”
“First of all, I use waterproof makeup that is very durable. Tears (of joy!) or sweat can be dabbed at with a tissue until dry. That way, the water is absorbed and not the makeup. Avoid rubbing but don’t worry if you forget to dab or if something goes awry. I provide each bride with a touch-up kit that includes lipstick, powder, foundation and whatever else they might need.”
Elianna’s experience has taught her how to keep to tight schedules and ward off the pressure that could filter down to her client. “One week before the wedding, I build the wedding schedule together with the kallah and I’m always prepared for any possible scenario. There have even been times when I’ve had to improvise a quick fix for another professional’s mistake! For example, when one bride’s bouquet arrived wilted, and the florist claimed it was absolutely fine, I called them and demanded a new bouquet, which they eventually did provide.
“We repaired a client’s torn wedding slipper moments before her wedding ceremony was scheduled to begin, painted a soiled wedding dress with white-out to conceal a soiled area of fabric and even saved the day when a restored vintage wedding dress fell apart at the seams on the bride’s body. There’s no point in saying, ‘It’s not my job,’ so I just work out a solution and get on with it. The main thing is to make our client happy.”
“I have a support team of assistants for events with large families or multiple bridesmaids with a long list of makeup and hair requests. My standards are uncompromising when it comes to employees, so I review them thoroughly before hand-picking the best candidates and personally training them. My assistants are highly talented, patient and just plain lovely. They all speak excellent English and as a team we’re happy to work wherever you feel most comfortable.”
At the end of a long day, just before Chani was whisked off to the bedeken, she showered Elianna with thank yous: “You’re a wizard. I never thought I could look this beautiful. Can I shrink you to pocket-size and take you everywhere I go?”
Sounds like another satisfied client, on her way to begin a new life. And Elianna? She’s already one her way to her next lucky bride.
Elianna Gasner can be reached at 052-362-8463