There may be no other day than your wedding day when your hands—and what’s on them—get so much attention. Between close-up photos of your wedding ring, and loved ones admiring your new bling, it’s important that your nails are looking sharp. You want your hands to look as good as you do—that’s where classy wedding nail ideas come in. Whether you want nude or natural nails, real or acrylic nails, or fun and colorful nail art, here are some ideas for wedding nails for any bride.
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Wedding nails are part of a wedding look. Just like makeup, hair, and accessories all play into an overall wedding outfit, nails should be considered as part of the bride’s aesthetic, too. If you want your hands and nails to look fresh for your big day, it’s important that you plan ahead and decide exactly what you want your fingers to look like. Brides have their own sense of style, and there are wedding nails to match everyone’s personality. There are plenty of design ideas and color options to choose from, which we’ll get into. Now, let’s dig in!
Some brides regularly get their nails done and have strong feelings about what style, colors, and shapes look best on them. Others are nail newbies and only get their nails professionally done for special events, or have never gotten a professional manicure. Whatever camp you fit into, we’re going to get into wedding nail etiquette and everything you need to know ahead of your big day.
Wedding nails refer to a manicure—whether on the natural nail or with faux nails—that are wedding-ready. Wedding nails can mean gel or acrylic nails, but brides can wear polish on their natural nails, too. They are typically a bit more formal than the standard DIY nail polish job as most brides want their nails to look as classy and clean as possible for their big day. Wedding nails should complement the bride’s outfit and personality, and go with the overall vibe of the wedding.
You want your nails to be fresh for when you say “I do,” so the closer you get your nails done to your actual wedding day, the better. We advise getting your nails done the day before your wedding, or, if you’re super swamped, two days before. This time frame gives you a chance to enjoy the manicure—no one wants to feel rushed on their actual wedding day—without putting you at too much risk of damaging the nails ahead of your nuptials.
Natural nails, acrylic nails, gel nails, or dip powder, there are many different types of nails for a wedding. We will get more into different wedding nail ideas, but first let’s break down the most popular types of nails:
A classic or standard manicure typically entails trimming, cleaning, and buffing your natural nails along with some polish and topcoat. Standard manicures are often the most affordable nail choice, costing anywhere from $15 to $40, depending on the salon you go to and where you live.
One of the most common “fake nail” options, acrylic nails are a popular choice for brides who want a thicker or longer nail than their natural ones. These nails are made from a paste that’s created from a combination of a liquid monomer and a powder polymer. This paste is then applied to the natural nail and shaped into place.
Gel nails are created through a three-step process that uses a gel-based polish. First, a base coat is applied to the nail, then a nail polish, followed by a top coat. The nail is placed under a UV light to be cured, otherwise known as dried, after each coat of polish is applied. This manicure process results in a nice, hard manicure that won’t smudge, yet it looks natural.
Press-on nails are a DIY option for brides. They can be bought at most drugstores and are an easy and cost-effective way to have your nails done for your wedding. These days, good quality press-on nails will stay on for days with nail glue. One thing to be mindful of is finding a set of fake nails that fit your natural nail size and are an appropriate shape. Keep nail glue on hand in case of any nail mishaps.
Many brides do hair and makeup trials ahead of their wedding—something we recommend, if budget permits. But, what about wedding nails trials, are those necessary?
If you’re a bride who regularly gets their nails done, chances are that you have a go-to nail technician and know what manicure styles you like best. If you’re confident with your nail artist and know what process you like, you probably don’t need a wedding nails trial. On the other hand, if you are going to a new salon or don’t normally get gel or acrylic nails, it’s a good idea to do a test run ahead of your wedding. It can be an adjustment to have a new set of nails.
A wedding nail trial can be done anytime before the wedding, but we recommend at least four to six weeks before your big day. That way, if you’re unhappy or want to go with another style, you’ll have time to go with Plan B.
Brides themselves often pay for their own wedding nails. Of course, sometimes family members or members of the wedding party will want to treat the bride to a manicure and thus cover the costs, but this is not mandatory. If you’re paying for your wedding nails, be sure to allocate the cost in your wedding budget—especially when accounting for pre-wedding grooming costs.
Deciding on a wedding nail style comes down to personal preference, but there are some things to consider. First, what is your personal style, wedding style, and wedding outfit? If your wedding aesthetic is modern and minimalist, you may opt for a nude color nail polish or a French manicure. For brides who want to introduce color or are having a beach wedding, a red or pink polish may be their go-to choice.
When deciding on how to choose a wedding nail style, another factor that comes into play is your budget. Acrylic or gel nails can cost more than a standard manicure or an at-home press-on nails kit. Likewise, complex designs and fancy nail art will be more expensive than a single-color polish. Any nail embellishments, like crystals, will add to costs, too.
Of course! If you’re someone who has a steady hand and is skilled at applying polish, there’s no reason why you can’t do your own wedding manicure. If DIY nails aren’t your strong suit, see if a friend can help out and do your nails for you. Many aspects of wedding planning and decor can be done yourself, and beauty is no exception.
The earlier you get your manicure done, the more chances there are for chipping or wear and tear, which is why we recommend getting your wedding nails done a day or two before your nuptials. While the day leading up to your big day can be busy and include lots of moving around—especially if you’re helping decorate or set up at your venue—be extra careful with your nails. It’s best to schedule your manicure around any last-minute tasks that could potentially cause you to damage or chip your nails. To be safe, buy a bottle of polish that matches your manicure to have on hand on your wedding day so that you can do any touch-ups as necessary.
Gorgeous nails are just one part of the process; you need to take care of your skin, too. If you’re getting a professional manicure done, the salon technician or nail artist will moisturize the nails, cuticles, and hands, but it’s crucial to maintain soft skin pre- and post-manicure, too. If you’re doing your wedding nails yourself, don’t skip out on hand cream. It can make a huge difference and help ensure that your hands are looking as great as possible on your big day.
If you're a bride who wants a natural and understated nail look, we’ve got you covered. Natural nails are a great option for people who want their nails to look polished and clean without anything too fancy. Neutral nails also let the engagement and wedding rings stand out and remain the focal point on the hand. If you’re a bride who doesn’t typically wear nail polish, a neutral or more nude tone can be a more comfortable choice, and one that feels more authentic to who you are. Of course there’s nothing wrong with glamming up on your big day too, if that’s your thing!
A popular option for brides who want a hint of color, while still looking natural is a soft grey polish. It’s ideal for fall or winter weddings as it conveys a soft, laid-back vibe that looks effortlessly elegant with a white dress and any kind of accessories.
French tip manicures are classic and for good reason. Whether you use a clear or nude polish as a base coat, a white painted tip gives an instant boost of elegance. French tip nails work during any season and are one of the timeless wedding nail options.
Ombre nails are trendy right now. Tap into this style and make it classy by using white nail polish to create a faded color aesthetic. This look can be done with ease on real nails or gel nails.
For brides who want a very subtle look, neutral polish is the way to go. You can choose a color similar to your skin color, or go with a light nude or pale pink. Some brides opt to go for a gloss-only polish. The goal with neutral nails is to keep the focus on your ring.
Keep things all white with an opaque, white nail polish. Add a layer of clear glossy top coat to ensure that it looks shiny and non-streaky.
If you want a bit of detail, while still remaining neutral, try a nude color with some white lace nail art. This design can be applied on just the tips of the nail, the entire nail, or on a few accent nails. A skilled nail artist will be able to do a creative lace design.
If you want to leave your nails completely bare, that’s perfectly OK, too. Not every bride gets their nails done for their wedding day. If you choose to go au natural, just be sure that you give your nails a quick cleaning—remove any dirt from under the nail—and clean up the cuticle area. A drugstore nail kit can do the trick.
Some color on your nails can add a touch of personality. There are some classic wedding colors, including red, pink, and mauve, that are popular with brides. For brides who want to go even bolder, purple and blues are also choices that make a statement. Any of these colorful wedding nails can be embellished with glitter or nail art designs. Colorful wedding nails are also popular with brides who often wear bold nails or are known for their creative designs. Remember, it’s important to feel like yourself on your wedding day, so make style choices that feel right to who you are and your personal style.
Red nail polish is often seen as a bold choice, but it’s one of the most timeless nail polish colors. There are many different shades of red, including bright, bold red, deep red, and even orange-red. Darker colors are a bit moodier and work well for fall or winter weddings, whereas brighter and bolder hues are great for warmer-weather events.
Soft pink nail polish is romantic, and is a great option for brides who want a pop of color that’s a bit more elevated than nude hues. It’s also a great base for some nail art—which we will get to below—or sparkle gloss.
Not as bold as purple, but a bit more of a statement than soft pink, mauve nail polish is a happy medium for brides who want a standout color that’s not too distracting. Mauve is a great color that also looks fantastic with bridal bouquets—and is ideal for close-up photos that showcase the flowers and ring.
If you want to add pizzazz to your nails, glitter or sparkly polish—either on bare or nude nails, or a color—adds some glamor. Glitter can be applied in many ways: all over the nail, on the tips, or in an ombre effect. How much sparkle you want will affect how heavy you go with the polish.
Metallic nail polish is a solid choice that can be matte or glossy. Silver wedding nails look great with shiny diamonds and beautiful silver bands. Gold polish is a fantastic and timeless option for brides who want their nails to match their gold jewelry. Metallic polish can also serve as a great contrast to rose gold bling.
To get that “something blue” on your wedding day, try a blue manicure. While a solid coat of blue polish can look sharp on its own, an ombre design can be a bit softer. Finish with a glossy topcoat to cement the look.
Nail art has grown in popularity in recent years, especially for brides. There are so many designs and creative styles that elevate manicures to the next level. Nail art can be applied directly to natural nails, but it’s often done on gel or acrylic nails since some designs require longer or thicker nails. (Short nails can make it harder to do elaborate designs, so some artists may suggest fake nails to get the full effect.)
Rhinestones are a simple way to add some formality and elegance to the nails on your wedding day. Nail artists can use real crystals or imitation stones to adorn the nail in a variety of designs. Rhinestones can be glued on the entire nail or positioned on the tip of the nail, creating a glittery French tip design.
Wear your heart on your nails (literally) for your wedding day with tiny heart nail art. Ask your nail artist to draw tiny hearts in a color of your choice either on all nails, or on select fingers as a statement. Colors can include a white base coat with red tiny hearts, or red nails with light pink details.
Marble nail art is a way to show off some personality without an over-the-top design. Marble nail designs can be done with any color polish, but if you want to go more subtle, stick with white or neutrals. For a bolder look, play with pinks and reds.
There are endless geometric designs to create with nail art. Between thin lines, triangles, half-moons, and squares, nail artists can create a plethora of patterns as simple or elaborate as you’d like. Play with different colors, too.
Pearls are a fun detail to add to your wedding nails. Small pearls can be attached to the nails near the tip or spread across the entire nail. Another option is placing pearls around the outer edge of the nail, framing the entire nail in an oval of pearls.
Gold foil creates an interesting design pattern on the nail. For a more subtle pattern, get gold foil on a nude or natural nail polish. For a look that stands out a bit more, use gold foil to create an abstract pattern on a darker shade of polish such as teal, orange, or even pure white.
Wedding nails are an important part of your fashion and beauty planning for your big day. Whether you want a classic neutral design, something bolder, natural nails or acrylics, there are wedding nail ideas for every bride. Deciding on a wedding nail idea that matches your wedding outfit and aesthetic is easy when you have a sense of the options out there. Remember, you want to make a nail decision that feels authentic to your personal style, too. Feeling like yourself is important on your wedding day, so make a choice that you’re genuinely excited about.
At Zola, we are here for you during every step of your wedding planning journey, from deciding on a venue to wedding theme, to hair and makeup choices for the bride and bridal party. We also have grooming support for men, including how grooms can style their beards on their wedding day. Regardless of whether you need hair inspiration, tips on wedding guest etiquette, or even how to get a stain out of a wedding dress, we’ve got you. We make all aspects of wedding planning easier so that you can focus most on what matters—saying “I do” and enjoying being a newlywed.