How to Give Yourself a (Professional-Looking) DIY Manicure for Your Wedding Day

A young woman with an engagement ring on her hand touching her red hair.

On your wedding day, your hands will be the subject of many, many photos. There will be close-up shots of your ring, your bouquet in your hands, your spouse’s hand against your own—and if your nails don’t look nice, they could spoil the whole photo. How can you make sure your nails look great, even without a trip to the salon? Here’s how you can DIY the perfect manicure.

Step 1 – Trim Your Nails

Before you start painting, you need to make sure you have a nice canvas to work with. Grab a pair of nail clippers and trim those babies down to your desired length! If you want to, you can also trim or push back your cuticles during this step; however, this can leave your nail bed open to infection if you do it incorrectly, so don’t attempt if you haven’t practiced it before!

Step 2 – Shape the Nails with a File

A woman filing her nails.

Let’s be honest: clipping your nails alone never gives you that perfect look you were hoping for. Now, it’s time to use your nail file to smooth out any uneven edges and get the nail into that perfect shape. Should you have a rounded nail or a square one? Honestly, it’s up to your personal preference. Just make sure that you keep it consistent across all 10 fingers!

Step 3 – Clean Your Nails and Cuticles

Even if you start your mani with washed hands and unpainted nails, dirt and oil from your skin can still interfere with your polish game. To avoid that, take some time to make sure you remove everything from the nails and cuticles. Use a nail cleaner to scrape away dirt from under the nail and soak a cotton swab in acetone or nail polish remover and swipe it across all your fingers.

Step 4 – Exfoliate Your Hands

Manicures aren’t just about making your nails look amazing; they’re also a great way to show your hands some love. Exfoliate your hands with your favorite sugar scrub and a little warm water. This will slough off any dead skin cells and give your hands a nice, youthful glow. Trust me, after 15 close-up shots of your engagement ring, you’ll be glad you did this step!

Step 5 – Moisturize Your Hands

Once you’ve removed all the dead skin on your hands, it’s time to protect the fresh cells underneath. Grab a lotion in your favorite scent and apply it to your hands. In a salon, this is the moment when your manicurist may massage your hands, so feel free to pamper yourself with a little reflexology. It just might make you feel more relaxed before the big day!

Step 6 – Repeat Step Three

Earlier, we talked about removing dirt and oils from your nails. This step helps the polish last a little longer by giving it a clean surface to stick to. But guess what? All that lotion just introduced new oils to your skin! Before you can start painting, you need to clean up your nails one more time. Soak a cotton ball in some polish remover and pass it over each nail.

Step 7 – Lay Down the Base Coat

A woman painting her nails with a clear base coat.

Finally, we are ready to paint. Start by adding a thin layer of your favorite base coat and letting it dry fully. This will give your nails a more even surface for the polish to stick to, which will make your finished look even better. It will also help with the longevity of the polish.

Step 8 – Start Polishing

A woman painting her nails with a soft pink shade.

Now the big moment! Apply the nail polish in your desired color in three quick strokes. Try to avoid adding too much paint at first—this can make your polish look messy, and you can always add a second coat if you think it’s too light. However, it’s very important that you allow your nails to dry fully between coats, as applying too soon can lead to little bubbles in the polish. Patience is key here (well, patience and a steady hand).

Also, a quick side note: we all know the struggle of doing a DIY mani and messing up your dominant hand. Don’t be afraid to ask someone for help when it comes to this step! It’s better to have a friend paint your right hand (or left, if you’re a southpaw like me) than to have a sloppy manicure in your wedding photos.

Step 9 – Dry, Top Coat, and Dry

After you’re satisfied with your nail color, take a few moments to let the polish dry. How long should you wait? Some nail experts say that two minutes is enough time, but if you want to wait longer it’s really up to you. Once you feel ready, add a clear top coat of polish and get ready to wait again. This time, I’d suggest waiting a bit longer; maybe watch an episode of your favorite show on Netflix to pass the time.

Step 10 – Touch-Up the Cuticles

When it comes to manicures, mistakes happen whether you’re a pro or an amateur. So if you notice a smudge or some polish on your cuticle, simply use your polish remover to touch up the spot! With a few swipes of acetone on a q-tip (and maybe a repainted nail or two), you’ll be ready to look polished and perfect for your special day. Make sure you show off those nails!

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