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Pre-Wedding Tanning: Your Dos and Don'ts for Fake and Spray Tan, Plus the Best Products

For a flawless faux glow on your wedding day, read our expert advice on wedding spray tans and self tans, complete with insider tips on the only way to stop fake tan transferring onto your wedding dress

Tanned bride to be sitting on the grass looking at fake tans for her wedding next to a crop of peaches
Pexels/Philip Warp

Tanned bride to be sitting on the grass looking at fake tans for her wedding next to a crop of peaches
Pexels/Philip Warp

Repeat after me. The only safe tan is a fake tan. So rather than spending hours in the sun to achieve that coveted golden glow for your wedding day, seek out a bronzed look from a bottle for your wedding spray tan

If you’re a tanning novice, your best bet is to book in for a pre-wedding spray tan, for a flawless, all-over bridal tan that gives you a glow that suggests you’ve spent two weeks on the beach before you’ve even booked your honeymoon plane tickets.

If you’re a seasoned self-tanner and know how to create a streak-free, natural-looking tan, free from patches and missed-out areas, there’s no reason not to do your own self-tan for your wedding.

For those who need a little hand holding when it comes to creating a perfect faux-glow, here’s your essential guide to bridal tanning, covering everything from how to stop fake tan transferring onto your wedding dress, to exactly when to to self-tan to be your bronzed best on the big day as well as the best fake tans for your wedding

Your Ultimate Guide to Self-Tan for Your Wedding

1. Begin With Skin Prep

Bride with lightly tanned skin in an offer the shoulder wedding dress
Pexels/Leah Kelley

Whether you’re self-tanning at home or booking in for a salon spray tan for your wedding, prepping your skin is non-negotiable. 

“The trick to a truly flawless glow is all in the prep,” says celebrity spray tanner Jules Von Hep, who founded tanning brand Isle of Paradise. 

“Shave or wax at least 24 hours prior to application and ensure skin is exfoliated with a dry brush, scrub or acid,” he says. “Exfoliating means the skin will have an even surface, so the final result will be even and, equally importantly, it will fade evenly like a natural tan would.” 

There are products on the market to help with your at-home self-tan prep. I recommend St Tropez’s Tan Remover Prep & Maintain, £11.60 . You can use it right before your tan, or the day before if you prefer - just apply it onto your tanning mitt and rub onto your skin in circular motions, leave it on for one minute and then rinse off. It removes all traces of previous tan applications, prepping the skin for a fresh coat.

READ MORE: The Best Exfoliators According to Our Beauty Editor

Professional tanning brand Sienna X also sells a pre-tan product to perfect your self-tan. Their Perfect Self Tan Primer, £8.98 acts as a barrier to stop self-tan clinging to traditionally dry areas that can look patchy (elbows and knuckles, we’re looking at you).

One last prepping tip from Jules before you get going on your glow - remove any makeup and deodorant prior to application - but don’t use a cleansing oil to remove makeup. Oils act as a barrier to the tan’s penetration, he cautions. 

“For best results, apply your tan an hour after showering so skin is hydrated,” Jules adds. Duly noted. 

2. Tan In Stages 

Ensure each area of your body is perfectly tanned by tanning each area of the body in stages, advises St Tropez tanning ambassador Michaela Bolder. 

“Aim to break up application by working on one area at a time, starting with one arm, working in a fast, long and circular motion to get a flat and even finish,” says Michaela. She advises to repeat this process on the other arm, chest, tummy, legs and back. 

3. Single Out Your Hands

Anyone who’s ever had a failed attempt at self-tanning will know the hands and feet are the most troublesome areas to tan - but your hands in particular need to be neatly bronzed for your wedding day, for all of those ring pictures. Luckily Michaela has some handy advice - starting with only using product that’s already on the mitt - don’t apply a fresh pump!

“Stretch your hand into a claw shape and gently sweep the mitt over your hand to your fingers gently spreading in between your fingers for an all over even finish,” she advises. 

As for the feet, another notoriously tricky body part to tan, only use the leftover tan on your mitt. “Point your toes and sweep the mitt down over the top, then gently tap your toes using the mitt to press colour over the top,” says Michaela. “Finish by sweeping down the sides of the foot, around the back and over your stretched ankle.”

Still struggling? Michaela suggests taking an old bronzing brush or a chunky foundation brush, dabbing it onto your tanning mitt to pick up product, and then blending it over your stretched hands and feet. 

4. Don’t Forget Your Back

Bride on the beach at sunset with an off the shoulder wedding dress and a bouquet of sunflowers
pexels/luan gonçalves

If you’ve got a backless wedding dress, this tip is vital! “To reach your back when you’re tanning alone, try turning your mitt around and using the back of your hand side to side as high as you can, then switch it back around to work over your shoulder, then underneath your arm to meet in the centre.”

Too much of a faff? Try Isle of Paradise’s tanning mister, £8.21. It has a 360 degree spray nozzle and you can use it upside down and sideways to reach all the hard to tan areas. Fill it with the brand’s Tanning Water, £11.21, for the best results. 

READ MORE: You Don't Need to Lose Weight for Your Wedding

Everything You Need To Know About Your Bridal Tan

Do I Need A Spray Tan Trial Before My Wedding?

If you’re opting for a professional spray tan, it’s recommended to have a trial run before the wedding. 

“Just like you’d have multiple dress fittings, a tan fitting is equally important in building a picture of how you’ll look on the day,” says Nicola Matthews of pro tanning brand Sienna X.

“Tan trials are an opportunity for you to try the treatment and get the reassurance of knowing the results you’ll achieve for the big day,” she adds. Nicola also notes that booking a few trial tans can be helpful, to try out different shades of tan to find the one that best suits your complexion and outfit. 

Try to time your trial with any events you have coming up (hen party, bridal shower, etc.) to make the most of your bronzed look. 

Nicola also suggests having a tan trial just before your wedding makeup trial, so your makeup artist can colour match the foundation to your skin tone, and make sure any eye and lips colours work with the hue of your tan. 

Jules agrees that a tan trial is essential: “A spray tan trial is important as it helps your tanning artist work out how your skin reacts to what they intend to put on your skin,” he explains.

Nicola also points out that having a trial tan is a great way to work out when you should do your pre-wedding tan, which leads us nicely onto…

When Should I Tan Before My Wedding?

If you’re opting for a professional spray tan, Jules suggests booking in two days before your wedding. “The tan tends to settle itself into the skin, with the optimum colour being day two or three,” he says.

“Your multiple tan trials will give the best indication of when to have your spray tan before your wedding,” says Nicola. “After the initial spray tan, note down which day you liked the shade of your skin most. Taking a daily selfie can help you look back and make a decision.

“For example, if your tan looked best on day two, you’ll know to book your spray tan a couple of days before you walk down the aisle so your tan can settle first.”

If you’re self-tanning before your wedding, Nicola recommends two days before your wedding, allowing for overnight development, followed by a day to get used to the results. 

READ MORE: The Best Makeup Setting Sprays for a Flawless Finish

How To Stop Fake Tan Transferring On To A Wedding Dress

We have some fantastic news for you. This simply won’t happen! According to both Nicola and Jules, the sophisticated tanning formulas of the modern day, including clear spray tans, invisible tanning waters and gradual tanning drops that you mix in with your moisturiser, means nothing will transfer onto your wedding dress. All the same - perhaps don't apply a fresh coat just before you go wedding dress shopping.

Think About Your Whole Wedding Party

Bride and groom kissing on the beach surrounded by bridesmaids throwing their bouquets in the air
Pexels/Francisco Sanchez

“When I’m working with a wedding client, whatever the season, my first advice is ‘think of your entire wedding party’ – this day isn’t just about you,” says Jules.

“It’s also about your other half, your bridesmaids, your mother – the lot – think of your final shade choice as a tone that needs to complement others around you. Book a bridal package with your spray tan artist and ensure anyone who wants a glow is having the same type of tan as you.” If your mum is tanning with you, she might also like our soft mother of the bride makeup ideas!

Keep Your Tan Natural

Nicola’s final words of wisdom are to stay true to yourself when it comes to your bridal tan. “My best tip is to ensure that the tan is subtle and gives you a healthy, natural glow,” she says.

“A dramatic change on your wedding day is advised against; you want to enhance your natural features, not draw attention to a deep tan people aren’t used to seeing you with. Trials will help you to ace your shade in advance.”

READ MORE: Stunning Natural Wedding Makeup Ideas to Inspire You

Your Essential Bridal Tanning Kit

What You Need to Prep for Your Wedding Tan

St Tropez’s Tan Remover Prep & Maintain, £11.60

Bottle of self tan remover by st tropez

This wonder product not only eradicates your last tan application, banishing any left over patches of self-tan that are clinging on, it exfoliates and preps your skin ready for a fresh coat of fake tan. 

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Sienna X Perfect Self Tan Primer, £8.98

Sienna X bottle of fake tan primer

Apply this primer to your body prior to tanning to minimise the likelihood of a patchy tan. It acts as a nourishing barrier to stop self-tan clinging to traditionally dry areas, resulting in a smoother, more natural tan.

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 Isle of Paradise’s Tanning Mister, £8.21

Isle of Paradise tanning mister in a pastel blue and lilac spray bottle  

This pretty pastel coloured tanning mister tool has a 360 degree spray nozzle and you can use it upside down and sideways to reach all the hard to tan areas. It’s the closest thing you’ll get to a professional spray tan in the comfort of your home

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St. Tropez Dual Sided Luxe Tanning Applicator Mitt, £4

Blue coloured self tan applicator mitt by St Tropez

I’ve tried many tanning mitts over the years, but this one is the best. It’s velvety and glides over the skin for a smooth, even tan. It’s waterproof too, so you don’t end up with self-tan on your hands. 

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Isle of Paradise Blending Brush, £9.71

Lilac coloured Isle of Paradise fake tan blending brush

An old bronzing brush will do the trick, but if you want to treat yourself, Isle of Paradise’s purple blending brush is the ideal tool for buffing your tan into your hands - no more missed knuckles with this!

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The Best Fake Tans for Your Wedding, According to Our Beauty Editor

Filter By Molly-Mae Tanning Mousse, £21

beige and white pump bottle of Molly-Mae's Filter self tan

Of all the self-tans I’ve tried over the years, Filter by Molly-Mae is the most fool proof. Even when I apply it in a rush, the tan always comes out perfect. It dries quickly and develops fast too.

I used the shade medium, and the bottle suggests leaving it on for four hours plus, but I normally wash it off after two hours and am the perfect shade of sun kissed (though I say it myself!) I’ve never once had a streak with this, and it always fades naturally too.

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St. Tropez Tan Luxe Whipped Crème Mousse, £26.40

black and white bottle of St Tropez's whipped fake tan

I discovered this lightweight, fluffy feeling self-tan by St Tropez after supermodel Ashley Graham did a collaboration with the brand, citing this as her favourite self-tan - and I’m a big fan too.

It never dried out my skin and gave me a deep, golden glow, plus it was another self-tan that faded naturally after a week or so. 

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Isle of Paradise Day Dew Self-Tan Face Mist, £10.63

bottle of isle of paradise self tan mist for your face

If you’d like to self-tan your face as well as your body, you can’t go wrong with this easy-to-use face mist. Just mist it on, as your would a face spritz and you’re good to go - no need to blend in. I spray it haphazardly at my desk and am always pleased with the natural outcome. 

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Maintaining Your Bridal Spray Tan

Body Shop Body Yoghurt, £11

Mango body yoghurt by the body shop in an orange pot

Self-tan works by colouring the top layer of dead skin, so naturally your skin can become dryer when you’ve fake tanned, as it’s reacting with the top layer of your skin.

Most formulas have moisturising agents in to counteract this, but if you do find your skin becoming dry, one of The Body Shop’s Body Yoghurts, £11, applied every day will keep it supple and moisturised. Avoid oil moisturisers - while they feel decadent, they break down tan. 

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Remember, if you're tanning for your wedding, you might need to change your foundation shade - here are our favourite wedding foundations that will last all day!