To cover up or show tattoos on wedding day less of a dilemma
The whimsically vibrant tattoo on Leah Kremer's upper torso took around eight hours to complete.
But it only took a few seconds to decide whether or not she'd hide it on her wedding day.
“The main people that asked me if I were going to cover them up were friends who wanted a warning, like, ‘Am I going to see you without all your tattoos on your wedding day?' Most people thought that would be really, really odd to see me without them,” says Kremer of Shaler. “The tattoos are part of me and who I am. So, it would kind of be a little fake for me to go out without them — almost as if I were ashamed of them. And I'm not.”
Her mother, Dawn DeTillo, agreed.
“It's the way things are these days,” DeTillo says. “It's not the taboo that it used to be. And I don't think people should pass judgment, anyway.”
A bride's decision to fly or conceal her colors is one that usually has more to do with appeasing a skittish parent or grandparent, a fact not surprising considering a 2010 study by the Pew Research Center that found one in three millennials has a tattoo versus only 5 percent of those 65 and older, according to a 2012 Harris Poll.
“When they're looking to cover them up, it has more to do with just being respectful of family,” says Erin Szymanski, owner of Glitter & Grit bridal boutique in Lawrenceville.
Saying yes to the dress
Five years ago, it was hard to find a gown that wasn't strapless, but today's racks are abundant with sleeves and full backs that can come in handy for hiding any multitude of perceived sins. A quick hop onto Pinterest highlights numerous boards that show countless styles and fabrics suited to a variety of tastes.
Having become accustomed to handling cover-ups over her 30-plus years as one of the owners of Clarissa Boutique, South Side, Gretchen Jackowski doesn't hesitate to present a bride with options.
“We've done a lot of things — we've made jackets or added lace to parts of the dresses to cover them up, added pieces. You have to adjust most dresses in some way if you want to cover the tattoo or cover more of it,” she says.
“Often, just having lace over a tattoo versus exposed skin, it's just kind of muting the effect of a tattoo and that can be really helpful, as well,” Szymanski says.
If a bride opts to conceal her colors with makeup, the process can be a long and expensive one. Depending on the size and vibrancy of the ink, she can expect to spend a few hours enduring multiple applications.
“It's all about layering it and letting it dry in between. And that's where the time comes in,” says licensed cosmetologist Julie Marckisotto of Pittsburgh Makeup by Julie Marckisotto.
“The way I like to do it is to do a color completely opposite of the color wheel to cancel it out. Say, if it's a lot of black, most of those inks have a blue overtone, so I do a very orange-based product on that,” she says. “I literally paint it right on top of the tattoo. If there was a green, you'd use a purple.
“So, it's about making that all a neutral first and then going in with your foundation cover.”
Some area makeup artists, including 20-year veteran Patty Bell, enjoy the challenge of a good before and after. In order to combat the makeup meltdowns of a sweaty or sappy bride, she prefers an alcohol-activated makeup such as Skin Illustrator, which resists transfer and is also waterproof.
“It's a lot of work for us but I don't mind it at all, I love covering things,” she says.
As far as the cost of covering tattoos, the going rate is typically around $10 per square inch.
Many makeup artists, however, don't even offer the service, especially when it comes to larger pieces or full sleeve tats.
“I just feel that if you've got it, own it,” says Joy Lager, Pittsburgh-based freelance makeup artist of Beauty by Joy.
The stigma associated with visible tattoos, even on a wedding day, is one that The Protocol School of Palm Beach founder and etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore predicts will be obsolete within 10 years.
“In the old days, tattoos were worn by sailors and military men,” she says. “Today, tattoos are an artistic expression of oneself.”
For newlywed Emily Hawthorne of Observatory Hill, it's all just a matter of personal preference. With 15 or so tattoos that decorate most of her arms, thighs and back, she doesn't see the answer as being one-size-fits-all.
“Maybe it's the venue, or the type of person, or the audience, and their wedding is for everyone else and not them,” she says. “But at the same time, I would have had makeup all over the place or sweating like a pig in long sleeves. And I don't think it's worth it, personally. But other people can do whatever they feel is right,” she says.
Even with all of the technology available today, neither local photographers Tiffany Cooper of Hot Metal Studio nor Leeann Marie Golish of Leeann Marie Wedding Photography have ever been asked to wave the Photoshop wand to make tattoos disappear in post-production.
But if a bride finds herself catching heat from loved ones who aren't exactly hip to body art, Whitmore says, today's etiquette dictates nothing further than a good old-fashioned heart-to-heart.
“(She should) let them know that this is her special day, and she wants to feel comfortable and be herself,” Whitmore says. “Her tattoos are part of her identity, and she should be comfortable wearing whatever she wants on her wedding day.”