Wedding Makeup, Part II: The Semi-Formal Look

For a fancier affair, you need a fancy look--and this one is a showstopper.

In our last post, we ascended to Special Occasion Beauty Base Zero and got gorgeous for a casual wedding. Today I'm going to demonstrate a makeup look for a slightly fancier event.

The Semi-Formal Wedding

The invitation will probably say "cocktail attire," which can be hard to dress for because it's such a nebulous term. The wedding likely takes place in the evening, and you probably plan to wear a great outfit (dress or suit) with awesome shoes. Now you just need a picture-perfect face.


Begin from Special Event Beauty Base Zero. Feel free to use a slightly heavier foundation if the wedding or reception is taking place in the evening or at night; dimmer lighting means you can totally get away with more makeup.

You’ll need a little more blush than you might think--take photos to check that you have the right amount. I usually go with a cool-tone blush like MAC’s Powder Blush in Pink Peony for evening weddings. I finish up with some highlighter concentrated on the high points of my face--the bridge of my nose, above my brows, and around my temples, ending atop my killer cheekbones.

Finish with setting spray to keep your face from sweating off when you dance. Urban Decay’s All Nighter setting spray is my ultimate pick for this, but DON’T spray it after you’ve applied your mascara!


The rule of thirds is very important for eyeshadow application. Take an eyeshadow about a shade lighter than your skin tone and apply it to the inner third of your mobile eyelid. Next, take a brown shadow about two shades darker than your skin tone and apply it to the outer third. Blend them together so that the inner third is where they meet.

If I were going to a wedding with this dress code, I’d likely stick with a dramatic cat eye. But because I want to be a little different, we’re going to do a half-smoky eyeliner look that is super easy (and looks amazing).

Starting about 1/3 across your upper eyelid, line your upper lashes with a black pencil. Make it thicker towards the end. Smudge it out with a little bit of black shadow so that it’s soft. Then, with the same pencil liner, draw a short line under your lower lashes and join it up to the top line. Smudge that with some black shadow, too.

Finally, highlight with a light colored, shimmery eyeshadow under the arch of your brow, at the inner corners of your eye, and around the tear duct, joining up with the dark eyeshadow underneath. I used Urban Decay Heavy Metal Glitter Liner in Silver on top of the shimmer on my bottom lashline, because sparkle looks gorgeous in evening light.

Using a waterproof liquid eyeliner (or the press-and-wiggle technique we discussed in the last post), draw a very thin line from your tear duct up to the thick black liner. Not only does this make your natural lashes look thicker, it also provides a good way to hide the band of fake eyelashes, should you go that route.

Speaking of fake eyelashes, by all means, throw them on for an event like this. I like to cut my strips in half and use the longest lashes on the outer corner of my eyes only. This way I get additional length, but also a less artificial look.

Define your brows, apply two coats of waterproof mascara, and you are ready to dance and drink cocktails!


I hate touching up my lipstick at fancy events--what if I miss a really good canape? So naturally, I chose the ULTIMATE in super longwear lip colors: Make Up For Ever Aqua Rouge Lip Color. Bright, bold lips work well with neutral eyes (and a great outfit) so I went with number 16: Fuchsia.

I LOVE this product so much. Not only does it not smudge off if you make out with the best man, it also feels lovely on your mouth--and the shine is out of this world. This hot pink is my favorite, but there’s a really wide range of colors.

Ready to see the finished look?

Very elegant and striking!

You’re ready to party the night away!

And now I open the floor to you: How do you interpret "cocktail attire" on a wedding invitation? Do you like this half-smoky look? What's your go-to makeup look for a fancier affair?