I've been doing this for a while; over ten years now, & as a makeup & hair artist I've worked for hundreds & hundreds of wedding parties & the one thing I can say with absolute certainty is this; your bridal party is a key component in making sure that your wedding day goes on schedule & remains stress-free. I've seen in recent years, a trend toward larger & larger wedding parties, which is a wonderful thing! It's more love & memories to share, & more support for one of the most beautiful moments in life.
Meanwhile, larger group size adds to the wedding morning to-do list, & if you're unprepared, it can really turn chaotic if this goes unmanaged. Think of it this way - as the number of people in your wedding party grows, the number of details to remember & keep track of grows exponentially as well. For example, if you have five bridesmaids, you'll have five additional dresses to steam, five pairs of shoes to keep track of, five hungry tummies, five individual preferences for hair & makeup, five bouquets to keep track of, five people to get to the church on time, & so on. As someone who has personally experienced the full frenzy of hundreds of busy wedding day mornings, allow me to share some of my tips for keeping the stress levels low, & the schedule on-time & the bride happy.
The first thing I recommend, whenever possible, is that the group is all nearby & on-deck for hair & makeup. Hair & makeup is an art & although your artist should be able to give you a clear timeframe, some services run fast, while others run slow (depending on any number of factors from how thick someone's hair is to unexpected delays like a broken eyeliner pencil - seriously, every minute counts). When a service runs a little fast, it is best to have the next person available immediately - running ahead of schedule is infinitely better than running behind &, if you do get ahead of schedule, it allows more time for your artist to dote on the most important person... the bride! Trust me, as your hair & makeup artist, I feel the stress of a pinched schedule as much if not more than you do & although this is something we professionals are used to, working while stressed is less than ideal, particularly when providing an artistic service.
Next, I suggest keeping the hair & makeup separate from the morning festivities. On your wedding day morning, most bridal parties get the mimosas flowing, the music bopping, & hopefully big smiles, silly stories, & smiles all around. This is awesome & so fun to see! I hope all my brides are feeling amazing with their girl friends as the hours tick down to the big moment. When it comes to hair & makeup though, the person in the chair kinda needs to be all "business" just for those 30 minutes. There's really nothing harder than trying to apply makeup to a moving target who is sipping a beverage, eating breakfast or lunch, talking, laughing, dancing, giggling, turning to engage in the group conversation, etc... It's just in our human natural to want to be a part of the fun, & it's hard to be still when everyone around us is cutting up. So, I suggest that you move the hair & makeup to a separate area whenever possible. Allow your hair & makeup artist to worry about the schedule for you & get the bridesmaids' hair & makeup done quickly so they can get right back to the fun.
Consistency is crucial. I always recommend that, for the bridal party, one consistent look is selected (by the bride) & then simply customized for each member of the group to suit her skin-tone, eye color etc... rather than a special makeup look for each girl. This eliminates time spent searching for products; meaning, when I have a pre-designated look in mind, I will pull out all the products I'll need for the day when I start & therefore really be able to streamline the process, saving precious time. When I am providing a completely unique makeup look for each person, I spend time going in & out of the makeup kit for each look & maybe that would only require 4 or 5 minutes per person, that adds up to 20 - 30 minutes for a group of five, really cutting in to time that could be used for touch up services or perfecting the bride's look. Furthermore, some of the most stunning photos of large groups are those that the bride stands out as the focal point. When her bridesmaids' makeup mirrors hers, it draws the eye directly to the bride. This gives a feeling of cohesion & makes the bride the shining star in her photos.
As a side note; hair can easily be all different for each girl since the products & tools will almost always be the same no matter what & this will have little to no impact on schedule & timing. It is nice stylistically, however that even if each style is different they have some sense of cohesion as well. For example, one style may be up & another half up, or down as long as both are bohemian, or formal, or soft & romantic. Mixing styles within an overall aesthetic is really beautiful & modern & fresh.
Finally, I encourage the bride & her bridesmaids to just relax & have fun. Enjoy the day & try to maintain & healthy perspective. As a bridesmaid, remember that your role is to love & support your bride as she embarks on her new marriage. This day is a celebration (a party - so have fun!) of love & commitment between two best friends as they become partners for life! A lipstick shade or matte vs shimmery eyeshadow for a bridesmaid is the least important thing your bride has to worry about that day; trust that she chose your makeup look with good intentions & that your makeup artist wants to you to look amazing & feel great, & you will if you relax & enjoy the process. Keep your eye on the goal which is a happy, joyful, stress-free bride walking down the aisle toward her best friend & enjoying every minute of her loveliest day.