When a well-known multi-millionaire bride planned to marry a well-known billionaire groom, she called Iván Pol, the facialist of the moment. Pol calls his treatment the Beauty Sandwich, in which he layers radio-frequency and infrared-light machines with various oils to temporarily lift the skin. His usual fee for the process starts at $1,800. But this particular bride had something more dramatic in mind: one facial for each of the four days in the lead-up to her European wedding.

“So I created the Wedding Cake,” says Pol, taking the opportunity to market the experience. He employed his machines for 40 minutes apiece, versus the usual 15, and tells me he charged between $40,000 and $50,000 for the four days. Would it be wrong to describe a bride as “snatched”?

“These brides spare no cost,” Pol tells me. He talks about being jetted off to St. Tropez for Sarah Staudinger’s three-day wedding to Ari Emanuel, the C.E.O. of Endeavor, where guests included Elon Musk, Mark Wahlberg, and Larry David, who doubled as the officiant.

Makeup artist Romy Soleimani was also flown to the festivities. “We were just on 24-7,” she tells me, describing an array of makeup and hair changes in a cabana, along with regular touch-ups. “I was working, working, working until 10 p.m., and then we could dance for the rest of the time.”

Post-pandemic weddings are becoming more elaborate, more spectacular, and more expensive than ever. Unless you were on a meditation retreat with no cell service, you couldn’t miss the breathless coverage and stratospheric extravagance of Sofia Richie’s wedding to Elliot Grainge, at the Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc, in Antibes, in April. The cost of the average wedding in the United States has indeed increased, from about $26,000 in 2015 to $30,000 in 2022, according to the Knot, a wedding Web site. But in the world of the 1 percent, that doesn’t even cover the bride’s hair and makeup.

Soleimani rarely agrees to do makeup for weddings. In fact, she’s accepted only two offers in the past three years. (The other was Grace Gummer’s—Meryl Streep’s daughter—to Mark Ronson, the songwriter and music producer.)

Iván Pol charged between $40,000 and $50,000 for the four days.

“It has to be worth it,” Soleimani says, meaning that the fee must be high enough for her to feel comfortable turning down any conflicting projects. Ted Gibson, a hairstylist whose clients include Anne Hathaway and Angelina Jolie, says his decision comes down to one word: “money.”

“My agent has gotten calls over the years, and the bride will flake out once she hears [my] rate,” says Pati Dubroff. Richie was one who ponied up, hiring Dubroff for an undisclosed sum.

And just how much money is being undisclosed here? While people who make their living doing wedding hair and makeup charge between $1,000 and $2,000, the top-tier artists I spoke to command fees of between $10,000 and $25,000.

The money shot: Sarah Staudinger and Ari Emanuel.

“To book me for a wedding is going to be very expensive,” says Mark Townsend, an L.A.-based hairstylist, who recently returned from Grace Morton’s wedding, in Jamaica. He explains that his fee reflects his 25 years of experience and an uncommon degree of pampering.

For Morton’s wedding, “we did a hair change at two o’clock in the morning,” he says, describing four different hair-and-outfit looks each day.

“I showed up in Jamaica with a leaf blower,” the small, heatless machine stylists use to create a windblown look for photographs. After decades on photo shoots, Townsend knows how to get the picture.

He also knows the intricacies of securing a veil, particularly Morton’s custom-made one, by Chanel. “It seemed outrageous that I was asking Chanel to not put that veil on a comb. Unfortunately, the more expensive the veil, the harder it is to secure. I don’t know why.” A handful of exceptionally strong hair clips called Hero Pins sealed the deal.

“I showed up in Jamaica with a leaf blower.”

Townsend also made sure that the daisies for Morton’s hair remained fresh. “They don’t grow in Jamaica. They had to fly the daisies in,” he says.

The expenses for Nicola Peltz’s Palm Beach wedding to Brooklyn Beckham were so excessive that they made news. Some reports say she spent more than $100,000 on hair and makeup alone. Nicola’s mother, Claudia Peltz, apparently asked the wedding planners not to reveal these fees to her husband, Nelson, the billionaire businessman, because, she allegedly said, he would “kill her, and be so mad.” The Peltzes are now suing the wedding planners for failing to fulfill their contractual obligations; the wedding planners are countersuing. Apparently, that’s also what can happen with billionaires’ weddings.

One recent bride quickly discovered the difference between hiring local artists and bringing in big-name experts. In addition to the day rates, there’s also the outlay for airfare, hotel rooms, and meals. She had booked the entire Four Seasons Resort in Los Cabos and says she “had to limit the number of guests to make sure hair and makeup were taken care of.” That included six rooms for the teams, assistants, and their equipment.

Quinn Murphy, a makeup artist based in New York, explains the logic behind staying in the same hotel as the bride. “You want to be close to the wedding party because you’re going to work your ass off. You get home really late, and you’re back up in the morning,” he says, elaborating on the look changes and touch-ups that go into tending to the bride.

Endless love by Lionel Richie, with his daughter Sofia.

Murphy adds that he doesn’t lay a hand on the faces of the wedding party. “I don’t do multiple people because it takes away from the bride. And I don’t want some bridesmaid to be like, ‘Can you touch up my lip?’” Cue the assistants.

From the artists’ perspective, the benefits of working with high-profile brides aren’t simply monetary. The payoff is in social-media clout as well. It worked for both Richie and Dubroff. When the bride rolled out the days’ Chanel dresses, shoes, bags, and makeup, the slightly inaccurate hashtags #oldmoney and #quietluxury went viral on TikTok before a grand finale of three haute couture Chanel wedding dresses.

Richie launched her TikTok account two days before the ceremony, posting a “Get Ready with Me” video for a pre-wedding dinner. By the end of the festivities, her wedding posts had reached nearly 100 million views in total—and Sofia ascended to a new level of fame.

Dubroff posted two TikToks from the Nice airport the morning after the wedding, spelling out the products she used on Richie and applying them to her own face. “Because things were blowing up so much in terms of [Richie’s] social, someone I work with suggested, ‘You might want to get something up.’” Dubroff’s videos got more than 3.5 million views, although, she says, “I was kind of mortified that I was doing it.”

“I don’t want some bridesmaid to be like, ‘Can you touch up my lip?’”

Social media has magnified the profiles of the top hair and makeup artists, explains Townsend. Since Morton’s wedding, he says, he gets three or four direct messages on Instagram each day from interested brides.

Townsend remembers the days when working with movie stars was “the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for a freelancer like me.” He once turned down a princess’s wedding to do Cate Blanchett’s hair for a press junket. “A five-day press junket in the early 2000s would have [paid] more than a wedding,” he says. Now the situation is reversed, with movie studios cutting expenses for press events and premieres.

The modern bride is willing to pay more than Warner Bros. “What’s more important than how you look?” asks Marcy Blum, a wedding planner whose clients include Bill Gates’s daughter Jen and LeBron James. “Don’t serve hors d’oeuvres, and you can have your makeup done!” She may or may not be joking.

Some artists have adopted this twisted logic. “It wouldn’t make sense if you have a $6 million wedding and you hired someone that’s only going to charge you $2,000,” says Gibson. Ashley Javier, a hairstylist, voiced a similar sentiment: “If you’re spending five million for a wedding, what’s a quarter of a million for the one thing that’s going to ruin the memory of the wedding and pictures?” By that, he means the hair and makeup.

The modern bride is willing to pay more than Warner Bros.

And Javier should know. He made a cool $100,000 for an hour’s work for a British-billionaire bride. He was flown business class from New York to London, where he was put up in the Dorchester hotel for what was meant to be an eight-day job. On his first day, Javier trimmed the bride’s waist-length hair extensions and, even though Javier says she gave her permission, she wasn’t exactly pleased with the results.

“I ended up getting enough money to buy a Porsche, having worked for an hour and gotten fired,” he says. He had seven days to spare, so he visited friends in their nearby castle. As one does.

Just 20 years ago, a high-profile actress asked the industry’s top makeup artist to fly to Atlanta for a relative’s wedding. He agreed, covering his own airfare and hotel. Upon arrival, he promptly and unexpectedly was presented with the entire wedding party, including the mothers of the bride and groom, and applied foundation and eye shadow as quickly as his fingers could move. Once home, the actress sent him a gift for his time—and it wasn’t a fat envelope of cash. He opened a box to find a scented candle from Pottery Barn.

Today, that candle could be a Porsche.

Clara Molot is an Associate Editor at AIR MAIL