At Brides, when it comes to doing your own fake tan for your wedding, we're all about the 'fake don't bake' approach. Gone are the days of tangerine-orange fake tan leaving you looking like an Oompa Loompa from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: best fake tan formulas have improved and application is now easier than ever. Whether you choose to apply fake tan at home or visit a tanning expert for a spray tan (the menu from James Harknett at the W Hotel in Leicester Square, London is a great choice for first-time tanners) there are a few key rules to making your tan streak free and as natural looking as possible.

What day before the wedding should you apply fake tan?

Emma Kotch, St. Tropez Tanning and Skin Finishing Expert says, 'for bridal tans, I always recommend having your tan at least two days before the wedding - that way you are absolutely guaranteed that there will be no transfer onto your dress.' Carly Hobbs from Sienna X also recommends a tanning trial. 'Just like with make-up trials, I always suggest a tan trial - ideal pre-hen party and one to get all the girls involved with.' So, if you're marrying on a Saturday, think of Thursday as 'tan day', so that the colour has time to develop and calm to a natural, sunkissed tone.

'If you only have time to have one done the morning before your wedding, make sure you shower that evening and then again in the morning to ensure no traces of tan are left on the skin,' suggests Carly.

Ready to tan? Follow our step-by-step guide


The secret to an all over glowing tan is the prep work. Carly suggests: 'brides should exfoliate every day for a full week before tanning.' This is to remove all the dead skin cells and create a smooth surface on the skin for the tan to be applied on. For maximum results, use exfoliating gloves with a scrub and work in a circular motion. It's also important to plan your hair removal around tanning. You should leave at least 24 hours between hair removal and applying fake tan, otherwise the tan can collect in the pores and leave the skin looking 'dotty'.

Step 2: Be moisture savvy

It's all about striking the perfect balance: dry skin is a big no-no when it comes to achieving the perfect tan and finish. The tan can cling to dehydrated patches making it look uneven. However over-moisturising (particularly with a formula containing oil) can cause the tan to slip off the skin, again appearing patchy.

Healthy and hydrated skin will hold a tan longer and much better. For best results, religiously moisturise every day leading up to 'tan day', but on the day of your spray tan avoid applying any moisturiser or lotion. St. Tropez's oil-free Tan Enhancing Body Moisturiser is a great choice for hydrating skin.

Step 3: Choose the best formula

This is up to you and your choice should be based on overall effect and the techniques you prefer to use.

Naturally, the most hassle and stress free option is to book a spray tan. Our favourites include St Tropez, James Read and Vita Liberata, which are all available nationwide.

If you're going for a DIYT (do it yourself tan) on the week of the wedding then a lotion or mousse is the best option. Both formulas are the most hydrating for the skin, quick drying, easy to apply (always use a mit for a streak-free finish) and arguably the closest result to a spray tan.

Alternatively, if you feel more comfortable building up the colour to your desired shade then gradual tans are perfect. They take 8-12 hours to develop, so don't expect to finish application with a glow.

Instant tans are not the best choice for your wedding: although they are a great quick-fix, they wash away with warm soap and water and are more likely to run all over your white frock if it were to rain on your wedding day. What they are great for is a trial tans if you are trying to work out what shade you should go for before you commit to a gradual tan. But for the event itself, they're better left to the hen party!