Gel, Dip, Polish and Acrylic: The Pros and Cons of Each Wedding Manicure

We'll help you decide what style to rock.
maddy sims the knot associate editor
Maddy Sims
maddy sims the knot associate editor
Maddy Sims
Former Associate Editor
  • Maddy is a Brand and Social Content Manager at Birdy Grey, and was a former associate editor at The Knot.
  • Maddy has written for several different publications, including HUM Nutrition, Insider, Bustle, Real Simple and Apartment Therapy.
  • Maddy has a Bachelor's degree in magazine journalism and a Master's degree in health, science and environmental reporting (both of which are from Northwestern's Medill School of Journa...
Updated Mar 17, 2021

While you want your wedding hair and makeup to be on point for pictures, there's another part of your day-of glam to consider: Your manicure. Your nails will be on display as you exchange rings, hug loved ones and take pictures. As such, you may be wondering how to choose between wedding acrylic nails, gels nails, dip nails or plain polish. To help you make the decision, we broke down the pros and cons of these popular wedding manicures.

Different kinds of manicures lend themselves to different designs. For example, you can achieve a clean, classic French manicure with dip, while longer acrylics offer you the space to create dramatic ombre nails. Gel polish offers security (since it's hardened onto your nails) and minimal chipping, while a plain polish manicure offers flexibility and less risk of damage to your nails. Ready to pick out your mani for your big day? See the pros and cons of wedding acrylic nails, gel nails, dip nails and polished nails.

In this article:

Acrylic Wedding Nails

Acrylics are a trusty standby for anyone looking for longer nails. These synthetic nail extensions consist of a combination of liquid and powder that hardens to create a layer over both your natural nail and false tips, resulting in a bigger canvas for regular nail polish.

Pros of Acrylic Wedding Nails

The biggest pro of wearing acrylic nails is that they add instant length. Think of them as hair extensions for your nails. Long nails allow you to get creative with nail art and nail designs. You also have freedom to change the shape and length of acrylics, whether you want coffin nails or short oval nails. With acrylics, you can create the wedding manicure of your dreams. Acrylics are a good choice for to-be-weds with short nails (or chronic nail-biters) who want to give their nails a little extra boost on their wedding day. Another major pro of this type of artificial nail? It lasts for two to three weeks, so you can keep them on for your honeymoon if you're leaving right after your nuptials.

Cons of Acrylic Wedding Nails

The biggest drawback of these fake nails is they can cause damage. If left on for too long, the weight of acrylic nails can weaken your nails and nail beds. So, while they last two to three weeks, experts recommend taking them off two weeks after application. One other small downside of acrylics is that they might break if they're too long. Talk to your nail technician about what length they recommend so you don't have any issues on your wedding day.

Acrylic Wedding Nail Ideas

Wedding Gel Nails

Otherwise known as "shellac," a gel manicure is a nail polish hybrid that uses UV light to harden onto your nail. The technique locks in shine, giving your nails a flawless finish. If you want a matte mani for your wedding day, this style of polish might not be for you.

Pros of Wedding Gel Nails

The process of gel nails involves a UV light to harden the polish, which means it can last up to three weeks with no chips. Read: you know it'll last the entire wedding weekend, Like acrylic nails, gel is a great choice if you're jetting off for your honeymoon straight after your wedding (since you won't have to worry about getting your nails touched up for a few more weeks).

Cons of Wedding Gel Nails

The downside of getting gel nails for your wedding is that they're difficult to remove on your own (you need acetone and aluminum foil). If you attempt removing gel yourself, you risk seriously damaging your nails in the process. If you leave it to the pros instead, you'll be just fine.

Gel Wedding Nail Ideas

Dip Manicure for Wedding

This trending technique involves a nail artist dipping your nails into a pigmented powder after applying a sealant or adhesive polish to your nails. Since the dip powder only sticks to the sealant, you can guarantee a clean manicure (with no unsightly cuticles). Add a nail art design or some sparkly bling (like rhinestones, for example) for a fun, classy touch.

Pros of Dip Manicure for Wedding

As with acrylic and gel manicures, dip manicures are extremely long-lasting. You can wear them for three to four weeks with no chips—meaning it's another good option if you know you won't want to worry about your nails before your honeymoon.

Cons of Dip Manicure for Wedding

The downside of this long-lasting wedding manicure? It'll cost you slightly more than both gel manicures and regular polish. As with shellac, you risk damaging your nails (like breakage and peeling) if you attempt to remove them on your own. As with gel nails, leave it to the pros at the nail salon!

Dip Wedding Nail Ideas

Polish Manicure for Wedding

Basic polish was probably your first foray into the world of manicures. As it uses your natural nails, it works for any to-be-wed. It only requires a base coat, one (or two) coats of a nail color and a top coat.

Pros of Polish Manicure for Wedding

You can DIY an at-home manicure or get it professionally done—either way, it's likely to cost you the least out of all the options and is the least damaging option for your nails, which is great. (Just make sure you're buying nail polish that's "10-free," meaning it doesn't contain highly toxic chemicals like formaldehyde). It's also easier to bring your favorite shade (whether a pretty pastel or white nail polish) from home so you can have it on hand during your wedding day for touch-ups if necessary.

Cons of Polish Manicure for Wedding

Speaking of touch-ups, you're most likely to have to do them with regular polish since it chips fairly easily, especially after the first five days of wear. Pay special attention to your nail tips, as that's where the chipping can happen. You'll likely need another mani before your honeymoon. But that gives you the opportunity to change the color if you'd like. Additionally, you need to make sure your nails are absolutely dry at the end of your manicure to avoid accidental imprints and other dings in your nail polish on your wedding day.

Polish Wedding Nail Ideas

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