From breakup bangs to back-to-school trims, a change in hairstyle has long been a visual shorthand to recognize major milestones. The latest in a lifetime of momentous haircuts? The mid-wedding chop, a hair transformation that celebrates the start of a new chapter as a spouse.
“There’s a rich history of hair reflecting relationship status,” said Rachael Gibson, a hair historian based in London, adding that in many cultures and religions, specific cuts and styles may signal that someone is off the market. “Some Orthodox Jewish women shave their heads the day after their wedding in keeping with tradition,” she said, “while in many African cultures, the choice of braiding and styling techniques is used to visually convey marital status.”
On TikTok, video clips of daring brides chopping their locks in the time between their wedding ceremonies and receptions have amassed more than 1.6 million views. Some experts say the wedding chop is a popular new spin on the “second look.”
“The wedding day cut is a more modern proposition and, unlike the popular trend for changing into a different dress for the evening proceedings, feels like more of a symbolic gesture than a style statement,” Ms. Gibson said. “There’s something meaningful about stepping into your new life with a new image, literally chopping off what went before and starting afresh.”
Courtney Sneddon, 26, a personal assistant based in Edinburgh, let her hair grow for two years in anticipation of her wedding in November 2022. “I was counting down to when I could cut it off for my honeymoon,” she said. But when Ms. Sneddon’s hairstylist, Christopher Laird, offered a mid-wedding cut instead, she thought, “Why not?” Ms. Sneddon added: “It was either this or another dress, and since I wanted a cut anyway, it was an easy decision.”
While guests enjoyed dessert, Ms. Sneddon sneaked away with Mr. Laird, who cut and styled her long, straight hair into a soft and wavy collarbone-length bob in just 20 minutes. “The first thing she did after we cut it was head to the dance floor and headbang,” Mr. Laird recalled. “She felt amazing, fierce and really liberated.”
Olivia Lopez, 26, a labor and delivery nurse in Edmond, Okla., opted to change both her outfit and her hair for her wedding last August. Ms. Lopez stole away for a few minutes during dinner, swapping her dress for a white sequin jumpsuit and her long ponytail for a wavy, shoulder-length bob.
“My husband knew I was changing into a different outfit for the reception but had no idea I planned to chop my hair off, too,” said Ms. Lopez, adding that her husband, Luis Lopez, 28, who oversees alumni engagement and fundraising for Oklahoma Christian University, was stunned by her transformation. “I was completely caught off guard,” Mr. Lopez said. “Olivia looked gorgeous. It was such a memorable moment.”
Ali Lewis Passink, 38, works remotely as a senior private client adviser for the fashion retailer Moda Operandi in Charleston, S.C., gave her now husband, Lyle Passink, 42, who works in produce distribution, a heads-up about her preplanned plans for a wedding chop a few weeks before their October 2018 nuptials in Charleston. “I am almost certain his response was, ‘Sounds cool, whatever,’” said Ms. Passink, who enlisted the hairstylist Patrick Navarro to transform her full chignon into a short bob in the 15 minutes between the ceremony and seated dinner.
Not only did Angela Gulick let her husband, Chase Gulick, both 27, know she had a wedding chop in mind, but she asked him to cut her hair himself during their wedding on Dec. 31, 2022. “I surprised him with scissors,” Ms. Gulick, a photographer based in Clyde, Ohio, said. “He was speechless and said he would have been less surprised had I given him a puppy that day.”
The cut ended up crooked, she said, but not enough to be noticeable to guests. (Her hairstylist evened things out during an appointment the week after.) Ms. Gulick donated 11 inches of hair to Wigs for Kids, an organization that creates free wigs for young cancer patients.
“I felt beautiful through half of my wedding day with my long locks and also felt beautiful as we rang in the New Year as Mr. and Mrs. with a short, fun and completely different look,” she said.
Jamie Littleton, 25, a digital marketing manager in Detroit, asked a friend — one of her wedding guests — to do the honors of cutting her hair during her August 2022 wedding. “I liked the symbolic meaning behind it,” Ms. Littleton said. “I thought it was a great way to represent letting go of my past and embarking on this new exciting chapter of my life.”
“Practically speaking, many women still grow their hair long for their wedding, as it makes updos easier — and because there are still tired ideas about how people should and shouldn’t look as bride,” Ms. Gibson said. “From this perspective, it’s probably just really satisfying to revert to a preferred shorter style as soon as you can.”
Natalie Pirzad, 30, a self-described “short hair girlie” and the owner of Brand Like That, an experiential event planning business in Los Angeles, wanted a sleek bun for her ceremony in September 2022. But Ms. Pirzad soon realized that she wanted to look “like herself” at the reception. So midway through dinner, she sneaked away for nine minutes (she timed it) to shorten her hair into her signature bob.
“The wedding day adrenaline mixed with am-I-making-a-terrible-decision-at-my-wedding adrenaline was a real buzz,” Ms. Pirzad said. “The sleek bun pictures are such a vibe, but having the photos from dancing where I look like me is so important to me.”
Brides who are torn between long and short hairstyles “can have the best of both worlds” by choosing a mid-wedding chop, said Alexandra Macon, the founder of the wedding e-commerce platform Over the Moon.
To ensure a seamless process, avoid using too much hair spray or other product for the first style so the hair is primed for a dry cut, said Alex Brown, a celebrity hairstylist in Chicago.
But Julia Gambell, a salon owner in Philadelphia, cautioned that a mid-wedding chop may not come out perfect. “Just like an athlete plays best on their home field, stylists do best on the home turf in the salon,” she said.
A haircut reveal, in Ms. Macon’s opinion, is also a great way to keep guests entertained during the reception. “The wedding chop is a daring, double-tap-worthy moment that everyone will be talking about and will most likely have fun capturing for social media.”
Bianca Hall, a wedding planner with Estera Events in Chicago, agreed. “Let guests wonder where the bride is,” she said. “Turn up the music, pass out mini espresso martinis and have the photographer ready for the grand entrance.”
Jessica Marie Del Borrello, 30, a hair stylist in Western Australia, described cutting her hair short during her wedding as “the best decision” she had made. “My only regret,” she said, “is not going shorter.”