Who doesn’t want to look and feel their best? Knock ‘em dead as they walk down the aisle? Fit into that dream dress which just happens to be three sizes too small? Make their partner melt on the wedding night? The truth is we all do – groom, bride…even the bridal party. Young adults receive countless lessons to protect themselves against body image issues that can cause eating disorders or low self-esteem; yet as adults, the wedding diet always seems to be the one condoned exception to the rule. If a couple wants to spend every day of the rest of their lives together, why is it that we decide our bodies aren’t good enough for just one day?
It’s difficult to recall any bride or groom who did not diet or seek physical enhancements just for their wedding day. People hire a trainer to get rid of flabby arms, dye their hair, go to the spa, get their nails did, pluck hair in unwanted places and then add hair to all the right ones. And don’t forget the spray tan that most likely created more than one Oompa Loompa bride in its time. The list of embellishments goes on forever. After paying a fortune for a photographer, it’s only natural to act like you’re posing for the September issue of Vogue. In college, I attended a million-dollar wedding once (ok, I was only a caterer, but I was there) and the bride had a makeup artist follow her around for eight hours doing touch ups. Like a New Year’s Resolution, it’s good motivation to get off the couch or throw away the cookies, but vanity alone seems to be fueling this sprint to the gym.
The bridal industry is a major contributing factor in causing body image concerns. Brides in movies, on runways and in Hollywood are always beautiful and skinny. When the wedding diet dictates eating and exercising to look pretty over being healthy, people become susceptible to body image issues. The industry’s advertising objectives are to set standards of beauty and then provide products that can achieve that look. A corset or Spanx might flatten a stomach pouch for the day, but at the expense of your ability to breathe on the dance floor (and you’re probably not going to wear it as a bikini accessory during your honeymoon). Not feeling voluptuous enough? Make the priest blush with chicken cutlets stuffed into your bra for chin-tapping cleavage. There will always be a product to buy and something to fix, because industry has trained us to think natural is not good enough.
VH1 aired a reality contest show called Bridal Bootcamp (think Biggest Loser meets Private Valentine run by a Jillian Michaels lookalike). In a tacky summer camp setting, “overweight” girls compete to “fit into their dream dress” by exercising on obstacle courses and losing the most weight. Now, I have two issues with this show: First, a “dream dress” is not size-exclusive – a wedding dress can be ordered in any size. Second, some of the girls are not really “overweight” – most likely out of shape, but a size 10 or 12 is not always “overweight.” So what type of message does it send to viewers—especially young viewers—when a contestant’s beginning weight is a mere 140 and a size 8? There’s even a wedding diet site that gives advice on quick weight loss tips! Do you hear your high school health class teacher crying? I do.
Our attitudes about weight and appearance extend far beyond media and the pressure we impose on ourselves; our peers can also contribute. In the WE network television series, Bridezillas, one or two brides demanded that their bridesmaids go on diets or even not diet (so the bride could look skinnier beside her bridesmaids). It may not even be friends or the bride who puts on the pressure either. In a personal instance, a fellow bridesmaid was accused of “growing” three-inches in the month between her fittings at the bridal shop. The shop preferred to hurt the bridesmaid’s feelings then admit they wrote her measurements down incorrectly. No bridal company should ever treat a customer that way.
Companies and advertisers push brides into wanting unreasonable physical standards; and our peers, who we look to for approval and guidance, can often mistakenly reinforce those ideas. People marry for someone’s internal beauty, not for a number on the scale. (If that’s not true, well, that’s a whole other matter.) So I propose an alternative thought process towards physically preparing for the big day. Don’t think in terms of diet and weight loss – think in terms of healthy living. Couples vow “to love in sickness and in health,” but diets can only fulfill short-term goals, a healthy lifestyle can reduce the chance of sickness and stress and theoretically add years to a lifespan. Still not convinced to skip the crash diet? Consider that true fitness will allow anyone to dance longer on the dance floor, or when dancing the horizontal polka later.
No matter if you’re a size 6 or a 26, people will be telling you how amazing you look on your wedding day. It’s considered one of the best days of your life because you’re committing to the love of your life and you can’t help but smile and emit joy from every curvy angle. A diet will not achieve that natural bridal glow like good self-esteem and pure happiness. Diets are only temporary; and a wedding is a single day. Live healthy in the long term for your own sake, and if that’s not reason enough, then do it for the person to whom you’ve dedicated your life.