Tying the Knot in a Meaningful and Memorable Way (Without Losing Our Savings or Sanity)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Run-In with the Wedding Industrial Complex

I get a lot of e-mails in my inbox promoting the Wedding Industrial Complex, but this one particularly irked me:
With all eyes on the bride, it's no wonder she wants a glowing complexion on the most gazed upon day of her life. Some experts say that the secret to getting your skin into shape for your big day is to start working on it right after the engagement. "This is the perfect time to create new skincare habits," says Dr. XXXXX XXXXXXX, MD, Facial Plastic Surgeon. "To begin, ask a facial plastic surgeon for an assessment - your surgeon is armed with treatments to control the signs of aging and improve skin's clarity."

The e-mail goes on to recommend a series of plastic surgery procedures that one can undergo as she prepares for her Big Day, including SmartLift, Laser Resurfacing, lip-plumping, etcetera, etcetera. There's even a time line, so you know how to plan out your procedures perfectly.

Now, I do not have naturally beautiful skin--by any stretch of the imagination! I suffered through high school and college acne (all while peeling off my skin with Retin-A). But I had way more important things to worry about while planning our wedding than buying into the hype that I need to undergo procedures in order to get my face prepared for my wedding.

The truth is, there is some stress and pressure to look good on your wedding day. After all, you're often seeing many friends and family that you haven't seen in a long time. But honestly, those friends and family would rather have you spend your wedding planning process figuring out how to spend quality time with them while they're in town--not worrying about your skin imperfections.

I decided to forgo professional hair and make-up for our wedding for a couple reasons. First, it simply wasn't in the budget. Second, I didn't want to spend a significant portion of my wedding day getting ready (that's just me; lots of people find that kind of all-day process to be fun). Third, I wanted to be surrounded by my friends while I was getting ready.

Even though this approach was aligned with my own values and what I wanted from my wedding, there were many times throughout the wedding planning process when I questioned that decision. I felt insecure about not caring more about my hair and makeup (clearly, the Wedding Industrial Complex was telling me I should worry about it, as were many bridal message boards).

Ariel's advice in Offbeat Bride was so helpful for keeping me grounded. Her "Smidge Above Rule" says, "Bridal beauty preparations should, at the most, be only a smidge more than your typical beauty routine." (You can read more on page 43 of the newest edition.) She gave me permission to do what felt right: a friend to twist my hair up and a self-application of mascara and eyeshadow. Done and done.

It's sad that I needed permission to do what felt right, but that's what can happen when the Wedding Industrial Complex permeates all aspects of our culture and tries to feed us crazy messages about what we have to do in order to be real brides.


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Sarah said...

Hear, hear. I heard from so many people that happy brides look that way in photographs because they got professional makeup done, and even though you might feel happy at your wedding, you will not look good in photos.

I was a little worried because we didn't hire a professional photographer, so we had people snapping away in less than ideal conditions with their (very nice) cameras. We soldiered on and I did my own makeup and hair and we both look damn happy and refreshed and excited and wonderful in our photos if I do say so myself.

Angie said...

I think the only thing I worried about was looking tired. I drank as much water as I could (that's good for your anyways) and tried to get enough sleep. I don't have many skin problems, but I wanted to put a happy, rested face forward. To me that made the most sense. I wasn't going to lose 10 lbs in a week (WIC drove me nuts), so I had to focus on what I could control. And you know, that made me really happy now that I think about it.

Cristin said...

Oh, thank you for this post! My wedding is this weekend and I have been driving myself INSANE trying to create a beautiful DIY hairdo. I am not good at hair, and have nearly fried it with all the failed attempts at curling it into oblivion I've made. I was sinking into a state of sadness over my hair ... of all things. Thanks for the reminder that, not only is this is SO not important, but that I'm actually making myself crazy to create a completely fictional version of myself. The best version of normal me is good enough.

Pip said...

I have had plastic surgery (bilateral breast reduction) and let me tell you, it aint for sissies! I had 40 inches of incision and over 100 stitches and it took me more than 8 months before I was healed and feeling some what normal. I did it for very valid medical reasons and I still question wether it was a good choice. Anyone who would have cosmetic surgery just to look good in bridal photos has thier priorities skewed.

Alia said...

When I read this, I thought, this was SO me. I normally don't wear makeup and I rarely do anything more than blow-dry my hair and leave it down, so going all out on hair and makeup for my wedding would not have been me at all. I also could not justify the expense of having a professional do those things when they weren't really me. My friend and my sister did my hair and makeup for me, and it was fun and allowed me to feel connected to them, people I care about, on the morning of my wedding, instead of being at some salon surrounded by strangers. Also, my skin suffers from acne still, and I had worried about whether or not I would have any pimples on my wedding day. And ultimately I think I did have a few blemishes that day, but they could not have been less important. I was certainly not thinking about them while I was getting married! Thanks for this post!

Chris Wolfgang said...

How bizarre that you posted this today. I just wrote into a beauty blog begging them to have a professional makeup artist give up some tips for DIY makeup. I'm getting married in the middle of nowhere and am pretty resigned to doing makeup and hair on my own. Only ... how?!

Maureen said...

A little advice for those of you wanting a DIY hairstyle - practice, and KEEP IT SIMPLE! I'll never forget my friend's wedding, 30 minutes before it was set to begin and seeing his fiance alone, tears in her eyes, her hair wet and tangled - her stylist hadn't made it and she was desparately trying to recreate this incredibly complicated updo with all sorts of pins and twists, etc. We calmed her down, helped her with a much more soft, simple style with just a few bobby pins and she forgot all about it.
With that in mind, for my wedding I had a friend do my hair and simply curled it with a curling iron so it looked just a "smidge" different than usual! It was 105 degrees and the curls only lasted about 30 minutes, but it didn't matter in the least.

Ellie said...

I happen to have a hairstylist I really love - I've been going to her for two years and we have a good time. The morning of the wedding, we took over her salon and had a good time hanging out. I found the "smidge above" rule didn't really apply to me - I went "all out" and felt like the wedding gave me permission to do so - I got a manicure, pedicure, hairdo, and had a friend do makeup with new, expensive, really nice makeup and brushes I had bought. I don't wear makeup, or do my nails, so this might seem "out of character" but truthfully, it's something I can't see spending money on regularly, but it felt really good to splurge. I felt really pretty and every time I looked at my toenails and pretty feet, I felt so happy. I'm a runner so usually my feet are calloused and sad looking. Just because somebody doesn't want to put in the daily effort for beauty doesn't mean that it's necessarily out of character for them to want to look really nice for a special event. I think that the best thing to do is consider how you usually dress up for a special occasion, and either do that or a smidge above, rather than thinking about what you do every day.

Anonymous said...

Disc-I use bare minerals makeup and just went to the store and told them I was going to be in a wedding and needed some tips and a few new products. They took me through the steps (for free) and I walked out with <$50 of new products that I still use. Sephora, Mac and most makeup chains will do the same. They will give you a free tutorial on how to use their products. It's not that hard (I did one practice run before the wedding to make sure I could do it) and people commented that my wedding makeup looked good in person and in photos (I looked like a polished version of myself). For hair, I'd recommend having a friend do it if you're not savvy just cause it's hard to see what's going on back there. Do at least one test run. good luck!

Lizzie said...

I LOVE Ariel's suggestion for A Smidge Above...I don't know about everyone else...but I got my hair and makeup done for Homecoming and Prom in high school ONCE by my regular salon...and I got home and combed out my crazy tight curls and wiped at least half of the cake off my face...I agree with feeling super comfortable on the day...I'd rather have to touch up a photo or two than feel like I can't smile the whole day.

Therese T. said...

I admit I plan to go get primped on the day of, but not leading up to it; does that make me a bad bride? I went to a derm lately, and she wants me to go on Accutane. WTH?

rosemeg said...

I was recently an "unbridesmaid" for one of my closest friends. After doing a few professional make-up trials and looking pretty, but like a completely different person, she emailed me and the other girls who were going to get ready with her and asked, "Will you guys hate me if we just get our hair done and do the make up ourselves?"

I was floored! This is a super low-key, down to earth girl who I have known for over 25 years! A girl who knew, in her heart, that she didn't want to get her make-up done and who, for the record, is typically far from racked with insecurities. The fact that she thought for even a second that her best, oldest friends might hate her if we didn't get to have our make-up done together is a testament to the complete and utter insanity of the wedding industry. We did our own freaking make-up, and we all looked like our normal, human selves, and a good time was had by all.

I have nothing against professional make up and fancy hair (I will probably have the biggest wedding hair ever -- I learned that it is a future in-law's dream to do hair for a living, so I'm going to ask her to do mine for fun even though her taste leans more toward the big and curly and impeccable while my taste leans more toward the messy birds nest look), but I wish people remembered more frequently that they have a choice in the matter.

Getting primped, not getting primped, fantasizing about your wedding, not fantasizing about your wedding -- none of these choices make you a bad bride! The pressure to be perfect and the seeking of plastic surgery for one day and the stress that people feel makes me really sad. It's a celebration of love, guys.

Miss Lissy said...

Thank you so much for writing this! I have struggled a lot with the decision of not wanting to wear any make-up on my wedding day because people get so mean about it - not just the wedding industry. I actually got into a huge argument with my friend - I told him I didn't want to be a flawless airbrushed model and the center of attention - I wanted to be me and I wanted to be comfortable (make-up makes me so uncomfortable). And then he said, "Why are you getting married then?" I was so upset I went home and bawled that people think this is what marriage is about. Yes, you can get dolled up if you want, but a wedding is not about how you look and you do not have to get dolled up.

Melissa said...

Here Here.
The beauty industry would have us all believing from a very young age that we need this or that to look beautiful. I think we are all beautiful in our own and unique ways.

sara said...

Amen.. we look like .. well what we look like.. he fell in love with us.. you.. why be something you are not.. just the love in the air will make you glow .. naturally.


Sharpiegirl said...

I remember when my niece got married her mother had a friend that did Mary Kay and offered to do everyone's wedding makup for free. She spent an hour on the mother's makeup (it looked like a bronzer exploded on her and the bride and bridesmaids freaked out. I ended up doing everyone makeup. They put the base on and then I did the rest and let them put their own mascara on. They all looked great in the pictures.
Oh and that was the same wedding where my Mother's hairdresser flaked out and left her high and dry (or in her case wet headed). She cancelled her appointment but never called and no one else in the salon would do her hair. So I got to play hairdresser too. Once I got her to quit crying. ~sigh~
As for my wedding, it was hot, by the time I got my hair done it was soaking wet again so we just threw it up and said to heck with it. My sister helped with my eyeshadow but I did everything else.
I did splurge on some really great moisturizers from the time we got engaged so that I could minimize the wrinkles I had accumulated in my 40+ years. I felt it was money WELL SPENT.

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