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

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Guest Post: Why I Stopped Weighing Myself Before My Wedding

By Virginia Sole-Smith of Beauty Schooled

Over on Beauty Schooled, I write about all the ways women pay for pretty in our daily lives: the pressure to be thin, the pressure to look younger, the pressure to be sexy, the pressure to buy lots of products that might not work and may well contain toxic ingredients. To be clear: I also talk about how there are a lot of pleasures to be found in beauty...but when I started thinking about beauty and weddings I realized, wow — is there any other day of your life that comes with a higher pretty price tag?

I don't mean this to sound entirely negative. I was completely delighted to pay a serious amount of cash for my wedding dress because it was made (in the USA) by a designer I adore, who pays her workers a living wage — and because it was so fricking pretty, I wanted to eat it with a spoon. I was also super excited to order a pretty, pretty necklace and lovely knit wrap to match said pretty dress from some wonderful Etsy folk.

And in case I now sound like such a conscientious consumer, it's making you want to throw things at my head, let me also say that I had an awfully fun time running through Sephora, picking out makeup to wear on the big day.

But there were times during my 14 months of pre-wedding excitement when I realized I was paying for pretty in ways I didn't feel so great about. So I thought I would tell you about three of those moments, starting today with the big one: My weight.

I was in pretty good shape the year before my wedding. You wouldn't confuse me with any Hollywood starlets (and I don't want you to) but I hike and do yoga a lot. Most of the time, my body and I are good friends. But something, or somebody (it couldn't be all of the wedding porn I encountered on the 5,000 wedding blogs I was reading daily, now could it?) flicked a switch in my brain about six months beforehand, and I thought: Good LORD. I need to lose ten pounds for this wedding to really work out. Or at the very least, whittle my waist down (yes I really used the phrase "whittle my waist," you are welcome to throw things at my head for that starting now) so it looks really teensy in my dress.

But I didn't tell anyone I was having these thoughts. Because I didn't want to be talked out of them. And at the same time, because I didn't want to be One Of Those Brides. Who go on crazy crash diets or jump into serious Buff Bride workouts in the months before their wedding. All those tricep reps so you'll avoid armpit fat in your strapless gown? They make me tired. As you can see above, I picked a dress with straps and left it at that.

But then I found myself in the completely absurd position of trying to secretly diet and increase my workouts, while externally maintaining the stance that brides don't need to lose weight to enjoy their wedding day. And, I started hopping on the scale every other day or so, watching the number jump up and down based on what I ate for breakfast, my menstrual cycle, the alignment of the stars, and whatever else it is that causes our weight to fluctuate those two or three mystery pounds pretty much all the time.

And then, thank goodness, about two months before the wedding, something or someone (I think it was my very sane best friend Amy, who had picked up on some of my secret weight loss vibes) flicked the switch back and said: STOP.

Just, stop.
Step away from the scale.

Because here's the secret that the WIC and the Beauty Industrial Complex don't want you to know: Every bride is beautiful.

In fact, if there was ever a day to NOT worry about your weight, this is the one. You've got a free pass! Because you're the bride. You're wearing a fabulous/possibly white dress/outfit of your choosing. And if you're marrying the right person, for the right reasons (whatever that means to you), you're going to be radiating joy and excitement out of every pore. Not in that cheesy bridal glow way that the magazines talk about. Just in a straight-up, honestly goddamn happy way.

And everyone who looks at you, sees this: Happy, Pretty Bride. It's a completely free perk. They don't zero in on your armpit fat or your triceps or wonder why you chose a dress that's long or short or poufy or not poufy or with this style of embroidery, not that style of embroidery that they saw in a magazine some place. They don't think that hard about it. They're just happy for you. And that means? They think you look great.

Then I realized something else: I didn't want to look at my wedding pictures in a year or five years or thirty years and think, "Why can't I get back to my wedding weight?" I wanted to look at them and see me. Eventually, I'll see a younger me, sure, but the Younger Wedding Me should match all the other pictures of Younger Me that I'll look back on when I'm old and want to remember the time I pet a llama in Peru, or ate 30 grapes at midnight on New Year's Eve with my best friends, or any of the other amazing memories I'll have because (as 2000 Dollar Wedding-ers know so well!) your wedding day is just one particularly wonderful day, but not the very best day of your whole life. Why try to make it the skinniest day of your whole life, too?

So, I stopped weighing myself.

I have absolutely no idea whether I gained or lost weight in the last two months before my wedding. I have no clue what I weigh in the picture above. I didn't worry too much about what I was eating — I like wine and chocolate and pasta and I kept on liking those things, while also eating lots of vegetables (because I like them too) and going to yoga and hiking in the hills around our house. I figure, it probably all evened itself out, without me having to keep tabs on the scale or the state of my triceps. And if it didn't — who cares? I had the Bridal Free Pass to Looking Great. And by "Looking Great," I mean happy.

And it was hugely freeing.

Because there were a lot of things I ended up feeling like I absolutely had to do in the weeks before my wedding, not all of which were entirely sane, like convincing the one 98-year-old typewriter repairman in my tri-state area to fix my antique typewriter in less than two weeks so I could use it at a guest book. Yes. That was a choice.

But worrying about my weight — and whether it measured up to some completely arbitrary external standard that equates thinness with beauty whether I agree with that internally or not — was something I could cross off the list.

What about you? Is your wedding weight stressing you out — or have you set yourself free?

Virginia Sole-Smith is a freelance writer and author of the blog Beauty Schooled, where she chronicles her adventures in (you guessed it) beauty school and explores all the ways women pay for pretty every day. You might remember her from this little debate-spurring essay on AOL. She thanks you again for all of your nice comments about that. xo

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A-L, said...

I think a lot of women struggle with this issue. In part I got around it because I hate going to the gym (my then fiance and I joined a gym around the time we got engaged and I hated nearly every minute and stopped after a couple of weeks) and I didn't have the money to take the number of dance classes I would need to make an effective weight loss tool. Part of it was that I chose a corseted dress so that I could have some wiggle room with my weight in terms of whatever it happened to be on the day of the wedding. And you're right that it's nice to look back on your wedding pictures and not obsess about your weight.

Of course, right now, I'm not happy with my weight but haven't exactly decided how I want to conquer it. But good on you for remaining sane on your wedding day in regards to your weight. Hopefully others will follow your example!

C. said...

Thanks so much for this - it's very relevant to me right now. I'm not kidding, I literally just sat down after a 45 minute in the front of the TV workout in my living room, specifically aimed at fitting in the wedding dress better!
I'm usually fairly at peace with my appearance, but I do find the idea of important photos that last forever a little disconcerting! I've also bought a dress that, um fits, but would be a little more comfortable if I was a little smaller. (NB. I bought it online, and the sizing was a little different from what I expected).
Your post may have to be my inspiration for keeping grounded in this aspect of the wedding thing over the next few months! You're right: I know people - my fiance especially - will think I'm beautiful anyway, and if I can keep in that grounded space, I will too! Doesn't solve the tight dress issues, but if I do exercise and all that I want to remember that it's coz I want to be comfy, and healthy, not unrecognisable...

Kristen (kristenwalker.com) said...

What a great post! Amen, I needed to hear this! I just went to David's Bridal over the weekend (I would love to know where you got your dress, BTW), and struggled with getting into dresses. I feel like my body exists in the dead zone - I am a size 12, but unfortunately, most wedding dresses that say they are a size 12 are more like a street size 10, so I don't fit in them. And then the next option is to jump into the plus size range, which start at size 14, but suddenly the sizes seem to start matching street close sizes more closely, and 14 is too big. It feels like my body size is totally not represented in the wedding dress world, yet, according to statistics, the majority of women are in the size 12 range! Argh!!!!

I tried on so many dresses that wouldn't zip up that it made me cry, and the suggestion was thrown out there that I just lose some weight before the wedding to fit into the dress, to which my response was (which surprised even me), "the dress needs to fit ME! not the other way around!" Geeze Louise, with what these things cost, it seems like there should be some way to find something that fits well.

So, I am still looking for a dress, and the date is quickly approaching. I am crossing my fingers I find it, but the last part of your post rings very true and is a very sane thing for me to be reading right now.

Thanks so much!

Maureen said...

"But then I found myself in the completely absurd position of trying to secretly diet and increase my workouts, while externally maintaining the stance that brides don't need to lose weight to enjoy their wedding day."

Sounds exactly like I was! I'm always playing tug of war with myself like that it seems. This is a great post, thanks so much.

Autumn Whitefield-Madrano said...

Oh, fantastic--I love how you break down the idea of the "beautiful bride" and show it for what it is. I've seen DIY brides and professionally made up brides and young brides and old brides. Never have I seen an ugly one.

Sara E. Cotner said...

This is such a timely post for me! At 41 weeks and 1 day pregnant, I just started thinking about how to lose my post-baby weight. I started to get really motivated by a wedding I'm going to in July (e.g., I started scheming about boot camp classes and the like), and then I tried to talk some sense into myself. If I do crazy things to achieve my ideal weight for a one-day event, then it's highly likely that I'll gain it all back once that one-day event is over. It makes much more sense to create and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Thanks for the dose of sense, Virginia!

Anna Geletka said...

This is so similar to my own experience, but with one major difference. I purchased my dress a year and a half before the wedding, and if I gained any weight, it wasn't going to fit. I had nightmares of standing in the changing room on the day of the wedding and being unable to get the zipper up.

I didn't want to diet or watch my figure, and I believe in Health at Every Size. However, my purchased perfect dress was one specific size!

In the end, the dress fit perfectly. But I'd love to share this tip with brides to be: get a corset-waisted dress! No matter what size you are on The Day, the dress will be your perfect fit.

Heidi said...

Thank you for your post! With 6 months to go, I too have found myself teetering on the edge. While I strive to be healthy and fit, I have to work at not letting societal pressures push me into the deep end.
When I try to tell acquaintances that I'm not going to bust my butt to loose 10 pounds or starve myself, they just look at me like I'm crazy. "Why wouldn't you want to be skinny for your wedding" is the look I get.
I too don't want to look at my pictures next year or in 20 years and think wow, if only I could get back to that unrealistic "wedding weight" - I don't want that for myself and can't imagine why anyone would.
Thank you for your refreshing sanity and sharing it with all of us!

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