Brides and Body Image …a little soapbox rant

Note: This is the first in a series of posts on my experience as a bride-to-be. Yep, that’s right – my guy popped the question on November 14th, and I said YES. Can’t wait to marry him this summer!! 

Stepping into the world of wedding planning websites as a newly engaged woman is both thrilling and terrifying at the same time. Thrilling, because who isn’t excited about planning their own wedding?? Terrifying, because of the bombardment of headlines and articles, proclaiming 10 Wedding Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make and 12 Things Every Bride Needs to Know. I can feel my stress levels rising already.

One of the more useful things on The Knot is the checklist feature, which organizes your to-do list and keep you on track with all the big and little things that planning a wedding entails. Sounds helpful, right? I thought so too, which is why I eagerly entered my name and wedding date and hit “create an account” a couple days after getting that ring on my finger.
bride ecard
A couple days into my relationship with The Knot, I came across an article titled 10 Things to Do As Soon As You Get Engaged. Sounded urgent and important, so I clicked the link. (Marketing at its finest, right? They sure know how to reel us me in.)

The first item in the glossy photo slideshow was “get a manicure” and I proudly made a mental “check” because I’d already given myself one at home the day before. Nothing like freshly painted nails for showing off the gorgeous diamond, right?

Feeling pretty on top of things, I continued to click through the slideshow, until I came to #5 which boldly proclaimed in big, black letters on my screen:

“Choose a Diet Plan and Start It.”

The picture showed the back of a (size 2) model in a wedding dress with a salesperson holding a tape measure around her waist. Talk about intimidating. And #5 went on to say that brides should “choose a proven plan like Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig.”

Excuse me?

First of all, since when does a bride-to-be want to start thinking about a diet in the first week of getting engaged?! I was still on cloud nine at that point and showing my ring to every checker in the grocery store that asked how my day was going.

“Choose a diet and start it?” Um, no thanks.

My deeper problem with #5 is this: why do brides even need to diet for their wedding in the first place? I understand that every woman wants to look gorgeous on her wedding day, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting to get healthy and fit before your wedding. My problem is with the endless pressure on women to always be on one diet or another – and never be happy with our bodies. What if I was a size 18 bride-to-be and I was completely fine with being a size 18 on my wedding day? What if I wanted to enjoy my engagement and the planning process without counting calories (or “points,” in the case of Weight Watchers) all the time and obsessing over every bite of food that enters my mouth? This is something that really makes me mad, so I apologize for the soapbox rant.

But seriously, can we stop pressuring women about weight loss and encourage them to be confident and happy in their own skin? Since when does a size 4 bride automatically look more gorgeous on her wedding day than a size 14 one does? In my opinion, the media – or whoever you want to call the forces behind these messages – realizes that us brides are a little whole lot of anxious about everything being “just perfect” on our wedding day, and they know just how to play into that fear. All around us there are subtle messages that if we just lose some weight and finally achieve “the body of our dreams” then somehow all the other stress of the wedding will disappear and the day will be blissfully perfect. Which is a big, fat lie.

Believe me, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my battle with food and body image, it’s that size and weight does not equal happiness. Period.

No matter how thin/toned/fit you get your body to be, that alone will NOT bring you true happiness.

So here’s my suggestion to myself and fellow bride-to-be’s:

Instead of starting yet another diet in hopes of creating the perfect wedding day or finally being happy with your body, step back and focus instead on what the wedding is really about.

You’re marrying the love of your life, and isn’t that more important than what size is on the tag of your white dress that day? I know body acceptance and self love isn’t easy – believe me, I still struggle – but let’s do what we can to treat our bodies with care and respect.

Rather than finding a diet plan to follow for the rest of your engagement period, why not start working on loving your body at the size you’re at? That doesn’t mean you can’t work on eating healthier or try lose some weight, but check your motives first. Are you counting on Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig to bring you happiness? Because I guarantee you, they can’t.

Begin today to push back on the messages of our culture. Realize that happiness can come at any size.  Make the decision to stop hating your body and give yourself some grace instead.

You’ll be glad you did.

13 thoughts on “Brides and Body Image …a little soapbox rant

  1. Danica

    First of all…Congratulations, girl!!!!
    And in reply to this topic….I’m so glad you have a good head on your shoulders about this. When I got married (June 2012) I got really fed up with all of the “diet/skinny bride” garbage too – it completely detracts from the true excitement…that you’re getting married to the love of your life!! I’m so glad you can weed out those terrible, negative images of what a “beautiful bride” is “supposed to look like.”

    1. Hope Post author

      Thanks so much for your comment, Danica!! It was great to hear your perspective on all of this pressure to be a “skinny bride.” I’m so glad you were able to really enjoy your wedding and push back against all the pressure from our culture. That’s a huge encouragement to me! 🙂

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  3. Jenny Villard

    Right on!!!! Very very relevant for so many women.
    I feel like the show ‘What Not To Wear’ takes this approach with women- they take them right where they are and give them fashion tips… 🙂

  4. Fran

    Thank you for your article. I am a bride to be and while I am happy with my size 8-10 body, I have never felt more pressure to change my body than I do right now. I feel as though the only accomlishment that anyone cares about on the wedding day is how slim the bride was able to get, what she is wearing, her hair and makeup. One other thing I wasn’t expecting is the overwhelming pressure to have my personallity perfectly reflected in my wedding.

    1. Hope Post author

      I’m so glad this post was helpful to you, Fran! I can definitely relate to that pressure to be a certain size and look absolutely stunning on your wedding day! It’s crazy, isn’t it? No wonder so many brides are super stressed. I hope the rest of your wedding planning process goes smoothly and that you ENJOY your day because it’s just that: YOUR DAY. 🙂 Best wishes to you and your fiance! 🙂

  5. Tami Boda

    Thank you for posting!! I got married the summer of ’12 and I didn’t realize the importance that society placed on being the “skinny bride” til I went to those exact wedding planning sites you talked about. And I am continually surprised (eventually you would think I would catch on, but I’m naive) at how the media ALWAYS makes being a size 2 the most important thing in your life. Whether it’s when your prepping for your wedding, once you’ve had your first baby, or “oh my gosh!!! You are 30, your metabolism is slowing down. You are going to be huge!” They always project that we have to be smaller than we are.

    1. Hope Post author

      Tami, such good points about the pressure to be a size 2! I have no idea how that was decided upon as the magical number all women are supposed to strive for! We are all built so differently with unique body shapes and proportions…but yet we’re all trying to fit into the same cookie-cutter image.
      I’ve also heard several friends in their late 20’s talk about the horrors of a metabolism that begins to slow down… it’s interesting how much the fear of weight gain controls our thoughts and emotions as women! Definitely something I want to fight against in my own life.
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and for stopping by the blog! 🙂

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