After nine years of dating my now fiancé (it still feels weird calling him that!), I was more than ready when he finally asked me to marry him. I was ready to make the commitment to spend the rest of my life with him. I was ready to start planning the most important day of our lives together. I was ready for the barrage of questions I knew would come once we announced our engagement to our family and friends – “have you got a date yet?”; “where are you getting married?”; “who is in your bridal party?”; “do you know what kind of dress you want to wear?” However, what I was not ready for was the expectation that I would be losing weight for my wedding day.
Before I go any further I want to be clear that I am not against people striving to be the healthiest and happiest version of themselves and of course, like every other bride, I want to feel beautiful on my wedding day. What I am against however, is the notion that I can only look beautiful on my wedding day if I am the thinnest version of myself, no matter what the cost.
My first and most poignant experience of this expectation that I, a bride, should be losing weight, was on the day that I went shopping for my wedding dress. As I stood on a small podium in the first wedding dress I had tried on, the sales consultant kept asking me what I thought of the dress, but I couldn’t tell. All I could focus on was how uncomfortable I was, it was too small so I could hardly move in it and it was itching as it cut into my arms. I asked to try on a bigger size and was informed that the store only stocks one sample size in each dress and then your chosen dress is ordered in your size. The issue being that the small sample sizes (no bigger than a size 8 in this particular store) did not cater to the average woman’s body. The sales consultant explained “I can order you the size up, or are you planning on losing weight for the wedding?” I was stumped. Was I planning on losing weight for the wedding? “No, she won’t be losing weight” my mum quickly responded while I stood there lost for words. Things only got worse as I walked back into the change room to take the dress off. As I was standing there already feeling vulnerable in nothing but my underwear the sales consultant then proceeded to tell me “you should really start wearing tighter fitting clothes, you are so much skinnier than I thought. What you are wearing today makes you look big”. Needless to say, I left the store feeling terrible about myself and incredibly insecure. The mental dialog started – Should I lose weight? Will my dress look better on me if I do? Is losing weight the thing all brides are supposed to do?
The wedding dress appointment is only one example of society’s expectation that a bride should lose weight for her wedding day. Everywhere I looked I was being fed the message that in order to look beautiful on my wedding day I needed to be thin. Wedding blogs provided weight loss tips and exercise regimes, wedding magazines pictured pretty and more importantly thin brides in their real wedding features, friends began to make jokes about my food intake “I better not offer you a piece of cake you’re getting married soon” and even Facebook started to post weight loss ads on my news feed.
I was determined not to succumb to the pressure that society places on brides to lose weight, however it slowly wore me down. Without even realising it, I found myself visiting Lorna Jane with the intention to buy myself a new outfit for the gym which would inspire me to work out more regularly, I began to look up weight loss treatments such as Hypoxi and several other quick fixes and I started depriving myself of that piece of dark chocolate I like to have after dinner occasionally.
One day, I finally stopped and noticed what had happened; I had allowed the external pressure to lose weight to influence the way I felt about myself and the importance I was placing on weight loss for the wedding. I had to take some time to reflect on my values and what was really the most important thing to me about our wedding day – how thin I looked or that I was finally getting to marry the man of my dreams. After all, my fiancé did not ask me to marry him because of my dress size or on the condition that I would strive to be thinner on our wedding day. To be perfectly honest, the parts of me that I am critical of when I look in the mirror are completely invisible to him. As cheesy as it sounds, I know that what he sees when he looks at me is his future wife, his best friend and someone who he will grow old and wrinkly with. No amount of weight loss could make him love me any less or any more.
So, I made a promise to myself: I will not lose weight for my wedding, I will order my dress in my current size, I will not get drawn into looking for quick fixes, I will enjoy celebratory champagne with my family and friends and most importantly, I will remember what my wedding day is really about, marrying my best friend.
I encourage any future brides reading this to also take some time to consider what is truly important to them for their wedding day, whatever that may be.