“Shedding for those wedding bells, I see!” said an oblivious male trainer friend of mine the last time I was at a gym (which feels like 200 years ago), distracting me from a personal best I was about to make. Because we have a personal relationship, I said straight to his face, “excuse me, that was incredibly rude,” and we moved on. But, truthfully, rude doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of how problematic this assumption is.
Shedding for the wedding has somehow become a cultural phenomenon that not only requires a bride to put on the most expensive party of her life, but also forces her to spend the months leading up to the wedding (that should be spent drinking champagne and shoving her hand in people’s faces) hangry and stressed. Disclosure: I am talking about female-identifying brides, as I rarely hear about grooms training specifically for the big day, but for the record, body shaming harms everyone.
First, let’s break down how little sense the idea of losing weight for your wedding makes. You’re marrying the love of your life, who loves you for you. Now you want to go and crash diet and/or binge exercise to drastically change your appearance for one day? There’s no reason to make yourself miserable in preparation for what’s supposed to be the happiest day of your life.
One could argue that the ritual ceremony of a wedding itself symbolizes entering adulthood. For me, it definitely does in a much more real way than graduating college or doing my taxes for the first time ever did, and for some, that can be a call to consider their health seriously for the first time. That is not inherently a bad thing, but the problem with the wellness industry as it stands is that it conflates health and well-being with beauty. That notion of “beauty” is further limited to Eurocentric features, so it’s problematic in multiple ways. True health and well-being aren’t as sexy to promote on Instagram, though, because it’s tougher to market what we can’t see from the outside, but diet culture has officially infiltrated the spaces we look to for health information.
Diet culture is the belief that thinness = “health” and status. This is dangerous to us all, but especially to women, BIPOC, people who are differently-abled, anyone over size 6, the trans community—basically anyone society “others”. It sends the implicit message that if you don’t look like the imaginary health ideal—which, according to stock photos, is exclusively thin white women (who can usually be found laughing at salad)—you’re not only unwell, but a whole slew of other unconscious judgments that come along with it (lazy, unmotivated, etc.). Wellness becomes inherently political in this regard. It is impossible to talk about health without addressing the fact that we all have varying levels of access to wellness resources and that we continue to glorify some bodies as beautiful and others as not—which lurks somewhere deep in our brain when we think about what would make us look *perfect* on our wedding day.
I so, so, so get wanting to look your best for the big day. These are photos you’ll have forever, after all. And yes, you better believe my skin care regimen is 234209243 steps long, and I’ve obsessed about the hair and makeup and the dress, but the idea that we need to lose weight to be and feel beautiful is sexist, and while we’re being honest, it’s racist. At the same time, I fully support your right to be autonomous with your body, in every sense of the word. If you want to lose weight to feel special on your special day, that is entirely your right and you shouldn’t feel shame for that—but you should know where that desire comes from, because I’m willing to bet my dream honeymoon that the desire to lose weight comes from a hope that we will be more worthy, better versions of ourselves once that finally happens. The thing is, though, losing weight doesn’t usually accomplish that. If you aren’t armed with this information going in, you’ll probably be disappointed when you get to that final dress fitting and you don’t feel as changed as you thought you would.
To be clear, I am not against having fitness goals! But by fitness goals, I mean actual fitness—not physique goals. A fitness goal is “I want to run a marathon” or “I want to carry this overpacked suitcase without breaking a sweat.” A fitness goal is not, “I want to lose x pounds or fit in this dress”. Personally, my biggest “wellness” goal is staying sane in 2020 and making it to my wedding alive amidst a GLOBAL PANDEMIC, PEOPLE.
As a bride and pilates instructor (with no wedding date in sight), what I am doing is continuing to do the exercise I enjoy because it feels good and helps me deal with COVID-19/wedding/2020/self-employed stress. Listen, movement is objectively good; I’ve literally made it my career and can personally vouch for the life-changing magic of moving your body every day. The problem is, shedding for the wedding puts the focus on changing your body for aesthetic purposes only, instead of enjoying it or even focusing on health itself. Not only can that get punish-y and dangerous, but it’s also just not fun.
I move my body regularly, whether it’s a full workout or a sanity walk around the block, because it feels good and also so I don’t lose my sh*t when my dress is indefinitely delayed or trips get canceled. Choosing to exercise in appreciation of your body and as self-care increases body satisfaction and helps you be nicer to your reflection, which, wedding or not, is always welcome.
Unfortunately, you’re not likely to get through your engagement without hearing the phrase “shedding for the wedding”. So what do you do when someone puts their nose where it doesn’t belong? It’s actually quite simple: Call them out and remind them (politely or not, up to you) that it’s not only not their business, but it’s also harmful and promotes an outdated beauty ideal. Let them know that your wedding does not revolve around an arbitrary number of pounds lost or gained, but the fact that you found yourself a life partner. What a concept.
It’s time to cancel “shedding for the wedding” and start celebrating body diversity with the same fervor that we do one particular type of beauty. 2020 brides have had to sacrifice dancing, hugging, and uh, human interaction in general with the rise of stoop and Zoom weddings. But, we’ve also started to see an edit of superfluous traditions in favor of celebrating what’s actually meaningful about a wedding: the love! Maybe, *JUST MAYBE* we can make engagements about being engaged instead of dieting, and “shedding for the wedding” will go the way of the garter toss.
Images: Jacob Lund / Shutterstock
Sponsored by Brideside
On top of all the other f*cking things you’re supposed to remember to do for your wedding day (hire a non-sketchy photographer; book a decent DJ that isn’t going to tell you to “PUT YOUR MOTHERF*CKING HANDS UP” every three minutes; and select food that 85% of your guests will like), picking your dress SHOULD be on the easier side. But is it, like, ever? If I’ve learned anything from watching hours of Say Yes to the Dress of repeat, it’s that a) Randy and I should be besties and b) this is neither a fun nor stress-free experience. Even my own wedding dress shopping saga took place over three months and at least six boutiques; each one extremely different and more confusing than the next.
With Brideside, the entire experience can be much more chill, lead to less stress in your life, and help you rely on more personalized help that ISN’T your mom. Bonus points—they can help you find your bridesmaids dresses, too, which is f*cking stellar, considering you decided to marry someone with three sisters that you can add to the tally of Sorority sisters you’re required by law to put in your party. Seriously, until you try to pick out dresses for your nine incredibly different (and incredibly picky) best friends, you don’t realize just how major of a godsend this is.
Here are a few tips and tricks from the Brideside stylists on how to make the entire wedding + dress experience (for brides and their ladies) a bit smoother.
1. Know And Stay Within Your Budget
Just like when you’re looking at apartments, cars, or houses, don’t f*cking try on the dress that’s out of your price range. Like, would you go and walk an apartment with a realtor if it was three times what you could afford? I mean, like, maybe if Daddy was gonna pony up and buy it for you (love you, mean it), but chances are, if you’re a strong independent woman that don’t need no extra credit card, you’re going to stay realistic about that sh*t.
And don’t f*cking forget—the dress is just one part of the equation. You’re likely getting a veil and/or headpiece, shoes, jewelry, and alterations to said dress. So, yeah, the dress may be at the top end of your budget, but it’ll be far over it by the time everything is said and done. The good news is that if you choose a service like Brideside, the MAJORITY of the dresses are around $2000, which is pretty reasonable when compared to other bridal salons in the city.
2. Stop Looking At The Sizes
I know we’ve all been trained to immediately check the sizing on the tags when shopping for any clothes ever. According to Brideside, though, “your typical everyday size will NOT match the tag on your wedding dress.” I can personally attest to that, as the dress I ended up with was a 4 and I’m over here in a size 0 from JCrew, size 2 from Ann Taylor, and whatever the f*ck size H&M decides fits me on any given day. Will I be a 0? Will I be an 8? Stay tuned while I have a meltdown in an H&M dressing room.
Pro-tip: tell your stylist what size you are in a few different brands, and they can likely easily help you navigate where you should be.
3. Head To Imagination-Land
Obviously, wherever you choose to have your bridal fitting is not going to have your exact size perfectly altered to fit your body. “Bridal gowns have a different size scale than your everyday clothes, and a store sample isn’t going to fit everyone perfectly right off the rack. These dresses are meant to be altered to fit you perfectly. Don’t worry, your stylist will clip you in so you can get a feel of how the dress will look on the big day,” says Brideside.
So, yah, just like on our fav wedding dress shopping shows, your stylist is going to push, shove, and finagle you into whatever dress you’ve pulled so you can see what a truly perfect fit would look like. It’s like being Cinderella and having a perfect dress magically appear around your body, minus singing rats and fugly skanks trying to ruin your day.
4. Do Not Come In With Your Heart Set On One Dress (Or Even Style)
You’ve seen it a million times: A bride comes in with a Pinterest board dedicated to, like, three or four dresses she HAAAAAS to have; never having seen that particular style on her body, in real life, or exiting her bank account. Brideside says to “try on dresses that aren’t typically you.” That may sound horrifying, but trust me. I pictured myself in a typical A-line dress pretty much, well, forever. Once I got to each salon, I had bride squad peeps putting me in ballgowns, mermaid style fluted dresses, long-sleeved dresses, tea-length dresses, and even fit and flare dresses. I had never thought of pulling ANYTHING other than an A-line dress off, and guess what? I ended up with a curve-showing fit-and-flare dress that I LOVED. So, yeah – trust your stylist. They’ve seen all the bodies and all the dresses. They know their sh*t better than you do, fam.
5. Look Beforehand, But Have An Open Mind
The pros at Brideside say to keep informed and “know some bridal buzz words like what silhouettes you might want to try on and what fabrics are out there.” The most important thing, though, is that “you don’t want to overstimulate yourself with Pinterest options and Instagram saved collections.” In other words, you need to keep an open mind since, chances are, you haven’t been bridal dress shopping many times before (I mean, I could be wrong).
There are a lot A LOT of wedding gowns out there, and it’s great that you’re really into the Elie Saab Spring Collection from three years ago. Like, use it as inspo, sure; but don’t get hung up on those being the ONLY dresses that’ll work for you. The same rules apply for material. You may think you need an organza dress to be happy and that your groom-to-be will insist on seeing you in something of the like, but, you could be f*cking wrong, k?
6. Tell Friends And Fam If There’s A Style You Love
This is kind of a huge one since more opinions are not exactly better when it comes to wedding dress shopping. If you bring mom, grandma, your future MIL, sister, bff, and future sisters-in-law, that’s a lot of different opinions that you may feel you have to navigate and please with whatever you choose for what is, essentially, your motherf*cking day.
Brideside’s advice? “Don’t overvalue other people’s opinions. Choose what you love and what makes you feel like you.” I feel this and this sh*t resonates with me on a NORMAL day. So, you should especially take that sh*t to heart if you’re looking for the dress that feels the most YOU on a day celebrating YOU and someone else sorta. If you want a pink dress with sparkles, get a f*cking pink dress with sparkles. If you wanna wear cowboy boots, know that I’ll judge you – but it also isn’t my wedding. So you do you, boo. *Forehead kisses*
7. Connect With Your Stylist Before The Appointment
This isn’t really an option at most bridal salons, but it f*cking is at Brideside. Why does it even matter whether or not you talk to the person that’ll see you in a bra and Spanx all day? “It’s a lot easier to chat up your stylist at an appointment when you feel like you already know her.” Oh, so, like, that makes sense. You may not feel as awkward saying, “Hey Stacy, I f*cking hate this dress” or “Omg Stacy, you’re a f*cking mind reader” if you’ve had even one convo beforehand. The more you know!
“Your Brideside stylist will set up a time to talk before hand, introduce herself and hear about what you’re looking for.” Praise be. So, if you know your Brideside stylist ahead of time, you’ll feel better about having a meltdown and talking about how your MIL is impossible to please and that you need a dress that conceals your cankles!
8. Come Prepared
Speaking of Spanx, wearing the right undergarments and looking as close as is possible to how you would on the big day is a GREAT bit of advice for heading into your bridal dress appointment. If you head in to try on the “most important dress” you’ll ever buy while sporting acne cream, a messy bun, and last night’s smoky eye, you’re notttt really going to come to appreciate the whole vision that your stylist is working for you to see. Plus, you’ll want to take pics to remember what each dress, or, dresses you’re torn between look like. If you look hot AF in said pics, it’s just one less thing distracting you from how you actually look in said dress.
9. Come To The Appointment Ready To Find The Dress
“If you’re always thinking ‘but maybe something somewhere might be better’ and book a million appointments, you’re going to stress yourself out. You don’t have to only try on one style, but when you feel like you’ve found the one, stop looking,” says Brideside.
There are A LOT of bridal salons, and a LOT of f*cking dresses, styles, and looks out there. Don’t get hung up on thinking you’re going to have an “ah-ha” moment.
You may, you may not, or you may fall in love with three different dresses and have to go through an 80s style montage to figure out which one is for you. The point is you need to be in the mental state to say YES to a dress (sorry, sorry). If you aren’t in a true “shopping” mood, you’re going to keep looking, and looking, and driving yourself and your posse insane. Chances are, you look amazing in everything you try on, so don’t keep looking for reasons to say no.
10. Have Fun
Remember, the most important piece of advice riiiight as you walk into the salon: HAVE FUN, KIDS. Seriously, you’re shopping for your WEDDING DRESS. That’s like, in and of itself, f*cking amazing. Start your day with a huge Pumpkin Spice whatever; chug the champagne (but not too much) offered to you at the salon; and plan a huge lunch of nachos or Taco Bell or margaritas or whatever for afterwards. Look at this day for what it is—a good f*cking time.
It seems like a lot to remember and keep track of, but, overall, shopping for your wedding dress should be a fun and fairly easy experience that fits into your whole wedding planning triathalon. Using a service like Brideside takes a lot of the guesswork out of the equation and may give your brain more space to process sh*t like which hors d’oeuvres to serve during cocktail hour or which venue will be the most forgiving if someone voms on the floor. All v important stuff.
Click here to book an appointment at Brideside so you can have like, the best dress shopping experience ever.