I'll never forget the day my mom and bridesmaids took me wedding dress shopping. It was our first excursion out, and we made a big day of it: hitting all the major New York City shops (even say-yes-to-the-dress Kleinfeld's because, hey, a girl can dream), enjoying lunch with the girls, and hopefully toasting to "the one" with a glass of champagne by day's end. But it wasn't a day full of being pampered, oohed and aahed over that really resonates with me. Instead, it was the moment I stepped into the dressing room with a consultant and, as I started telling her about the silhouettes I was interested in, the overall look I was going for and even the shoes I envisioned wearing, she asked me what size I was.
"I'm usually a size 6 or size 4 dress," I said.
"Okay, but what size do you want to be on the day?" she asked.
I admit, this question took me by surprise. I'm really not all that big, and I'm at a healthy weight for my five-foot-seven frame. Sure, I'd like to firm up my arms a bit, and I have a little extra padding around my belly—but not so much that I wouldn't dig into the congratulatory goodies loved ones sent after they heard the big news. So when it was automatically implied that I intended to go on a wedding diet, I felt, well, ashamed. And self-conscious. Something that I honestly didn't think would be a problem when it came to my big day.
Now, don't assume that means I didn't think about my body. Of course I did. I've been subjected to the same body-shaming standards as every other woman, the same idea that a certain "look" is what's needed to love your wedding. (This was only reinforced when, although it was meant as a compliment, people constantly told me, "You have a great wedding dress body.") But after years of working in the magazine industry, I've picked up a few fashion tricks here and there. The most important lesson? You need to know how to dress for your body type. So going into D-Day (what my girls and I affectionately dubbed "dress shopping day"), I was prepared. I knew what silhouettes were flattering on me (modified A-line, sheath, princess), and what weren't (mermaid, trumpet, tea length) because they made me feel more confident and comfortable.
So after a beat of hesitation, I replied to the consultant with another piece of sage advice I've picked up over the years.
"I'll be a size 4 or 6," I said. "There's no point in trying to shrink myself down with so many other things going on."
And that's the exact moment I decided that, come hell or high water, I wasn't going to put myself on any semblance of a wedding diet. I was going to be me. After all, why would I need to whittle down another size or two when my husband-to-be loved me the way I was? He proposed, didn't he? There was no "Will you marry me...as long as you lose X amount of weight before you walk down the aisle?" stipulation (and if there had been, well, I bet you can imagine how that would have gone over). So why would I put unnecessary pressure on myself, right when I added the task of "plan wedding" on top of my job and all the other day-to-day tasks on my to-do list?
So I continued doing what I was doing—eating healthy(ish) and working out regularly, which is exactly what I've been doing for as long as I can remember. Having a goal in mind, like a wedding, was an excellent motivator to stay on top of my workout schedule—I won't deny that. But I was motivated by the desire to reduce stress, not my weight. A sweat session in the morning set me up for success the rest of the day, helped me stay relaxed when my to-do list seemed overwhelming, and freed up my evenings to tackle wedding-related tasks when I came home from work (not to mention squeeze in a date night when we needed to not be in wedding mode).
Working out also made me feel like I wanted to eat healthy. Not because I didn't want to undo all the hard work that I had put in, but because I entered a cycle where I actually craved the nutrients my body needed after such a muscle-blasting morning. I craved the eggs I enjoyed each breakfast, the leafy vegetables I dug into for lunch, and the fresh fish my fiancé grilled at dinner. But when my type-A personality couldn't handle another vendor failing to answer an email, I absolutely poured a slightly bigger glass of red wine. When my maid of honor and I hot-glued our fingers together crafting boutonnieres, we rewarded ourselves with ice cream. And when it came time for cake tasting, you bet I enjoyed my fair share of slices.
When my wedding date finally rolled around, I slipped into my size 6 dress with confidence. My body still wasn't perfect—though all that strength training did make my open-back dress look baller—but it was mine. And I loved it. I was about to marry the man who has loved me through thick and thin (whether you take that as a physical description, I'll let you decide), with people who just wanted to be in the presence of love. We hadn't had unnecessary fights because I was hangry or lashing out because I refused to let myself enjoy a cupcake from time to time. Dare I say it, we actually enjoyed wedding planning, for the most part, and agree that the experience brought us even closer together. And when I finally walked down the aisle to make him my husband, I felt beautiful—at the exact same size I was the day he got down on one knee.
The author on her wedding day. Photo: John Herr.