Body Image and the Wedding Industry
I have a lot of ~feelings~ about planning a wedding. It's been a weird experience so far - some bits have been ridiculously fun, and some bits have been downright hideous (and eye wateringly expensive!). My expectation was that as soon as you had a ring on your finger it was all prosecco and Pinterest and that has definitely not been the case, but perhaps the thing that has irked me the most is how much of a role body image plays within the wedding industry. I've seen enough friends and family walk down the aisle to understand that everyone wants to look their best on their big day, but it wasn't until we got engaged that I realised how much pressure there was to fit a bridal beauty ideal. The first time I really noticed it was when I attended The National Wedding Show with my Mum and sister, where the message that you needed to change how you look for your wedding was loud and clear. Slotted in between people selling wedding invites and photographers touting for business was a Slimfast stand - they were handing out free shakes to help you get started on your "wedding dress diet". On the main stage in the arena they were talking about the best exercises to "tone those arms up". Everywhere you turned was something to compact the message that looking like yourself on your wedding day is not okay.
This general theme is continued in every wedding magazine I've read (with the exception of Rock n Roll Bride which is all kinds of wonderful!). So many of the features are about dropping a dress size or getting perfect glowy skin. I genuinely read in one magazine that you should start your wedding skincare routine 18 months out (so realistic, no?!) and regular personal training sessions for the bride to be are deemed a necessity rather than a luxury. As someone who is currently planning a wedding and cutting back in every other area of life to be able to afford it, I can't help but wonder who can fit such extravagances into their budget.
Trying on wedding dresses threw up even more discussions about size and weight and diets. Pretty much everyone helping me in the stores inferred that brides tend to want to lose a bit of weight in the run up to the wedding and that I should factor this into my selection. Comments were made about which dresses made me look slimmer or how certain cuts may or may not be flattering to my shape. As someone who is a size 12 (which is below the UK average) with a healthy BMI, I find it worrying that the natural assumption was that I would almost certainly want to "slim down" to fit into my wedding dress. God forbid I would buy a bloody dress in the actual size I was!
I think the thing that pisses me off the most is how gendered the whole thing is. When we went to buy Sam's suit, not a single comment was made about his shape or height or whether he planned on losing any weight. He simply bought a suit in the right size and we were off. Not one of our male friends has talked about how they'll look on our wedding day, but 4 of my 7 bridesmaids have talked about booking in for microdermabrasion or having their teeth whitened or losing weight to be #weddingready.
Do you know what? I call bullshit. I don't want to feel like I need to look like someone else on my wedding day. I don't want to feel like I need to tone my arms up or have more dewy skin or wear hair extensions that make me look like Rapunzel. Guess what? Sam already knows that I have cellulite and a spotty chin and a hint of bingo wings and he still went ahead and asked me to marry him, because he doesn't care. So why would I spend a load of time and energy on trying to mould myself into some distorted bridal ideal when the only person I'm trying to impress would think I looked gorgeous walking down the aisle in a bin bag?
The truth of the matter is that there's money to be made by making engaged ladies feel like they aren't already enough. There's gym memberships and expensive skin creams to be sold by playing on people's insecurities. But I'm not falling for it - I want to walk down that aisle feeling like me, not like some cardboard cut out in a white dress.
If you're also trying to fight the wedding industry pressure, some other ladies have written very eloquently about this subject on the ace Love My Dress and Unsorry Mag. And remember - you don't have to look any certain way to look bloody babin' on your big day. You're perfect just as you are and so am I.