Weddings and Body Image: A Letter To Everyone Involved

Photo by Terje Sollie on

An Introduction

Ah, weddings. They’re a beautiful celebration of love and a lifelong commitment. I truly do love weddings- I have cried at most of the ones I have attended, even if I’m not super close to the people actually getting married. There is just something about the ceremony and the vows that gets me all emotional.

Of course, nothing is perfect. Weddings, though lovely and fun most of the time, can have a rather dark and ugly side. Of the friends I have known who have planned or are planning weddings, all of them have ended up feeling stressed to the max at least once during the process. I suppose that’s just what happens when you try to gather a bunch of people together at the same time.

The most ugly part about weddings to me is how often weight and body size come up throughout the entire process. I’m not talking about getting objective measurements for a dress or suit. I’m talking about the constant diet and weight talk leading up to the big day. So today, I have written a different form of blog post. It’s an open letter to all the people involved in a wedding and how they need to focus on the important part instead of how “fat” they feel or how stressed they are about losing weight for it all.

Even if you aren’t getting married or attending a wedding anytime soon, this post can apply to all kinds of events, not just weddings. Anytime there is a big event, like a high school or family reunion, going off to college, or anything else, the issue of wanting to lose weight is certain to arise. I seek to change that by telling people they can relax and enjoy the event without fretting over their weight in the months leading up to it.

To Brides and Grooms to be

You’re no-doubt excited for your upcoming wedding and life of happiness and love. The planning process can be stressful and difficult, especially when taking the needs and wants of other family members into account. You’ll never make everyone happy, but it’s hard not to try anyway.

Hear me out when I say that you and your to-be spouse are in a vulnerable situation. You might have endured attacks about your choices in regards to the wedding by friends and family members, and there can be hurt feelings all around in these situations. Plus, knowing you will be the center of attention for a whole day can be stressful to the max. This time of your life makes you vulnerable to comparison of other people’s weddings, budgets, lifestyles, appearances, and more.

Weddings are beautiful and wonderful and whatnot, but they can turn into a pissing contest if people aren’t careful. You may attend a friend’s wedding and see that they have a five gallon chocolate fountain, so you decide you want a thirty gallon one at yours. Or maybe your sibling looked so gorgeous and skinny at their wedding, so you feel self-conscious of how your body will look.

People know this, of course. People who want to make a profit, anyway. That’s how the wedding industry and diet industries make their money. I have seen nutritionists, personal trainers, and registered dietitians on social media offer weight loss coaching specifically for brides-to-be as they approach their big day. This tells me that some people have decided to capitalize on a vulnerable niche. It’s not a hard business model to consider- nobody wants to “feel fat” on their wedding day, how can I profit off this vulnerability?

Companies profiting off your vulnerabilities and insecurities

I’m sure the same types of things exist for grooms too, though maybe they have more of a “get jacked for your wedding and honeymoon” approach. I haven’t personally stumbled across those, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t out there and available. There are plenty of testosterone supplements to help with… you know, men stuff, also capitalizing on a vulnerability.

So, in the name of wanting to “look good” for pictures and the big day, brides and grooms spend months on restrictive diets, exercising too much, and taking supplements to help them lose weight or gain muscle before all eyes are on them. Some people even decide to purchase a dress or tux a few sizes below their current body’s needs as “motivation” to lose weight.

This is a dangerous game, and it can leave you feeling even more stressed if you don’t achieve the weight loss goals you set out. As we have discussed, restricting your intake can prompt you to have intense cravings that feel impossible to resist and lead your body to cling to fat stores as much as possible.

Stress is associated with weight gain, so stressing about losing weight is counter productive (even though weight loss shouldn’t be the goal anyway). If you want to feel calm and cool about your outfit at least, purchase one a size or two more than you think you need. Tailors can bring things in relatively easily, but it’s harder to bring measurements outward if your body does end up changing (which is natural). Do you really want to spend your time leading up to your wedding feeling terrible from stress about your outfit and your diet that probably won’t work anyway? I sure wouldn’t.

And honestly, even if your diet works in the short term like many people hope, about 1/4 of people who go on diets end up with disordered eating habits. Plus, about 1/2 of those people will develop a clinical eating disorder.1 In many instances, stress and anxiety can bring on disordered eating behavior, so the risks of starting a diet before your wedding are just too great. Taking care of your body and your mind should be a priority at all times, but especially now.

I have always viewed weddings as a (hopefully) once in a lifetime event, and I think you should be able to enjoy the hell out of every minute of it. But our culture puts doubts in your mind about your appearance and how your body looks to others, making it nearly impossible to focus on anything else.

Don’t spend the months leading up to the wedding suffering through crash diets, relentless food restriction, manipulating your body, or treating yourself like garbage. Your wedding should be about celebrating the love and commitment between you and your spouse-to-be, and spending months striving to change your body, on top of the hundreds of other stressful factors involved with weddings, may not be the best way to start a marriage.

Life is too short to spend any more time suffering because diet culture has told that your current body isn’t good enough. You deserve to feel excited, confident, and loved on the day of your wedding no matter how your body looks.

To the Parents, Families, and Friends of the Brides and Grooms

“Congrats on your kid’s engagement!” I say with enthusiasm to a mother or father of a spouse-to-be. “Thanks,” they say with a sigh, “I’m happy for them, but now I have to lose weight for the wedding.”

Have you heard something along these lines before, or is it just me? I have unwillingly been a part of this scenario time and time again with parents, friends, and family members upon talking about their loved one’s engagement. Maybe it’s due to my career choice, but this seems to be a common reply to a simple congrats.

Me saying “congrats” only to be met with a sigh and gripes about the need to lose weight

Although I have seen it most commonly in mothers of the bride and groom, many fathers also worry about their figure for the big day, as do siblings, grandparents, and people in the wedding party. This makes me so sad! We should all feel tremendously excited for our loved ones getting married, and for the most part we do, but we can’t help turning inward and thinking about how it affects us.

Those snap thoughts about wanting to lose weight and “look our best” for our loved one’s big day don’t mean we are selfish for thinking about ourselves in this moment. They mostly allude to how conditioned we are to our diet culture, and it’s very telling that our first instinct is to want to lose weight when something like an engagement occurs.

Even if we won’t directly be the center of attention at our friend’s or family member’s wedding, we still feel that eyes will be on us, especially if we are in the wedding party or we have to give a speech. And we want to lose weight because… why?

If you feel the need to lose weight in this situation, get serious and ask yourself why you do. Is it because you are afraid of what others might say or think? Is it because you’re worried about the pictures that will be taken and may permanently find their way on people’s walls or on their desks? Is it because your body looks different from other people’s and it makes you feel less confident?

These are all perfectly valid thoughts to think and feelings to feel. Our culture purposely makes us feel self-conscious, especially when we have to get all dolled up for an event, because once again, that’s how you sell products or services.

Feeling nervous about what others may say or think about your appearance is scary for many people, especially those in larger bodies. Diet talk occasionally bubbles to the surface everywhere, but any time a large group of people gets together, you can bet there will be diet talk.

What about feeling anxious about pictures? In my mind, a picture is simply a snapshot of time, and its purpose is to remind you of the day or event. Pictures, especially of people, aren’t to be stared at and picked apart bit by bit. Unfortunately, when we see pictures of ourselves, or someone we feel bitter toward, that’s just what we do.

Instead, pictures should bring us back to that happy moment and flood us with feelings of gratitude for having everyone together. This is a tough thought process to achieve, I know, but it’s an important one when you feel self-conscious around a camera.

May you find the ability to have this much fun in front of the camera at the next wedding you attend

At the end of the day, remind yourself of why you are at the wedding- you’re there to celebrate your loved one’s big day, and you also deserve to feel confident and happy no matter what body you are in.

To Anyone Attending a Wedding for Any Reason

Let’s say you have been invited to your third cousin’s wedding. You and your third cousin aren’t that close, but you know it will give you a chance to catch up with your other family members. While you look forward to seeing some people who will be there, other invitees could be triggering.

Maybe your great aunt Edna has always been critical of other people’s appearances, and you know she will gossip about everyone’s outfits, makeup, and bodies. Maybe there is somehow a chance you will run into one of your exes, and you want to make sure you look good so everyone knows you “won” the breakup. Maybe you were always seen as the fat one, so you want to have some kind of transformation that will leave everyone in awe.

Any time you get a big group of people together, especially with family members and friends you may not have seen in a while, there is temptation to appear a certain way that makes it seem like you “have your act together.” In our society, weight gain or being in a larger body is seen as not having your act together and lacking self control. That’s messed up, but that’s where we are right now.

Even if you aren’t close to the bride or groom, and you aren’t in the wedding party, there can be pressure to manipulate your body leading up to this event. Instead of focusing your efforts toward manipulating your body’s appearance, use that energy and brain space to accept your body as it currently is.

There are several techniques one can use to improve one’s body image, and there are many sassy or deflective phrases one can use when hearing diet talk or being the subject of weight bias during conversations.

Do your best to treat a wedding as just a wedding, not some big event that you need to change your entire lifestyle for in the months leading up to it. You can, and should, enjoy yourself regardless of what your body looks like. You deserve to feel good about yourself and celebrate the bride and groom no matter what.

To Everyone in the World, Even if They Never Have or Never Will Attend a Wedding

You are deserving of love, regardless of how your body looks.

As Always, a Book Recommendation

I have said it before, and I will say it again: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck is a fantastic read for people who care too much about too many things. Although I still care too much about what other people think, negative comments about my work on social media still bum me out, and I put too much thought into basically every decision, I can say whole-heartedly that this book has helped me care less than I used to.

This book isn’t about not caring about anything; instead, it’s about caring about only the important stuff. The size of your dress or tux on your wedding day is not important. The love and commitment you are celebrating is. The comments your relative makes about your thighs is not important, but the way you view your own body is.

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