When my wedding was over, I was relieved. It was the most fun I’ve ever had, sure, and I was happy to be married and so thankful to our family and friends, but I honestly couldn't wait to get back to the hotel and take my wedding dress off—and never, ever put it back on.
When you get engaged and you tell the internet about it, weight loss pills and workout plans hashtagged #sweatingforthewedding will start to fill your feed. "We don’t know you," those ads seem to say, "but we know you’re getting married and we know somewhere inside you’re very nervous about what your arms will look like in your photos!" The onslaught is inescapable. I wasn’t prepared for it, and it made me angry. I had spent the majority of my 30 years on earth at war with my body, and now I was finally happy! I had found love! Leave me alone!
I expect to see this kind of pushy and tone-deaf marketing from influencers on Instagram, but I thought we had been dedicating real time and effort lately in order to combat this message in mainstream media. I was wrong; the New York Times apparently felt the need to weigh in with an article titled “The Perfect Workout for Your Wedding Dress Silhouette.” After a raging backlash from women like me on social media, the Times attempted to do damage control by changing the headline to “Getting Married? Get Strong”—a headline that doesn’t match the article’s content, which reads as a guide for women on how to change their bodies so they can be able to “rock” a specific kind of wedding dress on their big day.
Wearing a trumpet dress? The Times’s expert says this dress calls for a small waist and big hips, giving exercise routines to specifically “shape your hips and reduce the size of your waist, as well as tone your arms and abdomen.” An earlier version of the story—which has been “condensed” to take out some of the more offensive lines, including this one—suggested swimming as a way to burn calories before the big day, but warned against overdoing it “so that your back does not get too wide.”
Ma’am. If I am planning a wedding, you’re telling me I have to worry about how wide my back is? Thanks for the tip.
In the run-up to my wedding six months ago, I vowed to not let my body issues get to me. I didn’t want to miss such an important and special time in my life, the way I have in the past. The night I graduated from college, my hair wasn’t cooperating and I couldn’t find anything in my closet to wear. Long story short, I stayed home and missed the campus-wide celebration, sulking around my apartment because I felt I wasn’t inhabiting a body that “deserved” to have fun. That was 10 years ago and I still think about it with regret. I will never be a college graduate again. That’s over. I was not going to make the same mistake for my wedding.
Wedding dress shopping was a nightmare. I am a size 12, which roughly translates to a size “sorry, we go up to an 8” in wedding dress boutiques. I would see dresses I loved only to find I couldn’t even try them on. The average woman in America is a size 14! I ended up using a startup called Anomolie, which designs custom wedding gowns. I loved the experience, mostly because it didn’t include me having to be humiliated before spending thousands of dollars on a dress I’d only wear once.
In the months before my "big day," I gained 20 solid pounds. I didn’t mean to, but I was feeling rather defiant. My dress didn’t fit as well on my wedding day as it had when I had been measured for it five months earlier, but I refused to let myself fall prey to the wedding culture that tells me I still have work to do before I deserve to be happy. I ate a cheeseburger after my rehearsal dinner. I didn’t step on a scale until long after I said “I do.”
Want to look good in your wedding dress? Choose one that you absolutely love. You’ll feel good in it when you put it on, and unlike the ones you tried on before it, you won’t want to take it off in the dressing room.
Want to look good in your wedding dress? Remember, the wedding is one day—what you’re really here for is the life you get to share afterwards.
Want to look good in your wedding dress? Put it on. Walk down the aisle lined with everyone who loves you. Remember that the person standing waiting for you at the end loves you just the way you are. And remember, above all, to love yourself more than you love a dress.
Originally Appeared on Glamour