Here comes... the bride?

03/05/2010 11:22 AM

04/27/2011 10:35 AM

The obsession with bridal beauty is one I never really experienced until I began my own bridal countdown. For all the ways weddings are about love and vows and a lifetime of togetherness, they've also become about the bride herself – and not just her dress, either. Her hair, makeup, accessories – even tanning and toning – have all become the subject of intense scrutiny, and therefore, have become of utmost importance.

One wedding checklist I came across advised me to start my wedding beauty routine – including diet, fitness and skincare plan - six months ahead of the big day. And on a popular wedding Web site, I found that the "beauty" section was just behind "getting engaged" and "wedding planning" – and ahead of the "grooms" tab.

For some brides, it goes even further. I read an article recently about a growing number of brides opting for cosmetic procedures, from Botox to tummy tucks to facelifts, to look best in their wedding photos and honeymoon bikinis. And a recent Cornell University study found that more than 70 percent of brides-to-be want to lose weight before their wedding. More than one-third of them planned to use extreme dieting tactics such as diet pills and fasting, and one in seven bought a bridal gown that was one or more dress sizes smaller than she normally wore.

Is this disturbing to anyone else? I'm all for women adopting healthier lifestyles, and I've known some beautiful brides who saw their engagement as motivation to start a new fitness routine or sustainable diet plan. But much of this pre-wedding weight loss isn't maintained. Instead, it's all part of a frantic rush to look "perfect" on the wedding day. And really, it's just one more thing to stress out about before the wedding and probably after, when you realize you can't keep that weight or body shape much longer.

All that being said, I understand the pressure that comes with being a bride. You're the center of attention on the wedding day (and many days leading up to it, whether it's working the room at an engagement party or sitting in the middle of a pile of presents at a shower). When you walk down the aisle, cut the cake, toss the bouquet and exit into the night, all eyes are on you. And you'll probably have more pictures taken of you that day than any other time in your life.

Pictures that last forever. And while your future children, looking back, will almost certainly make fun of your clothes and your hair, you'll want to see those photos and think, Man, I looked good. So trust me, I understand.

It's not as if I haven't been conscious of that looming event and all the pictures that come with it. Recently, I hired a hair and makeup stylist for the wedding day, and I spent the days before flipping through countless photos of celebrity hairstyles for ideas. I've also kept up what I consider to be a pretty solid routine of working out and eating (mostly) healthy, and the wedding has been in the back of my mind at times when I've caved in to that dessert or extra helping at dinner.

But really, I don't understand the desire to worry so much about how you look – or to completely change the way you look – that it makes your life miserable in the months leading up to the wedding. After all, if there's anyone you should be able to be yourself around, to feel beautiful around, it should be your fiance and the others who love you most.

And I can honestly say that of all the weddings I've been to, I have yet to see a bride who didn't look gorgeous. Because bridal beauty is about more than the dress and the hair and the makeup, and even the shape and size of the bride. The brides I've known have done all those things right, but they've also been happier and more full of life on their wedding days than ever before.

So I've approached my own wedding beauty plan with the same thoughts in mind. I'm energized about looking my best, and will continue to log some serious hours in the gym this spring. And on the wedding day, I plan to look dressed up and made up, toned and tan and all of that - but I also plan to look like myself. The way I look when I'm dressed up for a date. The way I looked when Reese and I got engaged. The way, I hope, I'll look in the years to come, as we celebrate all of life's moments together.

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