Beautiful Brides

I’m getting married in October, which means that for the past year I’ve been inundated with advice, suggestions, and checklists. My mother got me a subscription to Brides magazine, but I can’t even enjoy it, because aside from having 30 ads for every article, every issue stresses me out.

Once you and your partner decide to get married, the pressure comes out of nowhere. I am faced with worries over leg make-up, facials, waxing and tons of other stuff I can’t afford and I’m not really sure why I need. I am someone who loves cosmetics and dressing up, so if I can’t figure this stuff out, I can only imagine the amount of pressure on everyone else.

We must look perfect, and if we don’t it’s our own fault, we will be letting down not only ourselves, but our future husbands, and our families too. Of course it isn’t really true, and I know that, but sometimes it’s hard not to buy into the scare tactics that advertisers scream at you. The day I sent out our engagement announcement, my Gmail side bar filled up with ads on how to lose weight, get the perfect hair, find the perfect dress, and dozens of other promises for perfection on my wedding day. All this before it had even sunk in that I was engaged.

I’m not going to get into my feelings on weddings and the kind of wedding we are going to have right now because that’s for a whole other post, but we’re having a wedding at a hall and money is being spent. There is a lot of planning going into it, so of course you want everything to turn out alright, you want to be happy with it. I’m not talking about happy, meaning everything has to be perfect insanity on a bridezilla scale, I mean obviously lots of things are going to go wrong, that’s life. I just want to make sure that I feel good about myself, which in turn makes me feel selfish, because this whole day is about both my fiance and I, and I shouldn’t even care what I look like, but I do. I can’t be sure if it’s the fault of the bridal industry, or if it comes from an unconscious need, but yes, I want to look great on my wedding day. What bothers me is that people take that desire and exploit it when I should just be allowed to feel good without worrying about it. What’s worse is that they try to sell you products with the promise that if you use them you won’t have to worry, and if you don’t well…they told you so.

For example my hair has always been one of the things I liked about myself. I’ve had bangs for about 80 percent of my life, and now suddenly I am second guessing them. Not because I don’t like the way they look anymore, but because I have this irrational fear that my future-self might hate them and I’ll regret having them in my wedding photo. I know that is crazy, and maybe it stems from some previous sartorial and cosmetic missteps now permanently enshrined in family albums across the east coast, but It’s just that there is all this pressure.

I know I can’t blame all of this on marketing and magazines, but it does seem that as the wedding industry keeps growing, the need to feel like a beautiful bride is a huge selling point. People are shelling out thousands and thousands of dollars to ensure perfection (whatever the heck that means) on their big day. It’s so hard not to fall victim to the pressure, if I don’t starve myself I feel like I’m not trying hard enough, people will think I don’t care, because as the bride you are pinned at the center of this ordeal, everyone makes every effort to tell you you’re the center of attention. What if I don’t want to be the center of attention, what if I just want to get married and have lots of fun with my family and friends and celebrate with my new husband? I’m very grateful to be able to have a wedding, but I fear that the idea of the “beautiful bride” is put up on this standardized, imaginary pedestal, and I just don’t relate to that at all. Websites like Offbeat bride make me feel better about this, because I don’t fit, and I’m happy not fitting, the standard.

So, I’m going to pull the release and let all the pressure out, or at least try to. On my wedding day I may not have the perfect arms, or a golden youthful tan, but I will be me, and that’s who my fiance asked to marry anyway, so why pretend to be anything else?

The one thing I can’t shake being nervous about is that photo, the one that will be there for the rest of my life, sitting on mantles, representing my marriage and my youth, viewed by my future descendants, possibly the only image they will ever see of me. How could I not have high standards for that? I’ve looked at my parent’s wedding picture a thousand times, likewise for the wedding photos of most of my family members. I don’t know how they feel about their photos now, but it’s nice that it captures who they were at that moment in time when their whole life was changing. Maybe they look scared, or uncomfortable, or they’re wearing something they may regret, but all of them look happy, they look in love, they look like themselves, and because of that, of course they look beautiful, it’s that simple, no products needed.

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12 Comments

Filed under acceptance

12 responses to “Beautiful Brides

  1. Megan

    Have you ever looked at anyone in your family’s wedding photos (or in any real wedding photo, full stop) and thought the bride didn’t look good? Bride’s are in love and surrounded by the people they love. They are inherently beautiful. And so will you be; I guarantee it.

    • Justine

      I know you’re right, but it’s so hard not to give into all the pressure, no magazine is going to tell you that you will be inherently beautiful on your wedding day no matter what, they are depending on you spending crazy amounts of money. We have so many industries whose aim is to make women feel inadequate so they will buy things to make them better, and it sucks.

  2. haren

    It’s supposed to be fun. Stop stressing out!

  3. alison

    Keep your bangs for the wedding, your guests won’t recognize you without them! Actually, I remember reading in a bridal magazine that your should style your hair the way you usually wear it, because chances are you will hate the pictures bc it doesnt look like you….20 years from now someone will be looking at your wedding photo saying “you always looked amazing with bangs”

  4. I know exactly what you mean here. And it’s impossible not to stress out. Because this stuff DOES matter. It matters because we live in a culture that values these moments so highly. As someone who is terribly unphotogenic, I live in fear of my wedding photos. There is a real chance that my descendants will remember me as “That horribly ugly woman who married our great, great grandfather.”

    • Justine

      Kate, I am glad to hear I’m not the only one who worries what my descendants will think of me. I am also really unphotogenic, especially when I know I’m having my picture taken, so I’m hoping this whole “you’ll look great no matter what because you’ll be happy” thing is actually true, that would be a comfort!

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  6. ekoli

    Twenty years from now your pictures will look out of date in the fun way that your parents wedding pictures do. But when you look at them, what you think about, what you remember feeling now is what will stick out. It is soooo hard not to get caught up in the ‘most important day of your life’ mentality. It’s hard work not to buy what they are selling.

    I read this book – One perfect day: The Selling of the American Wedding – it didn’t make me down on weddings … still rolling down that aisle in a white dress, but it did help me see through all of it and remember what matters. I still recently had a meltdown … but its a process of reminding yourself to love yourself as much as he does….

    • Justine

      I’ll have to check out that book, sounds interesting! I love that line “love yourself as much as he does”—I should really try to live by that, I’m lucky I have a fiance who loves me, and I drive him nuts being so down on myself all the time!

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