Perfection is not a Wedding Style

Real Beauty Women

Happiness is not a size.

Last Friday I had my last wedding dress fitting.  Instead of the elation I wanted to feel, I immediately felt…disappointed.  A bit of a failure.  And entirely un-bridal.

You see, I bought the dress over a year ago, in a flurry of sample sale negotiation, and then quickly pushed the thought out of my head.  I was nervous about the dress, it’s slim-fitting lines, its total lack of ball gown to hide  my body.  I called my mom,  nervous, upset, and scared.  I was worried that even though I loved my new dress (it has lace. and sparkles. and an epic train.) that I would look “fat.”  As someone who straddles the size 10-12 barrier, I dread the thought of being fat,  and I vowed to lose weight before the “Big Day.”

Nevermind the fact that like most women in their twenties, I’m  busy.  The whole being a graduate-student-job-seeking-newly-engaged person?  It’s a busy life.  And I usually don’t feel fat.  Except when I look at her. Or her. Or all the other radiant, size 2 brides that populate the WIC and bridal blogs.  Somehow, the constant barrage of wedding media has convinced me that being uber-skinny is a prerequisite for being a successful bride.  And if I can’t mold my size 10 body into a size 2 bride, I will have failed.  And I hate to fail. 

But Friday, I crumbled.  I stared into the mirror, desperately hoping to feel like a radiant bride…and disappointed that I felt like myself.  Because in the face of the wedding dream, feeling like myself didn’t feel like enough. 

And yet, I write about weddings being authentic.  I tell my newly engaged friends that their wedding is “perfect” simply because it is their wedding.  I talk about not feeling jealous if you can’t have charivari chairs, and that sometimes the best weddings are small, at-home affairs instead of expensive, lavish events.   I tell my own body-conscious friends that they are beautiful and that they are loved.

So why is it so hard to tell myself the same thing? Why do I worry that everyone will think my arms are fat instead of hoping that they are moved by our ceremony? Why do I dread the eventual wedding photo album, instead of realizing that everyone will look at my laughing face and not at my “fat” arms?

Why do any of us torment ourselves with feelings of inadequacy, and convince ourselves that we have failed?

I mean, we all have something that bothers us, right? A little voice inside our head that says “you’re not really a bride, unless…”. If it weren’t for that little voice, wedding planning would be easy and there wouldn’t be an entire industry dedicated to telling us how to “get it right.”  I mean, really.  We are so scared of getting our weddings “wrong” that we let strangers tell us how to get them “right.”  I let people I have never met dictate the way I feel about my wedding dress.  This has to stop.

I’ll start.

I promise to wear my beautiful dress and to not analyze every bump & lump under it.

I promise to be present on my day and to smile as often as possible – not just when I see the camera.

I promise to fight really, really, really hard to enjoy my wedding photos.

And I promise to resist the urge to photoshop in skinny-bride arms.

Essentially, I promise to accept that my “imperfections” are not a failure, but instead what makes me unabashedly me.  Oh, and I promise to like me.

I promise to be authentic. 

Wedding is a Party not a Performance

A wedding is a Party not a Performance.

We need to bring authenticity back to our weddings.  We need to embrace our own meaning of love, of commitment, and way of celebrating with our friends.  We need to encourage each other to resist feeling like a failure if our arms aren’t skinny, if we’re not serving a five-course, French service dinner, if we’re having the dreaded dry wedding.  We need to know deep down that we have not failed if our weddings aren’t “perfect.”  

And we need to stop aiming for perfection.  The point of our engagements is not to turn our ugly-duckling-nemesis into a swan...it’s the time to bring two families together, to set the foundation for marriage, and to plan an authentic ceremony and celebration (even if it’s a celebration for two).

I am asking you to seek authenticity over perfection.  And to help someone else do the same.  To tell another bride that it’s okay if her wedding doesn’t look like a something out of a magazine.  To tell her to stop worrying about trying to be a swan.   To tell her she doesn’t have to resort to a feeding-tube diet to be radiant on her wedding day.  And to tell yourself that you will not judge your wedding because someone tells you that it’s not wedding-enough.  To trust yourself to get it right.

Because those magazine shoots that are perfectly styled? They. Are. Fake.

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22 thoughts on “Perfection is not a Wedding Style

  1. I can’t express to you how much I love this post, and how deeply it has moved me! I absolutely relate to the skinny-arm pressure. :( I’m totally inspired to write about a similar sentiment I have developed during these final weeks…

    I have never seen a bride who hasn’t looked beautiful on her Big Day, regardless of height, weight, hair colour, dress, make-up, skin tone, whatever!! The glow of your love will radiate through you and I’m sure your husband-to-be will be speechless. From one bride to another, hang in there sister. Xo

    • Thank you for your comment! And I agree – I believe that all brides are radiant on their wedding day.

      Btw, my groom was just floored by the fact that the WIC (wedding industry complex) actually styles fake weddings that look like real weddings…as if there aren’t enough beautiful weddings?

  2. As a size 8-12 bride to be I understand completely. Your words touched me. When I first began physically shopping for a dress I soon realized that the Wedding Industry has changed how they size their dresses, instead of wearing what I would normally wear (anywhere from a size 8-12) I had to try on dresses that were anywhere from a 14-16. At that point, I was felt even bigger. When coupled by the fact that I was trying on dresses at one place next to size 2 high school girls who were trying on prom dresses just made me feel worse. All of the dresses I thought would look amazing on me seemed to make me feel blah. I critiqued my arms, my shoulders, my small size B breasts, my middle age spread, and my bubble butt. Instead of feeling beautiful, I felt fat, old, and ugly. However, the next time I went to try on dresses, a beautiful plus size woman was trying dresses on as well, and she rocked each dress. She walked out of the fitting room and made that dress hers. And she looked beautiful. I wasn’t criticizing her arms or how broad her shoulders were or how wide her waist was or the size of her butt. Instead I was looking at how beautiful her face was, how she glowed as she strutted her stuff, and how curvy and feminine she looked. That is when it hit me, “Lissa, she’s confident and happy and it shows. She’s not worried about her size she’s worried about which dress is THE DRESS for HER.”
    BTW, I am 44 years old, a mother with a 23 year old son and a 20 year daughter, and I will be a grandmother in July (right before I turn 45), and my fiance is about to turn 34. (I’m a cougar, LOL!) When I walk down the aisle toward my groom in my gun metal grey tea length wedding dress he is going to think I am gorgeous, he’s not going to be looking at the size of my arms (which my daughter calls my guns, with good reason. My arms are big. Or how broad my shoulders are, Or how little my breasts look in a strapless dress (since I don’t have that overflowing cleavage thing going on that a lot of women seem to be able to pull off). I’ll be radiant.

    • I definitely understand how bridal sizing is a shock – my size 8-12 (mostly 10’s) is in real-world sizing, not bridal gowns! And you WILL be a beautiful bride (and honestly, normally I like my “big” arms because they are strong arms). It’s just hard to un-entrench ourselves from what the media says “weddings” are – whether it’s wearing a certain size, or a big diamond ring, or whatever. (Even when I spend all day exploring options!)

      I am excited to see pictures of you in your dress – the one you posted looked really pretty!

      • I loved your post. My ring is a family heirloom. My dress is non-white. Like you, normally I don’t mind my “guns” but when my aunt took pics of us for our engagement pics I realized how big they looked in pics. My daughter and fiance say that the pics do make me look bigger–that in real life I do not look as big. LOL! Not sure if that makes feel better or worse, since I’m now wondering how my wedding photos will look if I look bigger on film. We’re doing the DIY Photography thing. We’re going to have someone take some before wedding photos (professionally done), but skip the wedding shoots and instead let our friends and family take pics. I’m beginning to despise wedding/bridal magazines and really wish that there were real life bridal magazines…

        • Oh, oh I agree about the “real” life magazines..

          And I cannot wait to see the DIY photography! Having pictures taken before/diy-ing the event is one of my favorite ideas to balance the budget…can’t wait to see it!

  3. Seriously inspiring post! I have four months to go and ping-pong week to week between working out and gorging on chocolate. I don’t seem to have a middle ground! But you’re absolutely right – it’s about loving yourself and your partner and being happy with whatever beautiful hodge-podge wedding the two of you have put together. After all, it won’t look like the picture perfect magazines, but it’s the day you’re marrying the love of your life, so whatever happens, however you look, however drunk your dad gets and however much it rains, it will be absolutely perfect.

    • I definitely understand ping-ponging – and right now during exam periods, it’s pretty much all “pong.” It’s just a bit funny at times – I believe our weddings are actually better if they don’t look like a styled photoshoot, because that means they are authentic & real. And yet, I am hard on myself if I don’t look like a styled bride-model! (Oh, the irony…)

      • Haha, I completely understand! I think it’s about striking the balance between wanting to look the best you can and being reasonable about being you and not some airbrushed version of the you you think you should be (which, incidentally, is not the you your fiance proposed to).

  4. I wish you could see what I saw when I looked at you in your wedding dress … The Most Beautiful Woman In The World!!!!

  5. Sara-

    I found you as I was creating a blog post from my most recent shoot- the one you link to last in which you say “They.Are.Fake.” I was the stylist and coordinator for the shoot. And yes, while these are not real weddings, inspiration shoots are the opportunity for the artist in all of us to break through and create things not normally requested by brides and grooms. We stretch our creative legs, whip out our glue guns to make something we may never get to make again, and pour our heart and soul into the angle of every wine glass and flower. It is the chance to work with wonderful new vendors (who we can then recommend to couples and vouch for) and build relationships with new venues for creative couples in search of something unique. Consider this our extra-curricular research. This is never a chance to tell the world what we think a bride should look like. I love your focus on being authentic.

    At my company, we encourage brides to think outside the box- to think for themselves about what inspires them on a daily basis. The model you saw in that shoot is my very best friend. She is a hippie-school teacher from the mountains of Asheville, and as we created this shoot, I thought to myself, “what would inspire Carleigh? How would Carleigh do this?” The man playing her groom is her boyfriend and it was amazing for all of us to see them playfully act as bride and groom which deepened their sweet relationship.

    As a woman going through my own engagement, and getting married later this fall, it is my goal to be true to my unique-self and my equally unique partner. I feel fortunate to not live in a time where I am restricted to having a six tier cake and a fluffy white dress that costs as much as I make in six months-simply because that is not me. But if it is something a client wants, she should have it. We are not the brides our mothers were- heck we are not even the brides of 10 years ago! I will be satisfied with my wedding if I can show the pictures to my future adult children and say “look how in love daddy and I were. This was the happiest day of our life together before we knew you.”

    • I am so glad that you posted! I apologize for my delay – I just got back from a final exam :-P.

      I do think that initially the idea of photo shoot was a bit much for me (my thought being, aren’t there enough real weddings to choose from?), but when termed as extra-curricular research then it doesn’t seem much different than my own sharing of ideas/diy projects/etc. (Particularly if and when you choose to style unique weddings, with a variety of sizes/colors/etc.) I love the aesthetic of your website; but, moreover, I love the attitude you are bringing to your own wedding and those you help plan. You’ve broadened my perspective today – thank you!

      Congrats on your engagement!

      (PS – I must have instinctively chosen this shoot – my best friend is a hippie from the hills of Asheville, and we are actually each other’s bridesmaids one week apart. And I am positive she would be impressed with the “greenness” of the wedding!)

  6. Hear hear, sister!! We hear so much about brides wanting their weddings to be “perfect”… I want my wedding to be unique, memorable, totally “us”- a fabulous party that reflects us and doesn’t stress us out financially. if that all happens, then I’ll say my wedding was perfect, but it’s not the goal.
    I too felt weird wedding dress shopping. I’m normally a size 8, but apparently that will make me a size 10 in the wedding world. Why anyone would want to make a bride feel self conscious in her gown is beyond me. Ironically my second dress fit better and it’s a stretchy lace size 8 so go figure.
    I don’t even know you, but you will be beautiful on your wedding day!! and I hope you are pleasantly surprised that you don’t have to try hard at all to love your photos.
    Now sheesh, aren’t you getting married in two weeks? how do you even have the time to blog?!

    • Haha I am getting married in 4.5 weeks..and I’m not sure how! I suppose with the long engagement I had time to plan. And I’ll admit, I hired a month-of coordinator. I have to start my out-of-state summer internship in 3 weeks, so it was worth it to me to have someone on hand.

      I like your mantra “a fabulous party that reflects us and doesn’t stress us out financially.” I think that it really. I believe weddings should be fabulous, and we shouldn’t feel “guilty” if we opt for something fancy. But we should also be practical and not let our budget stress our finances.. excellent way to put it!

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  8. sara, i stumbled upon your blog via facebook, and i am so grateful that i did. i, too, am getting married this summer (less than 2 months away!) and 100% share your philosophies about being authentic and relationship focused when it comes to weddings. i never felt better than the day i unsubscribed to all of the wedding industry blogs i followed. instead i looked to offbeat bride – though their inspirations often skew to the very nontraditional, i love their rational approach and they have amazing suggestions for readings and music!
    this post in particular really touched me. being a non size 2 and trying to be my “best self” for photos that i’ll look at for a lifetime has totally and completely stressed me out. no more. thank you for being gorgeous, inside and out.

    • I’m glad you stumbled over! I definitely went through a period of non-wedding blogs…I like offbeat bride as well (though I’m not quite as offbeat, lol). It’s really hard not to be an incredible amount of pressure on ourselves to do everything “perfectly” and I have yet to talk to a bride who doesn’t feel pressure regarding her looks.

      Congrats on your upcoming wedding! We have 1 month and 1 day until ours…sometime between final exams and starting an internship I’ll finalize those details!

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