What Can I Do to Help My Bridesmaids to Chill about Their Bodies?

I haven't asked them to be my bridesmaids because of how they look

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Q: I am getting married next year and have chosen three wonderful brideswomen, a bridesman, and a bridesgirl (my younger sister). Of the adult women who are kindly rocking up to support me on my wedding day, all of them have mentioned losing weight for my wedding.

I am trying as much as possible to enable them to feel confident on my big day. I have said it would be cool for them all to pick their own dresses in a similar color—so people can wear what they feel comfortable in—and at no point have I mentioned losing weight! I am not even planning on putting that kind of pressure on myself. I can understand why people want to—and if I lose weight as a result of being healthy between now and then, that’s fine and everything—but it’s not my goal.

We are all a similar size to each other, but even if we weren’t, it wouldn’t matter. I haven’t asked them to be my bridesmaids because of how they look.

What should I do? They’re all grownups, and I can’t force body positivity—but I hate the idea that my wedding has caused them to feel bad about themselves, and nervous about trying on dresses. I also want to make sure my sister (who will be almost eleven years old at the time of our wedding) won’t pick up on any bad vibes about women’s bodies. Any suggestions would be much appreciated!

—Just the Way She Is

A: Dear JTWSI,

It’s got nothing to do with you, and it’s got nothing to do with your wedding making anybody feel bad. It’s got everything to do with the weird habits we build around our bodies. For some folks, there’s an expectation that looking nice for a wedding means losing a few pounds. Like every other off-base wedding expectation, all you need to do is chat about it honestly: “Hey, I know you said you want to lose weight, but I hope it’s not because you think I expect it.”

It’s also good to remember that sometimes really confident, body-positive people want to lose weight, and there’s nothing wrong with that—just like sometimes really confident, body-positive people don’t want to lose weight, and there’s nothing wrong with that either. We sometimes get this idea that the only healthy way to talk about weight is to pretend it doesn’t exist. And weddings, as always, only compound the problem.

But let’s assume you know all that. Maybe you’re not just having a knee-jerk reaction to weight-loss chat, but your friends really have said some terrible, self-deprecating things that give you cause for concern. Even still. It’s not up to you to determine how your friends should feel about themselves. Even if it’s your wedding. Even if you think they’re stunning. Even if they are.

So, what can you do? Well, you mentioned that little sister of yours, and I think it’s fair to ask for no negative body talk around her. The weird habits I mentioned above? Talking smack about our own bodies is definitely one of those. It’s not something most people think about. I’ve been around kids all day literally for years, and I sometimes still slip up and poke at my own appearance in front of them.

You also can help to create a body-positive atmosphere by just honestly complimenting your friends. It never hurts to let your friends know when they look good (and to be specific!). They don’t have to be weight-related comments (in fact, steer clear of those), but things like, “Your hair is on point,” and “That’s a terrific color on you,” are just nice to hear. Instead of telling other women how they shouldn’t feel, instead try telling them how you feel—especially if it’s that you love them, and you think they look great!

You can’t control whether your friends try to lose weight before your wedding. In fact, your wedding’s got nothing to do with it. But you can contribute to some body positivity by asking your friends to avoid negativity when it comes up, and chatting up how great they already are.

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