The week before my wedding, I stood in a small room at the tailor’s as a woman zipped me into my beautiful dress. “It looks great,” I enthused, admiring myself in the mirror. My body looked strong, lean, and healthy. The seamstress pursed her lips, cocked her head, and nodded. “So we’ll just bring it in a bit more,” she announced. “We want it snug on the big day.”
“Bring it in more?” I echoed in confusion. “It’s pretty tight already.”
“Oh, you’ll lose more weight before then,” she said cheerfully, already busy with a handful of pins. But my wedding is in ten days, I thought helplessly. I don’t want to lose more weight!
Shortly after I got engaged, my best friend since childhood asked if I was going to go on a diet before my wedding. She asked in a way that implied I would be foolish to do so, and I showed my agreement with her by making a joke about cake tastings being the best part of wedding planning (duh, they totally are!). But somewhere between making the guest list and researching florists, I decided to make a commitment to losing five to ten pounds.
One thing I know about myself, and you should know about me too, is that I am a stress eater. While other girls may complain of stomachaches and instantly shrink a pants size when life is overwhelming, my stress-induced stomachaches have different underlying causes: brownie batter, Cheez-Its, tortilla chips, and cereal eaten directly from the box. So while wedding planning brings out the best in certain Pinterest-savvy ladies, I was plagued with insomnia, bouts of crying, and unproductive conversations with my sisters regarding their bridesmaid dresses. All I asked was that the dress be pink, but you would have thought I’d asked them to hand-stitch wool frocks from sheep they grew themselves.
All this is to say, my attempts to lose weight were conducted in a vortex of anxiety that prompted cravings for everything sugary and salty in sight. However, I persevered—partly because working out is always what’s kept me sane and partly because I have a competitive streak and partly because my goal seemed realistic, healthy, and doable. Also, my dress was strapless, and if I was hitting the gym five days a week, I demanded to have the toned arms to show for it!
So I did it. I achieved the weight I wanted and felt happy about—but the seamstress didn’t seem to think it was enough.
As she zipped me out of the dress, I remembered a story shared by a friend who discovered she was pregnant a few months before her wedding. When she went in for a fitting, the seamstress muttered under her breath in Russian. Unbeknownst to the seamstress, the bride had brought our Russian-born friend with her, who later translated the woman’s remarks. “Most women lose weight before the wedding,” she’d said disapprovingly. “This one gained weight!” What could the bride do but laugh and maybe shrug her shoulders at the entire wedding industrial complex—the blogs, the magazines, the television shows all conspiring to tell you that this is the biggest day of your life, the most important day of your life, the day that you must be your best-looking (read: skinniest) self.
My wedding day arrived, and it was a battle between my mom, my sisters, and the dress. No, not my sisters’ lovely pink bridesmaids dresses—they succeeded in finding dresses they liked and they looked stunning—it was my dress that caused problems. They tugged at the zipper. They told me to breathe in as deeply as possible. They stood back and eyed the situation with hands on hips. They took turns holding the top edges of the dress while another held the bottom part and the third grasped the zipper in sweat-slippery fingers. It’s a good thing I have so many sisters. Ladies, the struggle was real.
The dress zipped up, but they confessed afterward that they didn’t think we were going to make it.
I won’t regale you with the details of the wedding. It was everything the blogs and magazines and television shows said it would be, and so much more. The day was perfect. And yet, the dress compressed my ribs so tightly, especially after our amazing taco buffet dinner, that at times I had to stop and take a big gulp of air. I danced so exuberantly that it’s possible I would have been out of breath anyway, but the viselike grip on my chest didn’t do me any favors. When I changed into a stretchy lace dress for the after-party, it was like putting on the best pair of lounge-around-home-on-a-Sunday-sweatpants ever invented.
I was able to eat a chocolate cupcake on the ride to the after-party without feeling the sharp edges of a built-in corset jabbing my organs with every bite. It was bliss on so many levels.
Here’s what I finally realized: While it’s true that my husband and I were the stars of the show, and while it’s true that I’ve never had so many photos taken of me in a year, much less in the span of a few hours, and while it’s true that everyone was looking at us—no one was evaluating my size. Some would say I learned that lesson too late, since I’d already lost the weight by then, and maybe they’re right. Did I enjoy having a smaller waist and buffer arms? I admit that I did. Would I do it again? Probably. Was it a healthy weight for me? It was indeed. Did I need to lose more, more, more? Absolutely not.
Nobody cared what I weighed on my wedding day. No one was staring intently at my hips, butt, or thighs. They were looking at my beaming smile and my teary eyes and my wild dance moves. The number one thing everyone said to me after the wedding was that they had never seen a happier bride. I simply couldn’t stop smiling. That was the real triumph of the day.