Of all the stressors related to weddings, few are as crushing as the pressure to look perfect. Instead of feeling like you need to go under the knife in order to feel your best on the big day (you don't!), you can cultivate a healthy glow from the inside out by adopting a thoughtful, measured wellness regimen. After all, what’s the point of looking beautiful on the outside if on the inside, you feel like an anxious, sickly mess?
Remember, too, that weddings tend to be more like marathons than sprints, so you’ll need to amp up your energy while balancing your emotions so you don’t burn out (and can remain resilient when your mom suddenly refuses to share a table with your dad two days before the ceremony). It doesn’t matter how clear your skin is if your face is 50 shades of red from crying in the days before your wedding…right?
To help you achieve sanity, physical well-being, and that photo-perfect glow, nutritionists provide pre-wedding tips for sanely optimizing your body, mind, and soul in the month leading up to your wedding.
First and foremost, says nutritionist Whitney English, crash diets are not the answer. “I can't urge you enough—don't go there," she says. "Crash diets will not only make you feel like crap, they're also terrible for your long-term health and won't make a huge difference in how that dress fits anyway. Plus, your [partner] wants to marry you—not you minus five pounds of water-weight after you dehydrated yourself on a two-week cleanse."
Instead, English recommends focusing on nourishing yourself so you’ll feel “strong and vibrant” on your big day. “Aim to eat five to seven servings of fruits and vegetables a day,” she says. “At each meal, balance your plate with a source of complex carbohydrates, like quinoa or farro; with a good source of protein, like beans, fish, or tofu; and a healthy fat to fill you up, like avocado or olive oil.”
Lisa Hayim a.k.a. theWellNecessities, likewise recommends a pre-wedding dietary approach which encourages adding foods rather than eliminating them. “Unless there is medical need (GI complaints), I would not require a bride to start removing foods from her diet,” she says. “Instead, I would opt for having them add in foods they may not be eating—more raw veggies like cucumbers, more cooked water-dense veggies, and fish a few times a week,” echoing English’s advice. However, she does add a caveat to this anti-diet advice. “I would also have them start to look into added sugars and see if there is room to decrease and eliminate anything unnecessary that could cause cravings and blood sugar spikes and drops, that could mess with digestion and clear skin,” says Hayim.
You can start this pre-wedding diet as early as you’d like, but at least a month prior is recommended for best results. As for the day-of, Hayim reiterates how critical it is to avoid deprivation as a strategy. “You won't have fun and you will likely be starving for the party,” she says. “Instead, focus on small snacks and meals throughout the day, e.g. fruit, a handful of nuts, and lean protein—get some fuel in every few hours leading up to the party.”
Alcohol and caffeine
You’re going to look and feel your best if you reduce your alcohol intake in the weeks leading up to your wedding; however, Hayim says booze restrictions are very specific to each person. “For some, having a few drinks a week does not mess with their routine; for others this plays a role in sleep and the foods they choose to eat,” she says. “Finding a good balance involves taking a look at your current drinking habits and seeing if you can scale down.”
With that said, she warns against quitting altogether unless you plan to stay sober throughout the festivities. “You don't want to go cold turkey and then bring it all back during the wedding or honeymoon,” she says. In other words, you don’t want to obliterate your tolerance in advance of several days’ worth of partying, unless you’re dying for the worst hangover of your life. Since alcohol can leave you both dehydrated and puffy, she and English both advise abstaining at your rehearsal dinner, however.
As for caffeine, English advises “taking it easy” on the day of your wedding. “Though you may feel the need for extra energy, you'll likely have enough pre-wedding jitters as it is,” she says.
First and foremost, English advises looking at exercise not so much as a way to stay in shape but as a counterbalance to wedding stressors. “Spend this time participating in mood-boosting activities that are beneficial for mind and body,” she says. “Take a couple's yoga class or try a kundalini meditation session.”
As the wedding gets closer and your energy is drained by your mother-in-law (just kidding—kinda!), English suggests upping the ante with 30 minutes of activity daily. “It doesn't have to be an intense hour-long spin class,” she says. “Even 30 minutes of power-walking around your neighborhood or enjoying a few games of beach volleyball with your friends will help keep those stress hormones in check and your energy level high.”
As for attaining those Michelle Obama arms in time for your ceremony snaps, Hayim recommends adding some strength training into your regimen without going to extremes or punishing yourself in the process. “If anything, let yoga be your best friend—it will not only lengthen and tone, but it will calm the mind and unify the body,” she says.
On the stress tip, Hayim recommends adding functional foods into your diet to balance your moods and mediate the effects of pre-wedding headaches. “Medicinal mushrooms and adaptogens are key to combating cortisol,” she says. “Reishi mushrooms and maca root are two of my favorites.”
She further recommends designing morning and evening rituals to keep yourself sane, making nature a priority and adding meditation “to balance the busy mind” into your routine.
In addition to the maca and reishi, Hayim recommends chamomile for stress and energy support. Hayim also prescribes digestive help via natural ingredients such as organic aloe, peppermint, coriander, and artichoke. For vanity’s sake, she suggests Perfect Hair Skin and Nails from New Chapter Vitamins. “It’s one of my favorite supplements,” she says. “It's made with fermented biotin and astaxanthin, a sea algae with UV blocking properties and antioxidant that fights free radicals,” she says. (Always make sure to check with your doctor before adding in a new supplement to your routine, as some people react differently to certain ingredients.)
See more: 6 Foods to Eat When You're Stressed
“Sleep is so important during this stressful time,” says Hayim, who recommends eating dinner two hours before bed, investing in lavender spray, and clearing the bedroom of tech devices as strategies for optimizing your zzz’s in the week’s leading up to your wedding.
As for the night before, when sleep may seem like a pipe dream but is oh so necessary if you’re hoping to glow the next day, Hayim cautions against trying anything new in the realm of sleep aids. (In other words, no prescription pills your third cousin bought in Mexico, please). “I would say not to try anything the night before, but leading up to [the wedding], experiment with melatonin or magnesium,” she says. Hayim also recommends trying sleep-casts from the meditation app Headspace. “These are effective and research-backed,” she says. “They lull you to sleep.” Beauty sleep, that is.