My parents are like the Jay and Bey of CPAs, so I was raised to be a penny-pincher—which is why it still kind of shocks me that I shell out $228.86 every month for my membership at 305 Fitness, a dance-cardio studio in New York City that features a live DJ in every class. Always the accountants’ daughter, I initially balked at the notion of boutique fitness: Who’d pay $30 a class at 305 (or Soul Cycle, Pure Barre, Barry’s Bootcamp, or fill in your own blank) when running outside is free? But then I burned 800 calories (if Fitbit is to be believed) in a single booty-shaking session, and—perhaps more important—fell in love with one of the DJs.
After three years of making meaningful eye contact, he asked me out. Two years after that, he proposed to me at a 305 studio. Now, as I plan my wedding and am therefore spending money like it’s going out of style, I still justify paying for 305 because (1) it works, (2) I have friends there, and (3) nothing puts a premium on wellness like an upcoming wedding. And I’m hardly alone—lots of brides-to-be are willing to ante up for healthfulness. But with all the bridal boot camps and “say yes to de-stress” cleanses out there, what’s actually considered money well spent?
These fellow brides weighed in...
Worth the money: $8 app
For Andie Diemer, 30, the buy-in was as low as $7.99 a month for the Headspace meditation app. “Whenever I felt overwhelmed or emotional, I’d go away and open it for 10 to 15 minutes. I’d return and be able to have a conversation without melting down,” she says. “I also loved that it didn’t have to be super precious. I could sit on the floor against my bed. No spa pouf needed.” A free trial teaches the basics, but Diemer says the sleep guides and mini meditations (three minutes or less!) warranted the eight-buck monthly fee.
“It sounds crazy, but sometimes even finding 10 minutes was difficult in the midst of wedding planning.”
Worth the money: $220 monthly gym membership
Before her nuptials, Rachael Lee, 28, fell in love with the gym. She acknowledges her Equinox membership required a hefty monthly payment of $220 (after the $250 initiation fee), compared with some average-Joe gyms that charge closer to $15 a month. But she’s made peace with the price given the club’s amenities: Unlimited group fitness classes, fully stocked locker rooms with free hair and body products, steam rooms and saunas, and lavender-scented towels “make you feel luxurious,” she says. “But the biggest perk was how I felt stronger almost immediately and saw real results within two months.”
Worth the money: $349 for five days of prepared meals
Kelsey Arnold, 30, decided her impending wedding was the time for a serious investment in her health, not some “crazy quick-fix diet that would make me feel crappy,” she says. She landed on Sakara’s food-delivery service of three ready-to-eat meals a day, plus its Detox Tea and Detox Water Concentrates. In a year, she lost 40 pounds, and the benefits weren’t just from the no-brainer meals: “My workouts felt easier, and my other food choices were more informed,” she says. At $349 for five days, Sakara is considerably more expensive than, say, a cook-it-yourself kit from Blue Apron (around $40 for three dinners for two) or a weight loss service like Nutrisystem (three meals and a snack for about 10 bucks a day).
“But it’s hard to put a price tag on something that changes your life,” says Arnold, who estimates she spent upward of $3,000 on Sakara this year. “Watching my now-husband eat burgers and fries was essentially torture, but my reward was waking up feeling healthier and happier every day.”
Worth the money: $800 a month for a personal trainer
If you’re after that radical before and after, you may benefit the most from the individualized attention of a personal trainer. Just ask Carly de Castro, 34, a founder of Pressed Juicery and the Chalkboard Mag, who worked out with Andrea Speir of Speir Pilates in Santa Monica, California, for the six months before her wedding. For the “personalized routine, focus, and accountability” that de Castro loved, she coughed up roughly $800 a month—about $5,000 all in. De Castro started training when she got engaged because she wanted to lose the baby weight from her one-year-old and improve her bad posture.
She trained twice a week with Speir, and after a few months, de Castro says, “my back, abs, and waist totally leaned out.” (She tracked results based on wedding-dress fittings that got “better and better.”) But those weren’t her greatest takeaways: “Feeling confident and standing tall on my wedding day was the ultimate gift to myself,” she says. “Seeing a personal trainer regularly during this stressful time is like having a therapist who wants you to feel your best—and who can hold you accountable for that each week.”
More Affordable (or Free!) Fitness Options
Tone It Up, toneitup.com
Whether you’re looking for daily workouts, nutrition plans, or cute athleisure, cofounders Karena Dawn and Katrina Scott can oblige.
Fitness Blender, fitnessblender.com
Created by a married couple who are personal trainers, Fitness Blender boasts hundreds of free exercise videos of varying lengths.
Kayla Itsines, kaylaitsines.com
Itsines’s adored Bikini Body Guide sessions (at $20/month) are a superdoable 28 minutes.
Food Heaven Made Easy, foodheavenmadeeasy.com
Registered dietitians Jess Jones and Wendy Lopez provide nutritious recipes that don’t cost a lot or taste like dirt.
Social media star Cassey Ho (who married in October!) offers free calendar guides of her YouTube Pilates videos.
Fit Bottomed Girls, fitbottomedgirls.com Get a body-positive take—plus recipes and workouts— from fitness pros Jennipher Walters and Kristen Seymour.
This story originally appeared in the February/March 2019 issue of Brides, on stands starting December 18.