In Catalyst Wedding Co. editor Liz Susong's weekly column devoted to the feminist bride, she dives headfirst into the crazy history behind common wedding traditions we may take for granted. Here, she abandons her usual post of debunking wedding traditions and explores simple ways to make your pre- and post-wedding beauty routine a body-positive experience.
Most bridal beauty advice goes a little something like this: Exfoliate your lips on Sundays with an organic raw-sugar scrub beginning a year prior to your wedding; give up coffee, chocolate, and all foods darker than a Band-Aid and submerge your teeth in Clorox bleach every night; comb your hair three times a day with the hairbrush of a unicorn for those natural beach waves; quit your job to focus on your skin-care routine, which will consist of a rotating cast of avocado extract, coconut oil, and shea butter; make regular appointments to sit in the glow of 500 lightning bugs for that ethereal effect; lose 50 percent of your body fat, and then lose another 50 percent. And remember, girls, true beauty is found within.
I've had women tell me that they received unsolicited bridal beauty advice ranging from “lather your hands in lotion and wear gloves nightly” to “lose 15 pounds.” On a scale of one to 10 in helpfulness—spoiler alert—they did not find these tips helpful.
No one warns you that when you get engaged, that sparkly ring somehow becomes an invitation for an all-out barrage on your body and mental health in the name of the wedding. No matter how self-actualized you were pre-engagement, it’s nearly impossible to avoid the immense pressures to lose weight, clear up your skin, and become as soft and hairless as a baby seal.
I know it’s sort of a cliché to talk about body image as something that takes place in our minds rather than in our breasts and waists, but it’s one cliché I can live with. The number on the scale has never had a direct correlation to how I feel about my body; in fact, if I’m weighing myself at all, I’m probably not in a great place with my body image.
And so I’m offering five fail-safe tips for falling in love with your body that I believe are the only “beauty regimen” you need prior to your wedding. And this isn’t just fluff; I promise you will feel more beautiful if you adopt these habits. (And if you still want to learn how to make “skinny” cocktails, go forth and sip.)
Directions: Treat yourself to a water bottle you love that holds at least a liter of water. Keep it by your bed, and drink down the whole thing first thing every morning. Drink another liter throughout the day, and have half a liter at night before bed.
Benefits: Being hydrated, and I mean truly hydrated, is like having a magic power. You will have more energy, think more clearly, and feel a sense of wellness that you are probably unfamiliar with if your fluid intake consists of 60 percent coffee and 40 percent wine. (I see you.) You’ll probably notice that your skin looks healthier too, and you didn’t even need to spend your savings on organic creams and moisturizers.
2. Make Your Mirror Your Friend
Directions: If you have a full-length mirror that you spend time in front of each day, scrutinizing your body and appearance, do yourself a huge favor and get rid of the mirror. Do not underestimate how much this could change your life. On your regular bathroom mirror, use a glass marker to write an inspiring quote or words of encouragement at the top of your mirror. The quote doesn’t need to be directly related to beauty, but it can if it makes you feel good!
Benefits: Knowing that you’re going to spend at least 10 minutes in front of your bathroom mirror first thing in the morning and last thing at night, let this time be more reflective about what you love about yourself, what your goals are for the future, and who you want to be rather than what you want to look like. You may be surprised at how this simple reminder on your mirror shifts the quality of the intimate time you spend with your body in the bathroom.
3. Get Active and Stretch
When: Three times per week
Directions: Find a physical activity you enjoy; this activity could be as simple as going for a walk or a bike ride, or as involved as taking a class like yoga or weight lifting at the gym. Participate in this activity for at least 30 minutes three times a week. Take another 20 minutes before bed to do some deep stretches, such as these.
Benefits: This is not about losing weight. This is about getting out of your head and getting into your body, lifting your mood, and boosting your energy. This physical activity should feel like the reset button you push when wedding and job stress is overloading your mind. It’s a gift, not a punishment. While it’s easy to think you don’t have time for physical activity, try scheduling it on your calendar and making it a priority; it is essential to your sense of well-being and balance.
4. Quiet Time
When: Three times per week
Directions: Find a quiet-time ritual you enjoy, such as sipping tea without distractions for 10 minutes, walking in nature, journaling, or meditating. Dedicate 10–30 minutes for this practice first thing in the morning or last thing before bed three times per week.
Benefits: I know that the links between body love and quiet time can seem baffling, but I’m recommending quiet alone time because nothing else has had as big of an impact on my sense of contentment and well-being. We are constantly taking in information, especially before a wedding, and that stimulant overload results in stress, anxiety, and trouble sleeping. Try waking up 10 or 20 minutes early and spending some intentional time in quiet with your phone silenced a few mornings a week, and you will be shocked at how your perspective changes.
5. Show Yourself Some Love
When: Once a week
Directions: Treat yourself to lingerie or undergarments that make you feel sexy AF. Lower the lights, light a few candles, and pour yourself a glass of wine (or alcohol-free alternative) in a long-stemmed glass. Turn on some mood music. Spend a couple hours relaxing; perhaps a hot bath or a massage is in order.
Benefits: Don’t just get comfortable with your naked body; learn to view your body as sexy, sensual, and worthy of care and love. Be the one to extend that love and care. Give yourself permission to turn the internal critic off, and receive that love with grace. As you begin to detach yourself from the negative self-talk, you will feel lighter, happier, and freer to focus on what really matters: being a healthy member of a new marriage.
It’s too easy to fall into the trap of viewing your body as a never-ending project, thanks in large part to women’s media that is constantly telling us in subtle ways that we’re not good enough, that we could be better, and that we don’t measure up to everyone else. And there are many industries that profit off of women’s insecurities. When you spend more money on the latest products that promise to make you slimmer, sleeker, shinier, and softer, businesses thrive.
Weddings only intensify existing insecurities and self-hatred. You are really the only person who can give yourself permission to love yourself in spite of our cultural norms. While it may not feel natural at first, adopt these five practices, and you will be a free betch in no time.