My wedding dress was a size larger than I usually wear. Despite the fact that my mum cried when I stepped out of the change room and it made a swish-swish sound as I walked and the sequins kind of made me look like a mermaid, I nearly didn’t buy it because of the size issue.
You’re not meant to go up a size on your wedding day, I said fretfully to my mother, knowing that what I was saying was spiteful, to myself and all the other women who had measured themselves up against their secret wedding Pinterest boards and found themselves lacking. I knew that sizes vary across labels and are quite meaningless. I knew that most of the time I didn’t really mind my distinctly medium-sized body.
I had thought that I knew too much about the “wedding-industrial complex” to get too swept up in it. But there I was, standing in front of that gilded mirror with a very nice salesperson who spoke about me being a bride in a hilariously reverent tone, feeling bad that I wasn’t as excited as she was.
According to 2007 research from Cornell University, 70 per cent of engaged women plan on losing weight for their wedding, with the general goal being about 10 kilograms. And that’s what I witnessed friends and colleagues do. Like the workmate who told me that she ate only broccoli and tuna in the weeks leading up to her wedding. Or the friend who fainted on an all-protein diet and had to be revived with a chocolate milkshake. Or the acquaintance who watched silently as the rest of us ate a vast spread of cakes and biscuits at a charity morning tea before noting that she was “shredding for her wedding” and was going to eat her hard-boiled egg now.
Despite being what my friend Natalie calls a “sensualist” when it comes to food, I’d wanted to be one of those brides. I became gripped by the idea that my wedding was maybe my last shot to be “the best I’ve ever looked”. What if I looked back on the photos and regretted not doing more push-ups? The fear was sour and surprising. I didn’t think I’d fall for it.
I went to a few boxing classes. In one of the classes a woman told me in a sage tone that “there wasn’t a woman more motivated than a bride-to-be”. I did an extra burpee when I really wanted to just lie down. I spent a lot of time thinking about how I really needed to “kick off ” my wedding diet. I visited a nutritionist, bought a six-week “cleanse”, started drinking (and Instagramming) green smoothies, asked every single one of my friends for their wedding diet tips. I couldn’t stop reading articles with headlines that were a variation on “bridal body boot camp”.
I didn’t lose weight.
I wrote secret, embarrassing lists about how I would regret it if I didn’t try harder to lose weight. I jotted down the things that I was going to quit – sugar, dairy (all those articles about bridal boot camp told me it was bloating), wheat (ditto) and alcohol. I half-heartedly thought about getting a colonic.
I didn’t lose any weight
I’d failed at both dieting and at being a woman who didn’t care about dieting. I was neither the triumphant bride who “hits her body goal”, nor the woman who shook off society’s expectations in a glorious, take-no-prisoners fashion.
I was maybe in purgatory. Somewhere between the people who make sweeping New Year’s resolutions that they’ll never keep, and the ones like me and Muriel Heslop in my favourite movie, Muriel’s Wedding, who secretly think that everything might change if only we could find someone to marry us/lose that weight/be somebody different.
And then I got married. In the body that had remained pretty much unchanged despite a year of willing it to. It was joyous and love-filled and we danced all night. My husband’s jaw quivered when he saw me walk down the aisle and I didn’t think about my body once. I threw up my arms with happiness and joined the spontaneous conga line.
When I think about my body now, and the year I spent planning my wedding, I know it served me well. That I was, in fact, beautiful on my wedding day. And I’m sorry that I forgot that in my fruitless foray to “find my bridal body”. Turns out it was there all along. Exactly as it was.