By Robin Swanson
I wore the dress. Not just any dress – MY wedding dress. And for someone who planned a low-key, no-stress wedding on the beautiful beaches of Maui, I spent more time than I care to admit fretting about getting myself in shape to look just right in that dress. As it turns out, I didn’t end up wearing the beautiful Zac Posen gown given to me by a dear friend – the very dress that started me down this path in the first place. After a few “reality check” visits with girlfriends, a seamstress and a sister who insisted that I just go to the dreaded bridal boutique to “try a few dresses on,” I discovered that a different style of dress looked better on me, even without the couture label. And let me just back up here and say that it was no easy feat getting me into that boutique – but an intervention was planned on my behalf after some friends busted me perusing online for a wedding dress.
In protest, I’d like to reiterate that I’m still not convinced that online wedding dress shopping isn’t the way to go (J. Crew has some lovely gowns), but the last conversation I had regarding this matter went down something like:
Me: “I’m looking online for a wedding dress.”
Friend: “Whose wedding are you going to?”
Friend: (Long, awkward, confused pause) What? You’re looking online for your OWN wedding dress?
Me: “Well… I have one, but I’m not sure it works. So I’m looking to buy one online now. Seems easier than going into the fussy boutiques. Is it so hard to believe that I could find a dress online?”
Friend: (Somewhat bewildered and bemused): “Not just unbelievable. Unfathomable. It took me a minute to realize that the dress we were talking about was for… your own wedding.”
She had a point. Very rarely does online shopping work out for me, (as now evidenced by the J. Crew bikini with the tags still on it in my suitcase post-honeymoon), because, as it turns out, I’m still 5’3 ½, and despite occasional delusions, clothes look a little different on the tall, lanky models than they do on me. So, I came to the realization that perhaps buying a wedding gown online wasn’t going to be my most effective approach.
And as soon as I gave the universe the slightest inkling that I might be open to actually trying on a wedding dress, forces beyond my control took over: the Bat Signal was sent up into the sky, appointments were made and I was whisked away to a bridal boutique before I could utter any more hopeless protests.
It was there – at Bella Donna Bridal Salon – that I found the dress – MY wedding dress. In fairness, I will say that this particular boutique wasn’t too fussy or pretentious, despite the horrifying scenarios I had created in my head, perhaps in part influenced by watching reality shows like “Say Yes to the Dress” or previously being forced as a bridesmaid to shop at other, larger bridal salons around town that pushed gowns more fitting for Cinderella and Snow White than for me and my simple beach wedding.
With the dress ordered, I recommitted myself to becoming the very best version of myself that I could be for my Wedding Day. By this point, I already had been fairly careful about my eating habits in the months prior, and had lost most of the weight I had gained during the stress-eating, carb-laden campaign season. But I also refused to be an obsessive, egg-white-eating, calorie-counting, chocolate-hating, “point”-configuring, wine-banishing, buzzkill bride. As I learned, the months leading up to your wedding can be almost as much of a celebration as the wedding itself – and I wouldn’t take back one single glass of wine consumed with friends or heavily-frosted cupcake devoured at a bridal shower during this time. Cellulite be damned.
Let’s be clear: it wasn’t that I had some sort of epiphany of self-acceptance after more than three decades of subjecting myself, like most women, to predictable pop-culture-induced, self-flagellating body image issues. Far from it. It’s that I wanted to have my cake and eat it too. Literally.
So I did it the only way I’ve ever really known how – I worked out – hard and often. As if Jillian Michaels were a little monkey on my back screaming at me to push myself harder, faster, stronger! Spin class? Check. High-intensity sessions with my trainer, TJ Watkins? Check. A half-marathon? Check. Body Pump class, running with friends around Curtis Park, countless hours on the elliptical? Check, check and check.
For the month leading up to my wedding, I took advantage of something I rarely have: free time. And I used that time either sweating it out at the gym or whooping it up with friends over cocktails and fine cuisine.
I also made several visits to a good seamstress, who nipped, tucked and altered the dress to fit MY body. And I was very happy with the result.
In the midst of it all, an insightful friend asked me: “Who are you trying to impress?” And boy did she hit the nail on the head.
It turns out that while I was obsessively working to reduce my gravitational pull toward the center of the Earth (that’s literally what it comes down to, ladies – remember your 7th grade science class definition of “weight”?), at the end of the day, I simply wanted to marry the man whom I love so very much. And that I did. On my Wedding Day. In my dress.
Check out Robin’s earlier posts: