I'm getting married this year and, though it'll have many of the expected trappings of a typical wedding, there are several ways in which my celebration won't be an especially traditional one. There will be a white dress and an aisle and an exchange of vows and a weepy speech by the father of the bride. But there won't be china patterns, bridal showers, engagement photos, bridesmaids or groomsmen, a church, a pastor, a veil, a bouquet toss, a cake, or anyone announcing us as Mr. and Mrs., because I decided not to change my name. There are many bridal customs we've chosen not to participate in, mostly because they didn't seem to reflect me and my partner as a couple, but also because we were too lazy to put forth the effort, too anxious about the expense, or too strapped for time given our short engagement and faraway wedding location. Also, neither of us really likes wedding cake.
And yes, people still ask what my bridesmaids are wearing, or they pair my first name with his last to see what the new moniker they assume I'm taking will sound like, and none of these expectations bother me because I know people are just well meaning and curious and want to hear about the happy celebration. I've even had people ask how happy I am that Fiancé "FINALLY made an honest woman" out of me (for the record, we haven't gotten married yet because we were seriously considering just remaining common-law life partners a la Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, but when they split we had to reevaluate). But there is one wedding tradition in which I'm not partaking that people still continually ask me about, and it does bother me — I'm annoyed and confused and a little bit offended by it. So let me answer once and for all: No, I am not going on a "wedding diet."
I've been asked about this several times in the last week alone — from the presumptuous "so how's your wedding diet going?" to the more roundabout "so are you doing anything, like, special exercise-wise before the big day?" And I'm really not a fan of the implication that A) a woman should feel obligated to spend the months before her wedding counting calories instead of celebrating freely with champagne and other caloric/delicious things; B) that I should consider a wedding diet because I should want to be smaller; C) that smaller = better and therefore we should all strive to be skinny on our wedding day and D) that my wedding day is supposed to mark some pinnacle of my physical attractiveness, when in fact I plan on getting incrementally hotter each year in perpetuity, like Jane Fonda. There are many reasons not to ask a bride-to-be if she is going on a wedding diet, and here are four of mine.
1. Going on a wedding diet is an option, not an obligation
Many of my friends have put a special focus on fitness and healthy eating before their weddings, and many of them looked happy and confident on their wedding days (then, so did many people who didn't have that focus). If you would feel more beautiful minus some belly fat or plus some defined triceps, then by all means put in the effort to ensure that you feel like a babe when you're walking down the aisle. But going on a wedding diet isn't like getting a marriage license — it's a choice, not a necessity, and you can still get hitched without one.
2. When you ask if I'm going on a diet it makes it seem like you think I should go on a diet
I'm mostly happy with the way my body looks, and if I wasn't then I very well might use my impending nuptials as motivation to make some changes. But asking how often I'm going to bridal boot camp in the leadup to my wedding is kinda like asking me if I'm going to get that freckle on my back checked out by a dermatologist — you may not be saying it explicitly, but it certainly feels like you're implying that there's something flawed about my body and I should look into rectifying it. Each time I'm asked one of these questions, out loud I say "No, I'm not really changing my diet or exercise habits before the wedding," and inside I'm saying "Shit, are you saying I need to change my diet or exercise habits before the wedding?"
3. It reiterates the idea that everyone would look better after a diet
It is a well-worn idea that you want to look more beautiful on your wedding day than you ever have in your whole life (more on that concept below). And what do people who want to look beautiful do? They go on diets — or so the influx of questions about my pre-wedding meal plan, and the demented cultural ideal that "thin equals pretty," would suggest. But here's the thing — skinnier does not necessarily equal better. I've seen brides who dieted before the big day and looked happy and glowing when it came — and I've seen brides who were so thin that they looked a bit like a stranger in that white gown. Of course you want to look great on your wedding day — but does looking great mean looking thin? No, it doesn't. And isn't it more important to look like yourself, not yourself after you went on The Biggest Loser?
4. My wedding day doesn't have to be the prettiest day of my life
Of course I want to look awesome on my wedding day. That's why I bought a killer dress and I'm paying someone a bunch of money to give me a blow out and I keep going to Sephora so the makeup artists can teach me how to do a smoky eye. But the idea that I have to look better than I ever have before and ever will again is pretty stressful and a little depressing. As is the flawed idea that better = thinner. First of all, I'm getting married at 31 so in a culture that views me as approaching over the hill, the ship has already sailed on my being at what society may view as my physical peak on my wedding day — and I'm fine with that, else I would have gotten married years ago. Secondly, in the hopes of remaining confident about myself and attractive to my mate, I'm not going to view my wedding day as some sort of hotness finish line I have to cross before I start letting myself go.
I understand why people want to feel their best at their wedding, and I understand why they will go to great lengths to achieve that feeling. But don't make me feel like I'm doing it wrong if I'm no thinner on my wedding day than I was the day I got engaged. I am certainly capable of feeling my best without being at my skinniest.