I recently got engaged (yay!) and while I don’t subscribe to mainstream bridal propaganda (AKA Big Bridal) , I’m more than aware of the pressure brides-to-be endure when it comes to how they should look. From “sweating for the wedding” to “bridal boot camps,” cleanses, detoxes, weight loss programs, hair extensions, spray tanning, and tiny sample size dresses, it’s almost impossible to be engaged and not feel like you need to “fix” yourself to fit the West’s cultural ideal of a beautiful bride (typically young, White, hetero, cis, thin and able-bodied – and perhaps a bit meek).

Here’s why you don’t need to manipulate your body before you get married:

You don’t need another thing to worry about.

Nothing good comes of weight loss attempts, restricting food or over-exercising.

The focus should be on gratitude and excitement .

Here are 5 self-care strategies to focus on instead:

With the added stress wedding planning brings, it’s extra important to take care of yourself. This means feeding yourself in a way that gives you energy and satisfaction, engaging in joyful movement that helps you feel better mentally and physically, getting enough rest and drinking enough fluids.

Eat enough food to fuel your day and satiate your appetite. Long days get even longer with wedding planning happening before and after work. You might have appointments that creep into meal time or unexpected issues that require your time and attention. The last thing you need is hanger causing a drop in your energy and patience. If you haven’t already, develop a system to help you prevent going too long without eating or drinking. Try keeping snacks and a reusable water bottle in your bag, car, desk, etc.

Because we all know wedding planning means spending crackdown time, making meals at home may become a priority. Stock your fridge and pantry with basic meal components so you’re ready to throw together an affordable and tasty meal without spending too much time in the kitchen or depending on Thai takeout for the third time in a week. Now is likely not the time to experiment with a lot of new recipes or hop on the latest food trend bandwagon. Find your staples and eat what you like.

Move your body in ways that make you feel good. This can change from day to day and even throughout the day. If you’re not sure what kind of movement you enjoy, experiment with various types (the Internet has loads of free videos). Never underestimate the power of gentle stretching, walking and body weight exercises. You don’t need a gym membership or home equipment to engage in mental and physical health-promoting movement.

Prioritize sleep. We all know the feeling of “just 5 more minutes” turning into 2 more hours and then stumbling to your bed at midnight dreading your alarm in a few short hours. If you’re already not getting enough sleep, try moving your bedtime back 15 minutes each night until you reach a reasonable bedtime that will allow you to get 7 to 9 hours of shut-eye. Beware of the caffeine trap: consuming caffeine to help you feel awake during the day, but then not being able to fall asleep because you’re too wired from the caffeine. Vicious cycle. If you’re in a midday slump, try getting out for a walk and drinking some water. Movement, fresh air, sunshine and hydration are powerful when it comes to feeling energized.

Create an arsenal of self-care items. If you have been neglecting your self-care, you might not even know what helps you feel good (and while wine is magical, let’s try to think of things other than alcohol that help us relax). Figure out what that is and keep things at the ready to help you unwind. For some people it’s yoga, for some it’s a steamy bath, for others it’s meditating. For you it might be reading a trashy novel or simply lying in bed snuggling with your pet. Whatever it is, get what you need (Candles? Bath bombs? Lavender essential oil?) and make a little box of self-care goodies.

Know your boundaries and don’t be afraid to draw the line. The most consistent piece of advice I’ve received from engaged and married people is to do what you want and not let other peoples’ preferences dictate your plans. If you need some assistance in this department, I suggest you listen to the Bridechilla podcast. I found this podcast shortly after getting engaged and I can’t tell you enough how much I love having a sassy and hilarious Aussie assure me I don’t need to give a s*** about X, Y or Z if I don’t want to. From an out-of-control guest list to burdensome traditions you don’t care about, decide what you and your partner want and stick to it.

 

I’d love to hear some words of wisdom from those of you who’ve survived planning a wedding – what’s your self-care advice for brides-to-be?

 

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