Bridal “best selves”: when is too far?

Guest post by Renee Turner
Bridal 'best selves': when is too far?
“Be yourself and nothing else” poster from spellandtell (edited)

As with many Offbeat Bride readers, this blog was a welcome antidote to the bridal mags and blogs that represent all brides as being white, thin, tanned, and perfect. Not that there's anything wrong with those things, but when you don't fit into that round hole, the bridal industry can make you feel a bit like Square Peggy.

Aiming for perfection in any aspect of a wedding, whether it's your letter-pressed invites or sun-dappled forest grove location, is asking for tears before bedtime. Even so, it can often be easier to forgive imperfections in our homemade confections than it is to forgive them in our bodies. We can ask a lot of ourselves in our relationships, careers, homes… and appearance.

How far should we be going to be our “best selves?”

Even the most offbeat, laid-back, thrift-shop, doing-my-own-hair bride can become victim to vanity. After all, there's an unspoken rule that a bride should look her best on her wedding day. But when and what is your “best,” and are you aiming for something that's unattainable, damaging, or just plain not right for you? How far should we be going to be our “best selves?”

There has to be a point where enough is enough. Here's what to ask yourself when considering something that will change your body or appearance for your wedding day.

1. Will I look like me?

Do the nail salon ladies know you by first name and rush over with the latest designs when you arrive? Do you change your hair's colour/cut/extension more often than LiLo changes rehabs? Do you wear contacts regularly? If not, then why consider fake nails, hair extensions, and contacts for your wedding day? Don't get caught up in what brides should have. The only things you should have are ones that make you feel comfortable and like yourself.

For example, I've never had fake nails in my life and am naturally klutzy. Adding talons to my hands before spending hours in an expensive dress was something I vetoed straight off. Sure, my nails by themselves are nothing special, but a bit of paint and ooh, the pretty.

Knowing where to draw the line is up to you. There's a difference between “I've always wanted to get that chip in my tooth fixed” and “Maybe I should get liposuction.” You don't want to end up unrecognizable in your own wedding photos.

By all means, though, don't hold back on being you if there's a beauty treatment you really want. Tattoos faded? Get them re-inked. Love a bright mop or fierce chop? Tell the hairdresser to turn it up to 11.

2. Can we afford it?

This may seem mercenary, but every wedding has a budget. Can yours stretch to cover your beauty regimen? Really? (No, stop upping the amount — I've got my eye on you.)

Before my wedding, my dentist suggested I get a full set of porcelain veneers for my gappy, slightly off-colour teeth. Quite apart from being hurt by his clinical assessment of my teeth (I thought they had character), veneers were a significant financial commitment that just wasn't possible before our tightly budgeted wedding. However, an inexpensive whitening treatment was, and I'd wanted to whiten my tea-and-red-wine-stained teeth for ages. Was it vanity? Yes. But was it worth it to me and possible in our budget? Yes.

3. Even if no one will notice, will it make me more confident?

When someone (usually a partner) says, “Why bother? No one will notice,” generally the inevitable, slightly shirty answer is, “I'll notice.” That's how it worked with getting a few warts removed from my hands a few months before the wedding. It's likely no one would have noticed them anyway, but I would have, and felt better knowing that they were gone.

4. Does my partner want me to?

This is a trick question. If your partner wants you to alter yourself so much that whatever physical change you're considering is a deal breaker if you don't do it, then that's a relationship issue that a few gym sessions and a Brazilian won't solve.

This, of course, is different from wanting to do something to surprise your partner or just generally look completely banging for them on the day.

5. Are my “best self” measures going to take up too much time?

Organizing a wedding is stressful enough without adding the extra pressure of a time-consuming beauty regime. If your plans involve only seeing your partner on FaceTime between sets at the gym, then that could cause issues. All going well, you'll only ever be engaged once. Save some time from obsessing over how you look to looking at your partner over dinner on a romantic night out (or in…).

6. Will it reduce my comfort level on the day?

Oh, tightly laced corsets, I love the way you put my boobs around my ears, but you give me shooting pains in my chest. As much as I would have loved to wear you on my wedding day, I also love breathing. So let's just be friends, huh? It's not you, it's me…

Sadly, some things, though lovely, aren't worth it. Do you want to spend your whole reception standing because you can't bend enough to sit down? Other common bridal discomfort culprits include extremely high heels (unless you're a pro at them: see “Will I look like me?”) and those extreme hold Spanx. Try out whatever you're considering ahead of time. If you feel uncomfortable after a few minutes, you'll be in agony after a whole day. Don't be the only one not having fun at your wedding.

Corny though it is, the thing that's going to make you look in-freaking-credible on your wedding day isn't a facial peel or Bridget Jones-style stomach-holding-in underwear. It's the glow that comes from the true happiness of marrying the person you love.

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Comments on Bridal “best selves”: when is too far?

  1. Awesome post! I don’t know how many times I’ve seen friends, who have never had long hair, decide to grow it out for their wedding. Of the two that went through with it, both of them HATED how they looked in their photos, because they had all this hair drowning them. The last one, Her husband and I convinced to keep it short, and it was amazing!

    Rock you, whatever that may be. For me, it was victory rolls, red lips, and a professional version of what I do for glam
    Makeup; let’s face it, when my anxiety kicks in, I can barely stand up, let alone get winged eyeliner on properly ? If the wedding was this year, my brown hair with platinum peak a boos would be replaced with purple.

    (Side note: if your corset is giving you pain, it’s not fitted correctly, or hasn’t been seasoned properly.)

    • Aww, thanks for the nice feedback! I know, it’s like some sort of terrible disease attacks our brains telling us we need to be a certain way. The hair thing is so true, I had people asking if I would grow my hair out for the wedding. Me, who hasn’t had anything past my ears since I was 14 and loves it. Viva la resistance!

  2. So much this! I can’t even tell you how many times I got the following questions in the lead up to our wedding, and how many raised eyebrows my answers received:
    Q: What’s your wedding diet? A: Whatever I feel like eating that day.
    Q: Did you join a gym? A: Hell no!
    Q: Where are you getting your hair done? A: In my living room.
    Q: What are you doing with your nails? A: Trimming them … if there’s time.
    Q: Who’s doing your make-up? A: No one, I’m not wearing any.
    Q: Are you going to wear your glasses? A: Not for the ceremony because they won’t fit over my headband, but yeah, I’d kind of like the reception to not be fuzzy around the edges.
    I’m just not into fashion or make-up or beauty. I just want to be comfortable so that was my number one priority on my wedding day. Comfortable dress, comfortable shoes, simple hair style, no make-up, and yes, glasses. So I guess my best version of me is the every day version!

  3. . . . I actually surprised everyone by how NOT “laid back” I was as a bride, and it was hard convincing people that my decisions were NOT a result of WIC brainwashing. I remember being in the dressing room of a bridal salon in my third trip in as many weeks to one and hearing my MOH whisper to my bridesmaid that when her mom got married, she went to the department store and bought a white suit, not dealing with bridal salons at all. And I thought, well . . . good for your mom. But I’m not her. I’m not your laid-back mom, but I’m also not your cousin who demanded all her bridesmaids dye their hair a certain color so she’d be the only blonde in the wedding party. I’m somewhere in the middle. (I once described my “bridal fitness plan” as “fit’ness doughnut in my mouth, and this one, too.”)

    Love this post. It’s a good reminder when the pressure from Pinterest get to be too much. Keep fighting the good fight and challenging people’s assumptions that you can be sold something just by virtue of being “the bride”!

  4. #4!
    I was a bridesmaid for my brother’s wedding, and got my makeup professionally done for it. My skin has never looked so smooth, even in tone, tight (I normally have HUGE pores), dewey, and model-perfect. But a few days later, my fiance confessed that he really didn’t like it- “You didn’t look like you”. He followed that up with “I like it better when you do your own makeup”.
    (I don’t HAC on cheekbones or HAC off my double chin, I usually skip foundation, I don’t color-correct or conceal, I wear colorful but not necessarily sexy eyeshadow, I don’t do much with my eyebrows, I keep my lips lightly tinted).

    I never honestly considered that he noticed what I did with my face, or would feel put off by it looking vaguely different than usual. Now I have free reign to NOT spend hundreds on a professional makeover, NOT bow to pressure to look like my face should be in a magazine, and NOT buy into the BS that a bride must look commercially sexy/feminine in order to be doing it right.

    • THIS! The first time my husband ever saw me in make-up was nearly a year after we started dating. I was in a show that was set in the 50s so they gave me this really beautiful pin up girl look. It worked for the character but when he saw me up close afterwards he said I looked weird and I needed to wash my face!

  5. I have really mixed feelings. I want to look like me, but me fancied up a notch. My everyday self wears cargo pants and a high-vis vest and is covered in dirt (occupational hazard). I don’t normally wear makeup, and I haven’t a clue how to apply most of it, but I do want to wear some that day, mostly because I’ll otherwise look totally washed out in my champagne dress. I prevaricated on what I wanted to do with my hair, and I’ve decided to go with the romantic curls and braids, in part because I do like that look, and in part because it would cause less backlash from my mom (but the day after the wedding I am pretty sure I’m gonna go in and get a Jillian Holtzmann cut).

    Don’t we all have multiple versions of ourselves? There’s my badass-power tools-digging holes self, there’s my forest-fairy-attending-RenFaire self, there’s my retro-dance-party-at-the-local-club self. Which one of these is my “best” self? Aren’t they all my best at something? The first one is the best at work and getting construction workers to listen to me, the second one is the best at being playful, and the third one is best at getting down on Prince vs. Michael Jackson night. There are other selves.

    However, it is true that the “self” I’ve chosen to display at the wedding is one of the more feminine ones, with all that goes along with that. And that does bother me somewhat; I originally wanted to wear this really cool jumpsuit for the wedding, but my mother basically had a nervous breakdown until I picked something more traditional. And I do like the dress, and it certainly is “me” in some regards, but it’s not all of me, and it’s definitely the most socially acceptable version of me. Food for thought.

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