The obsession with body image often associated with the wedding industry is a huge gripe of mine. And it’s not just women who are feeling it, but men now too.
Hopefully you’ve managed to steer clear of all the “new year, new body, new you” crap that always circulates in January. But ludicrous articles like this from The Telegraph – which advocates a full lifestyle change at least six months before your wedding – are difficult to avoid if you’re in the process of wedding planning research. As if former British Army soldier Prince Harry is going to be concerned with “getting in shape for his wedding”?! He’s already in shape!
But the pressure is real and it’s having an impact. At a wedding expo in South Australia back in 2008, researchers found that over 50% of attendees were planning to lose weight before they tied the knot. 40% were planning to diet, while 67% were aiming to exercise more. Some also felt the force of peer pressure ahead of their wedding day, with 10% admitting that other people had told them they should lose weight ahead of their big day.
Feeling good vs. looking good
The wedding industry puts a lot of pressure on couples to look a certain way on their wedding day. The screws are tightened at every stage, from dress shopping to retouched wedding photography (more on that later). Even browsing online for décor or centrepiece ideas can result in a bombardment of images of impossibly glowing, supermodel brides in designer dresses.
Meghan Takacs in Elite Daily expresses the problem perfectly:
“The pressure to look and feel good on what society has made us believe is “the most important day of our lives” is unreal. Fitting in that dress down to the very inch is crucial; no crease is left behind.
“At the end of the day, the notion that you have to be at your “best” on your wedding day is created by society in order to make money.”
Now don’t get me wrong, if you love going to the gym and eating well, and exercising makes you feel good, then that’s great. But the assumption that you should suddenly change who you are by undergoing an arduous diet and fitness routine for your wedding (even if it makes you miserable) to look like a supermodel on your wedding photos, is just daft – and potentially dangerous.
Hypermasculinity in the wedding industry
The body image baton is now being passed to men now too.
In the last decade there’s been a massive increase on the focus of what a man’s body should look like, as well as a woman’s. This Huff Post article by Louis Michel explores the theme of hypermasculinity as another form of gender oppression. It’s just another damaging element of gender stereotyping, which as a feminist wedding photographer, I see all too often.
These images of Wolverine illustrate the issue perfectly, and show how ideals have changed over recent years:
This blog on the new and impossible standards of male beauty is also a good read.
Feminist weddings celebrate the important things
The media would have you believe you should get hung up on weight and appearance ahead of getting married, when actually the main focus should be the celebration of a loving relationship with friends and family and a person who adores you for exactly who you are.
But we can just say no to this kind of pressure? A focus on feeling good rather than just looking a certain way is a great mindset to have during wedding planning, and during the day itself.
Enjoy your wedding and stay true to yourself – remember that your partner is marrying you because of who you are now, not how you look in a bridal gown. That’s the joy of finding your best friend and soulmate. You don’t need to pretend to be anyone else or do anything other than be yourself to make them happy.
This doesn’t mean you can’t pamper yourself, make a special effort on your appearance or get dressed up to the nines for your wedding. But these things should only happen because it makes you feel good. If you feel confident and happy within yourself, it’ll definitely show. I know what the pressure of being in front of the camera can be like. Only recently I booked a professional photo shoot for some new headshots and I felt like a wreck before it. I went from feeling very blasé about photography to all of a sudden constantly questioning all my choices of how I presented myself for the camera. Was my hair ok? What about my big belly? My arms are terrible I’ll have to cover those! The internal monologue was a stream of abuse.
But I got through the shoot and I actually ended up enjoying it. I did my best not to let the rumination take over. I breathed and bought myself back in to the moment and reminded myself of FACTS about my body. I reminded myself that the stream of abuse in my head were just thoughts. I trusted my photographer to take nice pictures!
When it comes to weddings, some tips I’ve picked up from fabulous feminist weddings I’ve photographed include:
- Considering wearing something other than a wedding dress: If you aren’t one for wearing dresses, you could go with separates or a jumpsuit. Whatever makes you feel the most comfortable.
- Make a list of your priorities for the day: Start with the reasons why you actually want to get married. I’ll bet that your appearance doesn’t make it on there. Put that list somewhere prominent and look at it whenever you want a boost.
- Find your own inspiration. If you feel bombarded with TV shows and social media posts about finding the perfect dress or getting in shape for your wedding, take action. Counteract this negativity by finding inspiration of your own, from alternative wedding Pinterest boards to positive body image and healthy living blogs that focus on feeling good rather than looks.
If you’re feeling particularly shit about your body, and you have some time to spare, then I highly recommend watching this recording of Luisa Omielan’s comedy show ‘Am I Right Ladies?’. You’re not going to give a shit about having big thighs after watching it! 😀
Saying no to retouching
Your wedding photographs are an important memento of a happy day spent with people you love. They aren’t a statement about your dress size on a particular day nor are they to be submitted to the national archives as an example of a perfect wedding. They are a record of the love and emotion of the day, capturing the real life special, intimate moments you’ve shared together.
With this in mind, I keep my editing very natural. After I’ve taken your wedding photos I’ll adjust the exposure, colour, contrast, tidy up any stray hairs and delete any rogue spots. I don’t do any body manipulation, air brushing or anything of that nature. Instead, I aim to capture the authentic and beautiful moments of your special day just as they are.
To discuss wedding photography for your upcoming wedding, get in touch with me: Rowan, UK-based feminist wedding photographer.