The day I got my wedding photos back, I cried. Not out of sheer wedded bliss, but because I hated them.
The photographer was amazing and took great photos. I loved her work and I loved the work she did on our wedding photos, but, still, the photos made me cringe. This was a time to be happy and delighted, full of excitement as I relived the ‘best day ever’, or so the story goes. Except, I couldn’t help but feel extremely let down.
Because I thought I looked fat.
Yep. That old ditty.
For years, I’ve been the skinny athletic one, never having to worry about counting calories or making sure I hit the gym enough times in the week, because I did. I worked out. A LOT. I was also younger and could eat whatever I wanted, drink whatever I wanted and get away with it. I walked a lot more than I do now because I simply had to. How are you going to get anywhere if you don’t have a car? Public transportation and your own two feet are your only options, especially when you’re on a part-time budget. I often look back on my days of yore with a yearning in my eyes for that lithe body that could fit into a size 10 or smaller — and still think I was fat, by the way — hoping that I could get there, that I could be young again and feel that way again.
Except, it wasn’t only because I was young and my metabolism was super high. It was because of how often I was active, which countered the bad food I ate. Now? Not so much.
Yoga has become my relaxation method, my meditation, my savior when I’m stressed. It can be a work-out, but it’s not MY work-out. Honestly, I don’t really have one, anymore. Going through chronic migraine and trying to get your life back on track from eating literally anything that makes your pain go away (read: cola and copious amounts of salty foods) really takes you away from your normal habits and pushes your goals into a dark corner, covering them with dust.
My wedding was different. I wanted to look good. I needed to look good.
Reading through bridal magazines and comments and posts in bridal groups, insane diets are the norm. Brides want to lose the most amount of weight in their lives, hoping to look the best that they will ever look on their wedding day. Better than they ever looked.
There are brides that starve themselves, work out incessantly and order their dress numerous sizes too small so they have that incentive to fit into something that their body wasn’t meant for. By the way, when you order a dress in a smaller size than what you’re measured, you have to sign off on the fact that you know what you’re doing. Bridal salons aren’t stupid and they know that not every bride is going to hit their goal to fit into that dress.
While I definitely fell into that category of ordering a size down, I didn’t starve myself or work out every waking hour. Because I didn’t want to put myself through the stress and the pain just to look a certain way on my wedding day. I didn’t want to hate myself for months, getting cranky because I hadn’t eaten enough. I liked my body. I was happy with it. Yeah, I wanted to lsoe 10lbs, but I didn’t want to lose 50.
This was the day where my self-loathing and self-consciousness was supposed to just disappear.
Until I received those photos. And then I cursed myself for not working out more. For indulging in eating real food and eating enough to make me full. I cried because I hadn’t been strong enough to do what those other girls did. I felt like I looked awful and that I had ruined my wedding. Yes, it felt that dramatic and that devastating to look at pictures of myself and see the double chins or flabbier arms and feel that I ruined my wedding because I was a little bigger than I wanted to be.
Leading up to the wedding I struggled with an internal conflict. Should I lose more weight and look elegantly skinny at my wedding? Should I be happy with my body and prove to others that body-positivity is better than crash dieting? I felt like I was betraying myself everytime I put in an extra work-out. That, if I lost the weight, I was lying to myself in the here and now. That I wasn’t really happy with how I looked now if I had to lose weight for my wedding. What was I telling myself if I had to lose weight for one day? Just because that’s what everyone and every magazine was telling me to do? Would I have worked this hard and worried so much about my softer curves any other time in my life?
I threw myself into believing that I wasn’t losing weight for a body-positivity image, but really, it was because I didn’t want to believe that I had gained weight and I didn’t like it. And, when I got those pictures back I wished I had lost 100lbs; I didn’t care about that internal struggle anymore.
These pictures are supposed to remind me of a perfect day, a perfect time in my life where I looked absolutely gorgeous and like a princess. Except, why would they? Instead of feeling radiant, I felt insecure and like I had made all the wrong decisions.
Every selfie I tried to take with my bridesmaids came out with my face rounder than an apple. My arms didn’t look the toned, tanned Goddess-esque way that they should. They looked like blubbery clubs sticking out from a pouf of lace and tulle. My lipstick wasn’t the right shade, making my face look chubbier than it was. My hair was too big, making another set of double chins visible. The flowers in my hair didn’t sit just right. My necklace didn’t fall exactly where I had wanted it to.
All of these ridiculous things kept popping up in my head while getting ready, while taking photos, while the night wore on. I knew no wedding could be perfect, and I was fine with the imperfections that came from anything else. But, an imperfection coming from me? That wasn’t acceptable.
Of course I had reservations about my hair and make-up. I didn’t feel like myself because I didn’t wear a full face of make-up and style my hair so perfectly and it added to the stress of having to look my absolute best. I felt nervous (duh), I felt fat, I felt disgusting, I felt ugly, I felt like crying. I hated the way I looked while being told I looked absolutely gorgeous and stunning and beautiful. I wasn’t supposed to feel this way. Not on this day. This was the day I was supposed to look amazing. The day I was supposed to feel amazing. The day where everyone was supposed to compliment me and tell me that I looked like a princess, and I was supposed to believe them.
This was the day where my self-loathing and self-consciousness was supposed to just disappear. That standing up in front of 130 people was supposed to help. That the pressure of absolute perfection was supposed to help.
Now, my fiance thought I looked absolutely stunning and didn’t take his eyes off of me the entire ceremony. Everyone did compliment me and tell me how beautiful I looked. But, I took all of that with a grain of salt because I couldn’t get over my own issues and hated the fact that I couldn’t.
Going through all of the pictures, all I wanted to do was cry for days. I wanted a do-over. I Googled wedding photo do-overs. I thought about losing 50lbs and then paying for my dress to be taken in and going back to the venue for photos. I wanted to go back in time and lose more weight before the day. I wanted to try to make myself into something that I’m not.
There are brides that starve themselves, work out incessantly and order their dress numerous sizes too small so they have that incentive to fit into something that their body wasn’t meant for.
Even now, as I write this, I’m crying. I’m crying because we have taken this whole body image of ourselves too far. We can’t see any beauty that others see. We’re impossibly hard on ourselves. We put ourselves down because we don’t believe we deserve to be treated the same as an insta-model or celebrity. People have to tell us to be nicer to ourselves. But, we can’t.
It’s the small digs from our mothers, our aunts, our grandmothers. It’s the constant posting of bikini-ready models and ‘normal people’ on Instagram. It’s the waist-trainers, the fit-teas, the fucking wedding magazines that only show skinny models. And, I get it. Skinny models make more sense because you don’t have to use as much fabric and it can hang better. Hang being the operative word there. And, I know that skinny ladies have their body issues, too, but somehow, that doesn’t come up when you’re looking at photos and imagining what you would look like in that dress. Ashley Graham looks bumpin’ in all of her pictures, she’s bigger than I am, and yet I still think I’m out of control.
We compare ourselves to everyone without actually looking at who we are or who they are. When I’m not in front of a mirror, and I’m just being me and using my personality, I love me. I think I look amazing and I have this picture of myself in my head of what I look like. My hair is falling perfectly in Blake Lively waves, my body is Christina Henricks curvy and my make-up looks as flawless as if I’m a beauty Youtuber. I feel good about myself. Until a picture is taken at an unflattering angle or I pass by a mirror and see a double chin or my hair looks frizzier than I had thought it was.
I just compared myself to numerous people up there and for what? I mean, Blake Lively’s hair is …damn. But, unless I’m a stylist producing that look for a client, what does it matter?
I’ve never had a problem attracting men before. I’ve never had a problem getting compliments. And yet, my self-esteem is barely there. The comparisons roll in.
On my wedding day, supposedly the happiest day of my life, I was comparing myself to how amazing my friend looked. I wished I was glowing and as gorgeous as she was. I felt that way at HER wedding, only a few months back. I loved how I looked and I felt amazing.
I knew no wedding could be perfect, and I was fine with the imperfections that came from anything else. But, an imperfection coming from me? That wasn’t acceptable.
Somehow, when it’s your own wedding, it’s hard to live up to the standards we’ve made damn near impossible to meet. The wedding magazines that cater to our self-esteem issues, showing us every flaw we never knew existed. The months leading up to this ‘perfect’ day. You plan out the dress, the flowers, the veil, the shoes, the jewelry, the make-up, the hair, the nails. All of it needs to be perfect. You need to look like that model in the magazine. But, you never looked like that model in the magazine.
And, that’s okay.
I hate that I cried when I got my photos back. I hate that I wanted to delete them all and print absolutely none of them. I hate that I still think about how nervous I was walking down the aisle, and how I walked a little too fast, or how my veil wasn’t perfectly set out behind me, or how I barely made eye contact with my now-husband because I didn’t want to cry. I hate how I felt like I needed to be perfect, how the day needed to be perfect, how I couldn’t make a mistake. I hate how I feel when I look at myself and how these pictures make me feel.
I never care about my license or passport photos because I don’t look like that every day. I’m usually smiling. That helps. In my wedding photos I look happy and that’s the only thing that should matter.
Now, it’s been almost a year and I can look at those photos, liking the person in them. I don’t love them yet. I’m sure that’ll take some years and wrinkles. But, I like them. And, that’s a start.