Dear Bride-to-be...

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Earlier this week I felt the desire to share something that I know many of you either have or will experience at some point in your life - a few heartfelt tips for all brides-to-be. Although I initially the thought aside, I felt the desire to share a few key points deepen even further after speaking to a dear friend of mine over Skype who will be getting married later this year and is experiencing all of the thoughts, feelings, and anxieties that come with preparing for a wedding and the prospect of marriage. This post definitely isn't going to be a 'how-to' guide for planning a wedding, being a 'good' wife, or anything along those lines, but I do have a few pieces of valuable wisdom related to the topic that will hopefully comfort anxious hearts and guide anyone who is feeling some of the insecurities that I certainly felt leading up to my wedding day. 

My wedding day was honestly such fun! After months of planning, everything came together so beautifully and my husband and I had a chance to spend time celebrating with our nearest and dearest before embarking on the great adventure of being our own new family. But, needless to say, there were moments leading up to that day where I felt like I was not beautiful enough, 'perfect' enough, or worthy of what was in store for me. Since then, I have been blessed to have experienced what feels like a lifetime of adventure alongside my partner-in-crime, and I am so grateful for the advice of dear friends and my parents, and the guidance of my Heavenly Father that helped me navigate the road to becoming a wife. I hope that these five tips help those of you who are soon-to-be brides, or will be in future. Forgive the wedding photo spam, I just spent an hour or so reminiscing as I was trying to find one or two that would fit in with this post and ended up getting a bit carried away haha (isn't Migneon Marais talented?).

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1. You don't need to go on a diet

This is a pretty bold statement to start with, but I want to stress that it is honestly the most important one that I'm going to make in this post. From an evidence-based perspective, the reason for this first piece of advice is that diets don't work. Period. Diets are not sustainable in the long-run, and honestly, they suck more joy from your life than they give back to you in return. I know how tempting it is to make drastic changes to what, when, and how much you eat (and exercise) in the effort to be smaller and become the 'more perfect' version of yourself, in fact, I think that brides-to-be feel the weight of this pressure on their shoulders as much as, and possibly even more than everyone else. But I want you to know that you don't need to try control and manipulate your body to become anything other than the beautiful, perfect, wonderful work of art that it already is.

I remember sharing my insecurities with a good friend of mine after the first wedding dress shop that my mother and I attempted. I told her how insecure I was about my arms, and listed all of the reasons why I hated them and how I had every intention of finding a dress with mid-arm length sleeves to cover up my own arms, and she said this to me: "Your arms are beautiful, and even if they aren't 'perfect', they're the last thing that your husband-to-be is going to be focused on as you walk down the aisle. He is going to be so excited and taken aback at how beautiful you look on that day, just as you are. You will look perfect in his eyes."

How beautiful you are, my darling!
Oh, how beautiful!
— Song of Songs 1:15
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Although I went through the normal ups and the downs that related to body image and my relationship with food over the engagement period, I was so grateful to have family, friends, and a husband-to-be who didn't focus on my size, weight, or appearance as a focal point leading up to my wedding. Looking back on my own time as a bride-to-be, I can resonate with this statement that Lindsay of Soon to be RD wrote in one of her recent blogposts:

I would rather not stress over my body for a year just so I can look a certain way for a 24 hour period. I want to look back on my wedding pictures and see the real me. I do not want to look back and remember being stressed and unhappy with my body.
— Soon to be RD (Lindsay)

Instead of going on a diet, why not prioritise sustainable, healthy habits like:

  • Drinking enough water

  • Eating foods that make you feel great, from the inside out

  • Taking time to de-stress

  • Practicing good sleep hygiene

  • Gentle, joyful movement

...and for some practical tips on how to ditch the diet talk and shift your focus from weight loss to self-love as you approach the big day I would highly recommend that you read some of these amazing posts:

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2.Take it all in

Planning a wedding usually takes quite a few months, then the day arrives and can fly by in a flash. Seriously! It’s one thing that my husband and I were so surprised by. If you’re not careful it can be so easy to miss the beautiful moments on your wedding day, particularly if you are worried or anxious about things that are beyond your control. One of the most beautiful nuggets of wisdom that I received upon sharing the idea for this blogpost was from the lovely Esther Narindwa Martins (her blog is just beautiful):

The best advice I ever received was to take moments that you would like to remember and be so present in them, remember the feeling you had, the smells, the sounds. Take it all in.

I did that while walking down the aisle towards him and also when we stood there before the vows. It’s moments I will never forget. It’s imprinted in my memory.
— Esther Narindwa Martins
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Your wedding day is such a special one, and it is so worth taking in and being present in the small moments that you would like to remember as the years go on. One of my biggest tips is to switch off your phone or give it to a bridesmaid, parent, or close friend to hold onto on the day of your wedding. I did this and found that it was such a great way to switch off a bit and really focus on what was happening in the moment. Another tip is to breathe. Breathe in, breathe out, and allow yourself to take in the sights, smells, emotions and moments. I found some lovely resources with tips on how to be present in the moment and calm anxiety that might be useful for you:

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3. Say yes to the dress that makes you feel beautiful

It’s crazy to see how many articles, adverts, and campaigns that are out there to make women, especially brides-to-be, feel self-conscious about their bodies. I remember reading an article once recommending that brides should purchase a dress one or two sizes smaller than they currently are with the aim of having it as some sort of ‘goal’ to work towards. Seriously?? That's just crazy.

I was lucky enough to come across Jacelyn of White Lily Atelier after what was a disastrous first dress shopping experience. From the moment I walked into her studio I felt so calm and at peace knowing that she was the perfect match for what I had in mind. She did an amazing job of combining all of the ideas, inspiration, and thoughts that I had into what was honestly the perfect dress for me. I would definitely recommend, as far as your budget and resources allow, working together with a dress designer that listens to your desires, likes, dislikes, and personal preferences, and knows how to best dress your body type. If you find a beautiful ready-made dress that needs tailoring, find a tailor that meets these criteria too. Each of our bodies are unique in their design, and whether you have a smaller waist, darker skin, broader shoulders,larger hips, or are more bustier than others, there are small design tweaks and tricks that the experts know that can make the world of difference to the way that a dress both feels and looks.

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I remember hearing comments from acquaintances leading up to my wedding related to the fact that it’s ‘...not a good idea to have your final dress fitting too long before the wedding, in case you gain/lose weight’. Although I was in a fairly good place regarding my body image and relationship with food, it was still an underlying fear and anxiety that weighed on my shoulders every now and then during those months before the wedding day. In hindsight, these comments were unnecessary and came from a mentality deeply rooted in diet-culture, and they didn’t ever need to be made in the first place. However, they were made, and luckily for me, my mom always did a great job of redirecting my gaze to how beautiful my dress was and how it wonderful it made me feel. My dress fit like a glove on my wedding day, and you know what? If it had been a bit smaller or a bit bigger than expected then I’m pretty sure we would have been able to make a plan. 

So my piece of advice here is to choose a dress or design that doesn’t just look pretty, but also makes you feel beautiful. Comfort is king, especially if you’re going to spend a whole lot of time wearing the dress on your wedding day. My second piece of advice here is to take small, gentle steps to work on your body image, allowing yourself to recognise and celebrate the beautiful and unique body that you have. 

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4. Embrace imperfection 

At least one thing is bound to not go according to plan on your wedding day, and more likely than not it'll be something that only you will notice and no one else will. After months and months of planning everything, from the bigger aspects like finding a venue and a dress to the small details like where the napkin should be placed for the table setting, as the bride-to-be you are most likely going to know exactly how everything should work out on the big day. Don't sweat the small stuff. Instead, look at the bigger picture and choose to remember that the whole point of the day is to be able to celebrate your love with friends and family.

We were lucky enough to have the lovely San-Marie of Creative Nook as our on-the-day coordinator, and would highly recommend that you find someone to fill this role on the big day if your budget allows it. I didn't really want to have a wedding planner, as we wanted to sort out the bulk of the wedding planning ourselves to save some money in the process, but having San-Marie to coordinate the set-up before the wedding, ensure the smooth running of everything on the day, and then (best of all) to pack up everything after the wedding was such a treat, and worth every penny. Being able to trust her with the details allowed me to step back, not interfere, and enjoy the day without sweating the small stuff.

I'm pretty sure that my parents and I ran about 15 minutes later than schedule and one guest even complained to my husband and I that our dance music was a bit lame. But hey, instead of focusing on those 'imperfections' I was glad to be able to rejoice in how beautiful our venue looked, how delicious our dinner was, and how much fun we were able to have with our loved ones.

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5. Prepare your heart for marriage

If all you’ve thought about is the wedding and not the marriage, then you might need to think again

You may think that this is a super cliché quote, but I believe that there are a few very important lessons that we can learn from it. Looking back on my own experience I know that the wedding planning process requires literally hours and hours of time invested in phone calls, emails, meetings, and decision making, BUT what we should actually dedicate the most time towards is preparing ourselves for marriage. Having a beautiful and enjoyable wedding day is important, but I reckon it's even more important to prepare your heart for a happy and healthy marriage that'll last for years. Despite what you may think or believe, there is a definite shift that takes place when you transition from girlfriend to fiancé to wife that takes a bit of time to get used to. As a wife you become a helper, a partner , a companion to your husband, and promise to unconditionally love and be faithful to him. It can all be a bit scary at times, knowing that you're about to take on a whole new role as a wife.

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Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:

If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.

A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
— Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
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Surround yourself with friends and mentors who have walked this journey before you, who can share their wisdom with you, pray for you, encourage you, and guide you as you prepare your heart for marriage. Another tip is to take some time out to be still, gather your thoughts, work through your anxieties, pray for your husband-to-be, and spend time with ladies who can give you advice and guidance every now and then in the months before your wedding. These resources are pretty cool and worth reading through if you get the chance:

All photo credits: Migneon Marais