In the quest for perfection, some brides go to extremes

According to Newsweek’s article “The Incredible Shrinking Bride,” (Feb. 2008) today’s bride wants everything to be perfect, and that means a bride with perfect skin, hair, nails, dress… and of course, figure.

Often brides will order a dress a size or two smaller than what they currently wear because they’re determined to be thinner by the big day. Some go much further than that.  Ironically, says the owner of one bridal boutique, it’s often the women with the least to lose who lose the most. “A lot of thin girls get obsessed with being even thinner, and end up coming in for their fittings looking like a rack of bones.”

Unhealthy weight loss that plagues about 20% of brides to be, according to researchers, including skipping meals, going on liquid diets, fasting, using laxatives or unprescribed diet pills and supplements, smoking, and vomiting after meals.

In recent years these “rising expectations of bridal beauty” have led to other unhealthy means of achieving the illusion of physical perfection. This includes tanning salons, which can dramatically increase the risk of developing skin cancer. “The tanning industry says it’s a safe way to get a tan, but if you ask people who use them, a lot of people get burned.”

Many brides are requesting a shot of Botox, a little filler to eliminate a wrinkle, or a shot of cortisone to deal with an outbreak of acne. They may also ask for laser treatments to eliminate little broken blood vessels, sun spots and other bothersome blemishes. When done correctly, these treatments are safe. But there are a lot of people with very little training (including general practitioners and non-doctors) who offer these services. “Some have even used research-grade botulinum toxin in lieu of Botox, because it’s cheaper—but misuse has landed a few people in the hospital for months, hooked up to ventilators, after developing full-blown cases of botulism.”

Bride-to-be Noelle Nicolai is trying to maintain perspective and balance. She has a to-do list that includes teeth whitening, tanning, and hair shine treatments. But she is also doing research on how to make a marriage successful. She’s setting aside time for religion and community service projects, and she’s making sure to have meaningful dialogue with her fiancé, not just conversations that revolve around the wedding.

Does she still feel the pressure to look her best when she walks down the aisle? Yes: “At the end of my wedding day, it won’t matter if my hair was perfect, my teeth were blindingly white or my body was as hard as the rock on my finger,” she says. “But that doesn’t mean I won’t try!”

All this fuss seems a little crazy to Nicolai’s fiancé, who constantly reminds her that he’s happy with her just the way she is! This wedding culture obsession becomes increasingly shallow, and marriages are crumbling faster than ever. Beauty is more than skin deep, and a one-day affair revolving around the you is not the ultimate goal.  If the superficial wedding details are preventing you from preparing for the more essential aspects of a good marriage, you are doing yourself and your fiance a disservice. Sensitivity, kindness, sincerity, humor… this is the stuff that real beauty is made of.  If you make yourself worthy of love, as opposed to a mere object of fantasy, you will be loved, imperfections and all.