The Look of Love
WELLNESS-February Special Wedding Issue 2012
By Genevieve Morgan
Photograph by Brendan Bullock
Be at your most vibrant on your wedding day.
There’s an old saying: All brides are beautiful on their wedding day, and all grooms are princes. While there is nothing quite so beautiful as two people in love embarking on a life together, as your wellness go-to girl I would be remiss if I did not give you a few tips to burnish your innate bridal glow and ensure that you walk down the aisle feeling as happy, cared for, and healthy as you can possibly be.
In today’s world, couples rarely plan longer than a year in advance for their wedding, and when it comes to nutrition and lifestyle tweaks, much can be accomplished in half that time. For planning’s sake, my wedding-day wellness countdown is organized into three-month periods. Depending on your own personal wedding timeline, you may want to modify the recommendations.
You’re engaged! So, when’s the big day?
Stress—that universal disrupter of well-being—will undermine the fortitude of almost any bride (and pretty much everyone else involved in the wedding planning). While there is the external, harrying stress that comes from having to make so many decisions, there is also the more subtle internal and often unexpected stress that rises from the psychic deeps. This more insidious form of stress typically comes from trying to reconcile the wedding-day fantasy you’ve had in your head with the reality of the wedding-planning process—the incompatible expectations, the divergent ideas, and the inevitable tensions and setbacks. For example, if your dream is to get married barefoot on a beach but your future mother-in-law won’t hear of the ceremony taking place in anything but a church or temple, you will undoubtedly experience stress.
So my first tip—the great secret to pre-wedding happiness—is this: be honest and upfront about your wedding expectations, with yourself and your fiancé/ fiancée, from day one of your engagement.
I recommend taking 20 minutes to write down a description of your ideal wedding day and ask your partner to do the same. Keep money out of it for now, since we’re talking outrageous-fantasy time. When you’re done, sit down and compare notes. Talk candidly about family traditions, possible locations, decorative tastes, and financial resources, and about where you might both accept compromise. Then consider your joint resolution—the first step toward “you and me” becoming a “we”—as the point of departure for the rest of the planning. Why does this matter so much to your well-being? Trust me on this: if you walk down the aisle carrying months of unvoiced resentment, it will diminish your health, energy, and happiness. When it comes to feeling and looking your best on your wedding day, there is no bigger or better battery than unfettered joy.
Now that we’ve established some mental clarity, let’s move on to optimizing your physical state.
Six months to three months before your wedding
Get a routine checkup with your health care provider. If necessary, ask for a basic blood panel that will show baseline readings for your cholesterol, blood pressure, and thyroid and immune functions. If you haven’t done so already, both you and your partner should get tested for sexually transmitted diseases. Some quiet STDs, like chlamydia, may lurk in your system without symptoms and can impact fertility if left untreated. If your family has a genetic anomaly that might be passed down to your children, now is the time to talk about it with your future life partner.
If you would like to stop smoking before your wedding (and, as your wellness cheerleader, I really hope you do), now is the time to do it before stress levels ramp up and cravings increase. Ask your doctor about a nicotine patch or new temporary prescription medication that makes it easier to quit. And don’t be afraid to try a little hypnosis for smoking cessation, too.
If you would like to lose weight before the big day, get the all-clear from your health care practitioner and begin now. For those with no chronic health issues and average metabolic function, the following are my down-and-dirty tips for lasting weight loss:
Remember that a healthy, sustainable rate of weight loss is 1 to 2 pounds per week. If you are losing more weight faster, it’s probably not healthy.
Drink half your bodyweight in ounces of water per day.
Cut by two-thirds your consumption of alcohol, cereals, and grains.
Eliminate all refined sugar, soda, baked goods, candy, and junk food (except when tasting wedding cakes, of course!).
Avoid, if possible, all products with high-fructose corn syrup and trans fats.
Take an omega-3 fatty acid and probiotic supplement every day.
If you have your doctor’s consent, engage in moderate physical activity—such as walking, Pilates, vinyasa yoga, or weight lifting—two or three times a week for at least 45 minutes per session. Add two or three aerobic workouts—such as jogging, cycling, swimming, cross-country skiing, elliptical training, or snowshoeing—on alternate days. Work hard enough to raise your heart rate above 120 beats per minute for at least 30 minutes. Rest completely on off days.
If you have stubborn extra weight, you might want to read The Core Balance Diet (Hay House, 2009), a book I co-wrote with Marcelle Pick, a health care practitioner and owner of Women to Women in Yarmouth. It will help you identify one of six possible core imbalances that may be impeding your weight loss. Within a month, it should have you trending downward on the scale and well on your way to a lifetime of better eating habits.
Three months to one month before your wedding
Do your wedding location due diligence. Once you know the locale of the nuptials, brides should get recommendations for reliable hair, nail, and makeup experts who can provide service on the wedding day at their salon or on location. After you’ve zeroed in on a few, request a trial run and have the practitioner do your hair and makeup exactly as they would on your wedding day. If you find someone you like, book their time immediately. And don’t forget to reserve time for any spa services that you, your future spouse, or the bridal party might require before the rehearsal dinner the night before. (If you are getting married on the coast of Maine, see the sidebar for some of my favorite places and practitioners to help you and your wedding party achieve that wedding-day wow factor.)
If you are troubled by breakouts, hyperpigmentation, rosacea, or other skin irritations, begin a clarifying regimen now. Following the diet tips already mentioned will go a long way toward cooling inflammation inside and outside your body, but it never hurts to book an appointment and consult with an aesthetician who can provide a curative facial. It’s best to start this clarifying process now, not the week before the wedding, so that any redness or blemishes will have ample time to heal.
The same goes for any medi-spa treatments, permanent hair removal, teeth whitening or other dental work, and any other radical aesthetic or lifestyle changes, including a new hair cut or coloration. Leave enough time for everything to settle and any missteps to be corrected.
If your emotional stress levels are rising, increase your self-care accordingly. Unfortunately, the busier we get, the less time we make for tending to ourselves—but it is exactly during these times that we need it the most. The bride having trouble finding the time or resources might consider making spa treatments and wellness the gift-giving theme of your bridal shower.
If stress is manifesting itself physically—with symptoms such as stomachaches, sleeplessness, teeth grinding, anxiety, or headaches—consider going to a guided meditation session. In medical journal after medical journal (including, to name just a few, the Journal of Clinical Psychology, American Journal of Cardiology, and the International Journal of Neuroscience), meditation has been emphatically proven to reduce blood pressure, relieve stress and anxiety, and—oh happy day—increase intelligence and productivity. Many yoga studios and fitness centers offer teacher-led workshops in meditation that require no previous experience.
One month to one week before your wedding
Reflect on your mental and physical state for a few minutes every morning before you get out of bed. If you are feeling out of control or anxious, get up 15 minutes earlier than usual and use that time to breathe deeply, meditate, or journal.
Reconfirm all wedding-day beauty appointments and attend to any last-minute details, such as waxing, manicures, pedicures, and hair treatments. If your soon-to-be spouse is amenable, book an appointment for him or her, as well.
Continue to make time for exercise, especially outdoor activities. Exercise is one of the fastest, cheapest, and most accessible stress-reduction techniques around. And if you add a little sunlight and fresh air, it will provide an even greater boost.
Stop worrying about the scale and think about maintaining a stable weight so that your wedding outfit will fit on the big day. Many a bride has gone on a starvation streak to lose those last few pounds only to feel depleted and exhausted on the big day. It’s more important to cultivate vitality and stamina at this stage of the game. Remember: no one else knows or cares what the scale says.
If all the prenuptial festivities leave you feeling tired, hungover, or bloated, do a one-day mini-cleanse once a week, every week, leading up to the big day. Consume only fresh vegetables, brown rice, green tea, and a lot of water with or without lemon. If you can, schedule a detoxifying massage or take a 15-minute sauna or steam bath. A hot bath with Epsom salts will also do the trick.
Your wedding day
Pace yourself and try to stay present throughout the day. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Practice patience. What’s done is done. It’s time to bask in the fruits of your labor.
Eat! Otherwise you might faint or drink too much alcohol on an empty stomach.
As you celebrate with your new spouse, your family, and all your friends, know that the love flowing all around you may never be so fully visible as it is on your wedding day. Be generous and grateful to yourself and to others. And above all, be well.