If you’re a bride-to-be and you have a pulse, there’s a good chance you’re feeling at least a little nervous about wedding dress shopping. It’s a lot of pressure to put on one shopping trip, one dress, and one body (yours). You’re going to want everything to look and feel absolutely perfect, and since that’s almost impossible (you’re human, and wedding dresses are tough!), you could end up being hit with disappointment, in your body, especially, and how the dresses end up looking and feeling on it. Which can start a whole cycle of you not being very kind to yourself, trying on more dresses clouded by this negative mood, continuing to be disappointed because of it, and on and on. It’s not fair, because wedding dress shopping should be fun, exciting and empowering—it should make you feel really good about yourself, not miserable!
You can avoid this, but it’ll take a little work. Here’s how to stay outside the vicious cycle of self criticism and float through wedding dress shopping shrouded in body positivity and self-love.
Make a mantra
It may sound crazy, but when it comes to ridding our minds of negative and unproductive thoughts, mantras work. And I can’t think of anything more unproductively negative than a jingle of “I look disgusting omg” repeating in your head over and over again as you peer into the bridal salon mirror. Just like you can psych yourself out from something with a bad attitude, a positive mantra can actually morph you into a good mood, even if, initially, you’re feeling not-great about something. It’s sort of a fake-it-till-you-make-it approach. Before you even get to your first dress appointment, pick a simple, upbeat mantra you can believe in, like: “I’m beautiful the way I am.” Maybe it seems ridiculous at first, but the more you repeat it to yourself every time a bad or critical thought creeps into your brain, the more second-nature it’ll become. Over time, it’ll feel more like a state-of-being rather than a forced mantra: You might feel like you want to get down on how you look in a certain dress, or upset you can’t fit into a sample, but then you’ll remember: You’re beautiful the way you are!
Dress the (beautiful) body you have now
That mantra you just made? Time to really flex it, because it’s so much better to shop for the body you have than for some fictional “perfect” body of the future you hope to have. The body you have now is real, and ready to be embraced and dressed to perfection! Which means, during wedding dress shopping, you can shop for the perfect size, cut and style, and plan your alterations in advance. The body you hope to have, however, is not real, which makes it is hard to love and even harder to dress—you’ll spend so much time at your bridal appointment thinking about this fictional future, you’ll be unable to soak in the beauty of the moment and just enjoy your appointment! So, go into your appointment not thinking about “when” you lose 10 pounds or “when” your arms get more toned—instead, work with your bridal shop attendant to find dresses you want to try for the way you look today. It might be a little scary, but trust the process. Even if you’re not the biggest fan of the body you have, you’ll be amazed at how much wedding vendor magic (e.g., a high-quality dress altered by a skilled tailor, a great hair and makeup stylist, etc.) can work wonders for it, and for your self confidence. If you lose a little weight along the ride, that’s cool too—alterations will be an easy fix! If not: Awesome, you’ve got the perfect dress!
Leave the haters at home
We all have that one “brutally honest” friend whom we love anyway. But bringing their harshness along on the most high-stakes shopping trip of your life might not be the best choice. This doesn’t mean you should ask your shopping entourage to provide positive feedback only, it’s just that some people (like, that one friend) tend to deliver negative feedback without any candy coating, and that can be really hard when you’re trying to stay body-posi at the bridal salon. It’s hard enough trying to be kind to yourself, let alone having to make sure others are kind to you! If you have even the slightest instinct that someone will be too negative while wedding dress shopping, kindly leave them off the invite list. Worried that that someone will be tough to leave out—like your mom or sister? Grab a coffee with them a week before your dress appointment and lay down the law: “I’m trying to love myself through this entire process, and I need your support. I value your honest opinion on what I try on, but please be gentle!” Remember, this experience is about you—no one else. It’s ok to be a little bit self-centered.
Know when inspo becomes triggering
Ever heard of the old saying, “compare and despair?” We are lucky to live in a time when wedding inspiration is seemingly endless—on social media, the web, and in magazines—but it can be a slippery slope to go from simply being inspired by these billion-dollar real weddings and perfectly crafted styled shoots to straight-up stressed out by them. When there are so many “perfect” brides out there, it’s hard not to compare yourself to them and get stressed about not measuring up—and endless “inspo” certainly doesn’t help. So, feel free to tune out of the inspo if it’s causing more stress and strain than anything else. Don’t worry—whatever you’re missing out on won’t be half as valuable as keeping your sanity. And you can always tune back in when you’re feeling better. Every time you’re about to compare yourself to another social media bride who appears to have a better body than yours, or more perfect hair, or flawless skin, just close out of what you’re looking at, take a deep breath, and go over all the beautiful things about your wedding that you have to look forward to!
If you’re the type of shopper who spends half of every mall trip weeding out things that “won’t look good on you” for a laundry list of obscure reasons you’ve spent decades compiling (e.g.., “my nail beds suck”), you’re setting yourself up for a really limiting wedding dress-shopping experience. And you could, in turn, miss out on your dream dress! The fact is, wedding dresses are not like regular clothes—they’re better made, more structured, more tailored, overall more flattering even in sample sizes, and you’d be surprised at how amazing they’ll look and feel on, even in styles you’d normally never imagine being flattering in off-the-rack dresses at mall stores. Start with an open mind (and your mantra!) and cast a wide net, then narrow down from there—rather than starting narrow and negative, which is so not body-pos.
Show up your best self
While getting a professional hair-and-makeup job just to go wedding dress shopping might be a little overkill, there’s lots to be said for showing up for your appointment looking (and, thereby, feeling) your absolute best. Ever notice that you feel extra low-confidence when you’re wearing stained sweats and your hair’s a mess? But you feel extra badass when you’re dressed to the nines with makeup on-point? That’s what you need to channel when you’re facing one of the most important shopping trips of your life, so set yourself up for success by spending some extra time on your styling the day of your dress appointment. Get a self tan or wax if that’s what makes you feel good! Spring for a luxe manicure! Whatever! The more on top of your game you look and feel, the more amazing you’ll feel as you try on gowns, the better your entire experience will go. Plus, when you ultimately choose a dress and look back on yourself in pictures of it for months to come, you’ll never not be psyched by how smokin’ hot you look in it—keeping you so excited and positive about your big day.