Dear Bridal Industry, we need to talk about "looking pretty" on our wedding day

July 29 | Guest post by Aurora
Wedding Boots
Photo by Tanya Saenz.

Dear Bridal Industry,

I will not allow myself to become caught up in your ideals of what a bride "should" look like. I will not become sucked into your standards of beauty, ones that are different from my own. I will not let you dictate to me what pretty is, and isn't.

Speaking of which, here are more things I refuse to do…

I will not let you tell me what to wear, how to fix my hair, or how I should do my make-up.

I will not spend nights in tears because I am not "beautiful enough," or "thin enough" for you.

I will not go on a crash diet.

I will not refrain from getting my septum pierced for fear that you will tell me it makes me look less-than-bridal.

I will not try to hide my stretched lobes, or cover my tattoo.

I will not be ashamed of my lopsided breasts.

I am me. I look fine just the way I am, and I will not let you tell me otherwise.

When our wedding takes place, I will be fully present, and I will do so on my terms — not yours. When I fix my hair, it will look lovely to me and my fiancée, and we won't care if it doesn't look lovely to you. When I apply my makeup, I will gingerly avoid my multiple nose piercings so as not to irritate them, and I will love the way they look. When I put on my wedding dress, I will say to myself, "Self, you are pretty fucking hot, and you rock this dress." When I look down at my tattoo, I will remember that I have chosen to adorn my body with badass artwork that has meaning to me, instead of trying to conceal it shamefully.

When our wedding takes place, my fiancée will be fully present, and she will do so on her terms — not yours. She will fix her kinky hair the way she always does, and I will think it looks even more perfect than it normally does, even though she won't do anything different. When she smiles at me as we see each other for the first time that day, I will love the adorable gap in her teeth that makes her smile unique, just like I always do. When she puts on her suit, she will look beautiful and sexy and gorgeous and all the words that are only supposed to apply to someone wearing a wedding dress. When I walk down the aisle and see her in her Cho'Gath hat, I will smile because she was brave enough to partially cosplay at our wedding.

In some ways, my fiancée and I will fit into your bridal mold. But in many other important ways, we will not. And even though not everyone may think we paint the picture of beautiful, blushing brides, we will resist the pressure to be anything that we are not.

More important than that, we will love the way we look, and we will rock our own individual styles. We will be proud of who we are, and we will not feel less beautiful for it. Most of all, we will not shyly ask, tails between our legs, "Do you think I would look less pretty if…"

You see, Bridal Industry, we do not owe it to you to be pretty. We do not owe it to anyone.

Our mantra, instead, will be this quote borrowed from Erin McKean:

You don't have to be pretty. You don't owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don't owe it to your mother, you don't owe it to your children, you don't owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked "female."

On my wedding day, I will be beautiful in my own way, and so will my fiancée, and we won't owe you a damned thing.

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  1. I have been a Wedding Coordinator for over 8 years now, and I feel VERY strongly about individuality in all aspects of a wedding. We built this company with the foundation of a theatre background, and knew we wanted to be more than just the "white wedding" company. I hope ALL brides/brides/grooms/grooms etc feel spectacular about their day. Maybe someone's dream IS a white wedding with perfect details, or perhaps they want a carnival. Perhaps the bride wants to wear a black dress with red stockings, and maybe she's marrying another woman, or a man. In the end, a wedding is about the celebration of your union with the person you love and want to commit your life to. That's the simple truth of it. The "wedding industry" as you put it does not BEGIN to cover all aspects of the individuals getting married. They choose what they want to sell.

    Thank you for sharing this, it was inspiring, and I am SO happy to support every word.

    44 agree
  2. I am copying and pasting this link in to the "why didn't you like this ad?" box on all of the Facebook ads that tell me that I need to diet before my wedding. Thank you. <3 <3 <3

    113 agree
    • I was getting loads of those shortly after I changed my status to engaged. I was so annoyed! Facebook needs to learn to ask before they start using personal information for personalized adverts.

      13 agree
      • I think you can opt out of the personalized ads by going into your profile settings under "Ads" and by turning off instant personalization under the Privacy –> Apps settings. You can also do this for google / chrome.

      • Also very effective…. Change your age and sex on Facebook. Nobody tries to sell pretty bows to a 72 year old man.

        9 agree
    • Those Facebook ads are relentless. I got so sick of them that hid my relationship status and then changed it to married just to get them to go away.

      3 agree
    • I just reported those as offensive spam as soon as I saw them, and they disappeared pretty quickly. 😉

      12 agree
  3. I'm getting married next week and reading this has reminded me that it is our day and we're doing it our way!! I'm prepared for the "well this is different" comments, but I'm looking forward to celebrating our differences in style. Who wants an identikit wedding?

    10 agree
  4. Nice post, I totally agree. I think it's odd how so many brides adopt a style very different to their own on their wedding day just because traditionally brides are supposed to look virginal and clean faced.

    I'm not a virgin, and I have chosen to wear a certain style of make up all my life. I don't want to pretend for the day. I'd rather be married to my fiancée looking the way he knows me and loves me.

    8 agree
  5. This was the most beautiful thing iv ever read, and brought a genuine tear to my eye. It came at just the right time for me to read, iv decided that this shall be mine and my fiancée mantra for the wedding and forever!

    Thank you,

    Funkycherry

    4 agree
  6. This is a wonderful and inspiring article to read! All to often I find myself wondering if I will like the way I look in my pictures or if my guests will think I picked a flattering dress or if my giant back tattoo should make it's grand appearance in front of literally everyone I know, 95% of which have no idea I have any tattoos. We need to stop being afraid and ashamed of being ourselves. If we all did that, Offbeats and Traditionals alike, maybe the WIC wouldn't have so much power over us.

    2 agree
  7. Hell Yes, you are amazing!!!! I am so annoyed everytime I listen to Pandora radio and I hear an Ad for laser tattoo removal that starts with "I'm getting married this summer…" Ugh. I want to get MORE tattoos before our wedding because my dress will show them off so well, not get rid of them!

    4 agree
    • Seriously, that's how they promote that service? That's just disgusting. It reminds me of the multiple pages I found while planning my best friend's bachelorette party suggesting that one of the activities be a group fitness class, so we can all help her with that weight loss aspect of wedding preparation. Ugh. I'm not a tattoo person, but if you are, why the hell would you hide them on your wedding day? It's YOUR day, a day about celebrating who you are and who your partner loves. Not some Stepford version of yourself. I have scars that I could let dictate my dress style, but I'd much rather have the dress I want and not be ashamed of my own body.

      7 agree
  8. I have to work so, so hard to look back at my wedding photos and not feel terrible. Everyone and everything looks so nice__except for me.

    I do my best to be accepting of my body in all other aspects of my life, but for some reason wedding photos ruin me. I really hope that people can hear this message and take it to heart. You have gotta give yourself some room to feel your feelings, but also don't let them eat you up inside! Even if you don't look your most beautiful (in your own mind, or in someone else's) you can still have a WONDERFUL day you will treasure.

    3 agree
    • I think it's awful that our society puts so very much emphasis on this horribly perceived idea of "conventional beauty" that any bride can look back on photos of what was supposed to be the happiest day of her life and think nothing but how ugly/fat/plain/non-bridal/whatever she looked. It's just not fair.

      I photographed a friend's wedding a week ago, and when I sent her a few preview pics while I work on her album, the response I got was, "Oh, it's beautiful! The pictures, the venue, the groom, everything. But god, I'm so FAT!" This after she lost so much weight before the wedding that we had to let her corset out and pin the dress up to keep it on.

      Frankly, she looked gorgeous. I think she would have looked every bit as gorgeous if she hadn't spent the months before the wedding starving herself and working out every time she got a few minutes to spare. Because every time she smiled that day, everyone else in her vicinity smiled too, because she was just that happy. I *hate* that she looks back and only sees her size, rather than that infectious happiness.

      I just wish we could stop giving ourselves such a hard time. You're a real person, and those photos show you living a wonderful moment in your life. You're not some model in a one-off designer gown worth more than my first three cars combined (I assume). You didn't have multiple takes of your ceremony to get everything "just right" like in the movies. So why should your photos look like a perfectly posed mannequin in a shop window? Take a step back and focus on the memory those photos represent. Think about the music that was playing, or the way Great Aunt Ida was crying from happiness, or that time you glanced over at your new husband (or wife) and caught him watching you with a dopey smile on his face. Because those are the really important things to remember.

      9 agree
    • My wedding is 2 months away and I am terror-struck. I am so afraid that I won't like how I look and it feels like this looming monumental disappointment. 🙁

      • I'm so sorry you feel this way! I just want to reach out and give you a big cyber hug. I have super self esteem issues, so every day I try to repeat out loud (saying it out loud helps drive it in, or so my therapist says) that I am beautiful, worthwhile, and loved. Maybe ask your fiance(e) to give you a little boost as well?

        4 agree
  9. I like your sentiment as my bride and I will also not fit many bridal "musts," however your use of the word "Nazi" in your bio is a bit offensive. I would encourage you to rethink this way of describing yourself.

    8 agree
    • Whoopsie! I did not know that was a movie quote :/
      I still think "Nazi" is an unfortunate choice of words though.

      • I agree that it's an unfortunate choice of words, but I wanted to keep the quote as close to the original as I could. It's not necessarily meant to be offensive so much as a social commentary on tabloid news fodder, wherein the term "Nazi" is used to describe so many people who are so far from that kind of dogma. Sensationalist media is what's being made fun of here. I think it's also important to note that as a Noahide and a gay woman, in all likelihood I would have been placed in a concentration camp (a lot of people don't realize that in 1920's/1930's Germany they had a much more open attitude toward gay people than they did in the US, so it was really easy for the Nazis to, say, raid a gay bar that was out in the open and find people to throw in camps).

        3 agree
        • I actually ended up getting another query about the term "Nazi" on my personal blog, so just to reiterate, I'm going to cross-post what I responded with on my blog here:

          I'm not actually a Nazi, nor do I condone anything Nazis have stood for. It's a quote from the film "UHF" starring Weird Al Yankovic, and it's meant to poke fun at sensationalist media. Although the movie predates this phenomenon, I would interpret it as commentary toward referring to certain presidents (George W. Bush, Barack Obama) as Nazis when really they have never done anything nearly as terrible. It could probably also be interpreted as commentary toward things like saying, "Oh, she's a feminazi", or, "That guy works us to the bone, he's such a Nazi." So while it probably sounds pretty terrible, when you think of it as making you question throwing the term "Nazi" around like it doesn't mean anything, it makes more sense.

          • Just so everyone knows, I had the bio changed. As much as I love that movie and that quote, I ultimately decided that it wasn't worth including if it was going to offend people.

  10. Thank you for this. Its beautifully written.

    Bookmarking for when I need the reminder. 🙂

    1 agrees
  11. OMG! OMG! Another woman who plays LOL and has no shame about rockin' the Cho! May I ask if your gentle-lady will be wearing a Gentleman Cho top hat on her Cho-hat for this formal occasion? Either way, you two rock!

    <3 <3 <3

      • Excellent! I cannot tell you how happy this makes me. For every person who doesn't get it, please remember that your fiancee totally made the day of at least one random chick on the internet. 🙂

        1 agrees
  12. This, about brought me to tears. Even holding self expression as something sacred the way I do; with this wedding…my wedding, taking place in three months now…I find myself struggling to be what pretty should be, or as close to it as I feel I can.

    This, turned it around. I vow to be me, at my greatest for my day!

    1 agrees
  13. Are you and your fiancee actually me and my fiancee? I've got the purple hair and stretched ears and piercings and she's got the half sleeve and we both have "alternative lifestyle haircuts" and kinky hair (hers a little more than mine). I'll be rocking a non-wedding dress and she'll be rocking a fitted suit. After a really obnoxious bridal expo (during which I made jokes about how awful it was and my fiancee bragged for the first time ever that she got to be at work), I wanted to scream all of what you wrote from the rooftops.

    I might have told some weight loss/cosmetic surgery booths that they were terrible.

    And I definitely corrected a crapload of people as to what I would and would not be doing at our wedding.

    Thanks for putting these thoughts out there for the world.

    3 agree
  14. Oh thank you, THANK YOU. I needed to hear this so much today. My wedding is in two weeks and I am having some trouble accepting myself for who I am (much less *celebrating* who I am). It is MY body and even though I am the bride, my appearance is not public property. I am beautiful because I love and I am loved. 🙂

    4 agree
    • "I am beautiful because I love and I am loved. "

      Thank you for this!!! I need to keep this where I can see it always!

      1 agrees
  15. Well said!
    Why do people think everyone wants to look the same, do the same and be the same as everyone else? Beautiful is individual, what it means to one person is not what it means to another. Beautiful is perfect to you and no one else.

    I'm getting married in September and having so much fun planning and making and getting everything the way that me and my fiancé want it to be! Finding vendors that understand we are not 'normal' has been interesting (hence the major DIY elements to our day), but I do love proving people wrong! When our wedding venue co-ordinator said 'we wouldn't do anything she hadn't seen before' our reaction was simply 'challenge accepted'!

    You should never give up who you are just because someone doesn't get you – you should be able to look back on your day and think that was us, we were so in love, didn't we look awesome. Not who were those people?

    Big love to all the beautiful freaks like me!

    2 agree
  16. I'm using the last few minutes before work starts to read this blog (As per usual) and now I'm crying at my desk. Having respect for YOURSELF first and foremost is important. Everyone else that matters will fall in line. Getting healthy is an inspiring thing and I have been slightly worried about looking back at my wedding photos and feeling regret BUT at least I wont look back at my wedding photos and say…man…I lost SO MUCH weight for my wedding but now I'm gross. I'll look like me…and my family/friend/kids will say the same! How can that NOT be what we want?

  17. WOW I just sat down to browse Offbeat Bride to distract myself after I absolutely bawled after trying on my wedding dress and thinking that I don't look like a pretty bride – the way I'm supposed to! And I read this article and I cried even more.. but not in a bad way. This is how I look and no matter what, at the end of the day, I will be married to the love of my life.

    5 agree
  18. Man, it's only been a little while that same-sex marriage has been legal in my state, and it still makes me cry happy tears when I see two brides or grooms (or genderqueer people with anyone) getting hitched. I grew up bi in a small, religious, crappy town, and I didn't think I would live to see same-sex marriage legalized.

    So, what I'm saying is, above and beyond how much I agree with all of this, I heart so hard that you two are getting married. And so much good on your lady that she's partially cosplaying! I tried to talk my honey into it, but got shot down.

  19. This is awesome. Congratulations to you and your love. This is inspiring as I plan my day. Alot of our plans include things that others may deem tacky, but we want it to reflect everything we love. Thankfully we have supportive friends and family that know we are a bit crazy and I'm sure they will enjoy our day with us. Ultimately that is all that matters.

  20. I cannot thank you enough for posting this. it came when I desperately needed a wake-up call.
    thank you thank you thank you
    you have made me feel validated and real again.
    the pressure is unbelievable.
    thank you

    2 agree
  21. I going to go post this on my wall, because this doesn't just apply to my wedding. This applies to my life. I think I'm beautiful and that's all that counts.

    3 agree
  22. My husband and I had our "wedding" in a pumpkin patch. I went to the thrift store and bought a black $15 formal dress. Along with my black dress i wore multiple spider broaches and a skull shawl around my shoulders. I made a tiny hat with a crow on it that had a dainty black veil. On my feet i wore jack skellington red and black striped toe socks and bloodsplattered heels. He wore clothes we already had. Our daughter wore a $5 dress from walmart and a pair of white snow boots. (It was october, and muddy) on October 13th, 2012, the three of us said our Corpse Bride vows in a pumpkin patch with the farmer as our officiant. Then we let grandma take our daughter home and we loaded up our Zombie Response Jeep, took a cruise in the rain then had our reception at the Twins of Evil concert (marylin manson and rob zombie). No one will.ever.be able to convince me we did it wrong….

    6 agree
  23. Hallelujah! You nailed it. The whole "bridal industry" thing gives me the serious heebie-jeebies. I hate being told what to do, and I hate all the automatic assumptions that go along with getting married. I'm struggling to address any misgivings from my loved ones who question our choices that deviate from "usual" wedding expectations calmly, treating them as teachable moments rather than getting my hackles up. But it's hard. Thanks for this post, and thanks to the whole offbeat bride community for acting as a sort of sanity touchstone for me. Every time I log in, it's like validation. I love that there are other people out there who are a little "out there".

  24. There's another wedding site that I like to frequent that I called out recently for their addition of "health" tips. I just don't feel like it's appropriate, but maybe I've gotten too used to the safe haven of the OBB environment. I'm glad I commented on the post about [changing specific body part for wedding] because other people chimed in with their discomfort too. Maybe it won't make a difference in the posts that come out from that site, but it's feedback nonetheless.

    1 agrees
  25. I thought the photo was supposed to be the "bridal industry" ideal until I read the caption. I think you're pretty hot and bridal-looking.

    1 agrees
  26. I love this article more than I can even express. That quote from Erin McKean is becoming my own personal mantra from now on. More girls should be taught that being uniquely you is way more important than just fitting into the mold of what society considers "pretty".

    1 agrees
  27. HERE HERE! I was proud to rock my rose plugs and tiny top hat at my wedding. Not only did I not try to cover up my most visible tattoos, I went out and got them touched up and got a new one just a month or so before the wedding so they would look absolutely gorgeous for our photos. I wanted our wedding to be about *us* in all our geeky fabulousity. Be who you want to be on the big day! In the end your opinions are the only ones that truly matter.

    (That character hat will be bloody amazing, too. I hope we get to see pictures!)

    1 agrees
  28. My fiancée picked me up from a make-up trial a few months ago. I left it feeling awful, not looking how I expected to. I started to panic because this was the only place I could go to get my make-up professionally done… Then he said to me — "Why do you need to look so different on your wedding day? Surely that is the only day where you should look like you." He was 100% right. Why would he want to see his wife to be looking drastically made up and nothing like the woman he fell in love with? So I will be doing my own make-up (pretty much how I do it every day) and I won't be having a crazy hair do, either. I'll be wearing my hair how it suits me and how I often wear it. I will look like me.

    1 agrees
  29. Cho'gath hat? That sounds so awesome!! That alone makes your wedding fun and exciting – we need more league players doing weddings lol! 😀 That aside, I totally agree with being true to yourself. My wedding is 18 days away and i'm having a very 'balenced' wedding between offbeat and traditional and i've still had to explain decisions to trad family and quirky friends.
    'You're getting married in a church? But you're atheist!', 'you're wearing an ivory/white dress not xena warrior princess armor? You sure?' On the other side 'well that dress is unusual…', 'you're brother is a bridesmaid? He's a boy – wouldn't he be better as an usher?', 'Are you sure you want boardgames at you're reception?' *sigh*

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