Weddings And Weight: Why Do Brides Feel Pressure To Diet?

We asked women who lost weight – and women who didn't

When Leah Anidi-Ryz married her wife Enor in 2015, she felt rough – battling a bad cold and a sore throat. Like many brides, Leah had felt pressure to lose weight ahead of the wedding, and embarked on an intense exercise regime alongside a restrictive diet. As a result, she says, she was run down when it came to the day itself.

“I just felt like it was going to be the most important day of my life so I wanted to look as beautiful as possible. Unfortunately, because of our societal standards of beauty, I attributed that to slimness,” the 38-year-old tells HuffPost UK. “I wish I hadn’t made myself feel so ill and I wish I hadn’t been so hard on myself leading up to the wedding.”

The day was still filled with happiness, but Leah feels she doesn’t look like herself in her wedding photos. Now a mum-of-two, the pictures sometimes make her feel pressured to lose weight again – she finds she has to remind herself: “That person that I was then was not sustainable.”

Leah Anidi-Ryz (left) and her wife Enor (right).
Supplied by Leah Anidi-Ryz
Leah Anidi-Ryz (left) and her wife Enor (right).

From dressmakers who ask: “What size do you intend to be on your wedding day?” to articles providing tips on the best pre-wedding diets, losing weight before you tie the knot is so normalised, it can feel almost mandatory. For women, at least.

Janine Pipe, 39, from Swindon, decided to lose weight before her wedding 15 years ago. “For me, it was knowing I had a lot of eyes on me – we had 120 guests. But also brides in films always looked so perfect, I wanted to look like that too,” she says.

As the bride, she received lots of “isn’t she beautiful” comments – but a number of family members also commented that they thought she looked “too skinny” on the day. “When someone says you look too thin, it’s almost akin to saying you look too fat,” Janine notes. “Why do people feel they can comment on your weight?”

The final blow was when she came down with the flu on her honeymoon in Boston, which, like Leah, she attributes to her pre-wedding weight loss.

Janine Pipe and her husband, Steve.
Supplied by Janine Pipe
Janine Pipe and her husband, Steve.

Helen Radford, 30, is getting married in two months time. She isn’t going on a drastic crash diet, but she’s upped her exercise and is eating healthily. Social media is a factor, she says.

I am never very happy with how I look in photos so I want to really feel my best,” she says. “Not to mention that everyone will be snapping away and posting on social media – nowadays your wedding photos go far further than just an album on your relatives’ coffee tables!”

Weight-related comments from friends and family can put pressure on brides-to-be, says Ruth Walker, 32, from Newcastle, who will be getting married in March next year. “I’ve had so many people comment on my weight, that I should lose or at least maintain my weight, it’s such an unhealthy attitude to have,” she says.

“It hurts to know that some people base their opinion on how brides look on their wedding day by how much they weigh. I was bullied for years as child for being very slim. I didn’t expect to experience this harmful behaviour as an adult.”

Browsing on social and commercial sites for wedding ideas can also result in women being exposed to weight-loss ads targeted particularly at brides. These compound the issue argues Hanna Cesek-Shaw, 34, from Buckinghamshire.

Hanna Cesek-Shaw and her husband, Rhodri.
Supplied by Hanna Cesek-Shaw
Hanna Cesek-Shaw and her husband, Rhodri.

Hanna did not set out to lose weight before her nuptials earlier this month, but every time she logged into Pinterest for wedding planning, however, she says a weight loss ad aimed at brides popped up on her screen. It made me her angry that women were being targeted by weight-loss ads at a time when there is already a lot of stress, she says. “I was sad at the thought that ads like these might contribute further to women thinking their weight is important on their wedding day.”

Pinterest told HuffPost UK that it encourages users to report ads they don’t want to see, adding: “We have a strict advertising policy against body shaming, before-and-after weight-loss imagery and unlikely or dangerous weight-loss claims.”

Like Hanna, other women are also increasingly shunning the idea that they should lose weight for their wedding. Zoë Dew, 33, from Lancashire, jokes: “I was far more interested in drinking all the champagne I could and also going to as many food tastings as I could! I didn’t care one iota what size my dress was, it fitted me beautifully.”

Rochelle Barrish and her husband, Elton.
Jean-Pierre Uys Photography
Rochelle Barrish and her husband, Elton.

Meanwhile Rochelle Barrish, 43, from Cape Town, South Africa, quit the pre-wedding diet that was making her miserable after loved ones intervened. “My sweet fiancé, who up until then had begged me to stop as I was turning into a hungry monster, escalated my issue to my squad,” she explains. “They sat me down intervention-style and read a note he had written for them to read. I think ‘hearing’ his words come out of their mouths did the trick – one never listens to your partner.”

In the note, Rochelle’s now-husband, Elton, told her he wanted to marry the woman he’d fallen in love with and she finally realised she didn’t need to change. “I stopped the diet the next day and enjoyed the rest of my wedding prep,” she says. “I changed wedding dress shops and went to one for a fuller-figured bride and I really, really enjoyed my dress and my wedding ceremony and reception.”

For brides still feeling stressed, Holly Winter Stevens, 40, from Hampshire, advises offloading that worry on to your dressmaker. Against her better judgement, she crash dieted before her wedding because of an irrational fear that her dress wouldn’t fit. Eleven years later, her work as a dressmaker ensures brides don’t feel the same.

“I look back and think: ‘You twat!’” she jokes. “Most of my brides come to their fittings angst-ridden about fitting into their dresses. I tell them they can delegate that worry to me; it’s my job to make their dresses fit, not theirs. Feeling healthy and confident and rocking what you’ve got is way more important.”