You’re engaged to the love of your life and you’re also on a journey to show your body the kindness and respect it deserves? Wins across the board. But how do you marry, the two? Every pun intended.
Your first thought might be body positivity. Its been around since the 1960s, with social media helping cement mainstream accessibility to the information around it, but maybe that’s not the route for you.
Realistically, feeling positive or loving every aspect of our bodies all the time can be overwhelming. It doesn’t leave much room for the nuance because there will absolutely be ups and downs especially as you embark on your wedding planning journey.
If all of that sounds like you, then maybe body neutrality can be your starting point or even your path as a bride.
What is Body Neutrality?
Body neutrality started popping up around 2015 and can be linked back to intuitive eating counsellor Anne Poirier, who used the term to better support her clients when finding balance with food and movement.
In its essence, whilst body positivity encourages the focus to be on continuous beauty and confidence with the body we have, neutrality removes the focus from just the physical aspects of our body.
Not the easiest thing to do when planning a day where it might feel that all eyes are on you and focused on your physical body, but the truth is your wedding day isn’t about what you or your future spouse looks like. It’s not about whether you have an ideal body or if you feel the most confident. It’s about the celebration of your love and the honouring of this new journey you’re both about to go on.
Still, it helps to have an idea of how to navigate a body neutral approach to planning your day. So here are 12 helpful tips to start you on your way.
It’s Not Your Fault
Firstly, recognise that struggling with your body is not your fault. It’s actually incredibly normal. We live in a world in which we are constantly ingesting negative imagery and information about not only our bodies but other peoples. Did you know that a survey done in 2019 by YouGov showed that 1 in 5 adults struggle with body image? You are not alone in this. So many of us are finding our ways back to our bodies and back to peace. Not only that but you will have your own unique experience with your body. Whatever painful experiences, trauma or bullying you have encountered will all be things you have to sift through whilst journeying through this. Give yourself grace.
You’re not going to necessarily wake up tomorrow and have perfected practice with neutrality. And maybe not even by the time you wedding days rolls around, but that’s okay too. This takes time. It isn’t linear and there isn’t an end date. Don’t put pressure on yourself to become a body neutrality guru in a few months or year.
You Can Have Difficult Days
It truly is normal to have days where we struggle with our bodies. So much more so for those of us who have chronic illnesses or underlying conditions. There will be days where you and your body are at odds. That isn’t easy but it’s okay. Give yourself time to feel those feelings. Allow them to have space whilst remembering they don’t define you. Those difficult days aren’t forever.
You Are More Than a Body
It’s hard to remember this one especially when a big part of the wedding planning experience is buying something special to wear and have that being the focus. And whilst it’s amazing to have that moment where you find that thing that makes you feel incredible for your wedding day, ultimately you are so much more than that and so is your body. There is so much more to you. And there always will be. As Bob Dylan said, “I contain multitudes.”
Planning is overwhelming and so is having to focus on our bodies all the time. If you feel like there’s a moment or several moments where it’s all getting on top of you. Take a break. Tap out altogether. Hit pause on the process and do what you need to recalibrate. Heck, even if you’re not overwhelmed it’s always a good idea to take a break during planning. It’s such an exciting step in our lives but it doesn’t need to be all consuming.
Redirect Your Focus
When you take that break, use it as an opportunity to redirect your focus on several layers. One of which can be your body. If you’ve had a really intense period of planning that was heavily focused on your body (such as dress shopping!), then use that as an opportunity to redirect your focus all together. Do something else you enjoy that includes your body i.e. movement you love, but it isn’t about focusing on its aesthetic.
If you you’re still struggling the body neutrality approach then reframe it altogether. This is about finding what works and makes sense for you, so place it within a framework that serves you the best. Maybe it’s about taking little seeds from other aspects of body politics. Maybe you do add in a sprinkling of body confidence or positivity that doesn’t mean that your neutrality journey is wrong. This is about what you need during this time.
It’s Not About Perfection
So much of what we see with wedding imagery gives us this idea that we’re meant to have the “perfect” day and look perfect, too. But that’s not true and quite frankly perfect doesn’t exist. All the things that make you different will make your wedding day yours and that’s beautiful and worth celebrating. Don’t worry about fitting into a niche or aesthetic. Don’t worry about any part of you being perfect in the lead up to or on the day. Be you. That is enough.
Surround Yourself with the Right People
The journey with our body is unique to us but as with all things in life, we can’t do everything alone. So, make sure you have the people around you who recognise and affirm your journey and your desire to have a wedding and life that exists outside of the fixation on just your body. Also, if the people around you are always talking negatively about their own bodies, of course that’s going to rub off on you too.
Be Open with Your Partner
Keep dialogue frequent and open with your partner and invite them to do the same. You are already each other’s great support and I’m sure that plays a part in why you are both moving into the next chapter as spouses. Lean into that in this season of your lives. Be open and communicate the sort of affirmations that will best serve you and help support you as you learn to focus on all the wonderful things about you that are worthy of celebrating.
Find Encouragement from Hashtags
Social media can be a source of stress when it comes to our journeys with our bodies, but it can also be a place where we can find community. Search the right sort of body affirming hashtags and look for the work and information of creators that you can use in your own journey. See what’s helpful and can be applied to all the areas of your life as well as your wedding planning. Some of my favourites are #bodyneutraility #bodykindness #bodyrespect #bodyempowerment #bodyimagehealing #bodypeace #bodyfreedom.
Remember, What You Wear Doesn’t Define You
Finally, whilst it’s easier to said, remember that whatever you wear on the day doesn’t define you. It doesn’t even define the moment of time you wear it. When you’re in the euphoria of saying, “I do”, what you’re wearing really isn’t going matter. Let the moments that make your love worth celebrating be what creates core memories for you.
Your day is going to be wonderful and for a host of reasons outside of just your body, but your body will be one of them. Your body is the essence that carries who you are through the day to day and it is what is carrying you to your love. That is worth being grateful for.
About Michelle Chantelle Hopewell
Michelle is an Edinburgh based content creator and writer passionate about body empowerment, menstrual wellness and holistic living. She has been blogging and creating work since 2012 and over the years published in Huffpost, The Unedit, The Scottish Wedding Directory, Pride and many other publications. You can find her work on most platforms under the handle @mybodyliberation