Why I Don't Want to Lose Weight for my Wedding Day

Hi, friends! This post originally appeared on my blog in November 2015. With it being the height of wedding season, I thought I'd share it again. Don't forget: you're already enough, just as you are. Resist the urge to give in to the hype of wedding season.

Pst: Your fiancé already thinks you're a smoke show, too. I promise :) 

As much as I hate to admit it, I'm the girl who has dreamed about her wedding her entire life. When I meet those cool chicks who say things like, I've never once thought about my wedding day, I think, you are cooler than me, for sure. But, I am who I am. And I'm the type of girl who has dreamed of being a wife for as long as I can remember. Does this make me cool? Probably not. But, it makes me honest.

I've had visions of the flowers, the music and, of course, my dress, for as long as I can remember. I've dreamed of the way my groom will tear up when he sees me for the first time and how it will feel when we pray together - realizing this is the start of something very important. 

It turns out, I'm not alone. The more I plan, the more I realize girls all over the world have dreamed of this day their entire lives and will stop at nothing but perfection. And alongside selecting the perfect cake and food is a desire to be perfect themselves. 

Since getting engaged, the resources have poured in:
How to have whiter, straighter teeth by your wedding day
How to have softer, fuller hair in six months
How to have longer lashes and legs and everything in between by next week

The wedding industry has created a posture of self-improvement that can make almost any girl, no matter how confident, wonder if she, too, needs slimmer arms and a more toned back by May. 

Don't worry about your legs! The magazines day. They won't show on your wedding day. When I read that advice, I laughed. They won't show for the few hours I'm going to be in my dress, so I should just forget about them? What about the wedding night? And honeymoon? Also, more rationally, what about caring for each part of your body, not because it will show but because it functions and is, therefore, significant? 

I decided early on that I won't give in to the pressure to lose weight for our wedding. 

Soon after we got engaged, I was walking into the gym, which I do most every day, when someone stopped me and said, gotta get those wedding arms! I laughed in the moment, but as I walked away, I wondered if she knew she was implying that my arms were not good enough as they are now.

I wasn't offended. I get it. Everyone wants to look amazing on their wedding day, when they'll be the star of the show and tagged in a bajillion photos, which will remain on the internet forever & ever. 

But I want our engagement season to be about more than just one day. 

I want it to be about building a marriage, not just planning a wedding. I want it to be about bending and shaping my heart and mind to be the best wife I can be. I want it to be about growing closer to Chris, my family and our friends. About celebrating love, not about changing myself. 

Yes. I want to look and feel beautiful when I walk down the aisle toward Chris. The thought of seeing him for the first time gives me chills and I hope he thinks I'm stunnning. But, I don't want to look all that different than I do today, either. I don't want to look back at wedding photos and yearn for that one moment in time, when I was thinner.  I want to look back and see joy in my eyes and love between us.

I don't want to give in to the idea that I am not enough today, as a fiancé, to become a wife. I don't want to bend and mold myself to societal pressure to be more bride-like and less-Whitney like. I refuse to believe that I need to be smaller, firmer or less than I am now in order to be worthy of walking down the aisle.  In fact, I'm determined to believe that becoming wedding ready is about becoming more of myself, more generous toward Chris and more certain of our love. It's about becoming more, not less. And, if that means I won't fit in a smaller dress come May, I'm OK with it.

I believe that the best way we can love others is by first loving ourselves just as we are. And if there's one thing I want to give to Chris on our wedding day, it's to walk down the aisle toward him, fully prepared to love him as best as I know how. 

All photos by the amazing and beautiful Natalie Puls.

10 Tips for Wedding Planning

Just like my post about registering, the internet is inundated with advice about wedding planning. Part of me wondered if I could add anything valuable to the conversation since so much has already been said. But! I thought about the amazing advice people gave us during planning and I wanted to share it with those of you who may be in the process, or who will someday plan a wedding. 


1. If it isn't fun, don't do it. 

The morning after we got engaged, I was talking to my mom and she said: If there is anything during this process that isn't fun, let's just not do it. 

This was, singlehandedly, the best attitude to take into our engagement. If assigning seats feels like a nightmare to you, don't do it. If you don't think cake tasting sounds fun, have a different dessert. It's your day and if something is super painful to plan, scrap it. There's no reason to torture yourself to please someone else or old traditions. 

Garter tosses always make me uncomfortable and, in the past when I was single, bouquet tossing induced a lot of shame for me. With that in mind, we skipped them both.

2. Consider what might overwhelm you the week of the wedding. 

For months, Chris and I were planning a surprise field day for our wedding party. We had plans for shirts, Sax Snacks and some serious games. One day, out of the blue, I was like WAIT. I am not going to want to do this the day before our wedding. It hit me that I was going to want to go for a run, drink coffee and spend time with my family. 

So, we canceled everything and I spent the day with my fam. We exercised, made breakfast and drank coffee. We sat outside chatting on the deck, exchanged gifts and watched the little ones play. That's it! And it was perfect. 

I've had friends who want all of their bridesmaids to sleepover after the rehearsal dinner. This is awesome and I've loved being a part of those weddings. Take on the attitude of: Good for her, not for me. Do what feels right - you know yourself best. 

3. The bride sets the tone for the day.

If you're relaxed and happy with your bridesmaids all day, they will pick up on this energy as you get ready together. After the ceremony, they will descend upon your reception being relaxed and happy. And, in turn, your guests will pick up on their vibe and assume the same attitude. 

4. Take a minute during the reception to watch people dancing.

Just step back, relax and be let it wash over you that every person present is there because of your love. Let it overwhelm you. 

5. Make eye contact during the vows.

My friend Jamie told us to do this right before we walked down the aisle. I am so, so grateful to have the memory of Chris' sweet face gazing at me as we took our vows. 

6. Have a no-wedding-talk date one week before the wedding. 

Go on a date, don't talk about anything related to the wedding. Catch up, reconnect, remember what you used to talk about before the wedding planning began :) 

7. Look at the reception before the party starts.

One of my friends grabbed me before the reception to make me look at the setup. Once everyone enters the room, it won't look the same. So sneak a peek if you can. 

8. Remember the little costs.

A friend of mine forgot to account for Charleston's high city sales tax, which was tacked on to her catering bill. She was so bummed. Remember to account for little last minute costs - dress alterations, tipping your vendors, welcome bags, thank you gifts, etc. 

9. Forget everything you've seen on Pinterest.

You are not putting on a show for your guests. You do not have to have a pin-worthy wedding. This is not an arms race for Instagram likes and Boomerangs and hashtags. 

You don't need to lose weight. You don't need to go into debt. 

Do what feels like you. Do what excites you. Don't let social media shame you into having a wedding that doesn't feel like you or believing that your love isn't, in and of itself, enough of a reason to get married. It's the thing that matters the most.

10. Be in awe of what you're about to do.

You're joining together for eternity. Let the magnitude of it overwhelm you in the best way. It is a big deal! It's easy to get caught up in the wedding, but, remember, you're really planning for a marriage. Let your engagement season be about preparing your heart for marriage just as much as it is about planning an event (if not more!). 

All photos by the amazing and beautiful Natalie Puls.

Our Wedding: Vendors

Hi! I wanted to share a few of the vendors who made our wedding day so magical. If you're looking for more details about our wedding, read about the Getting Ready & First Looks, as well as Ceremony & Reception. Stay tuned for my best wedding advice on Monday. 

While I was getting ready with all of the bridesmaids, my sister, Ashley, said: I feel like you've surrounded yourself with really talented, nice, calm professionals today. 

Aaaand I could not have said it better myself. We were blown away with our vendors and I wanted to share a few of them for anyone who might be planning a wedding. I highly recommend any of the amazing women below. This is not a referral post and I won't receive any compensation for promoting them. These girls are just the bomb :) 

Some are Atlanta- and Indianapolis-specific, which I have noted below. 

Photographer: Natalie Puls // Natalie is Oregon-based but will go anywhere. She's amazing, calm and just the type of person you want to share a moment so intimate as your first look. One of the best parts is that, with her wedding package, she spends the entire weekend with you. I didn't realize what a perk this was until I experienced it. She took photos of my family the morning of the rehearsal, did fake engagement photos with Chris and me before dinner, stayed for all of the rehearsal dinner and was with us the entire wedding day. I can't recommend her enough. She completely captured the essence of our wedding day.

Hair & makeup: Danielle Ivy // I could say the same for Danielle. She's professional, sweet and so talented. Everyone loved their hair and makeup. And, she's quick! She cruised through 10 bridesmaids, my mom and my hair and makeup in no time. She's based in Tuscaloosa but affordable enough that paying for her travel is worth it. I basically just wish I could hang out with her all the time because she's so wonderful.  

Band: Mo' Sol // We loved our band! They kept the crowd alive and were so fun to work with. They let people DJ when they take breaks, which is happy and low key. They typically service the southeast, but if you're willing to pay for travel, they go anywhere. 

Wedding planner: Erin Stapleton at Stella Harper // The Knot reviews don't lie! Erin is awesome. She's organized and sweet, but puts her foot down when she needs to. Basically the ideal personality for a wedding planner. I loved working with her.  (Atlanta based)

Calligraphy: Stacy Spiro // Stacy was in my old bible study and is such a talented calligrapher. She can do anything - from traditional, formal calligraphy, to playful, curly script. She just started working with water colors, too. She's still young in her business owning, so her prices are very affordable. Also, she's awesome :) She just did the invitations for my cousins wedding in New York, too. 

Welcome Maps: Haley Thoms at Savvy Scribe // I had a real vision for welcome maps for our hotel bags and had, pretty much, no clue where to start. Enter Haley! She whipped them up so quickly and I was thrilled with the results. It was such a sweet touch to add to the welcome bags. Haley also helped me when I got into a bind with our programs. She works quickly and can meet all your paper/graphic needs.

Wedding Dress: MH Pomanders // Ah, dress shopping. My mom and I went last fall, thinking it might take a while to find a dress. We found my dress at the second shop we visited and it was one of the first ones I tried on. We couldn't believe it! The ladies at MH Pomanders are so kind, which is wonderful because dress shopping can leave you feeling a little tender. I'm going back in a few weeks with one of my best friends and cannot wait to see the owners again! I feel like they are my friends at this point. I got my veil and jewelry there, as well. (Indianapolis based) 

Bridesmaids dresses: Amsale via Bella Bridesmaids // I loved working with both Amsale and Bella. Amsale had a million options and fabrics within one color scheme, which I loved, because I wanted all of my bridesmaids to be comfortable and feel beautiful. Bella was the perfect vendor for us, as we had people spread from LA to Denver to Atlanta and everywhere in between. It helped to have so many locations from which we could choose. 

Getting ready PJs and robes: Piyama // The trouble with discovering Piyama is that I want everything they make. My friends loved these comfy pajamas and I felt very pretty in the white robe. They take a while to ship to the States (~six weeks), so plan ahead if you want to order. 

Caterer: Zest // Our food was delicious - people kept saying how much they loved it. Everything was gluten free (wahoo!) and husband and wife duo, Hannah and Dana, were so accommodating. We loved working with them and highly recommend them. (Atlanta based)

Save the dates and place cards: Minted / This is the *one* referral link in this post because I can give you $25 off. Wahoo :) Minted made ordering paper goods super simple and we loved the elegance of them. We didn't use Minted for our invitation suite, but did really appreciate the free, beautiful addressing on the save the dates.

All of our vendors were truly amazing and the day would not have been complete without them! Thank you all! 

All photos by the amazing and beautiful Natalie Puls.

Our Wedding: Ceremony & Reception

Hi! Below is a recap of our ceremony and reception. In case you missed it, you can read about getting ready and first looks here. As I mentioned yesterday, this post is detail heavy - largely for my own memory and for those who love wedding stories. Later this week, I will share more utilitarian posts, such as our vendors and some advice :) Stay tuned!

My dad and I stood outside the Hydrangea Garden at Callanwolde as the violinist and guitarist began to play music that indicated the ceremony was starting. I expected to feel nervous but instead felt a calm wash over me as I watched my stunning bridesmaids walk down the aisle. I encouraged Della, my littlest niece, as she prepared to walk - telling her she was a mini bride. 

All five of my nephews were ring bearers, but only four of them were old enough to walk. I later found out that, right before heading down the aisle, my nephew, Diego, put a stick in his mouth. Just like the way Della refused to pose during photos - this makes my entire being smile. I love that my family can look back at the pictures someday and laugh, saying oh my gosh! I forgot Diego had a stick in his mouth! I think it will bring us joy for years to come.

As I walked arm-in-arm with my dad toward Chris and saw the faces of our dearest loved ones, I felt fully enveloped in their love. The bright green trees and flowers around us made the space feel private - like a secret garden in the city, just for us. 

The moment felt sacred as the violinist and guitarist completed playing and my brother-in-law, Ryan, began to speak. I felt the Lord's presence there, reminding me that we were committing to forever, eternity. It felt much bigger than us. I knew, in that moment, that we were being knit together and I'd never forget the magnitude of it as it washed over me. 

I gave my dad the biggest hug ever when Ryan asked him to give me a way. There is something that always gets me - no matter whose wedding it is - when the father has to sit down. I was once in a wedding where, when the minister asked who would give the bride away, the father replied: do I have to?

That sentiment has stuck with me at every wedding since that day, wondering if most dads want to ask that question in response. Do I still have a choice? The deal isn't done yet, you know...

One of my favorite things we did during the ceremony was passing our rings around while Ryan spoke, before the vows. We asked each guest to hold the rings and pray over them for a moment. Even today, sometimes I look at my band and tears well up in my eyes at the thought of each one of our guests touching them, praying for us, praying for our future and our marriage. Knowing they have prayed for us reminds me that they believe in us - that they believe in marriage.

I'd be lying if I said I remember a lot of the words spoken during our ceremony. I listened carefully, but felt like I was floating the entire time. I felt like I was on this cloud, watching everyone I love watch us and kept thinking: Holy cow, I have been waiting for this moment for my entire life. This is it! 

Everyone kept telling us how amazing the words Ryan spoke were - complimenting his eloquence, the magnitude. I felt so fortunate to have someone we both love and trust deeply marry us. 

I could barely contain my excitement as I held Chris' hands to exchange our vows. Right before we walked down the aisle, my bridesmaid, Jamie, told us to maintain eye contact during the vows. I'm so glad we listened - it would have been easy to look at Ryan or the audience. I felt the depth of what we were doing as we peered into one another's eyes - our souls connecting. 

As we recessed, my sister, Ashley, sang "Here Comes the Sun," which is what my parents recessed to at their wedding, as well as both of my sisters. It's a song that stirs a lot of emotion in me no matter what the setting and hearing her beautiful voice sing us out was magical.

After the ceremony, Chris and I dismissed each guest one by one to the cocktail hour. We hugged them and thanked them for attending and it felt surreal to have so many beautiful, familiar faces in one garden - just for us. 

While our guests went to cocktail hour, Chris and I had a 10-minute mini date. This was also one of my favorite things we did. It allowed us to eat (important!) and also gave us 10 minutes alone to say, pretty much exclusively, oh my gosh we are married! over and over. It was the happiest date of my life and gave us a few minutes to slow down again, regroup. I kept saying hi, how are you doing, HUSBAND?

From there, we went to our reception. I'll never forget the joy I felt as we walked into the big, white space and our friends and family stood and clapped for us. We danced to "For Once in my Life" by Stevie Wonder, which our band played. After that, we each danced with our parents, then sat down for toasts.

My dad welcomed everyone so eloquently and Ryan blessed the meal.  My sisters and Chris' best man, Matt, spoke beautifully as they showered us with love. Chris had cried some throughout the day, but this was when he really began to get emotional. I loved seeing the way he was moved by their words. 

Once the dancing started, the reception felt like a complete blink. We said hi to our guests, we cut the cake, we ate froyo (!) with rainbow sprinkles (!!). It was so happy. Once Chris and I hit the dance floor, we never left.

At one point during the dancing, I stepped back and looked at everyone singing and smiling and waving the tambourines and selfie sticks we'd given out and I felt completely overwhelmed, in the best way. I remember thinking: all of these smiling faces are just for us! It was incredible. 

When our wedding planner, Erin, came to tell us it was time to go, I was absolutely shocked. I thought we had hours ahead of us! She ushered our guests out for a sparkler getaway as I said goodbye to my parents.

I hugged them and thanked them, then grabbed Chris' hand and ran through the crowd. We jumped into an old Wrangler and sped away, waving goodbye to the beautiful, loving faces behind us. 

The whole thing was pure magic and I couldn't be more grateful to everyone who made it so special. It was the best day of my life and I was so honored to have such loving people by our sides.

So that's our wedding day :) Stay tuned for a vendor recap Friday! 

All photos by the amazing and beautiful Natalie Puls.