The pressure to look and feel your best on your wedding day is no small thing – there’s a reason weddings and beauty are two of the world’s biggest industries. Along with planning and hosting essentially the biggest dinner party of your adult life, there’s also an ungodly insistence on looking perfect whilst doing it. I break a sweat just thinking about it.
When I got engaged 18 months ago, one of the first things I Googled – even before I started looking at dresses – was “wedding beauty prep”. I lost about four hours to that Google search, and a whole lot more sleep; it was enlightening and terrifying in equal measure. If you really wanted to, you could probably make a full time job out of beautifying yourself ahead of the big day, but sadly I didn’t have that kind of time, nor money. And as it turned out I had even less of both than I thought. Five months post-proposal and the pandemic hit, salons closed, and suddenly the closest thing I had to wedding prep was watching YouTube tutorials on how to give yourself the perfect pedicure (I never even got close – my cuticles can attest).
Having lost a year of crucial prep time to a global pandemic, suddenly the pressure I felt was accompanied by overwhelming panic. I was running out of time – all the wedding websites said so. It was around then that I realised that there was one extremely important element of wedding prep that I had so far disregarded: my mental health. I immediately set about finding ways I could focus on that – at least until a professional could get their hands on my pores. And wouldn’t you know it? The panic and pressure subsided and the rest began to feel important, yes, but certainly not life or death. And after all, the secret to being the most beautiful bride? Being a happy one.
So in the hope of advocating for bridal balance, here are some of the things I have done, and plan to do, in the run up to my wedding.
1 months out
I hate to sound hyperbolic but I’m quite sure acupuncture changed my life, maybe even my personality. But most relevant here: it certainly changed my attitude towards wedding planning. I felt calmer, more grounded and emotionally more prepared for the big day from the very first session. I don’t have enough adjectives to describe the brilliant Ross J Barr. He picked me up (quite literally) after I was very sick with Covid-19 and made me feel not just like the person I felt pre-sickness, but more myself than I could ever remember being. At every lockdown, hurdle and loss, he was there to put me back together again. A session with him feels like hitting the refresh button – nay, a total reboot! – and every time I leave his clinic, I feel almost giddy whilst simultaneously the most relaxed I’ve ever felt. It’s pure magic. Luckily for self-proclaimed Ross J Barr addicts like me, he’s created a range of patches to use at home. The new Calm patches are a total game-changer at the end of a long day, or if I feel a migraine coming on, and I will almost certainly have half a dozen on me in the days before the wedding.
6 months out
I wrote at length about my turbulent search for a wedding dress here, and I can’t tell you how pleased I am to say I finally have one (a Vivienne Westwood gown I would quite like to wear every day for the rest of my life). However, the dress itself came as a bit of a surprise. I hate my arms, you see. Always have done. For some people, it’s their tummy, others their thighs or bum – for me, it’s my upper arms, and my wedding dress leaves them very much on show. I had read a lot about Coolsculpting (a non-invasive procedure that targets very specific, stubborn areas by freezing the fat cells), and it appealed to me because despite regular exercise, my bingo wings have never budged. I’d never really been able to justify it and was a little scared, if I’m honest. After a consultation with the Cavendish Clinic, I was sold and very quickly realised I had nothing to be scared about. I had it done in my lunch hour, there was no downtime (only a little soreness), and within a month I could see noticeable results. I’m told the best is yet to come, with end results visible by around the three month mark.
I also began having laser hair removal sessions (at the Cavendish Clinic too, as I was so impressed by my treatment there). Having already had sessions on my legs and bikini line over the years, I decided next up was my underarms. My skin there is super sensitive so has never reacted well to waxing, and I wanted to avoid any potential shaving rash on the day. The difference was astonishing even after just one session, reacting far quicker than any of the other areas I’d treated previously. They recommend sessions every 6-8 weeks so hopefully by the wedding, I’ll be completely fuzz-free.
5 months out
I’ve always found exercise to have a direct impact on my mood, and feel a real difference mentally if I skip a few days of working out. However, I am no gym bunny. I had a fear of weights and a phobia of personal trainers (read: being accountable to anyone other than myself; fear of failure and embarrassing myself). But after 2020 spent mainly on my sofa, on a diet made up predominantly of banana bread, I bit the bullet.
Enter, Equinox. I was assigned two personal trainers (Matt and Rob), who would take me through a three month bootcamp, if you will, in a desperate attempt to make up for the lost time in lockdown. The programme was kicked off by an assessment so in-depth it would make the MI5 medical exam look cursory. The amount of data they took in those two hours was quite extraordinary, alarming at times (my body fat percentage!), and overwhelming but above all, enlightening. There’s no bigger wake up call than seeing a 360-degree 3D scan of yourself in your knickers. That’s a picture I won’t forget in a hurry.
Using the data collected, along with information from several lengthy questionnaires I filled out on all other aspects of my life, Matt and Rob put together an exercise plan that felt not only achievable but, dare I say it, enjoyable. Amazingly, I started noticing huge differences barely two weeks in. Alongside the exercise regime, Rob and I worked on my nutrition – the part I was dreading the most. A self-confessed foodie, I’m completely averse to anything restrictive, which Rob completely took on board. And yet, using extremely sneaky tactics I’m still getting my head around (perhaps he really does work for MI5…), he has managed to change my eating habits tenfold. For the first time in my life, I listen to my body when it tells me it’s full, emotions no longer influence my eating, and I’m feeling better than ever.
The Equinox approach is designed to be totally transformative in every sense, but I’ll confess I went into it purely for an aesthetic overhaul. I hadn’t even considered the holistic benefits. However, the initial assessment painted a picture of an extremely frazzled woman, to the point where it was having an effect on my sleep, metabolism and the energy my body was using versus storing. With this in mind, Matt and Rob factored daily meditation into my plan, and their regular friendly yet firm check-ins made me feel obliged to actually try it. The difference, even just after a matter of days, was astounding. Starting the day by taking less than 10 minutes to myself made me feel more in control and at peace than ever before. I also hadn’t counted on enjoying my time spent with both trainers so much – even at 7am – even whilst making me do an exercise called “the beast” – I have fun in every single session. It also helps that I know there’s a eucalyptus steam room and Kiehl’s products aplenty waiting for me at the end.
4 months out
I first started speaking to facialist Rhian Truman in January of this year. Little did we know then, it would be another five months before we’d actually meet in person, but over those months she revamped my skincare regime over WhatsApp and made a plan for monthly treatments when they were finally allowed, and all while allaying my anxieties that my pores were congesting by the minute and that I was ageing even quicker. And I have no doubts that she was doing the same for many other brides-to-be.
When I finally met Rhian, it was like seeing an old friend – helped along by the fact that facials take place in her beautiful Notting Hill flat. We made a plan of action for the time we had remaining before the wedding, and set about tackling my clogged pores and stressed-out skin. She made sure to set aside lots of time for facial massage and lymphatic drainage, plumping up my skin and working that natural contouring magic. If times had been different, I would have started seeing her earlier, but I’ll make up for it by seeing her for years to come.
3 months out
As soon as I found my dress, I booked in for a blow dry with the lovely Grace at Hershesons, to work out how I might do my hair. I had what I thought was a very clear idea of what I wanted in my head, which – whilst being incredibly beautiful – turned out to not be at all what I wanted (a running theme when it comes to wedding planning I’ve noticed, and proof of just how important trials are!). I had booked in to try on my wedding dress straight after, and the hairstyle just didn’t work with the dress at all, so I really recommend arranging that if it’s an option. Having the trial three months before meant we have plenty of time to try a second style – and hopefully this one will stick.
I’ve never worn much make-up; a lick of mascara and a smudge of Nars Orgasm on my cheeks is about the extent of it, so I always knew finding a make-up artist for the wedding would be difficult. I dreaded ending up with a face three shades darker than my décolletage, or anything even close to contouring. My trial with Jennifer Oliver answered all my prayers, she made me look the very best version of myself, and it doesn’t hurt that she’s one of the loveliest people imaginable.
6 weeks out
I’m sure this is different for everyone but I feel like my hair looks its best around a month to six weeks after a cut, so I’m booked into Hershesons accordingly. I’ve always preferred the French-girl approach, where hair looks a little lived in, just a touch grown out, and just a soupçon away from perfect. I think that might well be the root of almost all the pressure I’ve felt, the constant battle between the importance of feeling like myself versus being a vision of bridal perfection – ie the girl that never has a single split end.
Having spoken to other brides-to-be, many seem to hold an idea in their head of how they think they should look on their wedding day (often a version of themselves that’s never existed prior to that day and will likely never exist again), and there seems to be a distinct discrepancy between that person and the person you look like when you’re actually feeling your best or, crucially, the most like yourself (it’s no surprise the two often go hand in hand). Acknowledging that was one of the most freeing things I did.
1 week out
A week before the wedding is when I plan to get my eyebrows threaded and tinted – it’s a personal preference but they tend to need about a week for the tint to settle into the perfect shade. I’ve been seeing Angela at Vaishaly for about 15 years and wouldn’t trust anyone else with my brows.
It’s also when I’ll go back into Hershesons for a gloss with Alexe, I love how shiny and healthy it makes my hair look.
2 days out
Once upon a time – when big events were a regular occurrence – if I had something important coming up, the first thing I’d book was FaceGym. The results are like nothing else I’ve ever tried – dramatic and instant toning, tightening and sculpting. My cheekbones have never looked better.
Knowing my skin, two days prior is also the best time to get all my waxing done to definitively avoid any redness on the day.
1 day out
I suspect my hands will be getting an awful lot of airtime on the day, what with the new ring and all, so they’ll need to look their very best. There’s no one better for the job than DryBy in my opinion, who I’ll be visiting for a mani/pedi the day before we say I do.
Continuing my ode to Ross J Barr… As soon as we decided on a wedding date, probably mere seconds after, I emailed Ross to book an appointment for acupuncture the day before. Even last minute jitters stand no chance against his mystical powers.
The night before
Rhian Truman charmed me the minute she offered me a cup of herbal tea in her oasis of an apartment, but when she suggested coming to my hotel room the night before the wedding for a facial massage, well, I’d marry her if I wasn’t otherwise betrothed.
The day of
If I’ve learnt anything in my 30 years on this earth, it’s that – despite my protestations in secondary school PE classes – exercise really does make you feel brilliant. Those endorphins, eh? So I’ll be starting the day with a Reformer Pilates class because, along with the free mood enhancers, it makes you feel noticeably longer and leaner. Ten Health & Fitness is the best in my humble opinion, and they have conveniently opened a new branch just minutes from the hotel I’m spending my last single night in.