Don’t forget what a wedding is about

“When’s your Mum arriving?” is a question I’ve been asked so often in the last couple of months that I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard it.

It’s a question that gets me on edge as soon as it’s out, because – without fail – the next bit of the conversation is identical, every single time.

“We’re just having a very small wedding, us and two witnesses”

“Oh” they then say, looking aghast, with no attempt to conceal their horror, just like every other person who’s asked the same question. “Is she really upset?”

One thing I never anticipated when it came to our wedding was the backlash on behalf of my family, from people who have never even met my relations. The thing is, Liam and I obviously both asked our parents how they felt about us eloping before we organised anything. We wouldn’t have done it if they really weren’t happy about it. And beyond that, I never considered it to be anyone else’s business.

We’ve discovered that we’re a bit odd in this respect. For me, our wedding day is about Liam and me, about our relationship. It’s about setting up the foundation for the rest of our lives together.

But I’ve come to realise that that’s not what our wedding is about for many other people.

Suddenly, in the last week, I’ve become overwhelmed by the number of well-intentioned friends, family and colleagues telling me I’ll look ‘perfect’. I’ve got to say, it’s freaked me out. The penny has only just dropped that the single part of our wedding that most other people care about is how I will look.

It has emphasised to me that we’ve made the right choice. I’m so relieved that we’re not having a traditional wedding, that there’s no big white dress or gaggle of bridesmaids. If the pressure of looking good for our intimate little ceremony is getting to me, I can’t imagine what I’d feel like if I was going to have a whole room full of people staring at me, appraising me. I’m not stupid, I get the curiosity. I’ve joined in with the fawning and cooing over brides’ photos myself.

A lot of people have told me their expectations for my wedding. (My parents should be there. I should look ‘perfect’. I’ll need to get my dress taken in before the wedding because of all the weight I will lose.)

But can I please remind everyone of my own expectations (surely the ones that actually matter)? In four days, Liam and I get to declare our love and commitment to each other and get married. That’s what a wedding is really all about. Let’s not forget that.


5 things I’ve learned while preparing for the wedding

  1. Facials work for about a week, then your skin goes back to normal. Don’t waste your money.
  2. Don’t be fooled into thinking that a small wedding means there’s nothing to organise or pay for. From buying our outfits to getting our marriage licence to all those name-change forms, we may not be stressing out over seating plans and place settings but there’s still plenty to think about.
  3. Even in 2016, some people are horrified by the fact we’re eloping and that I haven’t spent a fortune on my dress.
  4. People have an insatiable curiosity for anything wedding-related. Even the staidest of my male colleagues has been regularly asking me whether I have ‘something old, something new…’
  5. I never got around to that wedding diet, never found the time to squeeze in ten gym sessions a week, I’ve been busier than ever at work and my Grandad died two weeks before The Big Day. You’re getting married? Yeah, and? Your normal life doesn’t get put on hold just because it’s your wedding soon, and nor does anyone else’s. Just chill out and enjoy it.

Health and Beauty. Pick one.

“I don’t usually buy magazines”. Déjà vu. I’ve started a blog with those words before. But, to be pedantic, I didn’t buy this one. It was free, so I picked it up.

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Well, why not? A magazine called ‘Health & beauty’ sounds lovely, doesn’t it?

I want to be healthy! I want to be beautiful! It’s great to be healthy and beautiful. Only, well, the thing is, I didn’t realise that they meant you have to pick one. Sure, the magazine is called Health and Beauty, but you didn’t think you could have both, did you? Boots, the brand behind the magazine, clearly doesn’t think so.

We’re off to a great start with the front cover. The model hasn’t even been re-touched, which is refreshing.

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Then again, as they say, ‘She’s totally gorgeous!’

You, on the other hand. Oh dear. You need: a light, mousse-like base; an illuminating concealer; to rock a ‘wob’ (don’t ask); filler renew hyaluronic replumping serum (I’m not joking); and to lose the ‘bacne’, to name just a few of the thousands of unnecessary beauty treatments covered in this brochure.

In case I haven’t got around to making my point: you’re ugly and require a multitude of products. She’s totally gorgeous and, don’t forget, totally untouched.

Self-confidence down a couple of notches? Excellent, let’s move on from that. Woah, woah, woah. No, I think we need to make you feel a bit worse about yourself first, before we move on. Don’t have a perfect body? ‘Can’t bear the sight of’ yourself? Well then you deserve to feel terrible about yourself. Go on, beat yourself up about it.

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Health & Beauty? Certainly not mental or spiritual health they’re talking about.

But, wait! Were you feeling bad about yourself? That’s MAD! To quote: ‘We say: enough with beating yourself up!’ ‘Sadly’, not all women love their bodies. How odd.

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It’s just incomprehensible, isn’t it? Why on earth would you be beating yourself up about letting your healthy eating habits slip? It wouldn’t be anything to do with that image on your fridge would it?

Or maybe it’s something to do with an inanimate piece of paper calling you POT BELLY.

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Maybe. Who knows? Certainly not me.

Fat Feminist Outrage

or Why it’s not political correctness gone mad to ban the Protein World advert. 

(N.B. *trigger warning*)

I could write an essay about this advert. I really could. From advertising and marketing, to body image and eating disorders, to health and nutrition, to feminism, to mental health, to the sexualisation of women in society, to capitalism and consumerism, to the colour yellow. I could write pages and pages and pages. So it’s incredible, to my mind, how many people manage to summarise their position in just a sweet 140 characters.

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I’m grateful that there are open-minded people, willing to listen to both sides of an argument. If that’s you: thank you. Here’s my side.

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To me, the main problem is that the image and slogan in this advert suggest that being a certain shape is more important than how fit or healthy you are. The way I see it, the sales of this product rely not on encouraging people to be healthy, but on making people feel insecure and ashamed of how they look. Why do I think this? Simply, because the image and slogan market this is a product that changes your appearance, rather than improving your health. I also think that in terms of physical health it is dangerous to equate being ‘beach body ready’ with drinking ‘replacement meals’, which are, of course, not a natural source of sustenance for human bodies.

A question. Why is this advert different to any other picture of a woman in a bikini in an advert?

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Take a look at this picture. She’s jutting out her chest, she’s svelte, a typical modern beauty. She’s not doing anything other than posing for you to look at and assess her. It’s very passive. What do we know about her physical, mental or social well-being, in other words, her health? Very little. The photo is clearly about the appearance of her body.

Okay, let’s look at another picture.

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Itsu window photo

There are four girls, again all typically beautiful, again all in bikinis. Again, we are supposed to notice their looks, their toned bodies. However, this is a much more active picture. The people are in a social group, they are smiling and happy, they are playing sport together, it’s an action shot. Their figures are clearly linked to their healthy lifestyle: playing sport with friends and eating at a healthy restaurant (this is an advertisement for Itsu). They’re focused on what their bodies can do, they’re focused on the game. They are not asking for your approval. Look, I’m not saying that this is my favourite advert in the world, but it is not body-shaming and it clearly promotes health.

Another itsu image

Another itsu image

Another question. Why is this advert’s slogan seen to be offensive?

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This is a personal perspective and I do not claim to represent others. However, I think that in terms of mental health it is extremely damaging to equate being ‘beach body ready’ with looking a particular way. It suggests that if you do not conform to their definition of ‘beach body ready’ you should not be allowed to be seen in a bikini on a beach. Logically, you should feel embarrassed or ashamed if you do not look like the woman in the advert.

But of course healthy comes in all shapes and sizes and no healthy man, woman or child should be made to feel ashamed of themselves for not looking like the image in the advert. Many of the 140 character debaters will tell any women offended by the advert to just ‘man up’ or ‘get over it’, or say that it’s just because they’re jealous.

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I find it quite sad that they lack any empathy for people (not just women) who are seriously affected by societal pressure to look a certain way. Again, it’s personal. It’s exactly the kind of language and image in this advert that led to me developing a very unhealthy body image, which then led to me developing a very unhealthy relationship with food, exercise and myself.

The ASA is currently investigating the advert on the grounds that it is “offensive, irresponsible and harmful because it promotes an unhealthy body image”. They are looking into whether the advert “breaks harm and offence rules or is socially irresponsible” and to see if the billboards “are in breach of the UK code relating to taste, decency and harm and offence.”

I’ve tried not to write pages and pages and pages, but I could say so much more. Thank you for being open-minded enough to read what I have to say.

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