I got engaged on a Friday night. On the following Monday morning, I had a teeth whitening appointment scheduled. I was a full-time beauty editor at the time, and these kinds of appointments were fairly standard. Part of my job was to try out new treatments and procedures, and, hey, I couldn’t complain. Even if I wouldn’t necessarily pay for a cosmetic dental treatment, who was I to turn down the opportunity to try it for free?
I sat down in the dentist’s office that Monday morning, still glowing and excited from the weekend, and the dentist immediately asked me when I was getting married. I thought the publicist who had set up the meeting had told her about my recent engagement, but as the dentist started staring at my teeth and going over the variety of work I should get done before my big day, something slowly dawned on me. She hadn’t asked about my wedding date because she knew I just got engaged, she had asked so she could gauge how much time I had to get work done to my teeth before I walked down the aisle.
And this wasn’t because I brought up my upcoming marriage. It was because she simply saw my ring sans wedding band and assumed that I would want the advice. I soon learned that I needed to realign my bite with braces, then get veneers, then whiten everything all over again. But don’t worry, the dentist told me I had more than enough time.
I walked into that appointment excited about the engagement and left with tooth pain (turns out cosmetic whitening can be extremely painful) and a severely bruised ego. My smile had never been my favorite feature, but I didn’t think I needed braces (again) or veneers. I was immediately self-conscious and started googling exactly how painful getting veneers was so I could decide if it was worth it. I eventually let go of the idea of getting dental work done before my wedding, but I’d still get self-conscious every time I thought someone was looking at my teeth, or I’d compare them to other people’s IG photos.
But it turns out that the appointment was a good precursor for something that would seem to follow me throughout the entire wedding planning process. Whether through Facebook ads or just unsolicited advice, I started to hear from other people exactly what treatments I should get done for my wedding. People assumed I would get Botox, explaining to me exactly how many months I should get it done before, never bothering to ask me if I wanted to in the first place. I had gotten lip injections once before as part of another work-related experiment, and even though they had long since dissolved, I had people asking me when I was getting them redone for the wedding.
People talked to me about monthly facials and scrubs and special acne-preventing treatments. Some suggested I get on certain types of birth control specifically to avoid hormonal breakouts on my wedding day. Somewhere along the way, I bought into it.
People were talking to me about Botox because I needed it, I told myself. I saw that forehead line get deeper year by year, too. I looked better with the lip injections, I told myself, so no wonder strangers would suggest I get it again. And there is nothing in this entire universe worse than a pimple on my wedding day, I reminded myself, looking into different forms of birth control. For a time, I considered all of it. When I looked in the mirror, I didn’t see a person who was in love and excited to celebrate that with their partner.
I saw someone to be improved upon slowly, month by month, with one big deadline in mind.
But one day after Googling Botox's pros and cons, I realized that I probably wouldn’t be considering any of this were there not the pressure from others. And even if I would have, I was no longer able to separate my desire to do any of it from the insistence of others that it was necessary. Don’t get me wrong; I want to look my best on my wedding day. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with any of these procedures and treatments if someone wants to get them. But the thing that no one really mentions is that cosmetic procedures are personal—and experts agree.
Plastic surgeon Dr. John Paul Tutela tells me that “goals should really be based on the patient's opinion alone.”
“It might be a good idea to speak with other people you know who may have done procedures so you can get an idea about what to expect,” Dr. Tutela says. “However, I wouldn’t try to get other people’s approval or suggestions. At the end of the day, it’s all about making yourself happy.”
If I thought that veneers or Botox would really make me happy, then I’d gladly do it all before my wedding day. And I encourage everyone who wants to do the same. But I also encourage everyone to ask themselves if the treatments they want are because they actually want them, or because everyone around them is making it seem like they’re necessary. Because here’s the thing: The narrative that says if your skin isn’t poreless and pimple-free and your teeth aren’t so white they’re blinding people on your wedding day, then you won’t be happy?
My wedding is a little less than a year away now, and I haven’t thought through every beauty treatment I’ll get leading up to it. Maybe I’ll get a few facials. Maybe I’ll use some whitening strips on my teeth. I’m not sure. But whatever I do or don’t do, it won’t have a single thing to do with anyone else’s opinion — and pre-wedding procedures or not, that’s exactly how it should be.
Next, read all about Lea Michele’s pre-wedding wellness routine.