When Barbra Streisand performed her famous Ziegfeld Follies scene from Funny Girl back in 1968, audiences found a pregnant bride a shocking — and at the same time an amusing — idea, even though the movie scene was set in the 1930s, where a real pregnant bride would have been even more shocking and maybe not quite so amusing. And, historically, rather than escorting his daughter down the aisle to meet her groom, the role of the father of an unwed pregnant daughter was to oversee the proverbial — or actual — shotgun wedding.
We can see from this 1975 etiquette article featuring recognized authority Emily Post that views on women were starting to change, including how a pregnant bride was regarded. Thankfully, today the idea of a pregnant bride is greeted for the most part with a large measure of sophistication, acceptance and indulgence.
Celebrities have been starting families, whether planned or unplanned, before tying the knot or while never tying the knot, for generations; and while mainstream society historically has frowned on changing the traditional order of the courtship-marriage-children trajectory, in recent times this standard has become more relaxed. Moreover, although many postpone marriage until after the birth of their children (sometimes indefinitely) many prefer to meet at the altar before the birth of a child, whether to ensure the legal status of their offspring or simply to stay on track with their wedding plans (canceling a wedding can be a nightmare of money loss, logistics, explanations, hurt feelings and compromised relationships).
As mentioned, some couples are already deeply into the planning of their weddings when they discover the bride is pregnant, and choose to go ahead with the preparations without any changes in date or other details. Under similar circumstances, others who have not yet started wedding plans are spurred to action.
Thus, the decision to walk down the aisle pregnant — or not — is a very personal choice each couple must make. But if the decision is made to go for it, there are a few special considerations for the pregnant bride and her intended to ponder:
- Timing – Generally, the second trimester is the easiest and most joyful. The first might involve morning sickness (and for some noon and night as well!); adjusting to the idea of being pregnant; making major lifestyle and health changes — such as giving up smoking, drinking, caffeine, hair dyes, raw meat and fish (although couples who are trying to get pregnant probably already have given up these things — and that goes for men, too!). However, some women have an easy time of it in the first trimester and often are not “showing” yet. Then, again, some women don’t show much throughout their entire pregnancy. Many years ago I worked with a book editor who wore jeans and loose shirts for the duration — if you didn’t happen to know that she was pregnant you would never have guessed! But for most women, that in-between trimester is the comfortable one — after the adjustments and sick feeling are over and before the bulky, ungainly final stretch begins.
- Say “Yes” To The Right Dress! – Here are late, great etiquette guru Letitia Baldrige‘s classic comments in her book, New Manners for New Times: “A bride who is in her early pregnancy can wear a simple, loose-fitting, long white dress that does not shout her happy, blessed state to the guests at her wedding. A bride who is nine months pregnant but nevertheless marries in a large ceremony, dressed in a long dress with a train, looks — in the opinion of many — ludicrous. It is in better taste for this bride to wear a long white maternity dress with a short veil, but without the fuss of a full-length veil and cathedral train. Restraint and good taste are important in any religious service.” Of course, every pregnant bride has her own unique body type and preferences, and there is that aforementioned stage between an early and late pregnancy that might accommodate a beautiful dress. As well, today there are lovely modern bridal dresses from which a pregnant bride may choose. That said, it is the wise bride who proceeds with good taste and good judgment and selects the best dress for her and the level of formality of her wedding celebration. And, by the way, as Ms. Baldrige pointed out, pregnant brides may most certainly wear a white dress; white is merely a tradition and no longer connotes virginity, wealth or status as might have done in bygone times.
- Food & Drink – It’s common these days for wedding couples to include vegan, sugar-free and gluten-free foods for their wedding guests with special diets. Pregnant brides can certainly ensure that they are accommodated at their own rehearsal dinners and wedding receptions by including healthy mocktails, caffeine-free beverages, and foods that are safe and appropriate in which pregnant women may indulge themselves. This is a good idea in any case as some members of the wedding party as well as guests might also be pregnant.
- Wedding Theme – The wedding is about the bride and groom and not usually “and baby makes three.” Therefore, it’s not necessary to incorporate the pregnancy into the theme of the wedding. If the bride is showing, the presence of an expected addition to the couple’s life is the only incorporation that is needed. By going ahead with a wedding while noticeably pregnant, the couple is stating that they are not trying to hide anything and are celebrating their brand of “normal.” It’s okay to answer questions about the coming attraction, but keep the focus on the primary reason for the celebration — the marriage of two people in love and committed to spending their lives together. On the other hand, if the couple want to share the spotlight with their little third wheel, they can come up with creative ways of doing so, such as with a groom’s cake in pink or blue (if the gender of the fetus is known) or a creative cake topper; but this should be the bride’s choice and nobody else’s.
For women who find themselves pregnant before they’ve begun wedding planning and are not interested in pursuing such an event while expecting, yet want their babies to be born after their marriage, a civil ceremony is always an option. This can be followed by a wedding celebration after the baby’s arrival and when the bride is feeling back to normal. Then life events can really be flip-flopped, with baby showers first, followed by a bridal shower and bachelorette party later! And, of course, a simple, low-key but festive wedding can be arranged in the first trimester if the bride/mom-to-be is feeling up to it.
Customs, policies and practices vary among faiths. So, if a religious ceremony is desired it likely will be necessary for the couple to confer with a religious leader in their faith at the house of worship where they wish to have the ceremony. In some cases, there is the option of going though with that civil ceremony while pregnant, for those legal reasons, and arranging for a religious wedding ceremony and celebration after the baby is born.
Putting On Too Fine a Point
In addition, unless the bride and mother-to-be is enthusiastic about the idea, friends should resist the temptation to throw a combined bridal/baby shower, babymoon/bachelorette party or other pre-wedding events that combine the two milestones. As well, guests should not presume that the wedding couple desires a baby gift instead of a wedding gift (it will help if the bride has a wedding registry, but if in doubt a gift of cash is always proper and appreciated).
A bride’s wedding day is a highlight of her life, and a day in which she is the primary focus; it is her day and she should not have to share it with anyone unless she shows an interest in doing so. Therefore, too fine a point should not be placed on the fact that the bride is expecting; let the bride be a bride; she will have the rest of her life to be a mom.
Until next time,