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You’re not going to find it listed in any off-the-shelf wedding planner:
- Figure out how to avoid a flare-up on one of the most important days of your life.
But if you’ve got irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), then you know it’s a major to-do list item.
Unfortunately, brides are more likely to deal with IBS symptoms because women are more likely to have IBS. Twice as likely as men, in fact, per the Cleveland Clinic. The exact reason is unknown, says Asma Khapra, M.D., a Virginia-based gastroenterologist who focuses on women’s digestive health and has IBS herself. What is clear, she adds, is that “women experience more IBS with hormonal fluctuations. For instance, during menstrual cycles, IBS symptoms such as stomach pain and diarrhea tend to worsen, when estrogen and progesterone drops down to low levels.”
Regardless. You know you have IBS—so there’s nothing else to do but plan for it. “I definitely should have prepared for [IBS on] my wedding day and would advise others to do the same,” says Emily R., 28, who got married in 2020. “I ended up so bloated in a two-piece wedding dress and had to unzip it during the reception—not the most flattering look or moment.”
Lauren Schneider, 29, who got married in 2019, literally felt Emily’s pain. “My wedding day was a huge source of anxiety for me. I planned it all, made decorations, had to set up, and I wanted everything to be perfect,” she says. “Anyone with IBS knows anxiety at that level is a recipe for disaster.”
Luckily for you, Emily, Lauren, and other brides with IBS survived enough matrimony mishaps to tell you how to prep for your wedding day so that your bowels are the last thing on your mind.
Involve your planner
“If you’re working with a wedding planner and feel comfortable doing so, tell them about your IBS. That way, you can set up a game plan if you feel any symptoms on your wedding day. One idea: Ask her to find a private bathroom at the venue where you can feel relaxed should anything happen.” —Stephanie Thomas, 28, married in 2019
Pick your wedding dress wisely
“I chose something flowy and light with minimal skirt material to pull up in case I had to run to the bathroom. The last thing I wanted was to struggle in a mermaid-style gown or a tight corset if I had to go. Fortunately, I didn’t have to compromise and get a dress purely for comfort; I was able to find one I loved and felt my most beautiful in. It was a win for aesthetics and IBS—something very rare for me.” —Lauren
Rehearse your menu
“Choose things that you know will be easy on your stomach. You’re the bride. If possible beforehand, eat the exact meal you’ll have on your wedding day and see how your body reacts. Throughout the big day, you may also want to have some herbal tea available, such as peppermint. Mostly just stick to your regular eating schedule, which will help with digestion and knowing what to expect during certain times of the day.” —Stephanie
Talk with your doc about extra prevention
“If I had prepared, I would have made sure to eliminate some trigger foods on the night of to save myself the pain. I also would have taken some preventative measures the weeks leading up to my big day—like taking stool softeners and magnesium—so that I wouldn’t have felt so bloated and constipated on a day I had intended to fully feel beautiful and in my body!” —Emily
Pick an IBS buddy
“Between my normal gut issues and the typical pre-wedding jitters, I was terrified that I’d have a ~situation~ on my wedding day. To prepare, one of my bridesmaids was on standby. Our plan was simple: I’d say a code word (I think oranges?), we’d run (literally, RUN) in my a-line dress to the nearest bathroom, and…you can imagine the rest. I miraculously didn’t have an issue once I put my dress on, but I’ll always be grateful for my bridesmaid, who handled all of my shit (literally) on my wedding day.” —Rachel, 31, married in 2022
Or keep a loved one who gets it close by
“One thing that really helped was having my mom by my side all day. She knows exactly how to help me reduce anxiety by simply being there (she has a very calming energy). She also knows how to respond to my panic and flare-ups. She knows exactly when to help and when to give me space. She helped make sure decorations were set up and helped keep people out of my personal space when I needed a few minutes to collect myself. I don’t think I could have gotten through the day without her.” —Lauren
Amp up your self-care routine
“Taking time to unwind and scheduling some kind of self-care routine (like a mani/pedi or massage) the week leading up to the big day can help you to relax, unplug, and be more present. Personally, I love Reiki as a natural modality for reducing stress and anxiety. A few weeks before the wedding weekend, consider giving a few Reiki sessions a try. ” —Jenna Volpe, 34, married in 2022
Save your cake for the next day
“In the days leading up to my wedding, I made sure that I ate only my safe foods. Even when we had our rehearsal lunch, I stuck to what I knew, avoided alcohol, and always had my medication nearby. I also saved the cake for the next day and ate snacks when I got back to the hotel room at the end of the night.” —Lauren