A few weeks before the big day, brides-to-be go on crash diets to squeeze into their white dress to look as thin as possible on their wedding day and in their wedding pictures. The pressure to lose weight is captured through the rigorous calorie restrictions, constant weight-scale checks, and waistline measurements a bride undergoes to shed the most pounds before walking down the aisle. Inversely, brides who lose the most weight pre-wedding are more likely to put on up to 10 lbs. within six months of marriage, according to a study published in the journal Body Image.

"Post-wedding weight gain is not surprising, and is perhaps a result of more relaxed dietary and physical activity habits now that the newlyweds no longer have a special event," wrote the Australian researchers. It is widely known that men are more susceptible to gaining weight in marriage, but this scientific data reveals how preparing for the big day could have an impact on the bride’s weight. The researchers said their study provides the “first explicit examination of weight both pre and post wedding to determine whether one's wedding day can be a driver for weight change.”

The team of researchers from Flinders University in Adelaide sought to determine if marriage is the driver of weight gain or loss in a large cohort of women who got married within the 10-month study period. The 350 women were recruited from bridal expos — place where they showcase wedding products such as cake and flowers — and proceeded to survey them three times during the study. The brides-to-be were asked whether they had an ideal wedding weight, and what that weight was, one month before the wedding, and six months after the wedding, to see if they either lost or gained weight.

The findings reveal not only do women gain weight after marriage, but it also determines how soon after marriage this weight gain occurred. Brides who did not feel pressure to lose weight, gained an average of 4.7 lbs. than those who dieted to drop the pounds on their wedding day. The participants who endured months of strict dieting for their wedding day were found to put on the most weight in the first half year of marital bliss. Those who managed to lose weight before their wedding put on an average of 7 lbs. within the first half year, according to Live Science. The participants who felt the most pressure to lose weight gained up to 9.9 lbs. — three times more than brides who were not pressured to lose weight.

Moreover, the study found one in three brides reported being advised to lose weight by their fiancé or a family member before their wedding. The ideal wedding weight to lose among those who wanted to slim down for their wedding was 20 lbs. However, although brides may have achieved weight loss for their wedding day, this would make them more prone to gaining it six months in the marriage.

The reasons behind the bridal increase in weight, or “newlywed spread” may be attributed to several factors. “It is equally possible that this weakened motivation for maintaining body weight is due to participants feeling like they have already “snagged” their man and therefore no longer need to work on their appearance,” the researchers wrote. Moreover, the transition in relationships does influence weight, especially post-wedding, among newlyweds.

This can be attributed to the emotional shift that comes with commitment that can cause a change in brain chemistry and in turn affect a bride’s weight. In a new relationship, couples are everything together that is new and exciting for them. "Novelty drives up the dopamine system in the brain, and that gives you energy, which makes you more active and helps keep your weight down," Dr. Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., who has conducted brain scans on couples in love, told Fitness magazine. Contrary, a marriage can lead to an increase in oxytocin — the “love” hormone linked to bonding — which can replace dopamine and its rush.

The latest study warrants further research to find if the pressure women feel to lose weight pre-wedding could potentially make them susceptible to body dissatisfaction and disordered eating. The researchers suggest doctors should be aware of this and how it can become detrimental to a woman’s health. Couples should strive to live happily ever after, not happily ever fatter. Marital bliss can come at a heavy cost and expand your waistline, so brides and grooms be happy, cautious, and healthy.

Source: Prichard I, Tiggemann M. Wedding-related weight change: The ups and downs of love. Body Image. 2014.