A wise man once asked, “What do you like better, Christmas or wedding season?” And while, OK, that man was Vince Vaughn in Wedding Crashers, he’s right about wedding season being celebration central, right up there with the grandest of annual holidays.
With spring in full swing — and love in the air — chances are you’ll be attending a marathon of engagement parties, bridal showers, bachelorette weekends (yup, weekends), and friends’ weddings over the next few months. Whether you’re the bride, the maid of honor, or a guest, chances are these months are equal parts exciting and stressful.
In addition to the financial strain of wedding season, having such a jam-packed social schedule can be disastrous when it comes to your personal health and weight loss (or maintenance) goals. Here’s how to keep everything in check without sacrificing any of the fun — or the open bar.
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1. Remember the goal of the weekend.
Yes, all these celebrations come with a hefty dose of food and beverages — but that’s not the point. “Remember why you’re there,” says Jessica DeGore, RD. “The event doesn’t need to be a booze-fest or about eating everything in sight. You’re celebrating your friend, so focus your energy on that. You won’t be able to enjoy yourself if you’re super stressed about what you’re eating and drinking.”
2. Choose your drinks wisely.
“The number one item that may sabotage weight-loss goals during wedding season is alcohol,” says Kelly Hogan, MS, RD, CDN, clinical nutrition coordinator at the Dubin Breast Center of the Tisch Cancer Institute at the Mount Sinai Hospital. “Alcohol is the common denominator at bachelorette parties, showers, rehearsal dinners, and weddings. And those liquid calories add up quickly.” Wine, champagne and a simple cocktail like a vodka and club soda have the least amount of calories, while sugary cocktails pack the highest caloric punch.
3. Don’t drink on an empty stomach.
Alcohol should always be paired with food, whether it’s a meal or a pre-party snack. Hogan recommends something with a combination of protein, fiber and healthy fats, like a slice of avocado toast and a hard-boiled egg or some plain Greek yogurt with berries, which can slow the absorption of alcohol and keep your decision making in check.
4. Keep drinking water!
Alternating boozy drinks with water will slow the alcohol consumption process and keep the calories down. It’ll also help keep you from getting dehydrated. “When our schedules are thrown off, we often forget to drink an adequate amount of fluids,” Hogan says. “Try sipping on plain or sparkling water with lemon or lime in between alcoholic beverages throughout the day to stay hydrated. Those mini eight-ounce bottled waters can fit in most small handbags and are lifesavers during marathon wedding days.”
5. Give yourself a drinking limit.
Once the alcohol starts flowing, it can be hard to make it stop — or to keep the bartender from topping off your glass of champagne again and again. “If you know you have trouble cutting yourself off after a few drinks, consider only drinking during cocktail hour,” says Lindsay Livingston, RD. “If it’s a cash bar, only bring enough cash for a certain amount of drinks, or pick a set number of drinks for the night and spread them out throughout the evening, drinking water in between.”
6. Don’t skip meals.
It can be tempting to forgo lunch knowing you’ll have a heavy-on-the-appetizers dinner later that night. But be sure to eat at least a little something before the party gets going. “Skipping meals can lead to overeating later,” says Hogan. “Bring a portable snack with you so you never have to worry about going too long without meals. Women are lucky: We usually have a clutch or small purse on hand, which is perfect for stashing a bag of nuts and dried fruit or a Kind bar, Larabar or Picky Bar — my personal favorites.” If you feel weird busting out a snack in front of the wedding party, save it for a bathroom trip or take a breather outside for a quick personal bite.
7. Get gummy.
With appetizers constantly floating around and buffet tables lining every wall, it’s hard to stop eating at some parties. Livingston suggests stashing chewing gum in your purse to make it easier to resist snacking. “Having gum in your mouth will keep you from mindlessly grabbing and eating anything that passes by,” she says.
8. Beware of the buffet.
Buffet, loosely translated, seems to mean load up your plate with two (or three!) of everything. The trick to keeping your portions in check? “Choose a small plate,” says Livingston. “Then, if you try something and don’t like it, you don’t have to finish it.”
9. Eat what you love, ditch what you don’t.
It’s tempting to want to try every hors d’oeuvre that passes your way on a tray. That’s fine — but only finish the ones you really love. If you take a bite of a mini spanakopita that’s only meh, don’t feel like you have to polish it off. Save your next bite for the crispy crudite or chicken skewers. “Think about what parts of the celebration you enjoy the most: drinks, dessert, late-night snacks, etc.,” says Livingston. “Pick one or two to enjoy, but not all. If you plan to indulge in dessert at the wedding, choose a healthier cocktail and late-night snack. If you eat fairly well at the reception, enjoy a late-night treat.”
10. Offer to help.
If you’re attending a bridal shower, volunteer your [healthy-minded] services. “Offer to bring a fruit-and-herb-infused water, or vegetable-based side dish,” says DeGore. Everyone loves a pretty veggie platter or fresh fruit salad.
11. Hold firm when it comes to your fitness routine.
You’re at a weekend-long bachelorette party in Las Vegas, and the bride wants to sleep in on Sunday morning before hitting up an epic brunch buffet — but you know you’ll feel better if you squeeze in a four-miler before devouring a plate of scrambled eggs. Don’t be afraid to set your alarm a little earlier than the rest of the crew so you can make your sweat session happen. “Always pack comfortable running or walking shoes and schedule in time for a quick run or walk before the events start,” says Hogan. “Or look up nearby exercise studios and sign up for a class. Those early morning endorphins can help keep your energy levels up for a day — and night — of celebrating.”
If your hungover friends give you a hard time for squeezing in a workout, don’t let that derail you. “Explain to them why you’re making the decisions you are,” says Livingston. “Sharing your goals is a great way to hold yourself accountable — and it might even inspire those around you.”
12. Cut yourself some slack.
“Give yourself a little grace,” says Livingston. “One weekend of fun isn’t going to totally derail all of your hard work.”