wedding dress and veilNow that wedding season is in full swing, advice for brides is unavoidable. Of course one of the most common topics -- apart from DIY decor and etiquette dos and don'ts -- is the pre-Big Day slimdown. How should brides be getting fit to walk down the aisle? Because, after all, as fitness and lifestyle expert Amanda Russell tells Us News & World Report, "The big moment of the whole day is ... they open those doors," and ... well, there's a reason the song is called "Here Comes the Bride." You know, no pressure or anything!

Okay, sure, you want to look your best. But now that my own Big Day has come and gone, I can confidently say I'm proud of how I maximized my fitness over the last six months to look and feel my best (and be four sizes smaller than when I started!) when "those doors" opened. Here, five significant steps I took to get fit to wed that could work for anyone, whether you're about to tie the knot or not ...

  1. Get a guru. I feel like I spent way too much time -- six months approximately -- on a DIY pre-wedding weight loss program. I thought working out at home with DVDs was enough, but in reality, I needed support from experts in person for motivation and to push me even further. For me, this meant going back to Weight Watchers meetings, working out with an amazing personal trainer, and finally, working out with friends. You don't have to spend an arm and a leg on this step. It's just about having someone (which can be an organization like Weight Watchers or a workout buddy) to hold you accountable.
  2. Clean up your diet. This is one big step that's best done with baby steps. I found it easiest to focus on upping my lean protein intake while cutting back on processed carbs and focusing on more complex carbs (like sweet potatoes and quinoa). I slowly dialed back on sugar 'til I was only having it rarely and/or in very small quantities. (Not easy but you feel so much better when you break the addiction!) And of course kept drinking tons of water. That may not be what works for everyone, though. You have to identify what vice is preventing you from reaching your goals -- be it fries or ice cream or late night snacking -- and then use all your willpower to address it.
  3. Make a standing workout date. If it is scheduled ahead of time, it's harder to back out on. I made plans to go to spinning classes with my now-husband's aunt and barre classes with my good friends. On days I didn't see my trainer, I promised her I would be doing XYZ at a certain day and time, which I put in my iPhone calendar or logged in my Weight Watchers tracker to hold myself accountable.
  4. Manage stress as best as possible. Planning a wedding can be nothing short of insanely stressful and of course that does no one any favors in the weight loss department. That's why sleeping in, deep breathing, meditation, massage, going for walks, venting to friends on the phone, etc. is a must. You do whatever it takes to get some chill time, because your mind and body have to be well-rested to reach its max potential.
  5. Ditch the scale! No one is going to weigh you before you walk down the aisle -- I promise! Everyone is just going to say how gorgeous you look, glowing, curvy, amazing, beautiful, etc. They're not going to know how many pounds you actually lost before your wedding day. All that matters is how you look and FEEL. This was an epiphany I had a few months back that I really believe helped keep me motivated, pushing (and able to drop 3+ dress sizes!). Because all too often, pounds lost don't match up with inches lost and the latter's what matters more.

What steps did you take or are you taking to look and feel your best -- for your wedding day or any other reason?