Apart from limelight-seeking celebrities and celebutantes, there are only a handful of instances in life when one is truly the center of attention. A wedding is one such occasion. Even at intimate affairs, all eyes gravitate toward the glowing bride. I am not the type to seek out making a spectacle of myself, but I’ll make an exception when my wedding day rolls around in seven months.

Some women will go to insane lengths to embody their vision of a perfect bride. Just look at TV’s newest reality horror show, “Bridalplasty,” in which future brides compete in challenges to earn plastic surgery procedures. Personally, I prefer the natural route to getting my hair, face, and body picture-perfect. It’s never too early to start a get-pretty plan in anticipation of the big day. Ladies of the aisle, take note: there may be more beauty hoops to jump through than you think.

For a special occasion like my wedding I wouldn’t trust my hair to anyone except Melissa Peverini, the master colorist and hairstylist with magic hands. She will take charge on color touch-ups for my roots immediately preceding the big day, but until then, my goal is to keep my tresses well-hydrated. I’ve cut back on washing my hair every day to give it a chance to breathe and allow my natural oils to condition. When my hair gets a little too greasy, I sprinkle in some dry shampoo. When it’s on the frizzy side, I count on MoroccanOil to nourish my hair, hide split ends, and permeate my mane with an intoxicating perfume.

I intend to put my best face forward now so that, come my wedding day, I won’t have to play a game of “hide that flaw.” I’ve seen first-hand what a diet of processed foods can do to my skin, not to mention my figure. I have begun my own customized eating plan that restricts sugars and refined carbs, thus preventing junk food-induced breakouts. As with what I put in my body, I am being extra meticulous to ensure that what I put on my skin is naturally beneficial and free of nasties. A few of my favorite nature-inclined brands are Eminence Organics, L’uvalla, Olive’s Organic Botanicals, and Walker’s Apothecary. Brides-to-be should be extra wary of potentially toxic chemicals and sensitizing cosmetic ingredients.

I know as well as any sun worshiper how tempting a tan can be. Even if it makes you look healthier, smoother - even skinnier - roasting under the sun is the last thing you should do, because wrinkles and freckles are sure to follow. Years of sun damage have left me with a mottled chest and dark specks along my hairline. To scrub out sun spots, I have met with moderate success using a combination of glycolic cleansers like Mango Madness Exfoliate Me, at-home microdermabrasion treatments, and lightening products like Lumixyl Topical Brightening Creme ($120). I say moderate because, after a single sunscreen slip-up, all my weeks of diligent work are for naught and the spots resurface with a vengeance. The best I can do for my face and chest skin is to remain hyper-vigilant about sunscreen application and continue my regimen of exfoliation and hydroquinone-free skin-lightening treatments.

I have seriously considered taking my attack on hyperpigmentation to the next level with Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) therapy. However, the recommended quota of 4-6 IPL procedures (at $300-$600 each) might break the bank during a year when I’m supposed to be saving for the future. Moreover, I don’t have severe acne scars, broken capillaries, or birthmarks which would warrant such an expense. But those looking to clear up noticeable textural problems might want to explore photodynamic therapy, which combines IPL with photosensitizers to permanently remove sun-damaged pre-cancerous spots.

Generally speaking, a future bride will get the most bang for her buck from regular facials with a trusted esthetician. There are countless kinds of facials to treat every kind of skin condition under the sun. To temporarily reverse signs of aging, an esthetician could administer a procedure like the Iron Cream Mask; or for acne-prone skin, an esthetician could perform extractions on clogged pores. Picking at your own face a big no-no since it can inflame skin in the short term and enlarge pores over time. My face’s texture and appearance can fluctuate dramatically on a daily basis (thanks to humidity, stress, hormones, you name it!). An esthetician’s know-how is just what my skin needs to get glowing and stay balanced. As an added bonus, the ritual will help soothe wedding-related tension.

Over the coming months, the habit of smiling will become so deeply ingrained that I’ll probably do it in my sleep. Yes, I’ll be grinning out of sheer joy, but I’ll also smile for the camera, for the gift-givers at my shower, for the well-wishers at events leading up to the wedding, and so on. I have been applying Beautisol 99% Pure Peptide Serum over the grooves that are becoming etched around my mouth and sense that they are gradually fading. As with the smile lines, my teeth will need some time to shed their surface stains and lighten up a few shades. There is no way I’m going to let my gown out-whiten my teeth.

To get my teeth their pearliest in time for the big day, I am now drinking coffee out of a straw (gross at first, but by now the norm), and I made the Herculean resolution to quit diet soda in 2011. Among other evils, soda can be as corrosive to dental enamel as battery acid (Source). Once a month, I squirt Nite White bleaching gel in custom molded trays that I purchased from my dentist and leave them in overnight. If I run out of gel, I will use Target-brand Whitening Wraps or Crest 3D White Whitestrips (which truly transformed my fiance’s teeth in a single week) as backup. But in my experience, no OTC product can compare to the immediate brightening effects of a doctor-endorsed treatment.

Until he put a ring on it, I never gave my fingers much thought. I have always moisturized my hands and elbows compulsively thanks to my naturally thin, scaly hide. But my nails and cuticle beds remained neglected, save for special occasions. Now that I’m sporting some eye-catching ring finger bling, my hands and nails are constantly in the spotlight. Though it may at times seem like a chore, all beauty-conscious brides-to-be should make a monthly trip to the salon for a mani-pedi. When it comes to maintaining a perfect ten, you cannot underestimate the value of putting your nails and feet in the hands of a professional.

I may have accounted for the steps I’m taking to prepare my hair, face, and body for the big day, but in truth, I have barely scratched the surface. As the clock decisively counts down, my beauty needs and rituals will evolve. Preparing for a wedding is hard work! Stay tuned for more tips that brides and grooms alike can take to the altar.