The paranoia of the winter bride

Terrified of a cold or flu ruining the Big Day, these women aren’t taking chances

by Joanne Latimer – Date: Monday, January 12, 2009

Terrified of a cold or flu ruining the big day, these women aren’t taking chances

See the women on the bus, clutching bottles of hand sanitizer? See them at work, chewing vitamin C tablets? They won’t shake your hand and they won’t touch the shopping cart in the grocery store. Who are they? They’re the winter brides of 2009. And they’re on germ lockdown.

“I’m really cautious in public. Everyone knows I’m anal about germs on a regular day,” says Amy Brown, 34, who is getting married in Toronto on Feb. 26. Brown teaches at her studio, Pilates for Life, where there is a big sign on the door: “In the interest of promoting health and wellness, please refrain from coming to class if you are ill.” Enough clients ignore this sign to make Brown nervous. “I work closely with so many people that it’s hard to avoid germs. My fiancé, Jeremy, is a firefighter, so he’s very ‘hands on’ with people too and he gets sick every winter.”

To improve their chances of dodging a cold before the Big Day, Brown and her fiancé started reducing their stress by getting professional massages. Then, as Christmas approached, with its mandatory social events, they upped their game by consulting health professionals. “Naturopaths have the strong stuff and osteopaths can support your adrenal glands,” advises Brown. “I was put on an immune-boosting regime and serious multivitamins.”

Newlyweds Elisha and Dave McCallum, from Coquitlam, B.C., also took action. “We downed high doses of vitamin C every morning and night leading up to the wedding,” says Elisha, a December bride who got married in -24° C weather on the peak-to-peak gondola at Whistler Blackcomb. “Of course, Dave and I got sick the day after the wedding!”

Elyn Kirby and Jonathan Arscott tied the knot in Toronto on Dec. 20. “For weeks before the wedding, I wouldn’t go near anyone–not family, not friends–who even thought they might have a cold,” recalls Kirby, laughing. “I didn’t want to have red eyes and a red nose on my wedding day. I started taking high-dose tablets of vitamin C. Still, I got a cold immediately after the wedding.”

Taken alone, high doses of vitamin C aren’t enough, according to naturopath John Dempster. He runs a cold and flu prevention program out of his clinic in Toronto. “I start treating brides one month prior to the wedding date,” says Dempster. “Planning a hectic wedding elevates a stress hormone called cortisol, which suppresses the immune system. Bacteria and viruses are everywhere–on doorknobs, pens and hands. You can’t kill every bug, but you can build up your body’s defence system.”

Dempster does this by administering customized intravenous vitamin therapies. “Depending on the bride’s core nutrition and stress levels, I prescribe up to three IVs per week,” says Dempster, who charges between $85 and $110 for a vitamin IV. “I recommend she cuts out all refined sugars, which are hell on your immune system. Remember, vitamin D3 is your friend. It’s a great antiviral and bacteria fighter.”

Why not avoid germ lockdown altogether by getting married in the summer? “We’ve been to over 20 summer weddings,” explains Brown. “They tend to blend together. We want something a little different.” Kirby and Arscott preferred the risks of a winter wedding to worrying about rain in the summer. Alison McGill, editor-in-chief at, notes that winter weddings are financially appealing in these hard times. “Couples save significantly on the venue and photography,” reports McGill, adding, “and guests really appreciate that winter weddings don’t monopolize a long weekend in the summer.”

It all goes to explain the steady stream of winter brides who frequent health food stores across the country. John Hopkins, owner of À Votre Santé in Montreal, recommends they take oregano extract. “It kills viruses, which cause colds, and it’s more powerful than echinacea,” he advises. “But it’s also important to take 5000 IU of vitamin D3 every day, plus a good probiotic, and freeze-dried garlic. It’s a good idea to eat fermented food, like sauerkraut, because it’s full of probiotics.”

Vancouver bride-to-be Tracy Williams isn’t about to start eating sauerkraut and popping Frankenvitamins. “I’m more of a bridechilla than a bridezilla,” says Williams, who’s getting married on Feb. 28 in Toronto. “If I get sick, I get sick. It’s so much out of my control.” Brown begs to differ. “Why not do what you can do?” she asks. “I’m only planning on getting married once.”