Getting fit to get hitched drives brides to exercise.

By the time they take that long walk down the aisle, a growing number of brides have already logged a lot of miles in commercial health and fitness facilities. Although few clubs have aggressively marketed their businesses to this perennially strong customer base, countless brides, their fiances, and other members of wedding parties are working out in preparation for the big day.

Not surprisingly, most members of wedding parties who opt for a prenuptial exercise program are training to lose weight and tone up.

"Here's what typically happens," says Edward Jackowski, Ph.D, CEO and founder of Exude, Inc., a motivational and one-on-one fitness company headquartered in New York City. "The bride-to-be goes in for her first [wedding gown] fitting, realizes she is going to be the center of everyone's attention, and decides that she can't stand the way she looks. That's when she comes to see us."

Jackowski, who relies solely on referrals and media mentions to drive clients to his business, does not make an extra effort to target the bride-to-be market. But because so many of the prospects who visit his facility are getting married in the near future, he is ready to supply testimonials from other client brides. Jackowski estimates that about 20 percent of his new female customers are altar-bound.

Actually, it's not surprising that many women who join health clubs are planning a wedding. According to a survey of the readers of Modern Bride magazine, 92 percent want to "look beautiful for their wedding day, honeymoon and beyond." The survey noted that engaged woman are more likely to change their fitness, beauty and diet regimens.

A couple of factors may be pushing the number of engaged women who exercise higher. First, market watchers point to the increased awareness of exercise as a way to lose weight and tone muscle. But another leading factor compelling more brides to exercise is the changing fashion in wedding dresses. In 1998, the New York Times reported that as wedding dresses become more revealing - "sleeveless, strapless, with plunging necks and back, made in fabrics that cling to every curve - gym owners are seeing a surge in business."

According to Jackowski, brides aren't the only soon-to-be-wed people visiting his club. "When grooms recognize that their fiancees are serious about their exercise programs, we see a number of them follow suit," he says. Other members of the bridal party who are likely to pursue a new fitness program include the mother of the bride, and some bride's maids.

Because the wedding-day deadlines help keep brides-to-be very focused on their fitness programs, they tend to see results in a very short time. Because their dedication to the program helps them attain their fitness goals, Jackowski says most of the new wives his company trained continue to be Exude members: "None of the women who get in shape want to go back to the way they looked or felt."


Big Business

During the 14-to-16 month engagement period, $8 billion is spent annually on pre- and wedding-day-related purchases.


Bride Be Fit

Club Industry and Primedia's Modern Bride Connection magazines are joining forces to tell the more than 2.4 million women who marry annually how they can rely on commercial health and fitness facilities to help them look and feel their best on their wedding day. In January, all 16 regional editions of the Modern Bride Connection magazines will feature a full-page article on prenuptial exercise programs. In July, the second edition of the magazines will also feature an article promoting exercise.

Commercial health and fitness facilities interested in more aggressively targeting the bridal market will be extended a special advertising discount in the Modern Bride Connection magazines. Qualified advertisers will be provided free four-color on their ads and earn free links to ModernBride.Com and Wed-dingNetwork.com.