We’ve talked a little abstractly here and there about the role body image plays in wedding planning and in marriage. But we haven’t yet had a chance to talk about the very real ways that the wedding industry can make planning as a plus sized bride particularly unpleasant (or at least, very consciously “othered”). Which is why I was thrilled when we received Ashley’s submission on the ways that her weight did and did not impact her wedding. Because what Ashley does here is take all of that external wedding industry noise about weight and worth (even the sneaky stuff that we might not notice) and all of those niggling internal voices that tell us we should change the way we look for our weddings, and she’s distilled them down into something that I think is useful for all of us. (Hint: it looks a lot like acceptance.)
I am a woman of a size that quantifies me as large, or curvy, or heavy, and from a medical description obese. I was when I was single, while we were dating and engaged, and when I am married I’ll likely continue to be a size that is larger than society typically dubs as “normal.” In my everyday, non-wedding-planning life, I actively work to make sure who I am, how I feel about myself, my dreams, and my happiness are bigger than my weight. When planning a wedding though, my feelings about my weight were a little more uncomfortable than usual. Sometimes this was because portions of wedding planning had me bumping up against business or options that were not as readily available in my size. Other times, my feelings about my size were challenged based on the images I saw of brides that looked nothing like me. My wedding planning experience in general amplified the areas of my life where I already struggled with conflicted feelings, and my body image was no different.
So, here are the places where my weight did play into my wedding planning experience:
1. The engagement ring. I love sparkly things, and while I wear little to no jewelry everyday, I was super excited to pick out a ring. My significant other and I spent weeks online looking and compromising on a ring style we both loved. It was tougher to get a sense of what the ring would look like on, since most jewelry stores don’t have samples in my ring size. When I had found a few I loved I put three up for the final vote, and the one I not so secretly preferred won the day. I was purchasing the ring with my year-end bonus and couldn’t wait to get it in my hot little hands—the quicker for him to propose with. So I went to the website and after finding the diamond I wanted I pulled down the drop-down menu for size and selected size 9, which, to my relief, was listed as an option for the ring I wanted.
A message came up on the screen that said I needed to call customer service to order a ring in that size. The size of my ring finger happens to be larger than they figure into the basic cost, so they couldn’t give me a price until I had customer service run the numbers. I understand business realities, but I still felt deflated—I needed a special size. Sigh. But then I gave myself a little pep talk. “Okay, I order different sizes online all the time—so why should this be any different—no worries—just call it in.” Once I finished talking to the customer service rep, and getting the higher quote for my special order ring, that could not be returned because it was a non-standard size, I placed the order. I was told it would take an extra few weeks to deliver. For some reason, this last bit of news—the delay—sent me over the edge.
I flung myself into bed next to my SO and started sobbing. I felt like this first step in the engagement process already had a hurdle just because I needed a different size ring. And then the floodgates of my secret worries really opened up: what if I couldn’t find a dress I liked or loved in my size; what if my pictures looked horrible, and, most importantly, what did my future husband expect his bride and soon wife to look like? So we talked, and I cried a bit more and he reassured me he loves me “just as you are” (cue Bridget Jones reference in my mind). Also, to be clear, my future husband thinks I should look like me. He wants me to feel good about how I look, be healthy, not to be confused with thin, and feel comfortable in my body. Which is just one reason why he is awesome and I love him.
2. The wedding dress. I never had a clear picture of what I wanted in a dress. I am a bit sentimental, secretly romantic, and I find it important to be comfortable while feeling elegant. So drawing on the feelings I hoped my dress would summon up I started looking for where to shop. I skipped the local small bridal boutiques for two reasons: 1) when I called they indicated they didn’t carry samples or very many patterns in my size, and 2) they were outside of my budget based on our discussions. Next, I checked my favorite online plus size clothing stores like Kiyonna and Igigi. They had options that were contenders, but these stores are only online—I couldn’t try it on before the purchase. I decided since they had very affordable options that I liked, I’d pin a few as backup choices if I didn’t find dresses I liked in stores. So, that left me with either a custom dress or David’s Bridal and Alfred Angelo’s. I went with the big bridal stores for various reasons and called the stores first to make sure they had plenty of samples in my size. Then I took a friend along who I knew would be supportive, and not coincidentally, had experience being a plus size bride herself. I found several dresses I liked, but the one I liked best was simple, in my price range, and most importantly felt like me—we had a winner. Was it difficult not being able to try on designer dresses or finding inspiration pictures of dresses I liked that weren’t in my size? Sometimes. But I figured all brides have limits on their dress selections, whether it was price, current trends, or other elements of their body types. I don’t feel like my dress makes me “feel like a bride” or there is some amazing story about my dress. I just like it, think I look good in it, and I am excited to wear it on my wedding day.
3. The pictures. This one was tough for me. In my experience, I seem to be able to take much more flattering pictures of myself than others do. I just don’t get it sometimes—can’t they see that angle highlights areas of my body I’d prefer not to accentuate? I love my eyes, my freckles, my cleavage and my legs—could we please focus on bringing those out? Anyway, when I saw a photographer who advertised working specifically with plus size ladies I jumped at the chance to hire her; you may have heard of her—her name is Maddie. I wanted to feel comfortable that, while my photos aren’t posed, during editing they may take out the ones where I look like I have more chins than usual. The struggle here, was when I looked at photos of other brides, on almost any site, a large majority were smaller than me. It was hard for me to wrap my head around what a bride my size looks like in photos. Could I look lovely, happy, and emotional in a way that I identified with? I sometimes feel that how I look in pictures looks nothing like I look like in the mirror. Somehow I feel the emotion in pictures of me doesn’t match how I feel—I only see my size. Again, I have worked on this before being engaged, but it is all the more important for me to feel accepting of images I presume I’ll reflect back on for the rest of my life.
4. Losing weight. I’ll keep this brief since this is very personal for everyone. I didn’t want to feel the need to change myself, including my weight, for my wedding. Outside of wedding planning I often vacillate between learning to love my body and the desire to lose weight to more easily fit into a world geared towards smaller-size bodies. So, as expected, this conflict came up a few times. In general, I dealt with it the same way I always do. I am honest with myself about what is realistic for my body, my lifestyle, and what I believe to be true about health and size. What I do want to make clear, though, was no one in my circle of friends, family, or even the wedding vendors I worked with ever suggested or encouraged me to lose weight, so a big heartfelt thank you to each of them.
5. Miscellaneous. Outside of the items above the only time I thought about my weight was when looking through sites that have rhinestone Bride tanks or Wifey sweatshirts. Most of the “other stuff” under clothing options don’t come in my size. I can live with that; I deal with it every day anyway.
6. EVERYTHING ELSE. So pretty much everything else had nothing to do with my size. My budget, dealing with vendors, finding a church, fighting and making up with my partner, choosing my wedding party, worrying about what other people think about my wedding, all the five-hundred million other decision, joys, and struggles other brides experience were the same. All the hard stuff that is talked about on APW still applied. All the good stuff about engagement also applied.
So I am a bride whose dress is a larger size, I have a special ring, and my photos will look different than my friends and others on this site. That’s okay. We are all different anyway. Wedding planning has affirmed what I believe about myself to be true: that I am lovable, that I am capable of loving, and that the life I choose does not have to be limited by my weight.
Photo Credit: Hart & Sol West (APW Sponsor)