I’d love to say I was one of those cooler-than-cool womxn who had so much going on, that they hadn’t given their wedding a thought until they got engaged. The truth is, I grew up in a large family, dancing to The Supremes in hotel ballrooms and banquet halls, thinking “Weddings are the best thing ever!” from a very young age. I even contemplated how many of my friends could fit in my childhood backyard, and if my dad’s band would play. At age five, I asked my mom if I could wear a green pantsuit when I got married, to which she responded, “Of course.” So when my partner Sam and I got engaged in 2017 and I realized that a green pantsuit wasn’t really my aesthetic anymore, I had to prepare myself for the realities of wedding dress shopping with a plus size body.
Being a plus size womxn in a straight size world is hard. Being a plus size womxn in the hyper weight-aware and weight-biased wedding world could have been unbearable for me—and nearly was. However, I took stock of the positive forces in my life and applied great effort to loving myself when the wedding industry said I wasn’t good enough.
Here is my bodacious-bride-approved list of ways to love your body and reclaim that dance-all-night positivity leading up to your wedding:
Write a wedding mantra
I absolutely loved wedding planning and would do it again in a heartbeat, but there were moments of profound self-doubt. For every weekend I spent hand-making wedding napkins and pompom garlands, I had an evening of negative self-talk. For every successful makeup trial, there was a stress breakout (and then stress breakout freak out).
At the encouragement of our premarital counselor, Sam and I created individual wedding mantras (mine was “feel the love,” his was “this is the fun part!”) that would help us focus back on the best parts of our love and wedding planning. “Feel the love” came in handy one evening when I attempted to try on a too-small wedding dress (with a side zipper, no less) without help or an audience, because of my embarrassment that it might not fit. I looked in the mirror at my half zipped dress, my face red and contorted from trying so hard to zip the dang thing, and I burst out laughing. What was I doing? This was not “feeling the love.” I called my good friend, a next door neighbor, who ran over to help me out of the dress. Having a mantra to bring me back during uncertainty about myself and my body saved me from more than one absolute meltdown.
Control your environment
One of my tools for thriving during wedding planning was controlling my environment, and nixing experiences that made me feel less than myself. The thought of going into a predominantly straight size wedding boutique and standing on a pedestal rang serious alarm bells for me. Despite being reassured by other plus size womxn that bridal salons these days are really built for all sorts of bodies, my trepidation spurred me on another path.
First, I found online shops that offered free shipping and returns. For these dresses, I got dressed with my friends, FaceTimed my mom, took a load of pictures, and felt my feelings about my body, positive and negative, without forgetting the love due to concerns about unacquainted onlookers or a lack of options. There were comically large dresses and what I called “sausage dresses”—but the stakes were low in my living room. Though I didn’t end up keeping any of my online dresses, the process of trying them was a huge part of finding out what worked for me before I stepped into a store.
After I tried on a few dresses from online shops, I ended up going to the brick-and-mortar Modcloth store in Austin to try on dresses in person. I chose Modcloth because they are a super size-inclusive, fun, and casual store that was just my speed. I brought my mom with me and I gave her specific instructions about the type of experience I wanted to have: all positivity and fun, no tears. I walked away with a gorgeous, inexpensive, short dress that looked perfect at my ranch wedding. On the way back to the car, a stranger asked me if I was a bride. “YES!” my mom and I both proclaimed. An experience that could’ve made me feel less-than instead had me beaming and owning my new role.
So much of wedding dress shopping felt out of my control because of my body shape, my budget, and my access to shops that had my sizes, but with the right research and perseverance, I had the experience every engaged person deserves.
Reach Out to Your People
Once I found “the dress” and ordered the right size, I tried it on with my maid of honor. I tried it on with my sweetest, most sentimental friend. I tried it on with other engaged friends. I tried it on with style-conscious folks and anything-goes folks. I sent pictures to friends in far-flung corners of the world. Their smiles and tears pumped me up when I felt deflated. I favorited the glamour shots my friends took on my phone so I could easily see myself through their gaze.
Let me tell you a secret: I ended up having to buy the dress in a bigger size after some weight gain, and I tried it on with my friends all over again. A wise one told me, “Your body gets bigger and smaller and all along it’s still you, and you are magnificent.” With a little help from my friends, I believed it.
Surround yourself with body positive media
Representation matters. There are a ton of body positive, plus size, proud, confident people out there posting on Instagram, writing for APW, making music, and sharing the love they have for themselves with the rest of us. I took a long soak in the tub of body positivity. I spent hours listening to Lizzo, complimenting plus size womxn I saw on the street, and fantasizing about plus size designer clothes (Christian Siriano, I see you!). I commented on plus size fashion blog posts with abandon. I even searched the name of my Modcloth dress to see how people of all sizes rocked it. In the end, the positive media meant so much to me that I ended my vows with a (modified) Lizzo lyric: If we’re shining, everybody’s gonna shine.
Make a statement
So you have a big body: the more square inches to cover in your style! Inspired by the APW feature about Lindy West’s wedding, I wanted to be the loudest version of myself at my wedding. I wanted to show everyone on God’s green my pride in who I am. That meant spending careful hours deciding between tall AF gold flamingo wedges by Kate Spade or little white embroidered cowboy boots I found online for $8 (I went with the latter). It meant sending my best friend to get hot pink pom pom and tassel earrings at a custom shop near her apartment in Berlin. It meant wearing an enormous green ring on the day that everyone would be wanting to see my wedding band. It meant spinning around in a poofy dress.
For others, it might mean getting the sleekest, most elegant hairstyle or the most meaningful inherited pearls. It might mean a train that rivals Meghan Markle’s. It might just mean doing their own makeup or leaving the makeup off entirely. Bodies are political no matter what these days, so why not make a statement about who you are? In a world where people constantly tell you “no” because of your big booty and thick calves, your wedding day is a perfect time to shout “yes” right back at ‘em.