What Planning a Wedding Is Really Like for Plus Size Brides


The 5 times that it felt like my weight mattered

by Ashley Stockdale

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You can describe my body as large, or curvy, or heavy, or even from a medical description, obese. I was a woman of size when I was single, while we were dating and engaged, and when I get married I’ll probably continue to be a size that is larger than society dubs as “normal.” In my everyday, non-wedding-planning life, I actively work to make sure who I am and how I feel about myself, my dreams, and my happiness are bigger than my weight.

When wedding planning kicked in, however, my feelings about my weight were a little more uncomfortable than usual. Sometimes this was because wedding planning meant I routinely encountered stuff I liked, but that wasn’t available in my size. Other times, my feelings about my size were challenged based on the images I saw of brides who looked nothing like me. My wedding planning experience amplified the areas of my life where I already struggled with conflicted feelings, and the heart of this surrounded my body image.

There are five stops along the road of planning where my weight played a role in the experience, and each of those is worth sharing:

1. The engagement ring. I love sparkly things, and while I usually wear little to no jewelry, 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. Unfortunately, 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.

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. 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 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 to be 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 one reason why 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. 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.

This left me with a custom dress, David’s Bridal, or 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. I don’t feel like my dress makes me “feel like a bride” or that there is some amazing story about my dress. I just like it, think I look good in it, and 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.

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?

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 toward 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.

My size had little impact on the rest of my plans: 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, and 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.

this post originally appeared on APW in january 2013

Ashley Stockdale

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  • laddibugg

    Regarding rings: I have tiny fingers (my ring is a size 6 and it’s a bit too big)for being a larger person (size 22-24). When we went shopping, and asked to try on the ring in the case, I got a lot of ‘Well, you can try it on for looks and we can order it in a larger size” -_-. The sales folks seemed genuinely shocked when the show rings either fit or were too big.

    Since I mentioned my ring…I need to have it sized down. I went to the store last year, and they recommend I wait a while since I had just had my son, and I might still be ‘puffy’ (I was pregnant when we were shopping and got engaged). It’s been 8 months or so, so I should have lost any water weight I would have had, right? I never really wore sized rings until now so I had no idea what my real size was.

    • Sarah

      The last week or so of my pregnancy I couldn’t wear my wedding set (it was an antique set that was made bigger for the 5.25 or so my left ring hard requires). But pretty soon after pregnancy my fingers were back to normal. I just had an old ring that belonged to my grandmother resized and they told me to wear it several weeks, in varying temperatures/varying diets/varying times of the month to obtain an accurate idea of size which works. I had my baby EXACTLY one year ago, was a size 12 before, closer to 14-16 now and still about 13 lbs up pre-pregnancy weight.

      • laddibugg

        The crazy thing is my fingers never got super swollen, and neither did my feet or ankles… And I had pre eclampsia (elevated protein and high BP).
        I was wearing on of those things that helps the ring stay put on your finger but I hated it. I think I’ll ask about sizing it down when we go get it checked out for the warranty.

    • Eenie

      Are you currently in a winter climate? My fingers swell during the summer. My ring is sized so it’s slightly tight during the summer so it’s a little big in the winter.

      • Lisa

        I can’t seem to figure out what it is, but I’m the complete opposite. During summer, my ring is so loose that it could almost fall off, and during winter, I can barely get it on many days.

        • janie

          What’s the metal your ring is made of? Metal expands in the heat and contracts in the winter, and if you have a ring with a large coefficient of thermal expansion that might explain it (and your fingers might not swell very much, compounding the sensation).

          • Lisa

            According to the appraisal it’s 14K yellow gold. Do you know anything about its coefficient?

          • janie

            Yeah, that’s not very exotic (mine is the same) – my guess is that you have very stable fingers!

          • Lisa

            I’m adding this to the list of Interesting Things I’ve Learned About Myself Through APW Comments. Thanks for the information!

    • Kara E

      Yeah…I’m normally a 16-18 and my wedding ring is a 5.25. Granted, it’s too small right now at 18w/20, but that’s mainly because of hormonal wackiness caused by cycles of IUI medications and I got sick of the panicky “oh my goodness I can’t take this thing off!” on swollen days — which I can’t seem to predict.) I’m wearing a size 7-ish thing from Nordstrom Rack right now because insecure and it’s way too big. I got an off the rack sample dress from a wedding store on Grand in St. Paul MN — they carry a whole house worth of larger sizes (it’s separate from the house where smaller sizes are (in several different rooms), but is where they carried all that gorgeous accessories), so whatever.

      • laddibugg

        What’s the name of the shop? I actually went to college in that area and have been contemplating whether I want to go to the reunion.. . A plus size bridal shop would definitely tip the scales toward yes lol

        • Kara E

          laddibugg – Apparently it’s the wedding shoppe http://www.weddingshoppeinc.com/ (it was 5 years ago already!). [Also, my cousin’s wife makes custom dresses in St. Paul. No idea her pricing and all that, but she’s done some beautiful stuff for what seem to be ladies of all sizes.]

    • I’m the same! My rings are sized at 5.5 and I’m a size 22.

  • Jane

    I’m really happy for you that your loved ones and vendors and people haven’t been suggesting that you loved weight. Good for them. But also, good for you. Because that almost certainly means you’ve been positive enough about your body that no one sees it as a problem to fix. And that’s hard to accomplish no matter what size you are!

    Thanks for sharing!

  • louise danger

    I would be curious to know if you were happy with how your pictures turned out, if you’re still around here on Ye Olde APW? I have preeeeetty much the same concerns as you (and had a similarly outsize reaction when the jewelry store told me it would be all but impossible to re-size my grandmother’s wedding ring set from her size 5 and 4 3/4 fingers to my own size 8 one). This was nice to read on a day when I’m feeling a lot of other defeat-feelings – thank you for writing and sharing!

    • JenC

      I’m not the author but I am plus size and have my photos back. I didn’t pick a photographer that had worked with plus size brides (although there were a general mix of couples from all backgrounds, sizes and ages) but they were a pair that I got on with and got the good vibes about.

      We had an engagement photo session with them and I think I look awkward in them. You can see me relax over the photos but I still look somewhat unhappy to be in front of the camera, particularly on those photos where I feel it’s an unflattering pose. I didn’t go into the wedding thinking I’d like many, if any photos, not because of our photographers ability but just because I don’t take good photos.

      We got hundreds and hundreds of wedding photos and as you would expect I’m in a good number of them. I can honestly say I was surprised by how much I loved our wedding photos, not just because of the emotions they captured but because I like how I look in them. There are several photos in which I think I look beautiful, which has never happened. There are so many photos that I’m in that I love and I’m in a variety of poses and angles, rather than the standard pose I adopt when a photo is been taken. I even loved some of our non-pro pictures because I still somehow look happy and beautiful. We have a ridiculous amount of wedding photos up in the house because we loved them, we really look like we’re showing off but I can’t help it. I’m not going to lie there are still some photos that I hate. Some of the ones of just me I look pregnant and weird but on the whole they’re really great. You can see my flabby arms on some, you can see back fat on others but I still look like I deserved to be loved. Go figure!

      Trust your photographer, you hired them for a reason. I think an engagement shoot helped me if you have the time. Remember you’re also your own worst critic, you don’t have to like every single photo of yourself and that isn’t related in any way to your size, anyone of any size can pick out their own faults in a photo. But you can also look at your pictures and say ‘damn I did look beautiful, my mind wasn’t just tripping that day’. I look forward to you joining me on the other side with the crazy amount of wedding pictures up and an inability to pick one favourite wedding photo!

      • Stephanie Haller

        I’m a plus-size gal and also a wedding photographer. I struggle so much with editing sometimes. I tend to overthink what I’m working on because I know how specific some women are about their faces and looks – especially if they’re larger like me. I wonder if this is their “girl bye” face or if they love scrunchy nose pictures. If they prefer angles from above or straight on. I tend to overdeliver on images because of how specific I personally am about how I look in images. I used to have a seriously horrendous body image problem and I know that my style of editing and shooting is affected by that. I still find myself calling myself ugly sometimes if I’m in a bad place emotionally. :/ I’m acutely aware of not being the cute popular girl so I’m very..protective of my brides. I worry so much about whether she’ll love this angle I took or if she’ll like this one better.

        I don’t know if every photographer has the same struggles editing sometimes, but I used to have a seriously horrendous body image. I still find myself calling myself ugly sometimes if I’m in a bad place emotionally. :/ I’m acutely aware of not being the cute popular girl.

        So when I edit weddings – I’m always thinking about that and with candid images, it’s even harder. Not everyone loves the way they look when they’ve got an actual genuine hilarious as hell laugh on their face. My teeth look weird and my nose is all squished..I can’t think I’m the only one who thinks that about themselves! But I love those images of me..because they’re real.

        I’m so glad you loved yours and you feel beautiful. Please tell your photographer that. We can never hear enough of it. :)

        • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

          I’ve photographed a few weddings, and ultimately decided that I don’t really like doing them, in part because I worry that they’ll hate all the ones I like and edit for them, and it takes all the fun out of it. (There’s always that risk when photographing people, but the stakes are lower for an hour-long head shot session.) I always sorta wanted to ask my wedding clients if they had any concerns/preferences/likes/dislikes about how they look in photos, but could never figure out how to have that conversation, and I didn’t want them to feel like they couldn’t trust my judgement. There was one MOB who told me right away that she hates photos of herself in profile because of her nose, which was really helpful to know. No pictures of Mom from the side. Got it.

    • Caitlin

      I’m not the author either, but I picked my photographer based partly on that she actually had plus size brides featured on her website, and it worked out beautifully for me. I assumed anyone who didn’t feature plus size brides either had no experience or was ashamed of their work.

  • Nell

    Can I just say, I love that in addition to all your thoughtful words here about body image and breaking with what’s expected – you bought your own ring!!! So badass.

  • Hayley

    Thank you for this. This was just what I needed to read right now. I just made my appointment for wedding dress shopping at the plus sized sample store and I need to remember that even though the pictures I see are of smaller brides, they make really nice dresses for larger brides too.

    • Fushigidane

      It’s funny, I hate the way my dress looks in the ads for it. I looked it up after I ordered it and I think it looks much better on me than on the much smaller model. I would suggest you look at design elements you think you might like and just try everything on that hits your fancy.

      • Hayley

        That’s good advice, thanks. I think I’ll do some looking and see what styles draw my eye.

      • JenC

        I also hate my wedding dress in the ad for it and the model is a much smaller woman. I saw the model picture and for a while wondered if the sales consultant had written down the wrong dress because it just looked so boring on her and I really can’t do a better job than an actual model. I think if I had seen the picture before I ordered it, I wouldn’t have even tried it on I disliked it that much.

        • louise danger

          i’m right there with you! i remember saying (and thinking) that i didn’t want to take the dress off because i liked how it felt – and then i looked at it online when i got home and it looks so frumpy/old/bleh/not-good on the model and i’m panicking that it’s going to look like all of those things on me too when it comes in (in a few weeks! aaaaah!) but then i remember that it looked really nice on me so i should just chill.

          i’m sure your dress is lovely on you!

        • I think this is the WIC shooting itself in the foot – using traditional models for dresses that don’t suit slim women. Certain waistlines, necklines and sleeves suit larger bodies much better than small ones, but are still modelled by small women because people are cared to put it on the size of woman it’s designed to suit.

    • nutbrownrose

      My dress look horrible on the David’s Bridal model, since she has no hips or boobs to speak of, and it’s a dress designed for the female public at large, who as a rule have both hips and boobs. So designers frequently do know who they’re selling to is not a model, especially at the bigger stores.

    • I bought my wedding gown from a plus size bridal shop, and I had the most fun there. It was so great to have to be clipped into dresses because they were too big, than too small.

  • Jessica

    In my adult life I have ranged between the so called “straight sizes” to what would be considered “plus sized.” I’ve always had around a size 9 ring finger. I would think that a lot of women would have fingers outside the typical 7-8 range, and wish more jewelry sellers would accommodate.

    It sometimes feels like having size 11-12 shoes–lots of women need that size, but there are not always a lot of options for it.

    • anontoday

      I can’t pretend to know the pressure of being a plus-sized bride and this is a beautiful piece. I can say as a petite lady shopping for wedding bands, my fingers are so small that some places flat out told me they would not make a ring in my size. Perhaps the experience of being outside the normal ring size is more common than you think, though certainly your jeweler didn’t need to make you feel bad about it.

      • idkmybffjill

        This is so weird! I’m a 5.5 which is apparently on the smaller side, but I had no idea. From reading all these comments it seems like jewelry stores carry just a size 7 or something!

    • MTM

      Solid 10.5 here. 10s are too small, 11s are too big, 10.5s are super rare. Usually I can manage a 10W, but whoa would it be nice to have a pair of shoes that just fit.

  • savannnah

    Two things have really helped me with the process of being a plus sized bride, one of which was totally out of my control- my grandmothers engagement ring fits me like a glove and I was super worried about it and secondly, going dress shopping at Davids bridal by myself for the first time. I was terrified that I was going to hate everything on me and be upset in the dressing room (that awful feeling that I’m willing to go away more and more) but by going by myself- I was able to really own the experience and I found an awesome dress that my mom also loved the next trip in. Still fighting anticipatory unhappy photo demons though, its a marathon.

  • Sarah

    So, I’m on the smaller end of plus size, so I know I have it easier than many.

    1. I’m a 7.5 ring size, so while larger than the show rings in the jewelry stores, I’m still able to get them on my pinky.
    2. I had a lot of anxiety about wedding dress shopping before going. Thankfully I live in a big city with lots of options. I looked online for suggestions about shops that had lots of plus size dresses. I went to 2 shops, the first David’s bridal, the 2nd a local shop where I found my gown. I would be honest up front when making appointments about your size, and then pick a store that is known for having plus size gowns. Go to a big city if there isn’t a large selection where you live. In the end, I had a great time. I tried on probably 15 gowns, and I could get into all of them. When ordering my actual dress, I didn’t ask the size. I just had them measure, and order the correct size. I can’t feel self-conscious of the size, because I don’t know what it is.
    3. My fiance is probably more self-conscious of our pictures than I am. He picked the photographer, and I think most of that decision came down to someone who someone who could “make him look thiner”. I’ve been on a journey over the past few years, to love who I am and what I look like in the moment. Not to avoid pictures. He’s still in the being larger makes me less worthy of a person phase. But each of us have different struggles.
    4. Very few people have talked about losing weight for my wedding, thankfully. When I ordered my dress, they said I was between sizes, so they could order me the smaller one if I had planned on losing weight. I declined so I wouldn’t feel pressured. I actually lost like 5 lbs according to my doctor, but I’m not actively trying to (I don’t even own a scale anymore). I just feel a lot more calm and settled since getting engaged, which has lead me to eating better.
    5. The hardest part has been bridesmaid stuff. My friends are wide variety of all shapes and sizes. I want them all to be happy and feel beautiful standing up beside me. I went with David’s Bridal for dresses. I picked a color and let them choose whatever knee-length dress they wanted. I wanted to go with a bridesmaid rental place, but none of them seem to have plus-size dresses. I really want to do matching “getting ready” outfits but I’m having a hard time finding bridemaid sets that range from XS- 3x. It’s bad enough that companies think all brides are thin, but we are expected to have all thin friends as well.

  • Pingback: What Planning a Wedding Is Really Like for Plus Size Brides – Jewelry Finder 4 U()

  • JenC

    For me the anxieties that stemmed from my ring were the public declaration that someone really loved me. I picked a non-traditional engagement ring, it’s a non traditional stone and shape. I fell in love with it when I saw it and couldn’t imagine anything else, regardless of how much it could just be any old ring. My rings are the only jewellery I regularly wear. With it not looking like a standard ring and me not looking like a standard bride, I got so paranoid wearing just my ring on my left hand. I felt like people would be saying ‘look at her, nobody wants to marry her, she’s overweight. She’s clearly bought a ring so she can pretend that she isn’t upset when nobody hits on her in the bar’. It was so irrational but it made me reconsider shopping for a more traditional ring. I felt if I had a diamond solitaire then maybe people wouldn’t find me being engaged so weird (I was also having trouble finding a wedding ring to fit and it all sort of piled together into this projection of making the wrong ring choice).

    The dress was also a source of anxieties, mainly for the conflicting messages I received and felt about myself. Before shopping I struggled to reconcile the image of beautiful brides into my figure. I stumbled across the world of plus size brides (this site was one of the pages I viewed) and became confident that I could wear a mermaid with the rest of them. I could be body positive.

    Then it came to actually booking an appointment and it turned out I couldn’t be body positive. I couldn’t feel confident enough to book an appointment and not care that I didn’t look at least nice but I wanted to be beautiful. I booked an appointment with a specific plus sized shop, I felt I’d caved on the body positive me. So I also booked an appointment with a normal shop that had a good plus sized range. I felt this was a good compromise between being body confident and actually succumbing to my fear of not being enough (or rather being too much in this case).

    At the plus sized shop, more or less everything fit and some things were even too big. Wow that was incredible. I’ve never tried on things that were too big. Maybe I could be confident. Maybe I could be enough and feel beautiful. However, all the dresses were too frumpy. They all made me look 15 years older. I left feeling like it was OK to be plus sized as long as you’re older. The only younger styles were the mermaid dresses which I tried on ready to be an awesome, confident, plus sized woman. They looked OK but they didn’t feel like me. That wasn’t my style. So again, I felt like I was the wrong type of plus sized woman – I didn’t fit into the overly confident box.

    I went to my appointment at the normal shop and I wasn’t holding out much hope by then but I found one. Hidden amongst dresses of every size, with a woman who was so tall and slim and glamourous and utterly wonderful. I found that I had a waist, that lace didn’t suit me and that I could look somewhere between nice and beautiful on my wedding day. I wish I could say I didn’t freak out several times that I hadn’t made the wrong decision or whether I should wear Spanx (‘how dare a plus sized woman not wear Spanx’ then ‘wait we’re body confident we don’t need Spanx’ and finally ‘I really hate Spanx’) but I’d be lying.

    I could just never tell how any of the feelings would hit me in any given day. I received hardly any negative during my engagement (I had one particularly horrible encounter but she was putting me down on my weight regardless and actually my engagement made her nicer because at least someone loved me) so most of the stuff I was feeling was all just from myself. It’s impossible to undo years of bad thoughts about your body in a short (and pressured) time period, so for everyone going through it at the minute just try not to take yourself to seriously. Your own words will inflict the most damage because you know where to hurt yourself most. And freak outs are OK too.

  • Lexipedia

    A plus-size favorite actress of mine tweeted that, while getting ready for an awards show she kept getting asked by media people what her “pre-awards beauty and fitness tips” are. Her response was – “It’s called ‘they make dresses in different sizes.'” Which I thought captured the sentiment perfectly.

  • Lawyer_Chef

    It’s funny, the only time I felt bad about being plus size during the wedding process (after I found my dress, which was way easier than I feared it would be!) was when I was deciding whether to buy robes/t-shirts/etc. for getting ready. My bridesmaids, all straight-sized, had been in other weddings and kept suggesting cute robes that did not come in my size. I thought about buying them cute silk robes and having a plain one for myself, but finally decided against it. Luckily, the hotel where we stayed provided bathrobes, so we all wore those and it worked out great! I did also have anxiety about looking fat in my photos, but I also look really, really happy, so that helps.

  • Lindsay

    Former jewelry store employee here! That is terrible that you had to pay more for a different size in your ring, and start off the excitement of engagement with anxiety and disappointment! I worked at one of the chain jewelry stores and found that most of those have lifetime repair warranties that you can purchase that covers work on your ring for as long as it and the store exists. It is the same amount of work to size a ring up or down, and most people are not the standard size 7 that samples are in the store (I think of this like shoe size). Thank you for being open and vulnerable about your experience.

  • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

    I’m curious what a photographer might do differently when working with a plus-sized client. Is it purely a comfort level/acceptance thing, or is the approach to making the images different somehow?

  • cheshirecat452

    Size 9 engagement ring was extra? It’s so ridiculous how they set things up. I’m 5’9″, and therefore have larger hands, so my ring finger is size 9. I’m sorry you had to go through hoops for something so trivial <3

  • It feels like in the years since this post originally ran, there’s been so many strides in the plus size bridal industry, and in the plus size industry overall. It’s easier now to find plus size bridal shops and designers that either specialize in plus or have extended sizing. Sadly the “you have to lose weight/get your teeth fixed/get LASIK” thing has not gone away, which sucks.