My weight has fluctuated between 165 and 245 pounds over the last three years. Right now, I’m somewhere in the middle. My body’s changes have left my mind confused — am I self-conscious, or do I like how I look? The answer is, it depends on the day. But the day I went to shop for wedding dresses, I didn’t particularly feel great about my figure, which at the moment is sitting somewhere between a size 12 and 16.
Since the day my now-fiancé, James, proposed to me, I have both anticipated and feared shopping for my wedding gown. Anticipated, for obvious reasons — one being I'm getting married and this is a real step toward the big day. Feared, because while I am a huge advocate for the body-positive movement, I just can't seem to love and accept my own body. No matter how hard I try to change that mindset. I also can’t seem to get past that I have a few extra pounds on my husband-to-be, even though he doesn’t really care or notice.
Before going to the bridal store, I had my mind set on the type of dress I wanted; one that would hide my body. A gown that would draw attention away from my oddly-shaped chest, my "hip dips," my Mennonite butt (Mennonites aren’t particularly the healthiest eaters), and my floppy thighs. I didn’t want to look like I was shoved into a sausage casing, although since most of the dresses were size two to eight, this was unavoidable.
Without realizing it, I was looking for a floor-length paper bag.
I tried on gorgeous dresses with flowing lace and chiffon gathering around my feet and hiding everything from the shoulders down. I looked for high and illusion necklines to hide my breasts that tend to sag thanks to the weight loss and gain. And don't get me wrong, the dresses were stunning. They just weren't for me.
I tried on a strapless gown, which I hated. I tried on a beautiful lacy A-line, but it had ruching, which I didn't want. I even tried on a dress with a tonne of tulle, which was reminiscent of my graduation dress — the poofy monster I got lost in.
I ranked the dresses between five and eight out of 10. Our bridal consultant was running out of options.
Then, as I walked back into the dressing room, my sister emerged from the back room sales rack with a dress I would have never picked. And by the look on the consultant’s face, she wouldn't have either.
I wasn't even going to try it as I took it with me into the change room. But as I looked at the sea of white surrounding me, I realized it was the only gown I had not tried on.
I slithered into the gown that was 6 sizes too big and asked the consultant to give me a hand. She shoved a pillow in the back of the dress. I walked out onto the platform and in front of the mirrors I had started to dislike.
The consultant fixed the back and pulled the extra fabric to show my entourage and myself what the dress would look like once altered.
I couldn't believe what I was seeing.
This dress, the one I loathed so much upon first sight, was the most stunning, elegant, and perfect gown I had tried on. I can honestly say I've never felt so beautiful. And it was the exact opposite of what I was looking for. It made parts of me that I hated look beautiful. It made parts of me I never cared for stand out. It made all of me glow, from head to toe. I won't be sharing pictures of my dress online until after the wedding, but the point wasn't the dress itself -- it was how I got there.
The pressure was on as the dress was off the rack, discontinued, and the only one like it in the store.
But I was scared of commitment.
I didn't want to say yes quite yet. It was the first store, and we had only tried eight or so gowns. This couldn't be "it" just yet.
The consultant asked if I would like to try on a veil. I agreed.
She clipped a veil into my hair. It draped over my shoulders to my lower back and matched the details on the dress. I looked up and my mom walked over to me in tears. I immediately began to cry. I looked in the mirror past myself and saw my future mother-in-law also tearing up.
I knew. I knew this was the dress.
I didn't think I would get emotional. I immediately grew attached to the dress. Not just the dress, but the feeling the dress gave me. I felt beautiful. I felt happy. I felt like this is the dress I need to be wearing when I make the most important decision of my life — to say "I do" to the kind, gentle soul who holds my heart.