What is a time of joy for many women was my darkest hour.
I unsubscribed to The Knot's wedding planner app when it alerted me that I had not "started a fitness routine to get in shape for the wedding." Oh, I'm sorry! I didn't think my soon-to-be husband would be calling off our marriage if I didn't drop 30 pounds.
But trust me, the idea was there, loud and clear. "Should I lose some weight? Won't the dress look better on me? Isn't that the thing all brides are supposed to do?" I grappled with it for nearly 10 months. Shouldn't I be trying to lose weight for my wedding?
It is one thing to rationally know that the whole bridal industry does not cater to my body type, but it’s another thing to experience it. I even got stuck inside a princess ballgown, struggling to escape from it while laughter mixed with resignation.
I only went to one dress boutique before I decided to take my dress search online. Disappointment aside, I couldn't help but think about all the other plus-size brides and their frustration in hearing, yet again, "We're sorry, but our boutique just wants to let you know that while we try to accommodate many sizes...”
TRANSLATION: "Sorry, FATTY, we don’t make dresses in your size!"
I’m a size 16, the smaller end of the plus-size market, and most boutique bridal shops do not even carry a sample dress beyond 10. It’s appalling that more bridal stores don't cater respectfully to larger women’s bodies, but that’s not the issue I was most concerned with.
Early in my wedding planning, I grappled with the back-and-forth nature we women have become so accustomed to when it comes to dealing with our bodies. We consider it normal that, when talking to friends, a conversation about how we'll mold our frames into smaller silhouettes is more common than discussing salaries or how we’re actively going about fulfilling our dreams.
What was even more frustrating for me personally was how during my wedding planning, I was writing more and more about body acceptance and how to love the skin you’re in. The irony (or hypocrisy?) of my own body dilemma made the topic even more vital: to decode how body-image pressures and weddings get all tied up.
Of course, it’s easy to understand WHY weddings bring out insecurities: We plan weddings with perfection in mind. That modern-day Cinderella moment turns a gesture of love into a full-on production. And if you’re burdened by a quest for perfection either in your body, wedding, partner, life -- you’re living in a veiled world of disappointments.
With my own body, the past few years have been an exercise in learning how to accept and love what is before me. I was tired of feeling wrong, broken, and fucked-up because my body didn’t fit into the mold of standard beauty. I was done dieting, done punishing myself, and exhausted with believing I just hadn’t found “the right way” to lose weight.
The day I decided to devote myself to learning body acceptance was one of the best days of my life -- not because I figured it all out, but because I was excited to re-write the world on MY terms. I no longer felt bound to some ideal version of myself.
Channeling my resolve to apply that acceptance to other aspects of my life, I soon gave up the quest to find a typical wedding dress at a typical boutique. I got creative: I brought out the Rachel my husband had first fallen in love with (and eventually I found an amazing dress through Dolly Couture).
During the summer leading up to our wedding, all was wonderful in my body-image world. I felt really excited, if not proud, that I didn't cave to the pressures of bridal dieting. Then, about two weeks before the wedding, I awoke in the middle of the night in sheer panic. OMG I'm going to look HORRIBLE on my wedding day. I'm going to be the fat bride, the photos will suck, everyone will feel sorry for me and say "Jeesh, she had nearly a year to lose the weight, but she didn't!" and I will feel embarrassed, uncomfortable and forever regret this moment of my life.
I woke my sleeping fiancé on the verge of tears. I felt like a fraud -– pontificating on the delights of body acceptance, yet unable to completely cut my own insecurity from my life.
My fiancé consoled me, saying it was impossible for me to look bad because on our wedding day, everyone wouldn't just see a gorgeous bride, but an amazing woman, too. Aw. And he was right! Why on Earth would I need to be someone different for a moment that was focused on someone loving me just as I was? And why on Earth can’t a plus-size bride knock it out of the park, beauty-wise?
Sometimes you need a crisis in order to remind yourself of how strong and powerful you’ve become. And this freakout affirmed my commitment to be unapologetically me on my wedding day, and not to succumb to the myth that in order for it to be the perfect day, I had to have the perfect body.
Our wedding was on October 19, 2013, and I didn't experience one shred of insecurity. I felt gorgeous and loved, beaming with pure joy. I looked healthy and ready to start a new chapter. And what I remember most about that day wasn’t my dress or how I looked, but how I felt: elated and confident, surrounded by loved ones, with my new husband by my side.