What do you think of when I say the word “wedding”? Flowers, dancing and family, usually. What about the bride? I bet in most of our minds, she’s blushing and beaming in a floor-length, nipped-in, meringue-white gown. I bet she’s thin, slender and lean—unlike me.
When I got engaged in Iceland back in June 2017, I was euphoric. I couldn’t wait to spend my life with my best friend and soulmate of three years. But after the high of the engagement—telling my friends and family while showing off my gorgeous ring—came a crushing low.
I was fat, and I had to find a wedding dress.
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My Weight Wasn’t an Issue Until I Decided to Get Married
Let me tell you now that weddings aren’t made for fat girls.
Bridal magazines are full of trim white brides no bigger around than my thigh. Bridal shop racks are full of tiny dresses made for smaller women. The thought of trying one on under the burning eyes of a petite dressmaker made me sweat profusely.
Instead, I turned my eyes toward the big bad world of online shopping, where I discovered a bridal boutique that I’d seen celebs like Fearne Cotton wearing on Instagram. I laughed in the face of ridiculous, encrusted, floor-length meringue dresses and decided to go bohemian. I found a champagne-colored gown with hand-stitched flowers, beads and sequins scattered all over a tiered skirt and zip-up back. It was beautiful, and it was me. I ordered my size and waited eagerly for it to arrive.
My weight had never gotten in the way of my life, my career or my relationship status. I’d never let it define me or let myself become a fetish. My dating life wasn’t ruled by being a bigger girl—I was in control, not my weight. I was attractive because I was confident, happy and comfortable in my skin, and it showed. I wore what I wanted and not what I thought I should wear for being bigger. When it came to friendships, I wasn’t the jovial fat girl in my friend group—although I was the biggest girl at school—but the successful, career-driven one that always craved more.
Or at least that’s who I was until I tried on my dress. Staring at myself in the mirror, surrounded by my family (and their deafening silence), my eyes filled with tears. It didn’t fit. The back didn’t even come close to zipping up. My mum held the fabric together while I forced a smile and sent a picture to my bridesmaids. When I was finally alone, I sobbed.
I Was Willing to Change Who I Was to Fit In That Dress
I was determined to fit into that dress. I convinced myself that I just needed to lose half my body weight.
I turned to exercise. I ran aggressively and obsessively. I researched wedding diets online, of which there are an obscene amount. I even came across workout gear emblazoned with the phrase “sweating for the wedding.” I had somehow convinced myself that starving to fit into a dress I’d wear one time, for one day, was the most normal thing in the world.
Instead of helping my husband-to-be with seating plans and flower arrangements, I starved and ran and ran some more. I was losing weight, but I was also drastically unhealthy. I skipped breakfast, ate very little and refused to have fun. I was a shadow of myself.
And yet, it still wasn't enough, and I punished myself for it. I hurt myself with insults, telling myself I wasn’t good enough, that I was letting myself down. In my depression, I starved myself some more.
About three months before the big day, I tried my dress on once more. The zip still wouldn’t budge. The dress claimed to be my size, but in reality, it was at least two or three sizes smaller than I was. I’d need to cut off a limb or completely rearrange my entire bone structure for the ridiculous thing to fit.
And then it hit me: My weight had never defined me, so why was I letting it ruin my life and my chance at a perfect wedding day? In reality, it wasn’t me that had the problem. I was the average dress size for a woman in the U.K. I was healthy, active and—most importantly—loved. I’d loved myself until I tried on a dress that was made for an idealized woman by an industry that has a skewed, toxic idea of what the picture-perfect bride should look like: slim, slender and serene.
That wasn’t me, so I decided to be myself instead and take back the dress and the body that I loved.
I Couldn’t Fit in My Dress, So I Made the Dress Fit Me
“Cut it up,” I told the seamstress that I’d been recommended by a family member. I smiled as I watched her blades glide through the exquisite fabric. At first, when I walked in, I had no idea what I wanted her to do to my dress. But I wanted the control. I didn’t want the dress to rule me and my thoughts any longer. I instructed her to cut the back clean out of it and stitch in a gold satin ribbon that wrapped around my waist and flowed down my back. I wanted to proudly show off my body, back rolls and all.
On my big day, my dress shimmered across my body as I walked down the aisle. I walked with my head held high and my bare back on display. I didn’t wear a bra either or worry about what my big breasts looked like in swathes of fabric without support. I was the perfect image of a confident, blushing bride. I grinned as I saw my husband’s eyes well up at the sight of me.
“You look beautiful,” he whispered through his tears.
By discarding that piece of fabric that once clung to my back, I felt like I’d shed years of prejudice about my weight, years of misjudgment from other people—mainly women—that I was too fat or too wobbly. I’d shed hatred for myself and gained love, pride and respect—from myself, first and foremost.
When I look back at my wedding photos now, I don’t see the back rolls on display. I see a woman who is completely and utterly happy. She is serene and smiling, and she is herself. She is loved.
Now, how’s that for a fat girl?