Open thread: how do you deal with wedding body-shaming?

"Stop body shaming" t-shirt by Red Bubble
"Stop body shaming" t-shirt design by Cirtolthioel available from Redbubble.com

I just got engaged, and I went on my first dress shopping outing with my sister and my mom last weekend. I was hoping it would be a fun bonding experience, but instead I felt criticized by both of them. I'm a plus-size bride, and both of them kept making comments about how dresses would fit once a lost a few pounds, how certain dress styles would look good after my wedding diet (…that I've never once said I was doing!), how this dress covered up my arms and looked better than that dress that didn't.

What was supposed to be a good day, turned into a day where I went home feeling like I'd been a victim of wedding body-shaming. How do other plus-size brides stay body positive in the face of constant criticism?

-Morgan

Ug, we're so sorry this happened to you! Sadly, this is a perennial topic for us, and you're in very good company. We've done posts about how to respond to pressure to lose weight for your wedding and the Fat Bride Survival Guide. Heck, we've got entire archives dedicated to body-image and plus-size brides… But body-shaming doesn't just happen to plus-size brides! Breasts are too small, butts are too flat, skin isn't clear enough, etc etc etc.

We'd love to hear from Offbeat Bride readers: have you experienced with bridal body-shaming? How did you deal with it? What did you say when people made critical comments about your body? Maybe if we all share our favorite responses, we can all use them!

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  1. Hoo boy. First of all, I'm sorry you had to deal with this. You just SHOULDN'T. Nobody should.

    I dealt with this in my own way. I think the fact that I'm also an older, second time bride made things a lot easier for me.

    1.) I cut everyone else out of the dress acquisition process. I have eyes. I have access to a mirror. I didn't need an entourage. Bought my dress, decided I liked it, and mentally told everyone to go screw.

    2.) Sarcastic resting bitch face and awkward silence. Again, this is probably a lot easier to do with the privilege of being older and therefore being perceived as less of an empty vessel for other people's $.02. Still, everyone should practice this skill no matter their age.

    3.) I am a fathlete. That's a fat athlete. I neglected to mention to my trainer that I was getting married. Just didn't mention it. He doesn't actually think this way, but I didn't even want to CHANCE that he would even subconsciously think I was hoping to slim down to cram myself into a dress. When I finally told him last week, I explained my reasoning.

    15 agree
  2. I agree with Amy a lot. I'm not a plus-sized woman but I'm a larger woman, and so I've circumvented the body-shaming issue by just not allowing the conversation to happen in the first place: I bought my dress alone, etc. When people ask if I have a fitness plan I put on my bitchface and remind them that I avidly go to the gym every day (Helloooo, athletic=/=skinny). When people ask if I'm going to cover my tattoos, I roll my eyes and say, "Will it be cold in Louisiana in October? Well, I will cover them if it snows."

    Also, I found that after I got engaged IT WAS ME who was doing the most self-body-shaming around my house. So I wrote notes in every room that say things like, "The kitchen is not a place for negative body talk. We feed and comfort our bodies here." I have a rule with my fiance that if I start doing that crap he will just point to the notes, ha.

    16 agree
  3. I have a habit of calling them out on it, which is actually kinda funny.

    Example: Wandering around a wedding fair with my man, get yanked into a salon-type stall totally against my will.

    "Have you heard about our NEW weight-loss pills? We have an offer on especially for brides."

    Sarcastic-bitch-mode engages, so I say in a cutesy-pie, worried voice, "do you really think I need to lose weight?" (I'm a fat athlete, too, and I have crazy broad shoulders from swimming)

    Cue embarrassed stammering from stall employee. Now, I'm really lucky. I've got pretty decent self-esteem and am more than happy to call people out on their BS, because that's all it is – BS. I did go dress shopping on a bad self-esteem day and left in tears – but I decided that I was going to spend my money where the employees didn't tell me I needed to change who I am to look good.

    Sending virtual hugs your way, Morgan!

    10 agree
    • Just seconding this. One of my favorite memories with my mother was walking through a department store, where a well-meaning salesperson asked us if we would like a makeover. Without missing a beat my awesome mother said, "Do we look like we need makeovers?" and kept walking with this woman stammering behind us. Obviously you have to be more thoughtful in your response with your friends and family, but it's worth making them reconsider their words in what is supposed to be a positive experience.

      4 agree
  4. Oh how I feel you! I had an interesting time dress shopping. I went on what was supposed to be a recon mission to try silhouettes with my mom and FMIL. I had already asked a friend who I knew would keep me calm and pump me up (not to mention go completely off on anyone who tried to body shame me, be it family or consultant.)

    I also refused to buy a dress 3 sizes smaller as "motivation". If i lose wight, that's fine, but if I don't who cares! My fiance loves me exactly as I am, and at the end of the day, his opinion on how I look in my dress is all that matters.

    5 agree
    • I agree with getting a friend who will be a buffer for family members. Your family isn't going to change just because you're getting married. So having someone who keeps you calm, or knows how to rein in your family, is a good support while dress shopping.

      4 agree
    • "I also refused to buy a dress 3 sizes smaller as "motivation"."

      My mom was super-funny. When we were picking out my dress, she told me point-blank, "We're spending a lot of money on this. You're not allowed to change sizes until the wedding. We want to make sure it still fits." 🙂

      8 agree
  5. I can't believe how lucky I am. I took mom and sister (MoB & MoH) to shops twice for trying on. Their major concerns were price point and fabrics. 😛
    I also stopped at several consignment shops, and the proprietors were really nice. Consignment dresses turn over frequently, but they do come in a HUGE variety of sizes (just like brides!) If you aren't sure what you are looking for, this can be a great place to start – just try on whatever they have in your size. Just remember that bridal sizing is way different than "street" sizing – you probably have to go up 2-4 sizes, especially if a dress has been altered.

    2 agree
  6. I'm not plus-size, but I do have some self-esteem issues that have slowly gotten better over the years. I only did one day of wedding dress shopping and here's some things I did to keep from feeling like crap.

    1) I took some extra time that morning, and did some things that help my mental state of feeling good about myself. For me that meant putting on a little make-up, doing my hair, and putting on an outfit I like and feel good in and just appreciating how I like the way I looked before leaving the house.

    2) I didn't invite anyone who could potentially make me question my appearance, even if unintentionally. For me that is my mom, MIL, and grandmas. Pretty much any older women who's opinion I greatly admire. For me their comments hit the hardest. So instead I invited 3 close friends who, I knew from experience, wouldn't make any negative comments, intentional or not.

    3) I avoided bridal shops, which was easy for me since I wasn't looking for a traditional dress. We went to 2 malls. I treated it more like any other girls shopping trip. We had fun with it by trying on the most ridiculous dresses we could find, taking pictures in it, and sending them to my then fiancé telling him that I'd found my dress to see what reaction we'd get out of him.

    4) I found my dress on that trip. I didn't want to have to keep going through the process of finding a dress and exposing myself to the chance of being critiqued. I didn't have a "this is the one" moment, but my friends and I all agreed it was the most 'me' dress I had tried on all day. And it fit the one criteria I wanted for my dress.

    Pretty much I kept things that were related to the wedding on a need-to-know bases and didn't openly talk about it to just anyone to keep that kind of dialogue from happening.

    2 agree
  7. I was told I was too short and too curvy by a fitter at a national (maybe THE national) chain of bridal stores. After snapping at her by saying "so what IS good about me?" I chose to keep looking and didn't purchase my dress from them.

    9 agree
  8. My family has a tendency towards body-shaming and I knew this going in to dress shopping. I think the best thing I did while shopping was ask people to take photos of me in each dress I was considering. That way I could look back at the dresses, alone, and try to ask myself which dress I thought was best for my body type. It is also a really nice photo album when I'm feeling sentimental. Even though not every dress looked good, it's fun to look back at the journey 🙂

    1 agrees
  9. My mum came to see my wedding dress. I walked out feeling fabulous. Then in front of the room full of skinny beautiful sales assistants she says 'oh you better give that wedding diet a kick start!!!'

    That was all she said. I am a UK size 12/14 so a bit below the average size for a woman and very comfortable with who I am.

    Now I'm beating myself up about having a glass of wine or having some ice cream.

    My dress was actually a bit too big all over when it came in but il never forget the stomach churning awfulness of what she said.

    Il get over it. I get the crying hysterical mum is the exception rather than the norm but come on mums, at least pretend!!!

    5 agree
  10. I'm so sorry that you went through that. I'm sure that I am going to face that in a very near day of telling my mother that I refuse to wear a dress or lose weight and be uncomfortable on MY wedding day. I have already armed myself with a barrage of body-affirming inspiration from this website and a few others that feature beautiful brides of all "non-traditional" looks and statures. One day I will be a plus sized bride and I couldn't imagine being happier. I'm comfortable in my skin and I remember a time when I was smaller and I didn't find myself as attractive. I have more confidence and I think I look better this way. And you should embrace those curves and the adornment that you pick out because it is a day for you and your partner.
    Earlier this year I attended a beautiful wedding of one of my cousins and I was so glad to see that she didn't try to slim down and look completely different just for her wedding. I swear she must have been the happiest bride that I have ever seen!
    I think what people tend not to think about is how much more difficult it can be to love yourself and what you see if you are losing weight for the big day. Now the way that you knew and viewed your body is completely different and that may not be a good thing for you.
    Keep your head up and remember that this is about you and your partner. You'll look back on those pictures one day and remember how happy you were no matter what your size was because you were surrounded by love.

    1 agrees
  11. I think, like with so many things, the important thing is to just be super-confident and nonchalant (or look like you are) when addressing people. So when someone asks, "Wow, this dress'll look great on you when you've lost 15 pounds," the best response is to smile and say, "Actually, I'm not planning on losing any weight for the wedding. Let's find a dress that looks great NOW." And then just move on. Don't let them bring you down and don't feel forced to change your mind.

    When someone asks, "So, have you started your wedding diet / workout regimen / beauty routine?", you smile and say, "Nope! My fiancé(e) and I are both happy with how we look right now." And then change the subject. Talk about other aspects of wedding planning if you're comfortable with that, or transition to other areas of life or to the other person's life. (Work, kids, hobbies, the big game last night, the latest episode of that cool show, whatever.)

    Easier said than done, I know, especially if you've already got anxiety or body issues. But really, if you can manage it, just let it roll off your back and move on. You're getting married to the person you love, and they love you exactly how you are. You don't need to change your body to impress anybody.

    4 agree
    • When my dad implied that I was going to the gym in order to lose weight for my wedding, I responded that "He knew what I looked like when he proposed, so I'm not going to surprise him by changing the way I look now." Later, I had a talk with him and told him that my focus is on reducing my stress, not on losing weight. My mom and fiance support me completely, but my dad has always had some body issues, and I just have to remember that.

      2 agree
  12. Ok, OBB, you participated in some micro-aggression fat shamming in this post and I'm here to call you out on it. This line:

    and what's really messed up is that body-shaming doesn't just happen to plus-size brides!

    You've italicized "really" as if, on some level, plus sized brides deserve the body shaming, but can you believe that these others get it as well?? Body shame is body shame. Let's not create a hierarchy for it.

    21 agree
    • Great feedback, and thank you for flagging that. I'm sorry: I take full responsibility for that. The post has been edited.

      6 agree
  13. Oh, honey. I know exactly what you mean. I think the most demeaning story I can tell is when I was in a high-end suburban boutique. They wouldn't even let me try the sample sizes on for fear that I might damage the zipper. The shop owner's wife would hold the dress up in front of me. A size six held up in front of my size 18 frame. She oozed over the dress, exclaiming, "Look how tiny this makes your waist look."

    Of course it made my waist look tiny. I had four inches of me on either side of the dress. I jokingly mentioned that my petite sister could just try things on for me instead. She looked at my sister, "I'd be fine with that. She would fit into these dresses far better than you could." Needless to say, we left.

    With that said, here are some ways that I handled body shaming from myself and from others:
    1) Remember that you are beautiful. Your fiancée loves you for who you are RIGHT NOW.

    2) Distance yourself from people who criticize you. Surround yourself with people you love and who love you openly for who you are.

    3) Find a dress that you love now. Don't let anyone- not someone who works at a store, someone who you trust or your own inner monologue convince you that you can lose the weight. This is a time that is stressful. You don't need to be on a diet unless you want to be on one.

    4) Call and ask local stores what sizes they carry. Avoid stores that don't carry anything larger than a 10/12. It's important to be able to try on a size similar to yours by a designer- even if it isn't your exact dress. Many salons will carry a few samples in smaller and larger sizes. Larger stores like David's Bridal and Alfred Angelo carry multiple sizes in every style. Even if you can't get your true size you can get really close. Alfred Angelo offers plus size in EVERY one of their gowns, too, which is awesome.

    5) Be kind to yourself. Remember that this day is about you and the one you love. Dismiss negativity by reminding people what the day is about. Any time someone would question my weight or my diet my answer would immediately be, "It's okay. I get to marry Damian." And you know what? I did.

    When you walk down that aisle, everyone will be looking at your smiling face. They will be so in love with the love all around you that no one will care if you are a size 2 or a size 22. It's the love that makes a bride glow. All the rest is just details.

    xo.

    6 agree
  14. I've been told not to worry because I'd automatically loose weight because all stressed brides forget to stop eating – apparently! And now that I've been put on a strict diet to loose weight to prepare for an operation, everyone assumes I am dieting for my wedding. You can't win, either way. People will always make assumptions based on their own set of values and insecurities. You have nothing to defend yourself for, so please don't feel you ought to! Let them talk and do your own thing, that is all I can say. I buy all my own clothes without the need for a female bonding experience and others' opinions, so why should buying my wedding dress be any different? I am sewing my own dress this time, based on a style that I know suits me and that I feel comfortable in. I'm not going to waste time trying to find something similar but more mainstream in a shop. If I need an opinion I will ask my fiancee (who wants me to still look like the real me on our wedding day).

    2 agree
  15. When my fiance and I got engaged I was talking to my step mother about some of our plans, and said I wasn't going super traditional with dresses and she was all 'oh all you have to do is lose a stone or two and you'll look stunning, you've done it before you can do it again just cut out the chocolate' so I asked how much chocolate she thinks I'm eating exactly and that actually I don't want to lose any weight for the wedding. To which she then said, well he loves you as you are, and so do I. She's always been on at me about my weight. Even at my slimmest she thought I was eating too much, and she made me feel awful when I was pregnant with my son. I try not to let it get to me. Like others have said just specify you're quite happy how you are and are not intending to lose weight for a party. I just got a dress made to fit my measurements that I feel gorgeous in. As long as you are happy with it that's what matters. (And the actually getting married part!)

    2 agree
  16. When we first got engaged I heard a lot of "so, are you starting your wedding diet?" or "What diet are you going with?" or "Did you get a gym membership yet?"
    My response was always "This is how I looked when he proposed and this is how I'll look on my wedding day. There's no reason to try to change when he obviously loves how I look now." That shut them right the hell up!

    9 agree
  17. Since opening my shop 4yrs ago we have hear heard many stories like this! It is beyond comprehension that any profession can judge anyone in this way especially a bridal shop. We treat all our brides equally and never make any suggestion on losing or gaining weight. We are known for our professional and compassionate approach and are constantly complimented by our brides especially our brides who have body issues because we make them feel comfortable in their own body and will continue to do this as we feel our brides know that they will be as beautiful on their wedding day as the day they first come to see us. Alison & Melissa x

    3 agree
  18. Well my experience was nothing to do with my body but everything to do with my mouth. I have a substantial sized gap between my front two teeth that have garnered me such names like "mule-face" and "donkey teeth". So much for that. Now, I like my gap and haters gonna hate. My mom wanted me to get my teeth "fixed" before the wedding. She even went so far as to draw a little gap in the teeth of a smiling magazine model and ask "Now, didn't she look better with normal teeth?" Bah humbug. I just smiled and stuck my tongue through my teeth. Needless to say, the gap prevailed lol. Yeah, this is stupid and petty in comparison to other's tales but it is what it is.

    4 agree
    • I have a gap too, and somehow knowing that it had a lovely name (diastema!) made me love it.

      DIASTEMA SISTER

      2 agree
      • Oh cool! I didn't know it had an official name! I just thought it was "a thing", ha-ha, awesome:)

    • I don't think it pales in comparison. There is so much stigmatism surrounding teeth for weddings. I have an overlap on my front teeth (my brother fondly calls it my snaggletooth which I find hilarious) and there was so much, "teeth whitening and straightening" advertisements even I felt not good enough for awhile!

      That said if anyone mentions it again you can always Google models with Central Distema's and out them with that! I remember that Sephora featured Lindsey Wixson as their main model for the Holiday 2014 Catalogue and advertisements.

      2 agree
    • This is not stupid and petty. It is for sure an example of needless shaming; it's so hard when it comes from loved ones!

      1 agrees
  19. A UK based wedding magazine has just started a discussion on Facebook 'Which body part will you be most self concious about on your wedding day?'

    ERM thanks guys. How about just letting people be happy?

    5 agree
  20. I fall in the category of 'improving my fitness for my own, personal goals' and the timing just happens to fall around my wedding. It makes everyone assume I'm working to achieve these goals for my wedding. Don't get me wrong, I'm looking forward to looking even more fabulous in my wedding pictures than I already know I will. But I'm doing this for me, my health, for my future healthy pregnancies, for my kids, etc…. The 'now' of it is really just a coincidence of timing. I'm lucky that no one in my immediate sphere has body shamed me at all, but it does make it hard to talk about my enthusiasm for my fitness routine, sports and activities when people's reaction is 'duh of course you're doing all that for the wedding' not because its an important part of who I am and how I spend my time (with my fiance!).

    3 agree
  21. I was TERRIFIED of dress shopping. I am smaller on top and HUGE on the bottom and was anticipating a day of fitting in nothing and being in tears. But some stuff did fit me. Some stuff didn't (I came out of the dressing room with one dress on that I couldn't get over my hips. The lace looked like a net and I horrified the other bridal party trying on dresses by yelling that I "looked like a fish caught in a net!"

    My biggest suggestions are: bring people who are supportive. Don't go out shopping with pressure on yourself that you need to find something TODAY. Realize that sample sizes fit well on like 5 percent of the population. Fuck the whole Say Yes to The Dress experience. It's not real. And remember: your fiance loves you as you are now. He/she didn't want to get married to a future you. He or she wanted to get married to you as you are now.

    5 agree
  22. I have no advice. Just a bit of (inverse) empathy. All samples are around a size six. Around my wedding I was a size 0-2. Trying on wedding dresses involved so many clips that there were some where I was like "I can't even know, this dress is no longer shaped anything like how it was designed." So basically, definitely shop at stores that you know have samples that will fit you.

    And if someone makes comments like your mom or sister, don't be afraid to simply correct them. "That dress will look great once you lose weight." "Then I guess it's not the one since I'm not planning on losing any. Lets keep looking." If they argue or don't take the hint, don't be afraid to simply uninvite them. It doesn't even have to be rude. Wrap the day up and schedule to go back out another time with a friend you can count on to be supportive.

    1 agrees
  23. I dealt with it by telling my mother I'd prefer her not to tell me why she didn't like a dress if she didn't like it. All she had to do was say "no".
    It really helped.

    2 agree
  24. To be honest, I was nervous about this – dress shopping…I was scared to go into conventional shops and look for a dress. I also wanted a more "non traditional" short dress, and worried about limited options. I found some dresses on Etsy that I loved- and my mom suggested meeting with a seamstress, since ordering over long distance without meeting someone made her nervous. So, we did some more research and found these AMAZING women running a custom seamstress wedding shop. It was the best decision of my wedding planning process (for me at least 😉 ) They were so accommodating to everything, and never once made me feel anything other than amazing and beautiful. They worked with my body and shape, and supported me the entire time. I also got everything I wanted from my dress, and they added fun things like sewing in my wedding date with blue thread and adding a flare of pink to make it "mine". They also custom built a bra into it – and being a busty girl -it was HEAVEN not wearing a bra…just saying!!! Anyway, the price I paid for a custom dress was not THAT much more than a conventional shop…especially when you take into account tailoring. It was also a fun experience for my mom and I (as I kept the dress a secret from everyone, so it was something that just her and I did), from designing to picking out fabrics, to trying it on…it was an overall amazing experience, and one I didn't expect to enjoy at the beginning of my wedding planning experience. Something to consider!

    2 agree
  25. I'm not even plus sized, I'm a size 6. I went to a wedding show and happily took a square of cake from a vendor who was giving out samples. I don't know who it was, but the woman next to me elbowed my arm and said "diet starts tomorrow, right?". Like hell it does. I'm not sure whether it was aimed at me specifically or just someone wanting to participate in the "must lose weight before wedding" mindset but I intend to be the woman I am now on my wedding day, strange woman who doesn't know me. I took another square of cake for good measure.

    1 agrees
  26. For me, it was almost the opposite problem. I have serious body-image issues, and my best friends and fiance and mom are really supportive. Over the past six months, my body shape has changed in what seems a drastic way to me, and it's been very hard for me to adjust thanks to years and years of internalizing harmful stereotypes and societal expectations and falsehoods. When I went dress shopping, I remember looking at myself in the mirror in the dresses and picking apart every perceived flaw – the belly bulge, the flabby arms, the side-boob – even when my mom and the Best Person were so enthusiastic about how good I looked. I bought a dress that day, and I love that dress, and it fit perfectly and almost made me forget my anxieties. But now, it's getting harder, with the food-based holidays that are coming. It's not as easy to change the subject when it's your own mind you're battling. I am trying, and everyone keeps reminding me that if it is an issue, people have entire jobs dedicated to altering the dress to fit me, not the other way around.

    1 agrees
  27. Reading these comments, I'm glad I skipped the dress shopping experience and bought my dress online. In addition to the fact that I had a specific idea of what I wanted in a dress and didn't really want people trying to talk me out of it, I really did not have the energy for fending off unsolicited comments and suggestions about my size. People just assume I'm on a diet because that's What You Do. I didn't take a piece of cake at a work gathering and everyone murmurs "of course, wedding diet," except I never take the cake at these things because I am not that jazzed about most cake. If it was pie or cookies, hell yeah. My person likes me the way I am- that's one of the many reasons why we are getting married. But it is amazing how much shame gets thrown around in most of the wedding forums and communities- I'm so glad I found this site.

    2 agree
  28. Hi. I feel you pain. I am a uk size 16 with an ample bossom and i was so terrified of going wedding dress shopping that I got mine online. It was a big gamble but i think it paid off. The dress was not perfect. The neckline was too low and the straps ended up digging on my shoulders. But the style complimented my shape. I also decided against any corsets or spanxs. I can't stand them. So there was a bit of back rolls even though the dress had boning. I got many compliments on the dress on the day and even a family friend who works for a major wedding dress designing firm complimented me on my dress choice and the quality of it. My point is trust your instincts. Don't do anything you don't want to do.

    1 agrees

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