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

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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!

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

  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.

  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.

  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!

    • 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. 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.

    • 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.

    • “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.” 🙂

  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.

  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.

  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.

  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 🙂

  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!!!

  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.

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