All Wedding Photography by Andy Sawyer

On September 26th, 2015 – I married the love of my life and felt beautiful while doing so.

I want to preface this piece by saying – that as a straight sized woman I am very privileged in many ways regarding body image and dress shopping. That being said – I do believe that all human beings have varying and equally valid insecurities and stories involving their bodies and their relationships to them – and I feel that perhaps my story may inspire another person. So I am going to tell it.
During my childhood and adolescence, I was very thin and lanky. I’ve written before about my self conscious childhood/pre teen experience of feeling “too thin” and also the negative reactions we can have when strangers speak about our bodies. I grew exponentially more comfortable with myself through high school and college. Through puberty, I had gained some curves and the tiniest amount of “meat on my bones” that everyone had always been suggesting I acquire. I stayed a solid size 4/6 for the beginning of my adult life.
About 3 or 4 years ago, however – I started to gain some weight. And contrary to what society would like me to believe – it did not bother me. The only time it actually did – was when I was 1. trying to unsuccessfully squeeze myself into some of my old favorite style staples before I realized that was futile and gave them away and 2. when I fell victim to the idea that any addition of fat on a woman’s body is automatically a negative thing.
To rid myself of the latter – I would rationally ask myself – why do I feel badly about having a minuscule pooch of belly fat (that women specifically gain to protect their uteri)? Where did I learn that this was a negative physical trait to have? Do I actually value that opinion? Not particularly. Do I attribute my worth to my appearance? Absolutely not.
This was specifically something I went back and forth on for quite some time until one day I partook in an activity that solidified the idea in my mind that I could be happy with, even proud of, my mini belly and new body shape. I went wedding dress shopping.
I always knew that I would design or co-design my dress and my best friend, a wedding dress designer (convenient – I know) would make it. But I still wanted to have that day – trying on dresses with my friends and family – and also double checking that what I thought I wanted was really what I wanted. So off we went to two small NYC bridal salons.
At the first stop – I asked to try clean, simple, 1950s inspired silhouettes. This was in line with my day to day aesthetic and what I always imagined my dress would be. But I was bored. These dresses, while pretty, weren’t wowing me. I didn’t feel special. As my best friend so eloquently and hilariously put it – “you need a dress that says “I’m a fancy bitch – cause you’re a fancy bitch.” She had a point. So I swapped decades and tried on some more glamorous and slinky 30s and 40s inspired gowns. I was completely surprised how much I liked them – and more so, how absolutely fabulous I felt about my body in them.
I will add another preface – that needs to be said – that if I were a 14 or above, instead of the 8/10 I am – this day would not have been so lovely. It is incredibly more difficult to find fabulous (especially slinky) wedding dresses in plus sizes. Do not think I am not aware of this privilege (and clearly live my life trying to do something about it.)
A few of the dresses were a bit snug on me and they all hugged my body in one place or another. These were definitely dresses that might lead someone to say that “they show off every lump, bump, and sin” but I don’t think my body has sins to hide. With every dress I put on – I felt more beautiful and more womanly – even if it showed my belly shape. I felt as if I was celebrating my body and that was a feeling that even as a body positive activist, I wasn’t all too familiar with.
My friend and I ended up sketching an almost identical dress – which was a combination of three dresses I tried on, with some aspects altered. It was glamorous, silky, and figure hugging.
I did not need to change my body in order to get married – my husband and more importantly, myself, already loved it as is. I didn’t hide anything about myself and I was incredibly comfortable. I recently added to a piece on Martha Stewart weddings regarding “wedding diets” that it is “always dangerous to focus your attention on a pre-wedding diet. What if you don’t achieve that goal? Then you’ll be more focused on that than on your actual wedding day. It’s a ridiculous idea that you need to change your body for a day celebrating love with a person that already thinks you are beautiful.”
You only have one body. And that body is going to change, ebb and flow. Don’t lose sight of why you’re having a wedding. It’s not about your body type – it’s not about fitting a societal standard. It’s about celebrating a love with someone who already thinks you are incredible. It’s time you did too.
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