By Vaila Bhaumick
As a former fat person, I’m a little jaded on the topic of weight issues. It’s been with me my whole life. From the ‘innocent’ name-calling in the playground to people thinking it’s their God-given right to comment on your current weight status, it’s exhausting. It has taken me until now, at almost 40, for me to appreciate and love my body more. But, I still struggle with body dysmorphia and an innate fear of putting on weight again.
I suppose I always thought I’d get married, but never saw myself in a white dress. Looking back, perhaps that was because the wedding industry is fatphobic, but I didn’t realise it at the time. By the time my wedding rolled around, I had lost a considerable amount of weight, and as Monica from Friends so eloquently put it, “My heart’s not in trouble anymore..blah blah blah.”
But, I wanted nothing to do with the wedding industry, so I planned the most off-kilter wedding I could imagine. I had no interest in shelling out hard-earned cash on a cake, flowers, or a photographer. Dress shopping? Don’t make me laugh. Changing room mirrors are akin to Satan. I ordered a gorgeous vintage midnight blue Japanese dress on Etsy and some blue wellington boots (I got married in Scotland) to match. I dried some seaweed to put in my hair, did my own makeup and felt great! I felt like me.
Go On, Google Wedding Dresses
I just googled wedding dresses. I think you can guess what I saw, or didn’t see, more to the point. Yes, there’s the occasional ‘plus-size’ photo, but if you’re looking for images that reflect your size, note that they come after lace, mermaid, princess, and ball gown etc. Does that mean that ‘plus-sized’ girls aren’t supposed to wear any of these styles? It sure feels like it.
Cut To The ‘Wedding Dress Shopping’ Scene
You’ve seen the Hollywood movies and reality shows where the bride goes wedding dress shopping with her gal pals, they drink champagne, and cry a little when she finds ‘the one’. Yeah, it’s not always like that. Especially if you’re fat.
Imagine setting out to find your dream dress, the one you’ve been fantasising about since you were a little girl, but you’re a size 20-22. Then, the sales assistant tells you they only have up to a size 16 to try. This is the reality for plus size brides. All those years of name-calling and fat-shaming come up and slap the bride-to-be in the face.
The average dress size of women in the UK is 16 (EU44). Yet retailers continue to perpetuate the idea that looking your best on your wedding day means being thin. “Shedding for the wedding” is a training plan that women pay for, to lose weight for their big day. It’s a bit ironic it’s called a big day, isn’t it?!
And before you start judging plus size women, saying being overweight is unhealthy, have a look at healthcare bias, and why many women’s health issues are overlooked. There’s a myriad of reasons why women can be overweight.
For Richer, For Poorer…For Fatter, For Thinner?
It’s no wonder we have ridiculous expectations about marriage with all the ‘Happily Ever After’ crap that we’re fed growing up. Then we’ve got fashion industry giants, like the late Karl Lagerfeld, telling us that wealth and status are directly related to thinness, and that “No one wants to see curvy women”.
My husband is from India. Body ideals there are opposite to Western standards. Being heavier is a sign of wealth and status, and being skinny means being poor. In many ways, it’s been refreshing to experience a culture where food is not a means to torture yourself, but to heal. As we approached our wedding, I noticed he was actually gaining some weight, and although men are not immune to pressure to slim down, he was unphased. I kind of envied that but also felt relieved it wouldn’t bother him if I piled on the pounds.
Despite the negativity and body shaming in the wedding industry and, let’s face it, from people around us, there are some beacons of hope. Some vendors are publishing candid stories from brides made to feel ashamed for not dieting for their wedding, and not willing to stay silent about this ridiculous notion.
To be frank, your marriage ain’t gonna work if you can’t be real! Brides are speaking out against fatphobia, rightly questioning why their lives would suddenly be better if they were thin.
All the love—from our partners, friends and family—is what makes our weddings a special day. They love you for YOU, not some Disney-princess squished into a dress. Be your glorious self, whether that means fat, thin, dressed in wellies and a homemade seaweed hair accessory, or the full meringue shebang.