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On Being a Fat Bride

I never dreamed I’d ever get married in a big pouffy white dress.

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Photo © J. Palsa Photography

I don’t mean that I never dreamed I’d get married; despite all my shitty past relationships I sort of always knew I’d get married eventually, even though, at 36, it perhaps took a bit longer than I would have guessed. No, what I mean is that whenever I did think about my future wedding, a big pouffy white dress was nowhere in the vision.

Dress of a different color? Sure. Something tea-length with a vintage flair? Absolutely. A sweatshirt plucked from a Las Vegas hotel gift shop on our way to the Chapel of Love? Hell yes.

But a traditional ballgown with lace and tulle and a train?

LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL

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Photo © J. Palsa Photography

(True story: I spent so much of my teenage years and twenties talking about how I was just going to elope to Vegas that more than once over the planning process my sister said something to the effect of “Look, you’re wearing a white dress and having a big wedding. It’s like I don’t even know you anymore.”)

The sample dress was the same size I ended up purchasing and the associate even offered me the option to just buy the sample dress off the rack. Even knowing there was a discount, I opted to pay full price. I wanted a new dress. I wanted my dress.

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Photo © J. Palsa Photography

Fat women aren’t given the luxury of always being seen as beautiful brides. Our weight makes us unworthy of love and respect and a partner who wants to marry us. Just like we are expected to minimize our bodies by wearing black, we aren’t supposed to be proud of the fact that someone loves us and our fat bodies. Some people are even in denial that a person could even find us — gasp! — sexy (surprise! Fat people have sex, too!)

How dare we flaunt our fatness with crinoline and tulle. How dare we take pride in our bodies and make an effort to look and feel our best on what is supposed to be the happiest day of our lives. Don’t we know we aren’t allowed to be happy? Don’t we know we are supposed to be ashamed and embarrassed for having to buy a wedding dress in a larger size? Don’t we know that we are supposed to be so miserable that we starve ourselves and spend hours at the gym to reduce the size of our bodies in order to conform to some bullshit definition of beauty?

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Photo © J. Palsa Photography

Which is precisely why I wanted the big pouffy white dress. (Okay. Technically it was ivory.) I wanted to flaunt my fat ass. I know my body better than strangers. I know the physical journey it’s taken; how many decades I spent hating it. Spent fighting it. Spent trying to fix it because I believed everything wrong in my life could be traced back to the number on the scale. I know the mental and emotional reckoning I’ve faced over the years. From a history of disordered eating to decades of yo-yo dieting to finally finding a place where I no longer view food as the enemy.

I wanted people to see us walking around Cleveland for pictures and know that someone found me worthy. I wanted that white dress to act as a beacon — a Bat Signal, if you will — for other fat women who feel they’ll never find love, let alone marriage, because of their size.

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Photo © J. Palsa Photography

It meant something to me to be a fat bride. Shortly after we got engaged, the external messages regarding weight loss began. It frustrated me for several reasons, but the most obvious was that in April 2017 I weighed the same as I had in December 2016 but none of the people who voiced concern thought to bring it up in the intervening four months. It was only after there was a ring on my finger and a wedding on the horizon that my weight apparently became an issue.

Being a fat bride was about more than just having people look at me and know someone loved me. It was about loving and respecting myself. I did Weight Watchers on and off for about 15 years and the one message that was repeated over and over again was “Love yourself enough to lose weight.” What kind of bullshit message is that?

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Photo © J. Palsa Photography

Love yourself enough to . . . want to change? How about loving yourself right now, in this moment? How about giving a big middle finger to diet culture and society’s expectations of beauty. How about believing I am beautiful and I am worthy at this exact moment in time. Because I know my history with food and dieting and weight cycling, it is so incredibly important to me to honor where I am. To recognize there is value in bodies of all sizes and shapes. Not just on my wedding day, but every day.

I love and respect my body as it is and every day I honor it in various ways: I exercise because it’s fun, not because it will help me burn calories. I eat nutritious food because it’s delicious and makes my body feel good, not because it’s healthy and I’m “supposed to.” I eschew the concept that black is slimming and wear bright colors and patterns because they make me happy and confident. Instead of letting calories or points dictate what I eat, I listen to my body and let it guide my hunger.

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Photo © J. Palsa Photography

This is my body. This is what it looks like. This is what I weigh. And I’m not going to hide myself to make you comfortable. Especially not when I have a goddamn gorgeous wedding dress to show off.

Something Old: Earrings from my sister’s wedding five years ago; Something New: Dress from David’s Bridal, style #9NTWG3741; Something Borrowed: Hair comb my BFF wore at her wedding; Something Blue: Tieks in Moonstruck

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