Should I lose wedding weight?
September 18, 2012 10:13 AM   Subscribe

I'm getting married in a year, and am currently a bit out of shape. I feel I should lose weight to fit into the nicer wedding dresses, but need feedback on how realistic/rational my goals are - especially given a complicated history. Also, how to deal with a fiance who has strong concerns about this whole thing?

I'm really happy to be getting married, and just went to my first wedding dress try-on. Unfortunately, it left me feeling bad about myself. I had to call many, many places to get any places that had more than just a few dresses. Even the one that did didn't have very many dresses in my size, and the dresses that were in my size were either unflattering, or just not as nice (design, cloth, etc) as the ones that were a few sizes down. Even though my fiance ooohed and aaahed at the right moments, and said I looked beautiful, I really felt like I was getting a second-class wedding experience.

More than anything, I think I hate seeing all of these incredibly gorgeous dresses that I can't even try on to /see/ if they look good on me.

Part of me thinks the solution is simple: I just need to lose weight, then I can fit into the nice dresses. Apparently this is a Thing People Do (frantic wedding dress weight loss), and family members have started asking me if I will be doing this. But the other part of me thinks that it will be really stressful, and unnecessary, and I can just do some other thing unknown to me yet and everything will turn out fine. Also, I refuse to do any of the more extreme quick-fix methods, which kind of terrify me. I've thought of tailoring, but then I'm taking a shot in the dark with my Wedding Dress, which seems scary. Also, my fiance fell in love with me at this size, which is not even really unusual, and has repeatedly expressed that he thinks I'm being ridiculous and would look lovely in a burlap sack.

Part of the complicating factor is that I used to be extremely fit. At my peak "fighting trim," I weighed about forty pounds less than I do now. However, in order to achieve that, I was running several miles a day, and eating carefully chosen tiny meals. I was also in the Army, so I had people yelling at me about my body fat all the time as an additional motivator. And even then at a really low body fat percentage, I still had hips and breasts that maybe don't work with traditional wedding dress cuts.

Additionally, my fiance is worried about this. He thinks that trying to lose weight in this really focused way will remind me of the bad times and body image problems of the Army, and make me feel even worse about myself for gaining weight when I stopped running all the time. That my "fighting trim" weight was in fact a really unhealthy weight for my body type, and if I try to strive for it, I'll be really miserable. He is supportive, sort of, but really, really concerned. Also, he loves to cook, and loves to cook delicious things that I eat and enjoy and am very happy over - something that couldn't happen if I went back to bite-sized protein bits.

What do I do in this situation? And how much time do I have to decide? I keep seeing places that say you need to order your wedding dress six to eight months in advance.

tl; dr : Is losing weight for a wedding dress worth the stress? What to do when your fiance isn't on the same page?
posted by corb to Health & Fitness (62 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Why not just get a dress made for you? I don't think that crash dieting is ever a good plan, but I'm always in favor of getting in shape by exercising and eating right for your own reasons. Find some photos you like and find a seamstress and then you can have the nice fabric, trim, etc. I had mine made, years ago, and I'm always glad I did when I see the photos.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:18 AM on September 18, 2012 [16 favorites]

Is losing weight for a wedding dress worth the stress?

Not the "crash diet just to fit into a dress" kind, no.

Look, they make wedding dresses to fit all shapes and sizes of women. You don't say how big the places were that you called, but you only went to one store. It takes a lot of looking to find any kind of clothing, your wedding dress is no different.

Also -- what is the sense in going on a crash diet just to fit into a dress that you will only wear once in your life?

And what on earth is making you think you've got a "second class wedding experience" when you are marrying a man you love? Even if you end up having to wear burlap and a paper bag over your head, you're still going to end up married to him, right? What's "second class" about that?

....Erm, clearly I have Opinions about the wedding industry; sorry. But it sounds like what you have is a wonderfully supportive man who loves you just the way you are and thinks you are absolutely beautiful, and may be seeing that your unease right now may be some old bad habits talking, and he's worried about you. That is a stand-up guy, and you will have a fantastic life together, no matter how long it takes you to find the dress. That's what counts. So so what if it's a bigger dress that it takes you a little longer to find.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:23 AM on September 18, 2012 [29 favorites]

Buying clothes now to wear later when you weigh less is never a good idea, so if the dress you have your heart set on is an "order 8 months in advance" dress, just get one that fits you now, that can reasonably be altered if necessary.

I have no real opinion or advice about whether or not you should lose weight for your wedding or not, but most people I know who've gotten married in the last couple of years bought off-the-rack wedding dresses at Nordstrom, Net-a-Porter, J. Crew and the like. You still need some months lead time, but not as much as your traditional wedding shop. So if you do decide to lose weight first, fit in dress later, you might try looking at those sorts of places to see if the dresses appeal to you because that may work with your plan better.
posted by crush-onastick at 10:25 AM on September 18, 2012

That is a typical wedding dress shopping experience. They have a small selection of sizes for samples, that they try to fit on you with clips and clamps. It is not fun, despite what media wants you to think. BUT - don't get discouraged!! Find some shapes/styles that work for you, and then find a dress you like that can be made in your size. There are a ton out there.

I lucked out, and found a sample dress that fit me perfectly about 6 months out from my wedding. So, I didn't work on losing any weight. Even if I wanted to, losing weight would have been the last thing I wanted to worry about on top of the wedding planning stress.
posted by Fig at 10:29 AM on September 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

When one person in a couple drops weight, it sometimes can cause the other person to feel threatened. That may be a reason for your fiance's objections, and I do note that he enjoys cooking for you and tells you that your previous weight was "unhealthy". Could he be so threatened?

There is a difference between wanting to drop weight and dysmorphia. Several comments have mentioned "crash dieting", but losing 40 lbs in one year is not a crash diet plan.

Also, please do not think that maintaining a healthy weight requires "bite-size protein bits".
posted by Tanizaki at 10:30 AM on September 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

Buy the dress big, and then have it altered before the wedding. I myself was the object of some well-meant advice about weight loss before my wedding. I didn't do it, because I was finishing my dissertation and really could not have been bothered by anything but the vicissitudes of EndNote. I chose a dress that flattered my shaper, and when I look at the pictures now I think that I looked great.
posted by pickypicky at 10:30 AM on September 18, 2012 [4 favorites]

Isn't it pretty standard that bridal salons only carries one or two (very small) sizes for trying on? Are you sure the dresses that weren't available in your size in the store aren't actually available for ordering?

You don't say what size you are, but Kleinfeld seems to carry an array of lovely plus-size gowns.
posted by lalex at 10:31 AM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

First of all, congrats!! It sounds like you are with a fine man who has your genuine best interests at heart. I am so happy for you :)

I have experience here. I was around 7 stone (100 pounds) overweight when I got engaged. My fiance obviously loved me as I was, but the thought of pictures and the dress sent me into a sort of despair.

So I found a dress that could be altered: it was on sale for next to nothing but it was my dream dress. I couldn't zip it. But I could, if needed, get a panel put in back with a corset type lace up. That took the pressure off.

I decided instead of a crash diet, I would start cutting out rubbish and exercising. I wanted to start my marriage in good health with habits we could do together, like riding bikes and swimming and hiking.

I am so glad I wasn't cruel with myself before. I am so glad I had a solid reason to stick with the "no biscuits or ice cream or chips, please" mentality I had to learn. I am so glad that I had the overall goal of being a healthy partner instead of merely skinny.

I fit the dress, and I still fit the dress nearly four years later.

You will be beautiful, my dear. You have an army of people to help on the day. But your goals do not need to focus on the day or the dress.
posted by katiecat at 10:36 AM on September 18, 2012 [18 favorites]

hey, I'm in a similar-ish place. I'm engaged, and significantly heavier than I was a few years ago. I also think I'm a little above my ideal body weight. But - my lower weights were the result of an eating disorder, and I was below my ideal body weight for a while.

I have been in recovery for a couple years now, and I am doing really well. I am not willing to jeopardize that to lose weight. But, I do want to get back to a better weight for my body, and get more fit.

So, I have figured out some things I can do. I try to focus on eating more vegetables, and eating mostly when I am hungry. But, I never ever restrict foods or avoid any particular foods. If I want something, I eat it.

I am exercising some, but being very gentle with myself. Any exercise is great, and it's okay to stop if I want to mid-workout (I used to overexercise, so I have to be verrrrry careful).

I hope that my body will change as a result of my changed food/exercise habits. But I'm only doing things that a) don't trigger the eating disorder and b) I can do long term. If my body changes, that's great; if it doesn't, I will continue to work on accepting it - both for my wedding day and for the rest of my life. I don't weigh myself, I notice if my body looks different or by the fit of my clothes if things change anyway.

So, I'd suggest you do the same, adapted to your specific needs; you figure out what you can do that is not triggering, doesn't bring you back to the bad place, and feels good to you. Things that you can do long term, not just until the wedding. Then, if you lose weight, that's a great side effect. And I bet that if you discuss this kind of plan with your fiance, he'll be on board - it sounds like he really cares about you and loves you.

Please feel free to message or email me if you want to talk, I can share more details if you'd like.
posted by insectosaurus at 10:37 AM on September 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

Just to clarify --

Wanting to be a healthy weight in general is a good thing, and so is a sensible weight-loss regimen. All of the "lose weight fast to fit into your wedding dress!" things are not sensible, though, and I think this sounds more like what your fiance is worried about (meaning, he's not thinking "don't lose weight", it's more like "being healthy is more important than being a size 2 or whatever").
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:37 AM on September 18, 2012 [8 favorites]

The thing I always think of when I hear women talking about losing weight for their wedding is how they are going to feel looking back at the pictures: "oh, what a happy day and look how skinny I was" and then they immediately feel bad because they didn't maintain that un-maintainable weight. Your partner likes you as you are: this is a good thing. He's a keeper.

I'm a fan of keeping fit but of not self-torture. Exercise, eat right but don't deprive yourself of brownies for the next year for gods sake. There are dresses in a million cuts and sizes. Find the dress to fit your body, not the other way around. I know it's a giant pain in the ass, but it's better than cultivating despair for what you see in the mirror.
posted by 8dot3 at 10:41 AM on September 18, 2012 [7 favorites]

God, shopping in NYC can be such a pain in the ass if you're bootylicious. I didn't even attempt typical bridal boutique-type places.

There are definitely good plus-size options out there, and it might have to be the kind of situation where you accept that you will get something great even if you don't actually have access to everything great. I think losing weight is an enormous waste of time and energy for most people, though, so grain of salt.

The thing I always think of when I hear women talking about losing weight for their wedding is how they are going to feel looking back at the pictures: "oh, what a happy day and look how skinny I was" and then they immediately feel bad because they didn't maintain that un-maintainable weight. Your partner likes you as you are: this is a good thing. He's a keeper.

So true. I got married at my biggest (at least until I got pregnant!) and it's always nice to look at the pictures. It looks like me, it was sustainable, and my partner married me how I actually am and not me after months of dieting and focusing on my looks.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:43 AM on September 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

My advice? Break it into two problems and keep them separate.

1. What do you want to do about your general health? If you feel "out of shape," then it makes sense to work on that, not because of your wedding and not because of your weight per se, but because you feel out of shape, which is not a good way to feel. If you used to value exercise, then do that, and see how much it helps, and figure out what you think is reasonable for you to eat, and eat roughly that. Perhaps you'll lose some but not all of the weight you gained; see where it feels good to you to settle in. Work on this stuff because of yourself, not your dress.

2. What do you want to do about your dress? Based on your description -- 40 pounds over a weight where you were a runner -- I can't imagine you're really out of range for nice dresses without having one made by a tailor. Keep trying. Don't get suckered into feeling like you have to look good in a particular kind of dress you wouldn't wear normally (the number of women who look good in strapless, cut-straight-across dresses is tiny compared to the number of women persuaded to purchase them as wedding dresses, I fear). Wear a style that makes sense for you. If you wear a style designed for a woman with tiny arms and you don't have tiny arms, you will never feel good.

I think that the dress shopping is getting you thinking about the weight stuff, and there's nothing wrong with that, but it's kind of tangential. They're both things to be addressed, but not together. Don't lose weight for the wedding and don't put off the dress until you've lost weight. Work with what you have. They can alter the dress if you lose weight, or they can give you advice on when you need to buy it to accommodate the alterations.

You deserve to feel great at your wedding no matter what you weigh, and you deserve to feel good about the shape you're in. Don't put yourself in a position where the weight makes you feel bad about the dress and the dress makes you feel bad about your weight. Make it two challenges, do the best you can with both, and be kind to yourself.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 10:49 AM on September 18, 2012 [15 favorites]

How much weight do you want to lose? I think trying to lose 40 pounds in order to fit into a dress is a bit much, and also probably really stressful on top of planning a wedding and preparing emotionally for the rite of passage that marriage represents, as well as living the rest of your life.

If you were my fiance, and you were talking about this in the context of "I need to lose 40 lbs because this dress has prettier lace on the hem", I would be worried, too.

That said, a friend of mine had similar woes (general body shame related to wedding dress shopping), and we didn't talk a lot about it but I think she might have deliberately lost a little weight for exactly the same reason. Then again, maybe it was stress weight loss, or she decided it was also time to get more fit in general, or maybe she just found a dress that made her look so beautiful I assumed she'd lost a few pounds.

My friend who did this was definitely in the range of 10-15 pounds -- just enough that you could tell she looked slimmer. She might have dropped two dress sizes? If she even lost weight at all, of course. Definitely not a dramatic physical transformation.
posted by Sara C. at 10:51 AM on September 18, 2012

Uggh. I'm getting married in (*AHHH*) 4 days.

I'm "plus" sized. I had 8 months for an engagement. I ordered my dress 5.5 months in advance, and it was a last minute scramble getting shipment and fitting in time. I have no idea why 5 FREAKING months isn't enough time to make a dress, but yes. 6 to 8 months is not unrealistic.

I'm going to vote no on weight loss before a wedding. Diets make people cranky. Weddings make people cranky. Dieting before a wedding will make you absolutely loose your shit. I have no idea why people do it, and I think it is solely responsible for the trope of the "bridezilla". Even totally normal-weight brides are encouraged to diet. It's another symptom of our sick culture.

I have dealt with more anti-female, anti-equitity bullshit while planning a wedding than at any other time. People will presume they have the right to tell you what to do with your baby-making bits, presume they know what your emotions are, presume you will fit into a role thats stereotyped for you. Presume to tell you what to spend your money and mental energy on (really, I need to tie 300 tiny bows on tiny bags of candied almonds or everyone will think I'm gauche?).

I may have side tracked into ranty-dom there, but my point is, that you don't need another voice bringing you down. Least of all, your own voice.

I was really fortunate to find a bridal salon that tailors to "curvy" brides. (If you live in the DC area, I'd be happy to recommend them). While a few designers have some plus sized dresses, they're a bit more geared to older women getting married a second time and have sleeves and higher necklines. (Gah, what a loaded sentence, I'm cringing, but thats the attitude that is prevalent. I'm sorry.) You need a store that caries designer's lines made just for plus size brides. Keep looking, you have a few months.

Now having said all of that, my parents basically used my wedding as an excuse for them to start a diet they both needed, and has more-or-less cured my dad's type 2 diabetes. Thats awesome. They went with a doctor supervised, you eat mail-ordered dehydrated food in a box. Exclusively. They've lost 30 or so lbs and pretty quickly.

I suppose what I'm getting at is they think they "needed" an excuse to diet.

No one really needs and excuse. If you want to loose the weight, you can wake up tomorrow and make different choices. Holding your self to a deadline, to a very expensive set of measurements that you MUST fit into by a drop dead date is just a recipe for stress.
posted by fontophilic at 10:52 AM on September 18, 2012 [10 favorites]

I just noticed this:

I've thought of tailoring, but then I'm taking a shot in the dark with my Wedding Dress, which seems scary.

Be aware that, with any wedding dress you choose, you are going to be having it tailored. This is not a sweater from the Gap, this is a formal gown.

I don't think you should pick something that drastically doesn't fit or makes you look awful and assume that tailoring will transform it into something you like, but deciding to lose a bunch of weight because you're worried about something that is going to be a mandatory part of the process is a little bit silly.
posted by Sara C. at 10:56 AM on September 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

Here is my solution to the problem you confronted, and I tell you, I weigh a good bit more than you.

I ordered my dress from an online retailer, chosen carefully to suit my figure and size, but I ordered one with a bodice that laced up the back. Thus, any weight I lost leading up to the wedding (and I lost about 10-15 due to stress alone, I don't recommend that route) could be accommodated for with the tightness of the lacing. I put a little bolero jacket over it, because it was Halloween and pretty cold outside. Second pic down is a shot of the back of me, with the laces of the bodice visible under the jacket.

Mind you, my focus going into the wedding planning was not "dress". In fact, because of my shape and size, most of the frillier wedding dresses were complete non-starters for me. I went with a reasonably priced dress and placed my focus on the reception/meal/fun for the guests. In the end, the dress was among the least of my concerns, and I'm kind of grateful for that - we had so much fun, I did a number on the hem of that dress. But it was so reasonable, I went "eh, whatever".
posted by LN at 11:00 AM on September 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

I should clarify: my fiance is totally willing to help me eat healthier - buy vegetables, cook vegetables, make lots of teas to drink instead of sweetened drinks, cut down on our eating out, etc. He has also offered to join a fitness class with me so that we can think of it as something fun to do together. He just has issues around me getting a scale and weighing myself in every day. (Which is what I did in the Army when I was trying to lose/maintain weight)

Also, in terms of sizing, I'm apparently a "20" in wedding dress sizes, which are apparently a few sizes larger than regular sizes. Supposedaly a lot of designers also stop making their dresses at size "18", which is part of the frustration - I am just over the cutoff that lets me try on more dresses.

I was really fortunate to find a bridal salon that tailors to "curvy" brides. (If you live in the DC area, I'd be happy to recommend them).

I don't live in the DC area, but would be happy to travel if it means I can go into a store and feel good about shopping there.
posted by corb at 11:12 AM on September 18, 2012

family members have started asking me if I will be doing this.

What? Tell them to fuck right off. The last thing you need when planning a wedding is anyone policing or nagging you about your body. You'll have enough other things to worry about.

Seriously, this made my jaw drop.
posted by desjardins at 11:12 AM on September 18, 2012 [7 favorites]

However, judging from your description of how overweight you are, what you are effectively asking is "is it a good idea to maintain a healthier weight?" The answer is obviously "Yes." Not doing so is your choice, of course, but don't operate under the illusion that it's a "tough decision"

It's not really all that clear cut that maintaining a lower weight is necessarily the healthier choice. I lost weight, I admit, purely because I think I look better a lower weight. But there is evidence that what matters more is overall fitness rather than the number on a scale, and also that if you happen to get certain diseases it might be more advantageous to be overweight or even obese than normal weight on a BMI scale. If you decide to lose weight there are healthy ways to do it -- I personally cut out sugars and starchy carbs and watched my weight plummet. You don't need to starve yourself.
posted by peacheater at 11:15 AM on September 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

i'm a little puzzled by your description of your experience as well. wedding dresses are made to order, so stores aren't going to have a particular style in stock in all the sizes. they have sample size and you go in and you try one on and they clip and clamp you into it so you get an idea of what that style will look like on you. they take your measurements, order the closest size (I have no idea why 5 FREAKING months isn't enough time to make a dress… >> because you are not the only woman at any one time in the entire world who is ordering a dress), and then when it comes in, they have alterations do work to get it more custom fitted. i've never heard of anyone not having any alterations done for fitting.

as for your losing weight—do you want to? losing 40lbs in the space of a year (or even 6 months) is not "crash dieting" if you are losing at a rate of 1-2lbs a week. it's the recommended pace for keeping the weight off when you are done losing. so it's entirely possible to do this in a healthy way.

order your dress at your current size, and if you want to lose weight and end up doing it, you will have to have alterations made anyway when the dress comes in.

(on preview: yes, if you are willing to travel, there are bridal shops which have expanded plus size wedding dresses)
posted by violetk at 11:16 AM on September 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

they have sample size and you go in and you try one on and they clip and clamp you into it so you get an idea of what that style will look like on you.

Wait, is this a known thing? They clipped and clamped me into a smaller dress, but it just made me feel awful. In that case, how do you know what will actually look good on your figure if you're not actually seeing it, you know, on your figure?

posted by corb at 11:19 AM on September 18, 2012

You have actually had a very common experience, one that the wedding industry wants you to know nothing about. They would prefer that you think there is something wrong with you, rather than them. These shops exist for one purpose: to get your money. Not some of your money, no, they want it all. They want you to feel like the nicest fabrics and most exclusive designers are the entire point of the first class wedding experience. I'll bet you a dollar it's the most exclusive designers that have a narrower range of sizes. Stay out of wedding shops. You have enough time to find yourself a nice seamstress who will make you a dress you adore.

Your love is the point. So no, it is not worth it to radically change your body into something unhealthy for a dress.

Love your body, take good care of it, drink enough water and move a little more. Like, a 20 minute walk every day. Eat a variety of healthy foods. Love your husband to be. You have already committed to each other, as you are, and what you do when he doesn't agree that you should lose lots of weight for the dress is to see his side. He loves you more than any dress. The wedding is about the community you are bringing together (and/or whatever you two decide the wedding is about). The dress is a symbol. The niceness of the fabric, the number of beads on the thing...they won't matter in 30 years when your kids are chuckling at how outdated (or beautiful!) the dress looks to them.

I once went wedding dress shopping, many years ago. As a size zero, there were no dresses that I could try on in the shops either. I have finally gained enough weight in my abdomen to be a street clothes size 4 and would probably not fill out any of the samples now either. What they do for svelte ladies is pin the back of the dress up so that it sits flatter in the front.
posted by bilabial at 11:19 AM on September 18, 2012 [7 favorites]

You have a year. Start on a healthy weight loss plan now and in 6 months go look at dresses. It's very hard to forecast how much weight you'll lose or how the loss will be distributed over your body. With 6 months you'll have plenty of time to order a dress.

Bridal shop women are all YOU MUST ORDER NOW. YOU SHOULD HAVE ORDERED TWO YEARS AGO. ARE YOU STUPID? That is just not true. My dress - order to alteration to walking down the aisle - took less than 10 weeks.
posted by 26.2 at 11:23 AM on September 18, 2012 [4 favorites]

Your fiance sounds like a keeper. (Congratulations!)

He's absolutely right. Don't try to tailor yourself to fit a wedding dress; get a wedding dress tailored to fit you.

If it would make you happier to be a thinner person, then by all means work on losing weight -- not for the wedding, but for yourself. But it sounds from your history (and your body-policing family!) that that would not make you happier -- so don't do it.

You're the one getting married, not some potemkin fighting-trim version of you.

Wait, is this a known thing? They clipped and clamped me into a smaller dress

I wasn't there for my wife's wedding dress selection, obviously, but the way she described it is that for the fittings they had very very large size dresses which they wrapped around her and clip into place to approximate what it would look like after tailoring to her exact size. This thing of squeezing you into a too-small dress seems a bit off (and lousy salesmanship for that matter) -- you might be better off shopping in the nearest large city instead of wherever you are.
posted by ook at 11:26 AM on September 18, 2012

Dude, don't do it. You have a ton of reasons here not to do this and only one reason to do it, which is that you feel like losing weight would give you a better dress shopping experience and make you feel less devalued by the wedding/wedding dress industry. (Not necessarily a better dress -- you'll eventually find a great one anyway, there are just so many out there, and tailoring works wonders. Really, you've barely scratched the surface, especially if you live in NYC. Try maybe The White Gown or Alfred Angelo.) But by all accounts, this process sucks for everyone, even skinnier people -- plenty of samples won't fit a size 6.

Starting to run again might be a good idea, especially if it used to be a habit -- I know a lot of people find it calming and energizing -- but putting yourself on severe food restrictions at a stressful time, on a deadline, and in a way that feeds directly into body stress (I have to look this way by this time) is a lot of misery waiting to happen.

Also, tailoring isn't at all a shot in the dark -- from what I've heard about doing this, a good tailor will work with you at every stage of the proceedings, so you'll always know what's going on with the dress. If you fall in love with a dress that doesn't come in your size, you can bring in pictures of it as "inspiration."
posted by ostro at 11:32 AM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Perhaps, in your dress hunt, you could try on a million formal gowns so you know the shape and style that looks good on you, and then have a seamstress to make something similar in the colour you want. Hell, if you know the style that will look good, and get enough measurements properly taken you may as well order one online from China.

Alternatively, if you live in a major metropolitan area, then there will likely be a bridal store that caters to larger women.

Yes, eat better and exercise more with your fiance. But absolutely do not lose weight for a dress. People spend hundreds of $s on wedding dresses, they are always altered to fit, which is why they look good on people. So alter the dress to fit you, not you to fit the dress.
posted by plonkee at 11:34 AM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

I may never have been wedding dresses but I know that 40lbs is not the difference between unhealthily thin and too fat for a nice dress. Depending on height, the healthy BMI ranges are 30-50lbs wide.

If you are happy with your size and your partner is too then look harder or get a custom made gown, a pretty dress that you will wear once, for probably only a few hours is not worth changing your body for.

On preview: if you're only 1 size away from being able to try on the dresses you want and you're still drinking full-sugar sodas and eating out a lot, it sounds like there are lots of areas of your diet you could cut down on without feeling like you're on a diet or obsessively weighing yourself and calorie counting. 1 dress size is like 10-20lbs, if you're eating out a lot you're probably retaining water and are bloated without realising it. I gain 5-10lbs when I eat out just from the weight of the food and water retention - restaurant/takeout food is usually loaded with salt. It all falls off a few days after getting back to my normal diet.

If you've got your heart set on one of those size 18 dresses I would try switching to unsweetened/sugar-free drinks and skipping the eating out for a month or two, without weighing yourself. Numbers on the scale are meaningless, go by how your clothes fit, I'd be willing to bet your current clothes start to fit better within a couple of weeks.
posted by missmagenta at 11:44 AM on September 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm not sure if anyone has mentioned this, but are you planning on keeping the weight off? In the future, you might not like having wedding photos of a version of you that doesn't reflect who you are.

Oh, and healthy weight loss protip: I was much less stressed out about progress when I stopped weighing myself and started measuring my waist/hips/thighs. They vary less than my weight did, so I spent less time thinking I should resort to more extreme measures. There's also the added bonus that knowing these numbers can be helpful when you're looking for a dress.
posted by rhythm and booze at 11:48 AM on September 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

Yeah, unfortunately bridal stores are kind of the worst; they have tons of styles so they just keep a few samples around and then you have to order the one you want in your custom size. I was a size 18-20 in street clothes when I got married and I didn't even bother with traditional bridal stores, partly because of the size issue.

Others' advice on getting dresses elsewhere, like J. Crew or Nordstrom, may be a good place to start. If you're in NYC, you could even go to someplace like Lord & Taylor, which has a decent selection of plus-sized formal gowns, and try on a few things that you like. Try on dresses in other colors, too, so you know what size you are in specific designers. That way, if you see a gown you like online, you'll know what size you are in that brand.

Also, losing 40 lbs. in a year isn't an unreasonable or unhealthy goal - that's less than 1 pound per week. But if it's stressing you out to even think about it, then don't focus on that as a goal. Focus on eating healthy foods and doing exercise together as a couple because those things make you feel good, and in a few months you may find that your dress size is smaller.
posted by bedhead at 11:54 AM on September 18, 2012

"Wait, is this a known thing? They clipped and clamped me into a smaller dress, but it just made me feel awful. In that case, how do you know what will actually look good on your figure if you're not actually seeing it, you know, on your figure?"

Oh, God, yes. I was an hourglass-shaped size 8 when I got married and none of the samples fit over my NOT THAT BIG (8 to 10) hips, and they all had to be clamped way the hell in for my NOT THAT SMALL (6 to 8, B cup) boobs. A whole lot of the process made me feel like shit about myself and my body.

And yeah, there's a lot of guessing about how it'll actually look. You basically have to already know what styles of dress look good on you.

Wedding dress shopping is terrible. Did you know wedding dress fraud is one of the most-reported frauds to the Federal Trade Commission? They are the worst, most lyingist retailers in America.

If you want to lose enough weight to get into a wedding-dress 18, from a wedding-dress 20, I think that's attainable and not too insane. But I do think if you're happy the size you are generally, there are better things to worry about. And in terms of lower quality -- it is awesome to wear an awesome dress, it totally is, and if you want to, you should. But you will look beautiful whether it's a $100 dress from the homecoming rack at Kohl's or a $10,000 couture gown, and the thing is, in the pictures? NOBODY CAN REALLY TELL. I got married 10 years ago and 10 years ago in the pictures it was clear my dress was quite stylish ... but 10 years later when I look at the pictures, styles have moved on. It still looks elegant and pretty (we're not talking 80s butt bow in day-glo $5/yard satin here), but it looks a little out of date. You can't tell in the pictures whether it's a $300 dress or a $3000 dress (especially now that it's out of date). And I only wore it once.

It's sort-of like your SAT scores ... they matter a whole lot for a very brief moment in time, but then nobody ever cares again.

I don't know if this is universal, but I had a better experience at places that sold and discussed dresses straight-up by measurement rather than by "size." Every time I've had to go to a store that uses "bridal sizes," even for bridesmaid dresses, it's been a voyage into a world of cheap material for a lot of money and making women feel bad about their bodies.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:57 AM on September 18, 2012 [19 favorites]

If you already feel "Weddings are the worst" then trying to fit into some arbitrary size so you can wear a very expensive dress for one day is totally not worth it. I was already so stressed from the whole "OMFG real commitment, what if it's a trap!" stuff, the having to host a huge party when I'm a massive semi-misanthropic introvert, all the grrrr-inducing gender stereotype BS, plus having to choose crap I couldn't care less about (Colors! Flowers! Cake!) that I was ready to run away to Iceland and raise wolves in the wilderness by myself any any moment. Dieting for sure would have put me into a state where I would have ripped my fiance's heart out and eaten it in the cake shop.
It's pretty much impossible for me to lose weight under all that stress, even though my common stress response is to lose my appetite immediately. Your fiance likely doesn't want you to put yourself under excess, unnecessary stress for the sake of a pretty picture on one day.

I didn't get a dress, BTW. Wedding dresses are pretty boring, and I couldn't find anything that would allow me to wear a bra. I had a nice custom corset made in black-and-white for a fraction of what a dress costs and wore it with a long black tulle skirt. I still wear the corset.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 12:00 PM on September 18, 2012 [6 favorites]

All the girls I know had to get their wedding dresses radically altered because you have to wear sleeves in the temple and no one sold wedding dresses with sleeves in our area. For a while I was beginning to think it was some kind of conspiracy - every wedding dress on earth was not only sleeveless but backless and neckless, too?!?

Anyway. Wedding fashion is always an enormous hassle, and almost everything and anything you want is achievable. The most important thing is finding someone with real, serious sewing/alteration skills, and making sure you can work with them. Find that and then you're golden.

(By "can work with them" I mean that you know that when you say "no darts" they will in fact not put in darts, and when they say "your bridesmaids should all come in for final fittings in three weeks" they actually are ready in three weeks.)
posted by SMPA at 12:06 PM on September 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

I feel you. You just want it to be a pleasant and fun experience of trying on lots of pretty dresses and selecting the best option. Instead, you get the body issue garbage in concentrated form. Welcome to the Wedding-Industrial Complex.

I just saw your last comment - yeah, the clamping and making you feel bad about yourself is definitely a thing in wedding dress shopping and it applies to everyone. When I was shopping for a wedding dress, some of the samples were too big, some too small. I'm a very thin, average-height woman, but I have some serious childbearing hips. I didn't think anything of it since a friend had given me the scoop on wedding dress shopping and ordering. When I had decided on a dress and the shop took my measurements, a salesgirl I hadn't previously worked with laid out the manufacturer's size chart in front of me and said, "By your bust and waist size, the dress size would be this," and pointed to the smallest size on the chart. Then she took on the most overdone stage whisper and said, "But by your hip size, your dress size is this," and pointed to the largest size at the other end of the chart. "Maybe you want to lose some weight before the wedding?" I laughed at her and the absurdity of it. But it's so offensive. I hate the garbage women have to hear about their weight. (Of course I ordered the larger size, but I already knew that any purchased wedding gown would have to be altered and given the style of dress it would be trivially easy to bring in the bust, so it was no big deal for me as a concept.)

Anyway - I hope that gives you some perspective on your experience. I second all the above comments saying to find a store that has a much larger selection of dresses, and be prepared for clipping regardless.

Regarding weight loss: it sounds very stressful to add another must-do task for the wedding. But I also believe that there's no time like the present to attend to one's health. I wish I had given more attention during the wedding planning process to feeling physically good, through exercise and self-care and all of that. Weddings are exhausting. So maybe focus on general wellness and give yourself a pass on a target weight?
posted by stowaway at 12:25 PM on September 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

yeah, the clamping and making you feel bad about yourself is definitely a thing in wedding dress shopping and it applies to everyone.

Quoted for truth. Having people trying to sell me wedding dresses ask "Are you planning to lose weight for your wedding?" made me walk out, every single time. For complicated reasons, I needed two dresses. One I ordered from a place where you send them your measurements and they send you a dress 3 weeks later. The second I bought from a shop window where it had been the store owner's final design school project. I nervously said to her "I don't think I can fit into that dress" and she said "It isn't your job to fit into the dress; it's my job to fit the dress to you." I burst into tears and gave her all my money.

Seriously, FUCK ALL THIS BULLSHIT. Go try on dress styles at David's or someplace with a huge selection and then get a dress made to measure. Do not give these assholes your money or your dignity.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:41 PM on September 18, 2012 [26 favorites]

"Wait, is this a known thing? They clipped and clamped me into a smaller dress, but it just made me feel awful. In that case, how do you know what will actually look good on your figure if you're not actually seeing it, you know, on your figure?"

Thirding that this is indeed a thing, and a terrible thing at that. I'm basically built like a 14-year-old boy, and the wedding dress process made me feel like a little kid trying on her mom's clothes. But I still found a dress I loved, and so will you.

You should lose weight if you want to. But it sounds like you're pretty happy with yourself, and you have a great fiance, so you should just be blissfully engaged and walk right out of any store that tries to shame you into making them more money.
posted by snickerdoodle at 1:07 PM on September 18, 2012

You could also try bridal consignment shops to get a feel for the styles that work for you. Instead of rack after rack of teensy samples, consignment shops have dresses organized by size - and because these are dresses that have been worn by actual brides and not a population of mannequins, there will be a huge range of sizes. You may not find the exact dress you want at a consignment shop, but you can figure out which silhouettes you like best and then feel much more confident about ordering a similar, new dress that you love but haven't tried on.

You might even fall in love with a consignment dress! I did, and thank god because I had mere weeks to find my dress. It was a gorgeous silk Paloma Blanca gown that wouldn't have been within my budget if it was new. Best of luck finding your dress, and congrats on finding such a great guy to spend your life with!
posted by keep it under cover at 1:20 PM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm a size 6 and the bridal salon ladies asked me, flat out, how much weight I was planning to lose for the wedding. It is all crazy talk. ALL CRAZY TALK.

My advice, hindsight being 20-20? Have one made, from scratch, and avoid salons altogether.
posted by lydhre at 1:27 PM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Corb, your family members who are asking whether you plan to diet for your wedding are being grade-A assholes, whether they are aware of it or not, and I hope you'll blatantly ignore them.

You know you who want to look beautiful for on your wedding day -- and it's not your great aunt, is it? It's the guy who is basically telling you you're gorgeous in your current shape and he'd be happy to kiss his bride just as she is, even if she's dressed in a paper sack, so long as she's happy and healthy. (KEEPER! Good job, woman.)

I really do actually remember feeling pretty much just as you do now, because I went and got accidentally pregnant before my wedding and the dress I already had and had planned to wear for ages (I mean, like, actually before I met my husband, seriously -- I was that obsessed with this dress) did not fit. And no dresses I could afford would fit in any way that I could stand. And so I was actually miserable on my wedding day because I was wearing something I hated while the dress of my dreams hung empty in my closet, and I was embarrassed and felt cheated by fate out of the shining dream wedding in my head.

And you know what? That was epically dumb. I should not have been miserable. I should not have let anyone's expectations -- especially my own -- make me think that the day I sealed such a momentous and meaningful promise with a person I loved could be ruined by something so trivial as the clothes on my back (or for that matter, the raised eyebrows and glances askance at my belly).

Weddings are important occasions, and you deserve to enjoy yours. But your marriage is much, much more important and will last for so much more than one day.

Screw the dress designers, and everyone else who makes a living selling body hatred to women so they'll buy more things in a sad endless treadmill quest to try to make themselves feel beautiful. I hope you can find an indie dressmaker who can make you something custom and lovely, but seriously: even if you don't, you seem to have found the right partner, which is a much more important accessory.
posted by BlueJae at 1:27 PM on September 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

Yeah, the clamping and the too-small dresses and the crazy sizing is all totally normal from my experience. I wear a US 8/10 in normal dresses, and the salons were clamping me into most of the sample dresses. I ended up having to order a size 14 based on my measurements and the whole thing just made me feel big and unattractive.

I would suggest finding a salon that carries a wide range of sample sizes. Just call around until you find one - even in my not-very-big-city in Louisiana, I was able to find a bridal store that carried more than one sample of each dress. I still ended up being clamped in, but being clamped into a size 10 sample gave me a much better feel for how the dress would look than squeezing my ass into a size 2.

Regarding weight loss - if you can make some diet/exercise changes that make you happy, then go ahead. But I would suggest NOT setting a specific goal before the wedding or buying a smaller dress and then having the pressure of "OMG if I don't lose 10 pounds I won't have a dress to wear". Seriously, wedding planning SUCKS so hard, I wouldn't want to add to the stress by trying to drastically change your body.
posted by tryniti at 1:38 PM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

People who say it is normal to be clamped into a sample dress must not know what it's like when your size is big enough that it is physically impossible to pull a sample dress on higher than your knees. I am a size 16 and I went to EIGHT wedding dress stores that all swore they had plenty for plus-sized brides, and I could not try on a single dress once I got to a majority of them. Literally, at a few places the only thing I could do was "hang" the dress around my neck while it was on the hanger and squint my eyes to see if I might like the shape on my body. Trying to put the dress on, even to leave it unzipped and clamp it in place, was impossible because they were too small in the waist to fit above my knees or over my boobs.

If I could do it all over again, yeah, I would have lost a bunch of weight before dress shopping. But at the same time, I wouldn't have done a crazy crash diet. I would say it is absolutely reasonable for you to try to lose some weight if you can do so in a healthy way only. It will make the dress experience much, much, much less stressful.
posted by joan_holloway at 1:56 PM on September 18, 2012

I can't speak to the wedding thing, but I do know how you feel coming out of the Army. I did pretty much the same thing when I got out: went from being in the best shape of my life to substantially overweight (in my case about 60 lbs up from "fighting trim," 40 lbs up from actual "overweight"). And I know a lot of people who did the same thing, if not to the same extreme; it's almost a cliche.

The Army, in my experience anyway, doesn't really do a whole lot to inspire healthy attitudes to weight loss or fitness / physical conditioning, especially if you are not someone who is naturally athletic. I didn't enjoy daily PT or the tiny meals I had to eat in order to not get taped, and I sure as hell didn't keep doing either once I got out.

The big conflict for me was that I was a happier and nicer person after getting out (and getting fat) than I was beforehand (while in great shape). But the only way I knew of getting in shape was the "Army way": a whole lot of unpleasant, grueling PT coupled with self-denial in the kitchen. It took me years -- literally, about 5-7 of them -- to figure out how to get in shape without making myself really unhappy. For me, it was all about finding activities that were actually fun to do, and things to eat that were low-calorie but also fun to cook and satisfying. It's not an easy process and I don't think the same set of things will work for two people, it's just something that you (and your partner) have to work out experimentally.

Anyway, where I'm getting to with this is that the whole wedding crash-diet seems like it doesn't leave enough time to develop a healthy, long-term relationship with fitness. Like the Army, it would be an external motivation for getting in shape, but one that will go away in the future and leave you without any reason to continue whatever grueling exercise/diet regimen you come up with to meet your goals. That seems like a lot of stress for an ephemeral gain.

Good luck.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:16 PM on September 18, 2012 [4 favorites]

First up, congrats on your engagement to a dude who seems super awesome!

Your question (and reading these responses) has actually been a touch triggering for me because I've been going through some of the same things (< 100 days now).

Here is my advice (as someone who bought a wedding size 26 dress, but hasn't had it altered yet):

1.) See if there is a plus-size bridal boutique in your area. In MN, we have the amazing Luxe. The best thing about the plus size boutiques is that you will be able to fit into ALL of the samples. Yes, they will have to clamp you up (and they do this not to be mean, but to give you an impression of what the dress will look like when it is tailored to fit you, and only you). The plus-size boutiques will have a limited selection, BUT it is super helpful to just go to a place where you know you won't be judged.

2.) After going to the plus-sized place, take another look at the "regular" bridal shoppes. Now, armed with the knowledge of what reasonable service/selection looks like, you'll know when a store is lying to you when they say they have "plenty" of plus sized samples, and you will be righteously angry at _them_ not yourself. For example, in MN, Posh Bridal (who I won't honour with a link) was terrible.

3.) Remember that seamstresses can do all kinds of magic. The reason why one can never find a wedding dress with straps or sleeves is because a good seamstress can just add them. It takes more imagination, but take a look at something like Kate Middleton's dress -- it's basically your standard strapless, sweetheart neck, a-line style that is a dime a dozen, but with a lace overlay that gives it a v-neck and sleeves.

4.) This is actually about your question: You can lose weight without getting on the scale everyday. Just do the healthier stuff that you're already talking to your fiance about and don't sweat it. And remember how seamstresses are magic? Buy a dress that fits you now. Don't get it altered until 3 months before the wedding. If you've lost weight, the seamstress will take care of it. If not, oh well, at least you did healthy fun things for a while.

Good luck to you! Wedding planning is crazy making.
posted by sparklemotion at 2:20 PM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you buy a dress that's too small for you now in the hopes that you'll lose enough weight to fit into it, you may need to buy a new dress.

If you buy a dress that fits you now and you lose weight, you can get the dress taken in. I doubt that you can healthily lose so much weight that you would need to buy an entirely new dress.

I know a lot of people order wedding dresses online - maybe you'd have more luck doing that? I know that Dolly Couture sizes up to size 18, and can do custom sizes beyond that, and I'm sure other places do as well. Just make sure to order a dress in enough time to get it altered.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 2:22 PM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ooh! Have you been to the Bridal Garden? At the very least, you should be able to try on a wider selection of sizes and get a general idea of what cuts/details you like.
posted by snickerdoodle at 3:01 PM on September 18, 2012

Ever hear anyone say, "My wedding was so great, but I wish I'd been 20 pounds lighter"? I never have.

Ever hear anyone say, "My wedding was so great, but I nearly killed myself getting down to 110 pounds"? I have. Is that the memory you want to have of that day?

Fuck the wedding industry. Find a dress you love, pay someone to make one like it in your size. Or, even better, find one in your size that you like and enjoy doing something actually enjoyable with the hundreds of dollars you just saved.
posted by Etrigan at 3:03 PM on September 18, 2012 [5 favorites]

Don't crash diet. If you're unhappy with your fitness level, start getting more active but in a fit-for-life-style approach (example: start by walking 15-30 minutes 3-4 days a week with your fiance- activities that you can do together and might indeed feel comfortable doing for the next 50 years).

On the dress side - get it custom, baby! I'm not sure where to start with your style (since you could go in so many directions - minimal, modern, classic, vintage, retro . . .) but get one custom made on etsy. Something that is custom made for you will look gorgeous because it will be literally made for your body. Just picking dressmakers out of a hat (who make curvier gowns):

Here's a strapless dress with a transparent lace overlay on the shoulders and multilayered tulle skirt.

I like this draped strapless dress - and the designer makes it clear she works with all sizes.

Also, I can't resist including this sweet bridesmaid's dress. It is modest but backless - would work for all kinds of figures and ages and I'm crazy about the chiffon details on the shoulders and bust. If you choose it, can I be one of your bridesmaids?
posted by arnicae at 3:05 PM on September 18, 2012

Girl, I feel you. The Wedding Industrial Complex is AWFUL. Yes, making you feel like shit is a known thing.

When I got married the first time in 1999, I was a size 16. Do you think I fit into any of the samples they carried in the biggest, oldest bridal store in my city? Nope. Clips, clamps, and comments all the way.

By the way--bridal stores make even MORE money off you by ordering larger than what you need so they can sock you with an extra $200-300 in alterations. My size 16 body suddenly warranted a size 20 gown, making me feel even worse about my body. But of course they tailored back down to around a size 16 and charged me $300 for the privilege.

Pay someone to have your gown made. If you want to cut out sweetened drinks, it'll certainly help cut down on stress leading up to the wedding. And if you want to start a fitness class with your wonderful fiance, then bond together over that. And HAVE LOTS OF SEX! Just move, and take care of yourself going into the wedding, and remember that it's only one day. What you need to prepare for is the rest of your life as part of this married unit. You will figure out whether or not you want to lose 40 pounds. (I did, later, and it was actually a lot more than that.)

But don't diet to fit a dress. Then the dress and the day are the biggest focus, when it should be your marriage. And the rest of your life.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 3:48 PM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

I wore a size 20 wedding dress, which I got at David's Bridal in upstate NY 10 years ago. There were some options, but overall I was disappointed with the experience. I left one fitting crying.

In hindsight, I would have my dress made. If you are in the St. Louis area, memail me. A friend recently got married and had a fabulous dress made!
posted by fyrebelley at 3:50 PM on September 18, 2012

I just wanted to point out that, other than you, the most important person at the wedding is regularly having sex with you. Pick a dress that suits you and don't kill yourself to get down to the right size in time for the wedding. They certainly don't only make dresses in size 4.

Your groom is already sleeping with you. He loves you just how you are. He wants you to be happy. Is there anything else you need to know?
posted by phoebus at 3:54 PM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

I live in the New York area and got my dress from Macy's (Demetrios). It was made of lovely fabric (lace and organza). I tried on a size 4, and ordered a size 22. This is the photo of the dress from their website, and this is a good photo of the dress from my wedding. Being clamped into the dress sucked, but I could tell it would look good.

I thought about trying to lose weight for the wedding (and did lose some) but I wanted a dress that would look good even if I did not, so I went for what looked good on me then.
posted by miscbuff at 4:23 PM on September 18, 2012

I didn't even bother with bridal gown shops. I got mine tailored - this is the front, this is the back. I got a good seamstress who wasn't a dick about weight and listened to my requests (had to have sleeves and I had to be able to wear a normal bra since the strapless ones in my size are terrible).

My sister did the same but got sick two weeks before the wedding and lost enough weight that the dress didn't fit correctly.

I highly recommend the tailoring, if only for the fact you can avoid all the strangers up in your business.

(Also, that dress just sits in the cupboard now - it's a useless thing to spend money on really, so remember that before you drop a bundle).
posted by geek anachronism at 5:06 PM on September 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

By the way--bridal stores make even MORE money off you by ordering larger than what you need so they can sock you with an extra $200-300 in alterations.

Don't get your dress tailored at a bridal salon! Find a local tailor - they will do a better job, and will probably treat you like a human being. Also, bear in mind that basically everyone gets their wedding dress tailored to some extent. (Think of the short people!)
posted by ablazingsaddle at 5:08 PM on September 18, 2012

I have been married three times. The first time, I bought a traditional Cinderella style white wedding dress off the rack for $300. The second, I had one made for me, a gorgeous medieval style gown that is probably close to your size. The third time, I found a pastel pink suit at a resale shop for $2, again, in a larger than normal size. My blouse and shoes cost more, and I got some flowers for $20.

I would avoid bridal shops like the plague. Years ago, women chose a dress or suit that they could wear again. I love my medieval gown, but I am wondering where I am ever going to wear it again. Unless someone else wants it for their wedding, or I wear it for Halloween. It's nice to wear something lovely on your wedding day, but it's all about you and him saying your vows in front of people and then having a party afterward. I found my third wedding to be the most intimate, and the company excellent, my aunts and my husband's relatives, some Thai food, artfully catered. It was awesome. No pressure about a dress. Just a wedding.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 6:37 PM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't normally suggest this, but there is a reality show on TLC called "Say Yes to the Dress" (SYTTD). You can see a bunch of it on YouTube. You should expect to take two things away from watching it: 1) Everyone gets pinned and clipped in, from plus size through average down to painfully tiny (they don't always show it, but look at the back when they show the bride walking out--pins and clips!). 2) These people? They are not sane. I am wrapping myself up in a bed sheet and eloping.
posted by anaelith at 4:42 AM on September 19, 2012

"Wait, is this a known thing? They clipped and clamped me into a smaller dress, but it just made me feel awful. In that case, how do you know what will actually look good on your figure if you're not actually seeing it, you know, on your figure?"

This is fairly normal. The wedding industry is nuts, but this is one of the few things I really do get. A store could never afford or would never have the space to have every single dress they carry available in every size so they get samples sent to them from the designers and either clamp it to make it fit a smaller person or clip it with extra fabric to fit a larger one. Neither is ideal and your best to try on regular formal gowns at a department store and know what styles look best on your body before you try on a wedding gown.

If you’re in the 18-20 range, you should be a pretty good fit for a plus size sample though, so when you call stores ask how many plus size samples they have in store to try on. Some aren’t as nice, sadly, but it’ll give you a better sense of shape and proportion even if you order a similar looking regular size gown.

As for the weight loss, losing weight for a dress seems like a bad idea because it puts so much pressure on everything. Trying to be healthy for you is a much better approach.
posted by GilvearSt at 4:58 AM on September 19, 2012

Judging from your comment that 'part of me thinks the solution is simple... lose some weight', I would suggest that how you feel about this now is partly a kneejerk response to the bruising fact that the particular few dresses you've tried in a particular one shop haven't fit, and you've also heard of how wedding weight loss is A Thing. I'm not qualified in any official way to say this, except by the School of Crying in Fitting Rooms, where not fitting into anything immediately precipitates the "must, must diet" mental response. This response is arguably one that stems from societal pressures that weddings must be special, unforgettable wonderful events as perfect as possible, and that it's something wrong with you that you should change when you're not a standard size.

Your wedding doesn't have to be perfect, in the 'thin, beautiful, under-control bride' sense. You seem to be pretty okay in general with body image, and I hope the time since the fittings has helped you return to that equilibrium some.

As for general lifestyle and weight issues, I am totally there with you! I used to be really active (and skinny with disordered eating habits, bah) until I decided that wasn't healthy and gained weight again. It would be a lie to say that I don't think wistfully of being strong and conventionally attractive and a certain number on the scale again. But I've been trying to just be active for the joy of it, and eat things that help me perform well - can't say I've lost weight, but I'm happier and mentally healthier.

If you do decide to officially make weight loss a goal, definitely get your fiancé on board. Why? With body image issues, it's helpful to have someone you trust and love to support you and basically make sure you keep your mind about you while losing weight. To, say, perhaps, "Honey, are you coping okay with this weight loss plan? You haven't stopped talking about food or your weigh-in today," and keep you sane.

tl;dr Take some space to think out this weight loss thing. Why do you really want to do it? For health, or an ideal wedding, or what? And if you do go through with it, which is okay either way, keep your headspace right. And congratulations! (:
posted by undue influence at 6:58 AM on September 19, 2012

Losing weight to get healthy/er is a good idea in itself. My partner and I, although not planning a wedding, have been talking about doing exactly what you've been - doing healthy things together, and eating better. The exercise might help you work off the stress of planning a wedding - but as others have said, if you see it as a means to an end rather than something that will make you feel better, you'll feel so much more stressed.

I know in the UK wedding dress sizes run about 2 sizes smaller than regular clothing, and as I'm a really difficult shape to fit generally (big bust, comparatively small waist, big hips, big feet and tall) I would be tempted to get one made for me - Whirling Turban does made to measure dresses that compare with the prices people often pay for off the peg. The other option is that you buy a formal dress that isn't a Wedding Dress - there's a store here called Coast that does formal dresses for weddings/races and the like, where you could easily pick up something that is a regular size and would be fancy enough - but it depends how traditional you want your dress to look. This store also does wedding gowns up to a UK 22, so you have the option of buying and tailoring.
posted by mippy at 9:05 AM on September 19, 2012

Don't get your dress tailored at a bridal salon! Find a local tailor - they will do a better job, and will probably treat you like a human being. Also, bear in mind that basically everyone gets their wedding dress tailored to some extent. (Think of the short people!)

I agree! And I'm 5'2" so I've been using tailors all my life.

The most salient point, which I didn't articulate well, is that bridal salons purposely, in my experience, order a much larger dress than you actually need. There's a lot of flutter about "you can't add, only subtract," which is true. But they have an industrial history of padding their revenue by ordering something with much, MUCH more fabric than is needed so they can make more money by removing lots of it.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 10:26 AM on September 19, 2012

Oh yeah - they totally jack you on sizing.

I ordered the little known 12 Womens size. That meant it was shaped for a womanly figure - full on hourglass. Had I ordered a 14 or 16 Regular, they'd have had to pretty much remake the dress which would have been expensive and it wouldn't have looked as good. Of course, the shop wanted to order the bigger size, but I stuck to my guns. (In fact, I had to use the intertubes to prove the 12W existed.)

If you're hourglass or top heavy or bottom heavy the women's sizes are your friend. Don't believe them if they tell you there isn't a 12 or 14 or 16 Women's size. Take the style number down and call the manufacturer.
posted by 26.2 at 11:37 AM on September 19, 2012

You have gotten some excellent advice here, from many women who have been through the same grueling torture at the hands of the bridal industry. I think you can see that the clamping and clipping is par for the course, and it shouldn't make you feel as though there is anything wrong with you or your body.

Finding a dress style that works for your shape is the best thing you can do. You don't even need to do this at a bridal shop; you can try on any dresses to see what looks right for you. From there, you can either do some online searching for which shops have those kinds of styles, or find a seamstress that will make you your very own dress. Depending on your budget, this can be relatively easy to do. Many seamstresses will have examples of their work, so you can see if you like what they do before you make a decision.

As for your decision whether or not to lose the weight, it's never a bad idea to eat healthier, especially while you're dealing with such a stressful time as planning your wedding. Going on a starvation diet, or having some unreasonable goal weight/size in mind will just add more stress, but healthy eating, and getting a little exercise will lower your stress levels and help you to cope.

So, take a few deep breaths, realize that you have found an amazing partner who loves you and supports you at any size, and enjoy the beginning of your married life!
posted by blurker at 10:27 AM on September 21, 2012

Final update from the OP:
Hey everyone! Thanks so much for all the advice. What I ended up doing was making the decision not to even worry about dieting. As suggested, I tried finding a dress in Women's sizes, and it fit much better. For me, I found a dress so full I needed a hoopskirt was very flattering.

Also key was getting a good photographer. Everyone who was actually at the wedding thought I was beautiful because happy and animated and stuff, and everyone not there can see the beautiful wedding pictures. It's really clear the difference a good photographer makes, because some people took cellphone pictures, and those are cringeworthy.

Any brides who want to see what I mean in terms of what a photographer can do, or mefites who just want to see wedding porn, feel free to memail.

Thanks again, everyone! I had a great wedding and didn't regret a thing.
posted by taz at 5:46 AM on October 1, 2013 [4 favorites]

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