There's no denying that the brides face stress while planning their weddings. Not only do they want their guests to be happy, the event to run smoothly, and to manage a budget, but the idea that it should be the most beautiful day of a bride's life can definitely lend to body-image pressures. On top of that, the wedding industry's limited options for plus-sized or disabled people makes it even more difficult for many brides to achieve the weddings of their dreams.
Brides should be able to embrace the skin they're in and feel their best when they say "I do." So, as a celebration of this idea, host of the Real Pod podcast Victoria Garrick pulled together three other soon-to-be brides and self-love enthusiasts for a photoshoot showcasing them looking absolutely stunning in gorgeous gowns from Lovella Bridal. Shot by acclaimed wedding photographer Rebecca Yale and styled by Nayri of Wedding Fashion Expert, these incredible women share the pressures placed on their appearance as brides and changes needed in the industry in a Q&A ahead.
You actively speak out against diet culture on your social media platforms, what sort of toxic wedding sayings and phrases need to be left in the past?
While I could point to phrases like, “shedding for the wedding,” or trends like “ordering your dress a size down for motivation,” the biggest issue isn’t just these one-liners. It’s the all-encompassing culture of weddings that emphasizes your looks over your love. When you hear that someone is planning a wedding or going to be in a wedding, it’s pretty much commonplace for that to be followed with a question about what diet or exercise you might do to “prepare” for the big day. If we are leaving anything in the past, it needs to be the emphasis as a whole that society puts on appearance, especially a bride’s, and shift back to what really is important, the two people in love!
What do you think is one of the most problematic messages in bridal culture?
The general bridal belief that you have to look the “best you have ever looked in your life” on this one particular day is not only so damaging and stressful, but totally besides the actual point of a wedding! Weddings are about celebrating two people who love each other so much that they want to share their lives with one another, yet here we are obsessing over the best facials, fad diets, and workout plans. Before the wedding process began, I got really clear with myself about what my values and intentions were, and I come back to them at moments where I feel like the industry is trying to sweep me away.
Has the wedding process brought up any body-image issues for you?
Whether we ourselves put an emphasis on our bodies and appearances or not, other people do! This is not only true in everyday life, but especially when you are a bride. For example, one of the first bridal consultants I worked with kept telling me I had “such a long torso.” I thought it was such an odd comment to make. No one has ever said that to me in my life. The woman mentioned it about seven different times throughout my time trying on dresses at this salon, and it definitely made me self conscious about an aspect of my body I had never thought of before.
What is one thing you want every bride to know?
When your partner put that ring on your finger, it was because they wanted to marry you for YOU! Not because they wanted you to change everything about yourself and your appearance before the big day. You were worthy of being a bride then, and you are worthy of it now!
Bri Obaseki is a curve model and content creator.
What sort of aesthetic or image-based pressures have you felt as a bride or do you feel face brides in general?
As someone who has gone the “untraditional” route to their dream wedding day, I felt a lot of pressure to skip out on having a traditional wedding after eloping in Vegas with my husband. Knowing we wanted to embrace a special day with our loved ones there to celebrate our matrimony, we embarked on the wedding planning process.
I never imagined as a curve model and content creator living in LA that finding a bridal store with plenty of options to try on for my plus-size self would be as hard as it was! I had to purchase a wedding gown without even being able to try it on because I could not fit into the sample size. It was clipped to the front of me and I just have to hope it looks as I imagined when it comes in. The entire wedding dress shopping process made me feel as though the bridal industry was making a statement: plus-size brides are not as important as our thin counterparts. Plus-size brides are an afterthought.
With the average size woman in America being about my size (US 16), it saddened me to think countless other brides will or have experienced this same feeling of defeat on a day that is supposed to be magical. I know my body is worthy of a beautiful gown and I know my partner will think I’m beautiful in whatever I choose to wear when I walk down that aisle. I've personally made it my mission to show other plus-size brides we ARE worthy of the fairytale.
What does it mean to have confidence on your wedding day? How are you going to ensure you truly feel beautiful?
The best and most simplistic advice I received about walking into my wedding day with confidence is to—you guessed it—go with the flow. Something doesn’t go according to plan? Nine times out of ten, no one even knows the “plan” is. Don’t sweat the small stuff and allow yourself to be fully immersed in the moment. It goes by quicker than you think! Allowing myself to release the stress of making sure every little detail is perfect allows me to divert my energy into what is truly important. I know that my partner accepts and loves me as I am. He believes I am the most beautiful bride in the world and that’s all the reassurance I need.
One special feeling of being a bride that got legally married before our wedding is that we already got the most important part out of the way, just us. And, if I still get nervous before walking down the aisle, you can find me jamming out to some of my favorite women empowerment songs to hype myself up real quick!
Have you always been confident and if not, what helped you get to the mindset you have today?
I struggled a lot with body image and self-esteem issues growing up, and still have my off days now. I always say self-love and confidence is a journey with no end point because life is always changing and we as individuals are always evolving. It’s okay to have bad days. You can’t fully appreciate the sunshine without a little rain.
I always find my self-esteem or confidence dwindling when I get too caught up in comparison. Whether it’s comparing my body or looks to others or even a past version of myself, my career or where I’m at in life, hyper focusing on what other people have can lead to under-appreciating all the things you do have whether you realize it or not... I learned to look at life through a more positive lens, one of appreciation and admiration. Finding community online has also done wonders for my mental health. Following people who look like me or have similar interests and unfollowing people and things that trigger negative thoughts. At the end of the day, the only person who has to live with you is you—do whatever it takes to ensure you are happy!
What is one thing you want every bride to know?
You do NOT have to change yourself to marry the right person!
Anything else that you would like to share?
Important life events like your wedding day can be a trigger for anyone who is currently suffering or has suffered from any and all forms of eating disorders. As someone who is still recovering myself, I just want to take the time to remind you that you and your body are worthy of love. You and your body are worthy of the most blissfully happy wedding day. You do not need to change yourself or your body to deserve it. You deserve all the best things now, as you are.
Joci Scott is an actress, content creator, and disability activist.
What sort of aesthetic or image-based pressures have you possibly felt as a bride?
There is a lot of pressure on your wedding day to look your best, and then 100-times better than that. Everyone says it will be the best day of your life, so naturally you want to look and feel super confident. It causes you to look at insecurities you have about yourself and over-scrutinize them. I've been injured for just under three years so my body has gone through a lot of changes since then. I try to make an effort every day to love my body the way it is now, but when flipping through bridal magazines and scrolling through social media, it can be really easy to compare myself to other women.
What has your experience navigating bridal culture been like with a disability?
Thanks to the ADA laws, most venues and vendors are able to accommodate someone with a disability. The hardest part by far was the dress shopping. When I went to try on dresses, I had to have my mom pull each of the dresses under me so that I could see what they looked like on. With multiple underskirts in each dress, it got really hard to find what was twisting and what needed to be pulled down. It was also exhausting to keep pushing myself up over my chair—and not every bride is able to do that.
Do you feel like there is adequate representation for brides with disabilities in media and wedding culture? If not, why not and what improvements would you like to see?
I definitely think there are strides to be made in representation for brides with disabilities. This is honestly a problem in general—disability is often left out of the media and when it is included, a lot of the time the story is "inspirational" and a story of overcoming. An estimated one in four Americans lives with a disability and this statistic is rarely reflected in media. My friend and fellow wheelchair-user Chelsie Hill went viral for surprising her husband and walking down the aisle last year using leg braces, and that was the first time I'd seen a bride with a disability in the media. Had it not been for social networks, I wouldn't know or interact with most of the married disabled women I know today.
Having more and sufficient representation of brides with disabilities in wedding culture will encourage girls and women with disabilities that they can have the wedding of their dreams and look like a true bride. I would love for it to be a regular occurrence to see disabled models in wedding magazines and on bridal websites.
Have you encountered any obstacles while planning your wedding and ensuring it is accessible?
Thankfully, most people I've encountered are very accommodating and want to make sure that my wedding runs as smoothly as possible. One problem I have noticed is having one accessible bathroom for the entire venue, or transportation companies not having an accessible vehicle. As a bride with a disability, I plan to invite my friends with disabilities. So, accommodations need to be put in place for them as well. Having one accessible bathroom isn't always enough.
What other things you have had to factor in when planning your wedding that other brides would not have to?
I have to keep in mind a lot of things that most brides don't, like how I am getting to each and every place on my wedding day, how I am getting down the aisle and back, planning out my bathroom breaks and having someone help me with them, and more. I had to make sure my photographers knew beforehand so they could think about poses that would work for me in my wheelchair. Any venue that wasn't wheelchair accessible was eliminated, including beaches and most other outdoor surfaces. I also had to realistically think about the practicality of my wedding dress and how it would function with my mobility devices. The ideas I had about what I would wear before becoming disabled are different than what I decided on after becoming disabled.
What would make the wedding process more seamless and accessible to every bride?
In general, making wedding attire easier to get on and off—even just the sample pieces. Then providing the option to leave the adaptations on when you order your dress. I also think if every wedding venue owner made an effort to go above and beyond with their accessibility, it would bring in a lot more business for couples with a disabled individual and couples who are planning on inviting disabled guests.
What is one thing you want every bride to know?
I want every bride to know that as cheesy as it sounds, your wedding day should be about you and your partner. The expectations of society, your family, and your friends don't matter if it means that you won't be happy. You don't need to change who you are; all you need is to be the best version of yourself.
Growing up, did you feel like you were represented in bridal culture?
Growing up, I don’t think there was really any industry or media outlet that represented me. Fashion has historically been severely lacking in diversity when it comes to not only size, but race as well. So as a black plus-size woman, I rarely saw women that I could identify with. And that trend, of course, trickled into every aspect of marketing and what we have been shown as the “ideal”. That left me to just imagine what I could look like in these different areas of life. I don’t think that people realize how much of a privilege it is to be able to see reflections of themselves in media, because that’s not afforded to all.
What has your experience been like shopping as a plus-size bride?
I have just started shopping as a plus-size bride and to be honest, I expect it to be an absolute struggle. Shopping for everyday clothes is still difficult for plus-size women. So a wedding gown that is on-trend, that I can try-on, and fits well seems like an impossible task. It’s such an important day in one’s life and I can imagine that many women with larger bodies have not felt their best simply because they did not have options that were suitable for their size.
Do you think the same wedding styles and options are available for all bodies? If not, why and what needs to change?
This is an educated guess because as I mentioned, I have just started shopping for wedding gowns. However, I feel like I can confidently say absolutely not! Plus-size women know all too well the reality that we get trends last, if at all. When new styles come into play, they are not made with us in mind. There are so many layers to peel back to try to explain why, but I think it ultimately comes down to internalized biases that our bodies are not seen as worthy of fashion. Until that is recognized and addressed, everything else is just appeasing the situation rather than tackling it head on.
What’s one message you want every bride to know?
Weddings can really amplify insecurities to very unhealthy places. There’s the pressure that we put on ourselves to look our “best,” which just means skinnier. There’s the pressure that others put on us to lose weight. There’s pressure to fit into your dress. It can be really overwhelming. I would just advise to please not waste these precious, special moments on such negative thoughts. You are marrying your person and you should strive to have a day where you feel the love and connection that you have with one another. Everything else simply doesn’t matter.