Nutrition expert Annika Weeks, NDTR, shares three reasons why traditional wedding dress "guidelines" are unrealistic and ridiculous. Plus, top tips for feeling great no matter your weight on your wedding day.
With #weddingseason in full swing, it's about time we did an article on nutrition for brides. A simple Google search for "how early to get your wedding dress" yields more than a billion results -- and they all offer conflicting timelines. With the stress of wedding planning and the potential to gain weight, should you alter yourself to fit your wedding dress or alter your wedding dress to fit you?
Being a "corona-bride" (bride in the time of COVID-19), my wedding dress process happened over two years. I have experience both personally and professionally with weight management and wedding dresses, and this is my answer as an expert and someone who empathizes with you: eat for your health and invest in a wedding dress and alterations that fit you. You shouldn't have to fit into a wedding dress perfectly to be happy -- the "right" dress is the one that fits you perfectly.
Read on for three dangerous reasons the dress industry struggles with weight gain. Plus, top tips for feeling incredible in your wedding dress during your big day (whether plus size or petite).
Weight & Wedding Dresses
I did a simple Google search in preparation for writing this article. After typing in "how early to get your wedding dress" I was given over a billion answers (literally) from different authorities on the matter. Some sites recommended as early as 12-14 months or more before the wedding.
Here are the three major problems with the traditional wedding dress timeline when it comes to weight changes eating habits.
1. The Time Between Dress-Buying & First-Fitting
While it is understandable that wedding gowns are custom creations, dresses are bought upwards of 9 months before a wedding. The first fitting, according to BRIDES, is recommended at 6-8 weeks before.
The second, additional, and final fittings happen in close succession -- just weeks before the wedding. This can be when a bride is most stressed and vulnerable to unhealthy eating behaviors.
It's also unrealistic that brides are often expected to be a similar size in the weeks prior to the wedding than they were 7+ months before. Weight can fluctuate during even just one day, so it's not unusual to see weight fluctuate during the months leading up to the wedding.
2. "You Alter Yourself to Fit Vera"
I like a good wedding chick-flick as much as the next gal, but I sometimes cringe at how they reflect culture. In one of my favorites, Bride Wars, Kate Hudson's character echoes the pressures of diet culture in one iconic line: "You don't alter Vera Wang to fit you, you alter yourself to fit Vera. What do boys learn in school?"
Thinly veiled is the expectation that the dress is perfect and you're the one that needs to change. Alterations and tailoring expenses can pull quite a bit from the wedding budget, so it's not uncommon for brides to feel bad about losing or gaining even just a few pounds of body weight.
3. Sizes for Brides aren't Always Inclusive
Size-inclusive options are becoming more common. However, "bridal beauty" is often depicted as being slim or thin. Advertisements generally show thin, white women as the standard for wedding day glamour.
Salons sometimes neglect to include dresses that work for patrons who aren't the average-sized bride -- such as those losing weight due to cancer or other conditions, or those who are healthy at larger sizes. Colostomy bags and other medical necessities are often met with frustration or seen as complications.
Bridal lines offering size-inclusive options and tailoring gowns to accommodate brides of all sizes makes the salon a safer place. Brides should be blushing because they feel attended to, not because they feel embarrassed about their body image.
Businesses like K and B Bridals set a great example by never charging "plus-size dress fees - ever".
Top Tips From a Nutrition Expert For Feeling Great In Your Wedding Dress (That Have Nothing to Do With Weight)
Tip #1: Track your health journey with Non-Scale Victories (NSVs)
Non-scale victories, or NSVs, are a great way to monitor your health journey without needing to step on the scale. They focus on tracking progress my means other than the weight measurement.
For example, instead of making a goal to fit into your wedding dress, maybe your goal could be to visit with a dietitian to develop a healthier body image and habits. Wedding-related goals can be short-term and short-lived. NSVs, on the other hand, can help healthy habits and eating patterns stick around for the long-term.
Tip #2: Shop size-inclusive bridal lines
Size-inclusive bridal lines make shopping for brides of any size easier. I've linked some of my favorites here:
Tip #3: Research before the bridal salon.
Online research and shopping can be a great way to see what styles are available. Wedding planning can be stressful, so it's important to save what energy you can! Gather inspiration and save photos of your favorites before making an appointment at the salon.
Remember there's so many dresses out there -- it's okay if the first one or the first dress shop aren't the right fit. Keep refining and learning about your wedding style until you find the dress and experience that is the "right fit" for you (in all the ways).
Tip #4: Ask about sister styles.
Sister styles are dresses similar to the original design but with small modifications. For example, a dress you love might have a higher back in its sister style. This modification can help allocate support in all the right places and make you feel more comfortable and fitted in your dress for your big day.
Tip #5: Undergarments can make all the difference.
It isn't always just about the dress. The right undergarments matter, too! Find options that give you the shape and support you feel fits you best.
Some dresses have supportive linings built in, so be sure to know what style of support you are looking for.
Tip #6: The tag doesn't always tell the truth.
Since bridal sizing charts can differ, tagged dresses might not be the sizing system you are used to. Dresses are also sized different than jeans, pants, or other items.
This is why it is important to have an expert consultant to help you navigate sample sizes and how dress sizes can differ between designers.
Tip #7: Dietitians can help you manage wedding related weight management in a safe & healthy way.
If you are looking to manage weight leading up to your wedding day, seek advice from a registered dietitian nutritionist (an RD or RDN). These practitioners are the experts on nutrition and went to years of school to offer you evidence-based advice.
Even though your weight goals are likely motivated in part by your wedding, dietitians can help you implement healthy habits that last into your marriage and beyond. Long-term changes can be sustained with the trained experts on your side.
Don't know where to start? Here are a few resources designed by dietitians:
The Bottom Line on Bridal Size
Bridal beauty doesn't come in one shape or size. Healthy habits are possible for bridals of all sizes, and weight-related goals can be accomplished with the help of a registered dietitian (RD). Size-inclusive lines and long-term health goals remind brides that the "right fit" is the dress that fits them perfectly -- not the dress that they have to change themselves to fit.
Hoo FS. These Size-Inclusive Bridal Lines Have Wedding Dresses, For All Styles and Budgets. Fashionista.com. Published July 20, 2020.
Kleinfeld. How To Shop for a Size Inclusive Wedding Dress. Kleinfeldbridal.com. Accessed 2021.