Plus Size Brides Couldn't Find Resources That Supported Or Represented Them, So They Created Their Own
If you're on Facebook these days, maybe it's to keep an eye on what your parents are posting about you, or to keep track of the birthdays of every person you've ever met (and then some). But for brides, Facebook is a daily destination — specifically, wedding planning groups on Facebook. In the past few years, these groups have multiplied and became a giant hive of hundreds of thousands of past and future brides (and grooms). They're a place to ask questions without judgment, to find inspiration, and, for many plus size brides, a place to find support, encouragement, and community in a wedding industry that often dismisses or ignores anyone who isn't thin.
I can't remember if it was a friend or Facebook itself (the algorithm knows all) that, after I got engaged, suggested I join one of the largest, most notorious wedding-centric Facebook groups, That's It, I'm Wedding Shaming. As the name suggests, the posts in this one are focused on shaming "bad" weddings that people see on their timelines and is known as much for being inspiration for wedding dos/don'ts as it is for being a source of negativity. What that somewhat divisive group soon taught me, though, is that if one type of wedding planning group isn't your style, there's another one out there for you a click or two away. There are groups that only focus on positive reviews of weddings. Groups that focus solely on resources for LGBTQ brides and grooms. There are groups for budget weddings. And there is one group that's only for people planning weddings who have a budget over $50,000.
I eventually found myself in a couple larger, more general wedding Facebook groups I liked. Then, I started to notice a pattern. A couple times a week, I'd begin seeing posts from plus size brides about their fears of dress shopping — that nothing would fit, that the consultant would body shame them, that the dress they liked wouldn't be available in their size. They were looking for encouragement, for advice, for other plus size brides to tell them that it would all be OK.
I took notice of these posts because I was looking for all of this, too. In all of my time as a fashion editor and as a person who had an elaborate wedding inspiration Pinterest board, I never once saw wedding resources that were specifically for plus size brides. I never once saw styled shoots featuring a plus size bride, or a detailed chart about what exactly was so messed up about wedding dress sizing. If you were to look at the wedding industry as an outsider, you'd think that people over a size 10 or 12 simply don't get married — or don't exist at all.
In the comments on these posts from plus size brides, people would often suggest wedding planning Facebook groups specifically for plus size, body positive, and/or fat positive brides. Of course, I joined them, too. Even before I got engaged, I had Googled what it was like to go dress shopping as as a size 14 or 16, and most often what I had found was an odd blog post or two. There simply were not mainstream resources for plus size people — unless you count the gross amount of weight loss content that is targeted toward engaged people ("sweating for the wedding" can go right to hell, thank you) of all sizes, but especially those who aren't thin.
When I joined the fat positive wedding planning Facebook group The Big Day, I found a community of people who fully recognized that the industry had, at best, ignored them or encouraged them to change and, at worst, dismissed them entirely. So they decided to build their own community, and their own resources.
Jane Jeneczko Langland, a 26-year-old who works in business operations, joined a few Facebook wedding groups (both "fat-centric" and not, she notes) while planning her November 2017 wedding.
"It's hard being a plus size bride. It sucks, but it's true. Very [few] parts of the wedding industry cater to fat brides and my one and only wedding boutique experience was so bad, I literally left and cried in my car. I bought my dress online, which I never would have imagined having to do and, at the time, it was devastating to me," Langland tells me in an interview. "However, seeing other fat women in the groups and seeing their photos was so encouraging and made me feel so excited about my own wedding. Representation matters."
Very [few] parts of the wedding industry cater to fat brides and my one and only wedding boutique experience was so bad, I literally left and cried in my car.
The idea of community is a common thread in all these wedding groups, but for plus size brides, it's even more important. While the bridal industry has certainly become more inclusive in recent years, the truth remains that for every 100 bridal inspiration Instagram accounts or websites, there is maybe one that features plus size bodies on a regular basis.
Jane Hopfer, a 23-year-old marketing coordinator, is currently planning a wedding and is in three different wedding planning Facebook groups. Hopfer tells me that, for her, the Facebook groups offered community, but were also a practical source of advice.
"I've asked for clothing-specific advice [in the groups], i.e. 'I'm looking for this specific style for engagement photos and can't seem to find anything in a plus size, has anyone seen it?'" Hopfer says. "I've also asked about advice on dealing with family members who are not on board with you being a plus size person and expect you to try to hide it or at least to go on some sort of extreme diet prior to the wedding."
Destinee Solari, a 25-year-old photographer who is getting married in July 2019, echoed Hopfer's comments when it came to asking for advice.
"Common questions that I asked (and still do, even though my wedding is in three months) [were] how to find bridal shops that are plus size friendly, discussing why the wedding industry still barely acknowledges us (plus size brides and grooms), how to not get sucked into the toxicity of wedding diet culture, and how to not feel pressured to have to drastically change myself for my wedding day," Solari says. "I also asked common things, like, how does this dress look, and where to buy shoes."
While there aren't as many plus size or fat positivity-focused Facebook wedding planning groups as there are groups for general wedding planning or praising, there are a few (in addition to The Big Day, The Wide Bride and Pretty Pear Bride are among the most popular) that continue to gain traction and collectively have thousands of members.
Kathryn Clark started The Big Day in October 2018 while planning her own wedding and experiencing what she called "a level of body loathing I hadn't felt in a long time."
"The general wedding groups and all the wedding magazines really idolize the very thin frames and you didn't really see bodies like mine," Clark tells me. "So I started the group, as there wasn't really any groups like it, so I could see and support bodies more like mine."
Clark says that she thinks members of the group want the same things out of it that she did: "to see their bodies presented as beautiful in the context of weddings [and] escape the relentless pressure to lose weight as part of wedding prep."
The general wedding groups and all the wedding magazines really idolize the very thin frames and you didn't really see bodies like mine
Since October 2018, the group has gained more than 800 followers and Clark tells me that she hopes the group continues to grow, becoming a "beacon of fat positive weddings."
Facebook groups like The Big Day are reflective of something that plus size people have known for a long time now: When an industry doesn't show up for them, they have to show up for each other. When a brand doesn't want to add plus sizes, plus size people themselves are the ones who have to explain why they also deserve to have clothes that fit. So it's not surprising that when plus size people recognized that there weren't any communities for brides-to-be over a size 12 or 14, that they created those places themselves, too.
Facebook groups like The Big Day are reflective of something that plus size people have known for a long time now: When an industry doesn't show up for them, they have to show up for each other.
Going through the planning process of what, for many brides, is one of the most important, most expensive days of their lives is stressful and overwhelming at any size. Going through it and feeling like the industry itself doesn't believe that plus size brides are as worthy of celebration or promotion as straight size brides is flat-out demoralizing. And feeling like there's no one else that feels the same way as you? It can be devastating.
These Facebook groups are working to ensure that, if nothing else, there's never going to be another plus size bride who feels like they are the only one who's invisible to bridal shops or wedding inspiration Instagram accounts, or the only one who feels the pressure to change themselves in order to fit into an industry that simply doesn't serve them.
"You'll be hard-pressed to find plus size people used in styled wedding shoots, or treated with respect during the wedding dress shopping experience," Solari says. "These groups make you feel a little less alone — a little more human, and a little more like you're more than a number."