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My perfect wedding dress caused stress, anxiety and my first panic attack

20 Jun 2019

Florence Battersby discusses the stress of finding her dream wedding dress and the pressure to look perfect on your big day

(Wedding images: Courtney Louise Photography)

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When I became a bride-to-be, I couldn’t wait to start planning. I was so excited to hunt for venues, begin building rustic wedding favours, and most of all find the perfect wedding dress.

I had watched years of bridal television shows to know that I wanted the ultimate bridal experience, so a year before the wedding I began looking for my dress.

I learned very quickly that the experience isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I was rushed in and out of appointments, pressured to commit to dresses and asked if I was going to lose weight. It’s funny because no other shopping experience would warrant that question, yet for some reason when it’s your wedding, the question is acceptable. Perhaps I was unlucky with the bridal shops I chose. 

I went to multiple wedding stores, tried on many different styles and silhouettes and eventually found my perfect dress. It was a beautiful fit and flare lace gown which hugged every part of my body. I had always felt very insecure in my own skin, never embracing my curves, yet this dress made me for the first time feel proud of my figure and ready to embrace it. I wanted to feel 'wow' on my wedding day and this dress made me feel 'wow'.

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I now had 12 months to wait to wear my 'perfect dress'. In that time, I experienced many stresses: I bought a house, my grandfather passed away and my whole routine was up in the air. I was stressed, and when I’m stressed, I eat.

I also have an unhealthy relationship with scales. I had been trying to avoid them to break the habit, and had, therefore, become blind to my weight gain. When the fitting day finally came around, I stepped into my beautiful wedding dress, and it didn’t zip up. It barely went over my bottom, I was simply too fat for it. I was heartbroken. The dress that had once made me feel so beautiful suddenly made me feel my most ugly.

The next few months, I spiralled. I cut out all carbs, was eating only vegetables and protein and was hitting the gym. I was completely focused and all I was thinking about was the dress. However, the humiliation of my fitting failure consumed me and resulted in my first ever panic attack.

After eventually speaking out to my family members about my first fitting fiasco, I was advised to try on other dresses. They didn’t want my wedding experience to be tainted because of this one experience. We made the decision to go to WED2B and we found another dress, a beautiful dress.

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Then came the day where I had my second dress fitting. I still hadn’t decided on which dress I wanted to wear but I was feeling a bit better. At least I had options. When I stepped into my first dress, my anxiety began to build. The dress went up over my bottom and zipped up with room to spare. I had lost the weight and the dress fitted… but it wasn’t my dress anymore.

I had felt so beautiful and then so ugly in that first dress that I couldn’t revert back to that original feeling. My loyalty had now transferred to my second dress and I loved it. For the first time in a long while, I felt beautiful. I was ready to get married.

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However, just because I eventually found my wedding dress, it didn’t mean my anxiety or panic attacks disappeared. I still felt tight in the chest and would have nightmares about not being able to fit in my new dress. My irrational fears were still very much at the forefront and I couldn’t shake them off. 

On the day of the wedding, 28th May 2019, I was nervous but I was desperate to push all of my fears down in to my stomach. I had to be calm and I kept telling myself: “Just be calm, don’t worry, it will fit”. It wasn’t until I stepped in to my wedding dress for the final time that I felt somewhat at peace.

I couldn’t wait to see my soon-to-be husband, Ashley Bates, who had supported me throughout the whole process. 

As I heard the music play, my chest was tight again and my anxiety began to build. My father took me warmly by the hand and began guiding me in to the room. It was at that moment something changed in me. I truly was calm and all I wanted to do was marry my best friend. 

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To find out more about Florence’s story, see her full wedding dress journey

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