At Maggie, we believe that every body is beautiful, different, and has a unique story to tell, and that embracing body positivity starts with YOU. That’s why we are so excited to present our beautiful Real Brides, Jessica and Ronda! A gorgeous couple who has found the love of a lifetime while fighting the battle of a lifetime together. All while maintaining body positivity and self-love!
Keep reading to learn their story and about how Maggie supports love and love for ALL. But first, if you want more tips and tricks, wedding education and #MaggieInspiration for your big day, make sure to sign up for some exclusive text messages below!
Ronda and Jessica’s Journey Towards Self-Love and Body Positivity
Meet Ronda and Jessica! After meeting while working at California Pizza Kitchen in 2010, Jessica and Ronda had an instant connection. After eight years of a beautiful friendship, a shared move to Hawaii, a shared-bed trope (if you know, you know), and one heartbreak (don’t worry, not to each other!), the butterflies began.
In 2017, after a Tim McGraw concert and Broncos vs. Giants NFL game, their fairytale began with a kiss, and they had their dream fairytale love story! While not everyone supported their love story as they had hoped their love remained. However, tragedy struck when Ronda’s father, who raised her as a single father, passed away in an accident in 2018. That same year, when Jessica was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to undergo a double mastectomy and three excruciating months of chemotherapy, they knew that if they could get through the last year together, they could get through anything.
Maintaining self-love and body positivity was something they both worked hard on throughout the hardships that they faced, especially when Jessica was unable to receive breast implants because of an allergy. With the help of Ronda, rather than giving up, Jessica embraced her body and beauty. This inner strength and body acceptance were especially important when it came to wedding dress shopping!
While shopping for a wedding dress after her double mastectomy seemed daunting, Maggie Sottero’s premium construction and incomparable fit made it possible for Jessica and Rona to find their dream gowns. Read more to learn about their wedding dress shopping journey below.
Jessica, could you tell us more about your experience with battling breast cancer and how this affected your mindset as you thought about wedding dress shopping?
“When I found the lump and got the diagnosis, it was a life-changing moment. I knew that I wouldn’t ever be my whole self again.”
“I was scared to think about what was going to happen, but I knew I was going to be okay. My cousin had gone through breast cancer about thirteen years before I did. When I saw her go through this process, it made me feel like I could handle it too. I knew getting my boobs completely removed was going to be a challenge and something I was going to have to get used to. My boobs were part of me, and I have a lot of stories with them, so I knew getting rid of them wasn’t going to be easy. But when I thought about them killing me, it was an easy choice.”
“After the double mastectomy surgery where I removed them completely, I definitely felt self-conscious. Looking at myself differently in shirts and seeing my flat chest didn’t make me comfortable. It took a long time before I wore any type of V-neck or low-cut shirt. I tried to wear bras with cup inserts, and it just wasn’t the same. I wasn’t comfortable both because I was still recovering and because it just wasn’t me. In time, I had to get used to a completely flat chest.”
“At this point, Ronda and I were dating, so it was also hard recovering from everything. Once, I started working and going out in public. I had lost my hair and breasts, so people would look at me in a way I wasn’t used to. I didn’t feel like me, and I had to get comfortable with this new version of me that I didn’t know.”
“The vision of a wedding dress is very girlie. The V-neck, low-cut, or something off the shoulder that most girls think of is not something that will look good on me. I can’t even wear some women’s tank tops or swimsuits because of that. There are no boobs or the chest to hold it up. I was nervous that finding a dress would be the same. Because of my scars, sensitivity, and lack of breasts I didn’t think that I would find one. I didn’t want to feel like I was going to feel pressured and wear a bra or something that makes me look as if I have boobs. I have definitely become more confident in the last year or so, but sometimes, I have a hard time even shopping for women’s shirts, and I didn’t expect wedding dresses to fit bodies like mine!”
If you’re needing some body positivity while preparing for wedding dress shopping, make sure to read our blog for some mental health tips.
How did your double mastectomy affect your wedding dress shopping experience?
“Honestly, it was a lot easier than I ever thought it would be. For my first initial fitting, I was told to come in with a nude bra, and I laughed as I responded, ‘I don’t even own a bra.’ Which, good thing Ronda had one I could borrow, though luckily, I didn’t need it.”
“The wedding dresses I tried on were flawless. They made me feel as if I never went through cancer or chemo at all. The gowns helped me build so much body positivity since I wasn’t able to see my scars or my insecurities. I saw the old version of myself, the one that was confident and had a lot of body positivity, which honestly, made the whole experience easy and seamless.”
“However, the pressure that society puts on us and the lack of inclusivity for women like me made going into this experience really difficult. The models that we see aren’t flat-chested and they aren’t photographed after breast cancer, so it didn’t give me hope or a vision of the options I would have.”
“If I didn’t have Maggie Sottero or the expertise of family members, I don’t know if I would have found my dream dress.”
For information on what to expect when you’re wedding dress shopping, make sure to read our blog to learn all the must-have information!
How did you both maintain body positivity during your bridal appointments? And what were both of your experiences while wedding dress shopping?
Ronda: “Jessica is the most confident woman I have ever met. Boobless, hairless, sick, healthy, short hair, long hair, it doesn’t matter. Jess never lets things affect her. She is amazing.”
“And my experience wedding dress shopping brought up a lot of mixed emotions. Thinking of this answer makes me extremely emotional because honestly, I didn’t think it would be this hard without my dad. I never pictured him wedding dress shopping with me, but when my appointment day came the hardest part was not having him there with me. Instantly, I knew my dress was ‘the one’ because I asked myself if I could see my dad holding one arm and Jess the other, and I saw that image so clearly in the mirror that I started crying. I knew that was the dress that represented me, and my dad was going to be there with me.”
“Maggie Sottero made the process so much smoother than I could have ever imagined. The staff already had an idea of what I wanted and how I wanted to look. It literally made me feel like a princess playing dress-up. I appreciated how easy it was because I think without having it so simple and organized, I would have crumbled emotionally. I don’t know if I would have ever picked a dress walking into another boutique because I think I would have been too overwhelmed and emotional.”
Jessica: “I was very scared and very intimated as I went into the studio. Once I put the first dress on, all of my insecurities went away, and I felt confident.”
Maggie Sottero wedding dresses are known for their impeccable fits. How did the construction of these gowns help you overcome any negative thoughts you had about potential fit?
“The dresses I tried on had different choices for my chest. The way the chest area is designed made it feel like I wasn’t missing my breasts but was not uncomfortable or pretending. The strapless options I tried were easy and actually fit against my body, not having breasts to hold the dress up! None of the dresses were heavy or uncomfortable for me to wear.”
“The designs were very complementary to my body type and something I felt incredibly sexy in.”
Wedding planning is a stressful time. How have you both been maintaining your body positivity and taking care of yourselves mentally, emotionally, and physically while preparing for the big day?
Ronda: “I am a therapist who sits with everyone else’s feelings. So, when it comes to my own, I am exhausted from talking about feelings, and I sometimes don’t.”
“Jess always knows, though, when something is wrong, when I’m stressed, when I just need a night in cuddled up on the couch. She holds me accountable a lot but makes it easy. We had some stress about planning the wedding, but honestly, that stress came when we started to plan our wedding for everyone else. To make everyone else happy and accommodated.”
“There was tension between us especially because families were involved, on both sides with very opposing family dynamics. The second we redirected and started to plan the wedding of what we wanted, the whole process became so stinkin’ easy! We are excited! We feel happy when we talk about it now. The saddest part for us is that we can’t bring our dogs, honestly.”
“To maintain body positivity, emotionally, we talk to each other. I cry when I need to and talk about my feelings, and Jess is my listening ear. Physically, I’ve gone back to the gym, which has been so great for me to feel mentally more grounded and more attractive.”
Jessica: “I am trying to eat better and make healthier choices of what I am taking into my body. It’s easy having Ronda around to be motivated and do things together. We love walking the dogs and spending time in the kitchen. Jokingly, I tell Ronda that I’m her therapist, so I am always helping her process.”
“Usually, I don’t have many things that stress me out and I don’t worry about things. Typically, Ronda does enough of that for both of us. I am probably the better partner with grounding and being calm, whereas Ronda is the more emotional and intimate one. So, we even each other out.”
What is some advice that you have for brides who are on the same journey as the two of you?
Ronda: “Watching Jessica go through chemo was so hard, and my heart broke because of how weak she was. Yet, it was an incredible time of growth for us because we didn’t give up on each other. Before she started chemo, the doctor actually told us that most marriages don’t make it through treatment which was astonishing to us.”
“If you are in a relationship and are going through something similar, think positive. Don’t live in dread of that stressful moment. Find joy, make each other laugh, and remind your partner why you fell in love with them. If they are sick and they are going through chemo or breast augmentation, know that these changes do not mean you are losing or getting rid of your partner.”
“They are still your soon-to-be wife, don’t treat them any different. It’s what you’re signing up for, in sickness and in health. Just take care of them, love them a little bit more, and cuddle them a little bit harder.”
“And honestly, when it comes to planning your wedding, truly listen to yourself and your partner. Do what YOU want for your wedding. Don’t plan it because your mom expects you to do it a certain way, or your grandma wants a specific type of flower. Plan your wedding the way you have always envisioned it with your partner. It is YOUR day to celebrate you and YOUR love.”
“And stop comparing yourself to any other bride. As long as you feel confident in your dress, it doesn’t have to be traditional. It doesn’t have to be what you have seen in movies, and it shouldn’t be about how others will view you. If you feel beautiful and you feel like the best version of yourself, then that is your dress! It’s all about you and your partner on YOUR day, it’s not about anyone else. Don’t let anyone else take that from you. You are worthy of having everything YOU desire, so stop stressing about getting approval from everyone else.”
Jessica: “Listen to your body and take care of yourself. When it comes to surviving breast cancer, do your research! Make sure to ask questions and get a second opinion if you need to discuss all options.”
“Also, try not to freak out. Stay positive and hopeful. There are hard days but it’s temporary. The test will pass. You will look back one day and know you did one of the hardest things you’re ever going to do. The world is a hard enough place. Don’t make it harder and hate on yourself.”
“If you are planning a wedding, have fun with your partner! Don’t make it stressful. Listen to yourself and your body. No one can tell you differently. Go with what makes you feel comfortable and confident. Don’t be afraid to laugh. Try on the poofiest, most sparkly, and completely different dress than what you could imagine yourself in! You never know what you are going to fall in love with”
Jessica and Ronda’s story is the ultimate reminder that love. Whether it is for your partner or yourself, love is the only way to navigate life, through thick and thin.
With a Cancun wedding just around the corner, Jessica and Ronda will be getting married on July 4, 2023 – the anniversary of the day they knew they’d love each other until the end of time! Watch their video below to hear their exclusive interview.
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