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Image: Isabel Dunklin
Courtesy of Isabel Dunklin
Isabel Dunklin went from a size 16 to a size 4 in time for her wedding after losing 58 pounds.
TODAY contributor
updated 6/13/2011 3:33:41 PM ET 2011-06-13T19:33:41

After getting engaged, Beth Wheeler found her dream wedding dress. The only problem: It was 18 sizes too small.

At 309 pounds, Wheeler was determined to lose weight. She joined Weight Watchers in April 2009, and set a goal to lose 140 pounds. Just four days before her wedding in southwest England she reached her target.

“It felt like a real achievement to be wearing that dress knowing what I'd gone through to get there and I received so many compliments,” Beth, 36, told the Daily Mail. “I did start slimming before we got engaged but it was the real motivation and it gave me something to aim toward.”

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Losing weight for your wedding is a long-standing tradition for brides-to-be. But for brides with a lot to lose, finding the right wedding dress can be a real challenge. It can also be the motivation many need to embark on a strict weight-loss regimen.

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Actress Sherri Shepherd recently told People magazineshe lied when ordering the wedding gown she'll wear in August — and gave the dressmakers a "fantasy size." Now, she told the mag, she's on the South Beach Diet and starting Zumba classes to fit into it.

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When Isabel Dunklin went to try on dresses after she got engaged, she found that nothing in the store fit her size 16 figure. Dunklin weighed 198 pounds at the time, and knew she wanted to slim down for her wedding. She started exercising regularly, but quickly grew frustrated.

“My goal was to get down to a single-digit size for my wedding,” Dunklin told TODAY.com. “I really wanted to be — at most — a size 8. But although I had started exercising, I didn’t change my eating habits and it made little difference. I was lucky we had a four-year engagement so I had time to try different options.”

Slideshow: Chic summer bridal gowns (on this page)

After several months, she decided to take her cousin’s advice and try Weight Watchers. Two years later, Dunklin had lost 58 pounds and was down to a size 4.

“The next time I went shopping for my wedding dress, I wanted to try on every dress in the store,” said the California native. “I fit into every dress there, and what a difference it made to me. All of a sudden, I was looking forward to dressing up on my wedding day instead of dreading it.”

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Dunklin ended up walking down the aisle in a sleeveless dress, a style she had not even considered before losing the weight.

“I never thought I could wear a dress without sleeves because my arms were so huge,” said Dunklin. “After losing so much weight I knew exactly what I wanted to wear. But the best part about losing the weight is that now I know what I need to do to be comfortable. I have built a foundation for the rest of my life. It’s been a struggle, but it’s been worth it.”

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Photos: Chic summer bridal gowns

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  1. Chic within your reach

    Boutiques are no longer the go-to stop for bridal gowns. These days, you can hit up your local mall – or even Costco – to find the wedding dress of your dreams.

    With fashion guidance from TODAY style editor and Bobbie.com’s Bobbie Thomas, take a look at gowns from mass-market retailers that are redefining the bridal industry market.

    Ann Taylor: Rose Petal Wedding Gown, $750
    Flirty florals are always eye-catching: Ann Taylor's silk rose petal wedding gown is covered in appliquéd petals for a mesmerizing effect.

    Bobbie Thomas' take: "This soft and fluttery style is great for a bride who wants to add a little curve to her shape." (Ann Taylor) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Ann Taylor: Embroidered Tea Length Dress, $695

    Who says it has to be long? Ann Taylor's short, strapless dress features a full crinkle skirt for a play of textures and proportions.

    Bobbie Thomas' take: "A darling combination of sweet and girly – perfect for a day wedding." (Ann Taylor) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. BHLDN: Burnished Organza Gown, $1,400

    Take it up a notch with BHLDN's strapless bohemian gown, featuring sparkling bronze sequins at the top and five dramatic tiers of embroidered silk on the bottom.

    Bobbie Thomas' take: "Interesting details and elements make this gown perfect for the bride who wants something different." (BHLDN) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. BHLDN: Sweeping Tafetta Ball Gown, $1,600

    If you're looking for sophisticated drama, BHLDN's taffeta gown features a dramatically scooped neckline and a majestic A-line skirt. Not that it's without any whimsy: the dress also comes with handy side pockets.

    Bobbie Thomas' take: "For the belle of the ball, this grand gown makes a statement without looking over-the-top." (BHLDN) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. BHLDN: Greenbow Lace Gown, $600

    For the hippie in love, Tracy Reese's romantic crocheted lace dress comes dotted with globe buttons and encircled by grosgrain at the waist.

    Bobbie Thomas' take: "Vintage inspired with a romantic bohemian appeal, fantastic for a spring/summer outdoor affair or country wedding." (BHLDN) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Kirstie Kelly for Costco: English Net & Alencon Lace, $999.99

    Yes, you can get your gown at Costco! While stocking up on a year's supply of toilet paper, you can also purchase this Kirstie Kelly Alencon lace trumpet gown with an elegant sweetheart neckline.

    Bobbie Thomas' take: "A great option with a universally flattering neckline and sophisticated details." (Kelly for Costco) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Kirstie Kelly for Costco: Petal Lace Gown, $1,299.99

    For the romantic bride, Kirstie Kelly offers a petal lace trumpet gown with a subtle sweetheart neckline and cording hand sewn throughout the skirt.

    Bobbie Thomas' take: "This demure, feminine gown is perfect for a bride who is stylish yet conservative." (Kelly for Costco) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. David's Bridal: Oleg Cassini Gown, $850, with Bolero, $129

    Moments after Kate Middleton revealed her wedding gown, companies feverishly began emulating her classic look. David's Bridal re-creates the royal style – without the palace price tag – by pairing a strapless ball gown silhouette with a lace bolero.

    Bobbie Thomas' take: "Timeless and full of grace, this classic look is a chic option." (David’s Bridal) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. J. Crew: Starling Dress, $1,400

    J. Crew offers the perfect flirty option – a silk taffeta dress with festive ruffles, ostrich feathers and lace.

    Bobbie Thomas' take: "Sweet yet not too simple, this cocktail-length dress is fun, feminine and fabulous for a carefree setting." (J.Crew) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. J.Crew: Duchesse Satin Noelle Gown, $2,500

    Capture an old-world glamour with this vintage-inspired dress, complete with a traditional empire silhouette, dramatic bottom and three-quarter-length sleeves.

    Bobbie Thomas' take: "Consider this one conservative chic, a traditional gown fit for a queen." (J.Crew) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. J. Crew: Silk Chiffon Whitney Gown, $425

    Keep it casual with a flowy, strapless gown made of lightweight silk chiffon and boasting an eye-catching sash that falls down the center front.

    Bobbie Thomas' take: "Flowy, breezy and easy, this gown is ideal for a destination wedding." (J.Crew) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. White by Vera Wang for David's Bridal: Ball Gown with Fully Draped Skirt, $1,400

    For the modern princess, Vera Wang offers a princess-seam bodice and a flowy, breathtaking skirt.

    Bobbie Thomas' take: "Brides in search of the fairy-tale gown will appreciate this delicate yet dramatic gown." (Vera Wang for David’s Bridal) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. White by Vera Wang for David's Bridal: Gown with Hand Appliqued Lace, $800

    Vera Wang brings her golden touch to this unique lace gown featuring a romantic, asymmetrical pattern over soft, sensuous netting.

    Bobbie Thomas' take: "This understated yet whimsical design feels like a modern fantasy." (Vera Wang for David’s Bridal) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Ann Taylor
    Above: Slideshow (13) Chic summer bridal gowns
  2. Image: 82nd Annual Academy Awards - Arrivals
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    Slideshow (34) Celebrity weddings


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