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Shawn Johnson's Wedding Dress Was 'Magical:' 'I've Been a Hard Fit My Entire Life, [but] I Loved It So Much!' (Exclusive)

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With her powerful gymnast body and petite stature, gold medal Olympian Shawn Johnson was not looking forward to shopping for a dress for her April 16 wedding to beau Andrew East.

“I was kind of terrified,” Johnson tells PEOPLE. “I’ve been a hard fit my entire life — I’m so short and curvy and muscular and big busted, it’s always been awkward to find something that’s flattering.”

Shawn Johnson wedding
Lindsey Grace Whiddon/Wild Native Co


So when the gymnast met Nashville designer Olia Zavozina, she came with a list of “don’ts” in hand: “I was a thousand percent against strapless, I didn’t picture myself having a huge train or veil and I didn’t want lace,” says Johnson, 24.

But to her surprise, “I ended up going with a skin-tight mermaid gown!” she says. “I loved it so much. I felt comfortable and girlie in it. Olia is a magician!”

The gown, made of silk duchess satin with a trumpet silhouette, features a geometrical lace bodice with matching lace trim along the hem. Johnson opted to keep the look simple, eschewing beading or jewels, except for a line of pearls down the back. “I didn’t want the flash,” says Johnson, who, as a former Dancing with the Stars champ, knows a little something about glitz. “I feel like every wedding dress I ever saw was so over the top, and having done Dancing and worn rhinestones head to toe, I didn’t know you could get anything that looks simple that wasn’t just a plain gown. To me this dress is classy but different.” (See it in motion in a video shared by White in Revery!)

RELATED VIDEO: Shawn Johnson’s romantic wedding highlights!

Johnson was so in love with the custom design, which features a silk satin organza cathedral train and which she paired with a custom headpiece and jewelry by Elena Zavozina, that she choose to wear the gown all night rather than switching to a separate reception dress for the party (which featured a seven-tier cake and a surprise serenade!).

“There was a little change because the train comes off, but I always felt like if you find that dream dress you should wear it the whole night,” she says.

RELATED PHOTOS: The most unconventional celebrity wedding gowns!

Walking down the aisle to meet NFL player East “felt amazing,” Johnson says. “It was the greatest feeling ever.”

East, a long snapper for the Oakland Raiders, agreed.

“Seeing her there in that beautiful white dress with a big smile on her face and a twinkle in her eye, it couldn’t have been any more perfect,” he says. “She looked immaculate.”

Do you love the dress?

–Eileen Finan