Ahh, weddings! I absolutely love them and always have. I remember being about 12 years old, planning what color bridesmaids dresses I would choose and what sorts of flowers I wanted to carry. Ironically, my actual bridesmaids chose their own dresses from a color pallet, and to keep things simple (and affordable) I opted for baby's breath in lieu of fancy flowers. Turns out, many things change from your middle school dreams to your real wedding.
While I'm certainly no Katherine Heigel à la 27 Dresses, I spent a large chunk of my weekends throughout my 20s celebrating marriages. From bridal showers and bachelorette parties, to rehearsal dinners, ceremonies, and receptions, I've seen it and LOVE it all! Doesn't matter if we're in a church or a bar or a hotel or lakeside, I am here. for. it.
Of course as a therapist and an INFJ, I'm always observing. One major theme I've noticed is the anxiety-provoking nature of wedding season. Whether you're the bride, a bridesmaid, or a guest, pressure can be high and feelings of anxiety can escalate. And so, over the next three weeks, we'll be talking about coping with wedding-related anxiety here on the blog. We'll talk about being the anxious bride, of course, as well as the anxious bridesmaid and the anxious wedding guest.
Let's get started- how to cope with anxiety when YOU are the bride. Let's break it down between the wedding planning process and the wedding itself.
How to cope with anxiety while planning your wedding
1. Delegation is your friend. I promise, the people in your life want to help. Ask them.
2. Remember the end goal. All of the hullabaloo is about a marriage- right? Keep that in mind. Focus on what matters. A beautiful marriage is infinitely more important than a beautiful wedding. Go on a date with your fiancé and DO NOT TALK ABOUT THE WEDDING. Seriously. Remember all those things you talked about and enjoyed pre-engagement? Go back to those. Give your mind a rest from all the plans and particulars of the wedding. Enjoy your relationship!
3. With all your important bridal to-do's, make time to care for yourself. Your personal needs are easy to gloss over while planning a wedding- but you need to tend to them. I'm not talking anything fancy here. Literally things like getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, exercising in some way, and eating at least semi-well.
4. The bridal shower is often a time of anxiety for brides- opening gifts in front of people can be anxiety-provoking. Many people feel uncomfortable with all the focus on them, especially when there is an expectation of a response after opening a gift. This is a very common experience. Remind yourself that you don't need to say anything beyond "thank you" when opening gifts, and that- and I say this as an attender of many bridal showers- people aren't paying that close of attention. We've already seen everything on your gift registry, to be honest with you!
5. Handling the financial part of your wedding can be anxiety-provoking. Oftentimes, the wedding planning process is the first time a couple is looking at their combined finances. This can make for some interesting surprises! If wedding finances are causing some anxiety, consider this your crash course for handling finances in marriage. Money fights and money problems are a leading cause of divorce, so it's in your best interest to learn how to communicate about finances now. I highly recommend investing in premarital counseling as part of your wedding budget- this will give you a structured way to discuss important topics like finances in a non-threatening manner. I often refer clients to Financial Peace University in addition to premarital counseling.
6. Focus on shifting your mindset. Your thoughts have a large impact on how you feel, so it's important to bring awareness to your mental life. Do you notice many thoughts starting with "what if...?" If yes- those are likely fueled by anxiety. Acknowledge your anxious thought, and try shifting it. The anxious thought keeps you stuck. The helpful thought fuels you toward action.
Here's an example:
Anxious thought: What if it rains during our outdoor ceremony?
Helpful thought: I can't change the weather, but I can make a rainy-day contingency plan.
How to cope with anxiety on your wedding day
1. Eat! I'm not kidding- so many brides skip eating on their own wedding day, because they don't believe they have time, OR because they are so emotional they don't feel like eating. Not having enough food in your belly can mess with your blood sugar, causing you to feel anxious or otherwise not well. Make sure to eat before AND during your wedding! I know a couple who actually ate dinner in private during the reception- that way they were both able to eat their meals without interruption, while enjoying a sweet moment together before joining their guests for the dance.
2. Drink enough water. Ask a bridesmaid to be on "water duty"- her duties might just be bringing you a glass of water every so often. You'll be so busy dancing or chatty with guests that it might be difficult to get your own drinks. You may also want to watch your alcohol intake- sometimes alcohol can provoke your anxiety, so if you're noticing that happening ask the bartender to make you a yummy mocktail instead.
3. Step away for a moment. Take five minutes away from the hubbub to just breathe or try a grounding exercise- my favorite is 5-4-3-2-1. Here's how it works: Find 5 things you can see that make you feel calm. Once you have those, find 4 things you can touch that make you feel calm. Then find 3 things you can hear that make you feel calm. Next notice two scents that make you feel calm. Finally, take note of one taste that makes you feel good. Complete the exercise by taking a deep breath in and out.
4. Just like while you were planning the wedding, keep your eyes on the prize. If you find yourself feeling anxious about something happening at the reception, ask someone to take care of it and bring your attention back to the goal of the wedding, which was to get married. If that happened, is does not matter what else might be going wrong.
5. Practice gratitude. It's very difficult for anxiety and gratitude to coexist. Take a few minutes with your new spouse or a bridesmaid, and just make a list of everything you are thankful for- and don't take it too seriously. Heck yes, you are grateful for not having tripped on your dress while walking down the aisle! Make a list of 10 things and then notice how you feel. Carry this feeling on throughout the evening and see how it changes your perspective.
Your engagement is a sweet time that will be over before you know it. It's not fair for anxiety to steal the show. If worries are taking over and you're not find enjoyment in the wedding planning process anymore, consider asking for support through counseling. You can decide to put yourself back in the driver's seat of this process and learn to soften anxiety's sharp edges. If you're local to Minneapolis - St. Paul, schedule an appointment to get started today.