How to cope with anxiety as a wedding guest | Anxiety and Weddings Series

Welcome to the final post in our Anxiety and Weddings Series. This series was inspired by patterns I've noticed over the past few years. First, brides and bridesmaids experiencing anxiety and subsequent shame- they think since the wedding is a joyous occasion, there must be something wrong with them if they aren't enjoying it due to anxiety. Second, wedding guests feeling anxious and overwhelmed about attending the ceremony and reception. This will be our focus today. If you've missed the other posts, check them out here:

To conclude our series, let's focus on the largest group of people at a wedding- the guests! Anxiety can totally sabotage a guest's ability to relax and enjoy the event. But, there's good news- an anxious wedding guest can positively impact the situation well ahead of time:

First things first- you have the power to decline the invitation. You do not need to attend every wedding you're invited to- especially if you're not particularly close with the couple. You're not obligated to attend another couple's wedding simply because they attended yours.

One caveat: It's essential to understand your rationale for declining an invitation. If anxiety is operating in an unhelpful manner (i.e., anxiety is causing you to overestimate the level of discomfort you may feel), skipping the wedding is actually counter-productive. You see, the more we avoid a trigger, the larger it becomes. By exposing ourselves to our triggers and surviving, we regain power of the situation and our fear diminishes. 

Second, stay out of comparison. Cocktail hour conversations tend to sound a lot like class reunions. This is especially true if you don't see the other wedding guests very often. This situation is the perfect storm for comparison to creep in, and for self-doubt to sabotage your enjoyment. Here are my tips for staying out of comparison:

  1. Make a gratitude list before you go to the wedding. It's hard to perceive someone else's grass as greener when you're full of joy in your own life. This can still be true if you're going through a difficult situation. Let's say your own marriage is on the rocks and you're feeling envious of your friends' happy relationships. Before heading to the wedding, consider a few things that are going well. Maybe it's your career, your spiritual life, or a hobby. Focus your mind on those things and it'll be more difficult for the Comparison Monster to take over.

  2. Assume people have the best intentions. Instead of feeling irritated that someone keeps talking about their career success, assume they are only talking about it because it truly lights them up. Likewise, instead of getting offended when someone asks you if you'll start a family anytime soon, assume they don't have any knowledge of your situation and try a vague, gracious response. A quick "we'll see!" works just fine here.

  3. Focus your attention on the actual event. Notice the sights, the sounds, the tastes. Appreciate where you are and all the care that went into ensuring a beautiful wedding.

Third, be realistic about the amount of energy you'll expend at the wedding. Anxiety tends to take up a lot of physical and mental energy, so take this into account. Make an effort to have some downtime before and after the event in order to best transition back into the workweek.

Finally, remove some of the pressure you've put on yourself. Whatever is causing you undue stress is something you can change. Perhaps you can't nix everything, but if there is something you can modify, give it a try! Grab the bull by the horns and notice how empowered you feel when you advocate for yourself. For the record, here are some things you do NOT have to do:

  1. You don't have to drink

  2. You don't have to dance

  3. You don't have to talk to that toxic family member

  4. You don't have to stay until the end

  5. You don't have to be the life of the party

  6. You don't have to spend money on an expensive hotel

  7. You don't have to buy a fancy gift

  8. You don't have to get a new outfit

  9. You don't have to make a toast

  10. You don't have to bring a date

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Counseling can be a great way to build skills to manage your anxiety. If you're ready to take the next step, schedule your appointment today. Appointments available in New Brighton, MN and Roseville, MN.