The stress of planning a wedding

According to a recent study of 500 engaged or newlywed couples, most of you are freaking the eff out about wedding planning—96% of you. Odds are, the other four per cent is lying. Having your stress level in overdrive is completely understandable—you still have your job, your family, your bills (you know, a life), plus, you’re spending a lot of money for a party for 120 of your nearest and dearest. No biggie, right?

Getting engaged and planning a wedding is a time to celebrate your love and commitment. But as exciting and meaningful as it is, it’s also stressful. This can be hard to make sense of, especially since so few people are open about how difficult it can be. There’s an expectation that it will be the happiest time in your life. And when it’s not, it can be confusing, disappointing, and even a little bit shameful.

The truth is, there are some very real reasons why positive life events, like planning a wedding, can be stressful. That said, it’s absolutely possible to find ways to enjoy the process a little more and focus on what’s most important — your relationship and upcoming marriage.

wedding dress

It’s a big commitment

Deciding to spend your life with someone is by far the most significant commitment of all. But the other major commitment is the time most couples spend preparing for the big day. Regardless of how long your engagement is, planning a wedding is a big investment of your time and energy. There is a seemingly endless number of decisions to be made: the venue, the guest list, THE dress. It doesn’t help that each step can be broken down into so many micro-decisions. Just when you think you’ve crossed one thing off your list, it’s on to the next — and it’s hard to feel like you’re actually making progress. It’s also easy to get lost in the tyranny of choice, which can make even the most decisive people feel confused and overwhelmed.

How to Handle It

It might be daunting, but it’s best to accept how much work planning a wedding really is. Come up with a detailed to-do list and timeline (see here and here as a starting point) and be realistic about what has to be done and how long it actually takes. Including the smaller steps that are easily discounted but add up over time will help you avoid surprises and delays (like reaching out to vendors — expect some phone tag). Don’t also forget to be realistic about how much progress you’ve made!

Hiring a planner can alleviate some of the burdens, but they are typically expensive and not often a feasible option. That’s why it helps to identify a few key decisions (like say, the flowers, food, or photography) that you want to prioritize, not just in terms of your budget but in the amount of time you’re willing to spend thinking (or obsessing) about them. This will help you minimize the effort you spend on things that just aren’t as important while making sure your wedding still feels like you.

It’s expensive. Shockingly so

Whether you’re having an elaborate affair, a more intimate gathering, or even an elopement, the cost of planning a wedding adds another non-negligible layer of stress. Once you’re over the initial sticker shock and figure out how you’re practically going to pay for everything, the stress isn’t necessarily gone. It’s not uncommon to feel uncomfortable talking about finances, even with people you’re close to (like your partner). This is especially true if you have different ideas about how much you should spend or who should contribute. There can also be pressure to spend (or save) from your family members, the wedding industry, and society.

How to Handle It

At the very least, create a detailed budget, stick to it, and avoid spending beyond your means. It just isn’t worth the stress. Make sure everyone who’s paying for the wedding is on the same page. Being upfront about your budget with vendors will help you find people who understand and respect your limits. And remember that you don’t need to have a big wedding for it to be beautiful and meaningful!

A small shift in perspective can also make stress more manageable. Being able to talk about finances isn’t just helpful during the wedding planning process, it’s an important part of a healthy marriage. Finances are one of the main issues couples argue about, and practising more constructive ways of talking about money will make things easier to handle when life becomes increasingly complicated (and expensive).

You might surprise yourself

Before getting engaged, you maybe had expectations about what it would be like to plan your wedding or how you’d feel about your partner or marriage in general. For some people, things turn out exactly like they thought they would. But when our expectations and reality don’t match up, we might read into it and end up unnecessarily stressed (e.g., If you don’t cry when you try on your dress, is it the right one? What does it say about you or your relationship if you’re not enjoying the wedding planning process?). Important life events and transitions like getting married can also bring up other unexpected and scarier emotions and thoughts, like fears about divorce or the idea that you’ll only be intimate with one person.

How to Handle It

There isn’t just one way to feel when getting engaged and planning a wedding. We just typically only hear about the positives — the excitement, the gratitude, the love. People rarely talk about their disappointment, uncertainty, or stress because they’re confused or worried about being judged. The problem is, this perpetuates feelings of isolation and confusion about what it all means.

Getting married is a big decision and not something to be taken lightly. Often, the scarier, anxiety-provoking thoughts reflect the weight of this decision instead of your true feelings towards your partner or readiness to get married. As unpleasant as they might be, they’re actually a sign that you’re giving this monumental step space and consideration it deserves! Instead of getting caught up in your worries, approach them from an open and non-judgmental place. If you’re still feeling overwhelmed or anxious, there are resources available to help you through this exact process.

wedding

Expectations and emotions are running high

You’re probably not the only one who has high hopes for your wedding day. The people close to you might have their own ideas about who should be invited, where it should take place, how religious the ceremony should be, and their role in it. As good as their intentions usually are, family and friends can make the planning process more difficult, especially when your visions don’t line up perfectly. Worrying about letting someone down (like a friend who hopes to be a bridesmaid or relatives who expect to be invited) and dealing with actual or anticipated conflict can make the planning less enjoyable and make you feel like you have very little say in how the day goes.

How to Handle It

Pressure from family and friends usually comes from a good place. Of course, this doesn’t necessarily make the stress any less real, and there will always be those who we feel like go out of their way to make situations about them.

We all have different comfort levels when it comes to how much we’re willing to compromise. Agreeing to include a cultural tradition or invite those cousins you haven’t spoken to in over a decade can be a really meaningful gesture. But it’s also important to recognize that no matter how accommodating you are, you’ll never be able to please everyone. At a certain point, it might be worth setting limits so that your wedding day actually feels like it’s yours. And don’t forget to recognize the moments when you are misreading a situation or making things bigger than they need to be (e.g., maybe that friend won’t be so disappointed after all). If you do give in to someone’s wishes, it can help to focus on what you’re getting out of it (even it’s just one less conflict to deal with).

Your relationship isn’t immune

After a while, the endless decisions, financial stress, and intense emotions can take a toll on your relationship. Feeling like your partner isn’t contributing enough or that they just don’t understand how difficult it is for you can exacerbate what an already stressful situation is. And so many couples say that they miss what things were like before they got engaged.

How to Handle It

You might want to bottle everything up because you’re worried about causing conflict or think it would be terrible to fight in the middle of your engagement. But that usually ends up making you feel further apart and misunderstood. Instead, talk about how you’re feeling, share what’s really stressing you and explain why, and let your partner know if there’s anything specific they can do to help. If you end up arguing, staying respectful and communicating effectively will help you come out of it feeling like a team. Make sure to keep some sense of normalcy throughout the planning process as well. Do the things you usually love doing together and talk about things that have nothing to do with your wedding.

wedding couple
Wedding Transport

Worrying about your actual wedding day

Sometimes, the biggest stress is not the planning, but concerns about your actual wedding day (e.g., worrying the day won’t go as planned or that you’ll feel uncomfortable being the centre of attention). If you’ve found other parts of this process difficult, you might be especially worried that you’ll be stressed on the day itself.

How to Handle It 

Focus on the things you can do to help you relax and appreciate the day. Come up with a routine for the mornings that will set the stage for the rest of the day, whether it’s listening to music, surrounding yourself with your closest friends, or having a quiet walk.

Throughout the day, pay attention to the things that are important to you and that you’re excited about (like those you prioritized on your to-do list). Make sure to sneak in a few quiet minutes together as a couple. If you start feeling stressed, try to be mindful by taking a few nice deep breaths and tuning in to the different things you can see, hear, and touch (or even smell and taste). Take care of your basic needs, like eating, drinking, and using the bathroom — no matter how many layers you have to sift through. And remember that everyone is there to support you.

Everybody loves a wedding, but are we living in a nation of stressed-out brides? Planning a wedding can be downright painful, and all the people-pleasing it often requires can zap the spirit and joy out of being a bride. Bridal stress is unique. It is essentially temporary, yet is connected to much deeper family issues and emotional challenges. Practical issues can easily trigger it—ask any bride who has tried to interpret a tricky vendor contract or shop for bridesmaid dresses with their attendants—and is exacerbated by family dynamics. There is often a decision to make, or challenge to resolve, at every turn of that journey to the altar. Every little nuance—and nuisance—can put you in a momentary tizzy. It is no wonder some women get the bridal blues. Here are some of the challenges, and the antidotes, for brides-to-be:

Bridezillas Are Made, Not Born

It’s supposed to be the happiest time of your life—and you want it to be—yet planning a wedding is like working a second job. You have to find the time to tend to a multitude of details as part of an already busy schedule while managing vendors, family anxieties and demands, your groom, your emotions and an array of tricky wedding dynamics. True, some brides are downright demanding, but most are nice people, sucked into the vortex of wedding planning stress, and overwhelmed by the stress, pressure, and expectations of those around her.

Everyone Has Something to Say About Your Wedding

You are not alone in feeling you can’t win! No matter who you are or what age, everyone has something to say about your wedding. You may be showered with congratulations and gifts. Still, you are simultaneously bombarded with unsolicited advice, wedding horror stories you don’t want to hear, and negative vibes from well-meaning friends and relatives. They are too lost in their own experience to realize they are imposing on you. People tend to see your wedding as a chance to fulfil their own needs, and family dynamics erupt in every which direction because as the clan prepares to gather, they begin to act out what it’s all about for them—not you! The issues are classic—mom wants it to be the wedding she never had, sister or best friend wishes it were her, your groom is afraid to stand up to his family. Or the experience may be fraught with more modern challenges such as questions about mixing faiths, opting for a non-religious wedding or planning an alternative kind of affair.

Getting Married Can Stir up a Lot of Emotions

The process itself sets forth a period of growth and change that can be very confusing and nerve-wracking. Once you decide to marry you will begin the process of getting ready for marriage, and unresolved emotions about parents and family, past loves, and concerns about the person you have chosen will come to the surface to be explored. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t marry, and it just means inner work is called for along with all the outer preparations.

Wedding Planning Can Be a Crisis

There is so much focus on the external experience that a bride can become mired in details and demands and lose track of herself and the reason she is getting married in the first place. When she feels that planning the wedding of her dreams means going to battle—with parents, family, friends, groom, and almost anyone involved—she becomes hostile and reactive. What began as a joyful experience turns into a fight for having the perfect wedding. It is exhausting and can turn even sweet-tempered people can turn mean and cranky.

Your Happiness in Life DOES NOT Hinge on Your Wedding Alone

It really doesn’t, so lighten up!) Some brides believe that they must have a perfect wedding to have a perfect marriage and a perfect life. They give the wedding day too much power. They begin to treat the wedding itself as something to be worshipped and served. There is an underlying fear that if something goes wrong with the wedding, it is a sign that will make or break the marriage. Our culture places a tremendous emphasis on having a great wedding and not enough focus on having an awesome marriage. It’s okay to be temporarily obsessed and to yearn for the perfect wedding—we all go there at some point—but you have to keep your eye on what’s truly important.

Weddings Should Be Exciting, Right?

Congratulations! You’re engaged! This should be one of the most exciting times in your life. A time to be elated and to live on cloud nine for a while. You’ve found your forever partner, and now you get to bask in the joys and the fun of planning your dream wedding. This is a time to celebrate with friends and family in a way that is personal and special to both you and your new fiance. Or is it……?

Talking about money is so fun!

Yeah, just like getting the proverbial root canal. But you have got to have the conversation about your bottom line because most weddings are stupid expensive.

If your parents or in-laws are making a financial contribution toward the wedding, you may need to make a few minor concessions when it comes to how that money is spent. But if you foot the bill entirely by yourselves, you risk not being able to afford the wedding of your dreams—or going into debt to get there. (Please don’t.)

Our advice is open communication all around. Have an honest chat with the parties interested in contributing about the amount of involvement they expect to have, and have an honest chat with your fiancé about what you two can realistically afford.

Who ARE all these people??

And who would have thought putting a guest list together would be so complex? Well, part of the difficulty is that a wedding guest list is several guest lists in one. You’ll want to invite your own friends, family, and colleagues…your fiancé will want to do the same, and your parents and any other contributors to your wedding fund may want to invite some of their friends as well. Add in tricky scenarios like Plus-Ones, B-Lists, and whether or not kids are welcome, and this task can just plain suck.

But keep this little nugget in mind: Being strategic about who you invite is the best way to cut down on wedding costs from the get-go.

Wow, my dream wedding venue costs, how much?!

Your venue is the determining factor for some pretty important things: your wedding date, how many guests you’re able to accommodate, and a large chunk of your budget for starters. Finding the right venue is a kind of a big deal.

Why did I think baking my own wedding cake was a good idea??

You know that old saying, “It takes a village”? It’s so true when it comes to wedding planning. You may think doing everything yourself will save money and hassle. You may even think it will be fun! But in reality, many DIY projects end up costing more time and money than if you had hired a seasoned professional to handle them in the first place. Plus, you’ll just end up totally frazzled with a mile-long to-do list a week before the big day. 

Our advice? Simplify! Whether that means cutting out some décor elements (hint: no one will know) or hiring someone to do tasks for you, streamlining will help alleviate your stress.

Ultimately, don’t worry too much about things going wrong. Know that they will and that that’s okay. Really, it is! You won’t remember the little things that don’t go exactly as planned. And if you do, they’ll just become part of the story you tell about that day. What really sticks with you are hopefully beautiful memories and photographs, and happy and healthy marriage — after all, that’s what it’s really about.

 

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