He or she popped the question, and now you are on your way to happily ever after! Time to have fun registering for gifts, picking out wedding colors, and telling the world how happy and excited you are to have your fairytale wedding.
Everyone says this should be the best time of your life, yet you are so overwhelmed by the stress of the whole wedding planning process that you:
- Can’t sleep well and are exhausted all the time
- Are constantly worried about everything that needs to get done, yet can’t find the motivation to do any of it
- Find yourself getting into fights with your fiancé over things like chair covers and table linens
- Are missing days of work and feeling horribly guilty about it
You start thinking:
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“What’s wrong with me?”
“This is not how it should be…”
“Does this mean I don’t really want to get married?”
Soon you find yourself either dreaming of elopement, dreading the big day or wanting it to be over with…
This may seem extreme, but it’s more common than people might think. It’s easy for most of us to see how the practical aspects of planning an event of this magnitude can be stressful.
As a marriage and family therapist who works with engaged individuals and as a bride in the middle of wedding planning myself, however, I know all too well how this time can also magnify a whole range of issues from difficult relationships with family members and friends, to finances, to your relationship with your soon-to-be-spouse. Unfortunately, these issues can take a toll on your mental health, making it even more difficult to navigate the various stressors arising during this hectic time.
Keep reading to better understand these stressors and how you can handle them!
What’s Wrong With Me?
Because a wedding is an event we associate with happiness and love, it can come as a surprise when we find ourselves lacking any interest in the decisions we need to make, feeling hopeless about the future or having panic attacks imagining all eyes on us on during “the happiest day of our life.”
If you have not experienced depression and anxiety in the past, you might notice these symptoms interfering with your daily life and have no idea how to cope. I’ve had clients tell me, “I feel like a failure,” as if they are not “trying hard enough” to be happy. This can then lead to feelings of guilt and shame and thoughts that there must be something “wrong” with them, when in fact these are real biochemical conditions that require special attention.
This is Not How it Should Be: The Pressures of Perfection
We are constantly bombarded with messages in our culture that say we need to strive for perfection, and weddings are no exception. So when people ask us how wedding planning is going and how excited we are for the big day, it’s no wonder that we would want to avoid sharing our struggle. We isolate. We pretend to be happy and try to deny or repress any negative feelings.
I’ve had one bride tell me that when talking to a friend about her feelings, the friend responded with, “Oh that’s a first world problem, you should feel so lucky to be getting married!”
This social isolation can then exacerbate symptoms, lead to more shame and guilt, and lead to further distress.
Does This Mean I Don’t Want to Get Married?
If you’re not radiating happiness 24/7, it does not mean you are not happy to be getting married. If you dread getting up in the morning and have no interest in anything, it can be easy to jump to the conclusion that this is because you are having doubts about marriage or spending your life with this person. And when anxiety is in full force, it’s easy to assume those worried thoughts are indicative of a doomed marriage.
Clients often tell me they love their partners and can’t imagine why the thought of marrying them has them feeling this way. This can bring up a lot of doubt and confusion about this major decision in one’s life, feelings that most people are too afraid to bring up to family and friends.
What You Can Do
Exercise. Eat healthy foods. Meditate. Get an adequate amount of rest. Practice relaxation techniques.
I know, I know, it seems like there is never enough time while wedding planning, but try to make these a priority to better cope with the stressors coming your way.
Take a Time-Out
Spend your free time doing things unrelated to wedding planning. Get off Pinterest and watch a movie. Go on a hike. Go out to brunch with friends. Read a book.
As tempting as it may be, don’t drop hobbies to carve out more time for wedding planning. These things will help you keep perspective.
Talk It Out
You can talk to a trusted friend or family member or ask your fiancé for help, but I know how intimidating this can be when you’re afraid of being judged or dismissed by them.
Don’t hesitate to reach out for professional help, whether it’s normal stress or a mental health disorder. Therapy can be an invaluable resource and source of support during this trying time. A therapist can provide a nonjudgmental and confidential space to feel validated, process your feelings, learn coping strategies and help you develop the confidence needed to tackle the issues associated with the planning process. I know how busy this time is, but with online therapy and the asynchronous texting Talkspace (the therapy company I work with) offers, it’s easy!
Not all brides and grooms are going to be bursting with joy and excitement upon getting engaged or throughout the process, and that’s OK. You’re not alone.