Life transitions — regardless of whether they are happy or sad occasions—are inherently stressful. And yet, they are something we all go through at one time or another, whether it’s a job change, a break-up, a big move, or the birth or death of a loved one. Watching others go through these transitions can be stressful as well, especially if they trigger our own difficult memories or feelings.
While wedding season can be a time of fun and merriment, it can unearth all sorts of mixed emotions. Weddings are a major life event jam-packed with feelings of fear and high expectations — expectations that can be easily crushed.
If we are the ones getting married, we will likely have our own deeply personal set of fears about this transition: Will life ever be the same as it once was? What if our feelings change? Will our marriage last? These questions are natural, but extremely stressful nonetheless.
And let’s not forget the stress of planning weddings, especially when doing so with our family members and future in-laws. Oh my!
Even if we aren’t the ones getting married or planning the wedding, being invited to numerous weddings during the spring and summer months can become exhausting and emotionally taxing. And if we aren’t engaged or married and wish to be, the pile-up of invitations can trigger a myriad of feelings, including anger, jealousy, and resentment.
But the good news is that major life transitions like weddings are things humans have been experiencing and dealing with for ages, so there are some tried and true ways to cope with the stress that inevitably comes up. Some of them are more simple and straightforward than you might think.
1. Recognize that big life events are almost always going to be huge stress triggers, so be prepared with a mental health management plan. Whatever self-care routines work for you (exercise, meditation, journaling, therapy, etc.) will need to be utilized in a major way during life transitions like weddings. So, be prepared. And even if you are just on the planning team, or in the wedding party, you will need to pay extra attention to your mental health during this time. Knowing to expect the stress can help you mitigate it once you’re faced with it.
2. Remember that you can’t please everyone. If you are getting married, remember that this is YOUR day, not anyone else’s, and you can’t possibly please everyone. We all want to put on our “nice” face as much as possible, especially when it comes to a special day like a wedding, but it is possible to assert boundaries in diplomatic and respectful ways.
3. Try not to play the comparison game. Everyone does life (and weddings!) a little differently. So the way that you do it and the choices you make simply won’t be the same as anyone else’s. It’s so easy to get caught up in comparing, and believing that there really is only one way to do things. Instead, it would behoove us all (and decrease our stress levels) to honor differences in how people celebrate an event like a wedding, and find beauty in each of those choices.
4. Realize that finances are a trigger for almost everyone, and whatever transpires will likely be water under the bridge eventually. Wedding are a major expense, however cheaply you try to pull them off. Participating in a wedding as a guest or a member of the wedding party can cost an arm and a leg when you factor in gifts, travel, and lodging. If you are negotiating and sorting out money issues with extended family, it’s almost always going to be messy, at least to some extent. In all honesty, it’s kind of hard to avoid. The best thing to do is realize that this is normal, will pass eventually, and that discussing the matters clearly, directly, and with as much compassion as possible is enormously helpful for everyone involved.
5. Try to remember that weddings are just a day and let go of the need for perfection. Probably the most stressful things about wedding are our expectations. Let’s face it: we expect perfection. But it’s rarely possible for the whole thing to go off without a hitch. Keeping that in mind — and expecting at least one or two things to go slightly off kilter — can actually help you relax. And keep in mind that what people remember about weddings is not whether the wedding photographer arrived on time, or if the steak was cooked to their liking. What they remember is the love that transpired between the bride and groom, and what it felt like to witness that.
Most importantly? Have a sense of humor. Anything that goes wrong during a wedding almost always makes a good story. And what better people to share those less-than-perfect moments with than those you love the most?