When you have an anxiety disorder, a whole day of everybody looking at you isn’t ideal. Marrying my ‘childhood sweetheart’ is, though – so determined to not let my panic-prone ways take over, I’ve spent a significant amount of time thinking about how I can manage my anxiety on my wedding day (and every worst-case scenario, obviously).
Oh, it’s all there: fainting, forgetting something, falling over – in my head it’s all happened.
These are the things that have helped, and my top strategies for managing anxiety as a bride.
Try to rationalise
If you’re reading this you’re probably familiar with the spiral: the domino effect that one thought has to cause five others, and how that leaves you thinking the worst. It’s really important to stop the spiral in its tracks.
When you have an anxious thought, ‘what if this happens?’, ask yourself what evidence you have to support that claim. What reason do I have to think this? Here you can dig into whether this particular concern is coming directly from a place of anxiety and is something that you have created (or has been created for you) internally or whether it is based on something else – then you can take action to help if needed.
Plan, plan, plan
I know, you’re planning lots anyway. But if you’re really concerned about forgetting something that you need on the day for example, effective planning is going to be your biggest help. Create lists for yourself with everything that you need a few months before the wedding so that you have a bit of time to add to it if things pop up, and share it with a Bridesmaid or other member(s) of your Bridal Party to see if there’s anything else they can think of. This way it’s likely that you’ll actually end up with more than you need and things you haven’t thought of (my Bridesmaids put snacks and safety pins on my radar). Ask somebody you trust to look after these items for you on the day.
Opinions are not facts
This is something that was very prominent throughout my own wedding planning process. People around you will have opinions on what you’re doing or not doing – even people you have great relationships with or wouldn’t expect to cause you stress – and it’s important to remember that nobody else’s opinion really has anything to do with your wedding at all if you really think about it.
Your parents or family members may feel strongly about particular things about your wedding day (where they sit, who attends, that kind of thing) but ultimately, are they going to enjoy your wedding day any less if those things don’t happen? I’m not suggesting that you tell them ‘no’ to every request they make but if it’s something you feel really strongly about, stick to your guns and remember that a difference in opinion is exactly that: two different views on a subject, and is no reflection of you or your taste.
Choose your battles
On that note, knowing when to make compromises around your wedding can be a real stressor. People are probably making requests and asking you about how they will get there, where they will stay, the fact that they don’t want to sit with whoever, or perhaps they really do think that you should wear a veil when you don’t really want one.
Note my focus on the word ‘they’ here?
Some people will make your day about them. It’s annoying and can be upsetting but it does and will (probably) happen.
The key here is to choose your battles to reduce stress. Your grandma really wants you to wear a veil, but you don’t want one? This isn’t something to back down on. Your father-in-law feels strongly about where he sits (or doesn’t sit, perhaps), ok, well this isn’t going to have much of an impact on anything or anyone else on the day so maybe it’s easier to give him what he wants. Ask yourself two things:
- Is this something I feel really strongly about?
- Is this something they feel really strongly about?
Using this as the basis of your decision making can make things a whole lot clearer for you and help you stick to your own wishes where needed.
Some friends or family members might not react brilliantly to you telling them ‘no’ – remember, they’re thinking about what the day means for them – and if there’s anything the wedding planning process will teach you, it’s how to remain strong in your wishes or opinions.
By all means, there will be times where people say, ‘have you thought about this?’, and you’ll be really grateful, but there will also probably be times where you’re pretty fed up of hearing about what others think about your wedding and the pressure can be a lot. In these moments it’s vital to implement your own boundaries and it can be as simple as ‘we haven’t decided on that yet’ (even if you have), ‘I will think about that, thanks’ to close off a conversation or a more direct ‘I don’t want to do that’.
Boundaries are one of the most important things in your anxiety toolkit.
This is a big one! It’s so easy to be influenced or swayed by your families and it can be frustrating if this happens. Come up with your non-negotiables together: I’m certain that I don’t want to wear a veil, I definitely want this colour suit, I definitely do or don’t want to invite this person. Then if people try to get involved with these elements of the day you can stick together, back each other up and step in if things become difficult – particularly if it’s something that your in-laws are bringing up and you might not feel as comfortable to tell them ‘no’. Sticking together like this will help you both feel more able to push through the pressure, ease each other’s anxieties and provide a simple but powerful ‘I’ve got your back.’
Use a venue finder
The venue you choose (and more to the point, the team there) can be really helpful when it comes to reducing stress and anxiety in the lead up to your wedding.
We decided to take some of the stress out of the planning process by using an event planner that specialised in wedding venues in London so that we had help compiling a shortlist, asking the right questions and just somebody on hand who had every intention to make the day what we wanted and not what anybody else thought it should be.
Bridal self-care and ongoing stress management
Planning a wedding is stressful, there’s no doubt about that. There’s a lot to do, a lot of opinions coming your way and there may be a lot of people asking you questions. If you feel that the experience is becoming negative or that you’re not feeling much like a bride because of other people’s concern with themselves, it’s time to prioritise the self-care and bring back that pre-wedding excitement.
- Get a facial
- Plan and look for your bridal accessories (it can actually help to go alone!)
- Get a manicure
- Remind yourself why you’re doing this or what it’s about for you
- Take a break from planning
- Ask family members for a wedding chat break (it’s likely that it comes up every time you see them, right?)
- Spend quality time with your partner
- Plan something in the wedding that is just for the two of you (ours was a self-drive classic car, for example)