I’ve spoken before about the correlation between our mental wellbeing and wedding planning and the exceptional pressure couples are placed under to plan the “perfect day” and moreover, be all things to all people. As such, I thought today would be the perfect time to broach the subject again. We often focus on the fun and frolics, the frivolity, but we rarely talk about the emotional aspects of planning a wedding and that yes, weddings are a indeed a celebration, a positive thing, but they can be pretty damn stressful too, which for some of us can trigger illness.
If you haven’t already discovered, it is mental health awareness week here in the UK and many charities and the government are driving forward to better understand why there are such vast increases in mental ill-health in the UK, particularly anxiety and depression and why so many people are continually ‘stressed’ and operating in “surviving” mode rather than truly thriving with their mental wellbeing.
Amongst other things, I think it’s a lot to do with our pursuit of perfection and our “keep calm and carry on” culture.
So let’s get a few things straight
We ALL have mental health. It’s not something that ‘happens’ to other people.
Mental health put simply is our emotional, psychological and social wellbeing.
Just like physical health, we can have good mental health and we can have poor mental health and everything in between.
Mental health determines how we think, feel and our ability to cope with life and whatever is thrown at us. However, it is prolonged and untreated periods of mental ill-health that can lead to mental illness.
The pressures of planning
I hear a lot of flippant language used in the mainstream media and industry that bothers me. “Bridezilla” being the main one, others like they are “nuts” or they are “insane” .
There is an NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) presupposition that I teach that states – ‘people are not their behaviour’. Our behaviour doesn’t define who we are or how we are. Just think about it in these terms: road rage. Now no judgement here. But I can place a bet that if you are reading this article you have probably lost your cool after being perfectly calm singing along to Whitney, when someone is completely discourteous on the road cuts you up, resulting in irrational, childish explosion of temper followed by a stream of profanities. We’ve all done it. But where did it come from? How did we go from 0-60 so quickly (no pun intended)? Now this behaviour does not define or represent the true calm pleasant and well-rounded human being that you normally are does it? It is simply an effect / reaction to a situation. I’m using a trivial example, but I wanted to highlight that everyone has their own story and other things and pressures going on in our lives, anything can be a trigger for us to react in a way, feel pressure or take on that one thing too many that impacts our ability to cope and in turn our behaviour. Less judgement and more understanding is all we need sometimes.
The associated tasks with planning a wedding can be the easiest and most enjoyable project for some of us and the most stressful for others and it can be an unexpected trigger. The by-products of planning can take over; It can lead to sleepless nights, unexpected and high levels of anxiety, irrational thinking, pressure on relationships; unexpected fights and bickering with your partner over some significant and some of the most trivial of things.
Financial pressure, family politics and fallout are weaved in their too along with the impact of “ranking your friends” … Deciding who gets to be in your wedding party and who doesn’t. To which guests are worthy of an invitation and those who aren’t and the conflict and divide this can and does generate. Not to mention navigating your own health, being a partner, parent, work, running your own business, finances and life events that merrily roll along at the same time.
All of the above and more can add unexpected and unprecedented pressure.
But there is an expectation that everything is or should be happy-go-lucky during this period, which can lead to guilt feeling, if it is anything but.
See? complex. There is never a life event or occasion with as much judgement or where expectations are so high.
These can all take a toll on our mental health even at a superficial level.
Some readers shared:
My husband had about four times as many guests as me, yet me and my family were paying per head. This became increasing difficult to deal with and I literally had a melt down. In the end some of his guests had plus ones that didn’t show, who we had paid for. Plus his dad wanted all his groomsmen from his own wedding at his son’s wedding. People I’d never met. His family did contribute on other things but I felt that my husband and his dad really lost sight of the cost per person which added a huge pressure.
Trying to please everyone and hating the confrontation resulted in a wedding that wasn’t really us. The associated anxiety often resulted in me coming out in cold sweats.
This was before I was formally diagnosed with anxiety
Rather delightful and award-winning planner and former newlywed Katrina Otter describes this phase as ‘pre-wedding blues and admitted to feeling like she needed to self medicate on alcohol in order to help her sleep and cope during this time. I previously mentioned about my blogging colleague whose anxiety became so debilitating she had to postpone her wedding. It’s not to say weddings are the cause of ill-health, quite the contrary, but it and any life event for that matter, can be a trigger for it and it’s helpful to have awareness and work towards managing and addressing the underlying cause rather than carrying on regardless.
Here’s a few things to be aware of and give your mental health a boost during wedding planning:
Because weddings are associated with joy and happiness if we ‘dare’ feel anything but, there can be an enormous pressure, to put on a ‘front’ that everything is and feel guilty about feeling anything but joy and happiness making it difficult to express areas of concern, worry or ask for help. This constant “surviving, I’m fine mode” takes up a lot of energy and eventually will give in at some point and we hit a wall. I hit mine the day before my wedding. Marvellous timing! Recognise it early on and take intentional action to address what is worrying you and let someone you love trust, know. Just because you may feel guilty, doesn’t mean that you are!
Learn to say no too. This can be liberating for you and prevents you doing things at the expense of yourself / your own wellbeing. Saying no doesn’t mean you are being cruel. It means you are putting yourself and your beloved first.
You have nothing to feel guilty about, weddings can be and are stressful and just because you might be feeling this way doesn’t automatically mean you don’t want to marry your soul mate!
For quite the majority of us, if we don’t stick to our guns, weddings can take us outside of our comfort zone in many different ways. From body-shape and desirability, to fashion choices, to finance. To venue choices to family politics and guest list woes. Weddings are portrayed in a very traditional and patriarchal way, that resonates with some of us and for others it is the complete opposite of who they are and how they want to celebrate, but because weddings are often portrayed in this way, it can often feel like there are no other alternatives or that you are doing it “wrong’ if you choose to do something differently and therefore feel pressure to conform to having a certain type of wedding with a certain amount of people.
There is no right or wrong, at the end of the day the most important part of the day is your legal declaration. Everything else is gravy! Keep the traditions that resonate and ditch the ones that don’t. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, get perspective. What is the sole purpose of this day? To get married. Strip it right back to basics and start building from there. Step by step.
Be Aware of Phobia’s
Weddings are great for bringing to the surface phobia’s you never even knew existed, or ones you thought you had long-buried!
Public speaking is probably the most obvious. It is a huge challenge for more than many will care to admit. We’re not all blessed with the gift of the gab, yet tradition dictates that the wedding role that has been bestowed upon you, automatically makes you an epic public speaker. It doesn’t. Some can have phobic responses to public speaking, my husband included. Either seek help or performance coaching to overcome, or delegate the role to someone else that thrives on this task, or get creative and do something else, or ditch it entirely. The world won’t end if you choose not to have wedding speeches on your wedding day.
Other common areas that can have phobic response are the fear of being in-front of crowds, the fear of being centre of attention. Both can induce high levels of worry and anxiety. Recognise where your strength and weaknesses lie between you. Share the burden, alter, or be conscious in choosing the format of your day to accommodate, or seek help in managing this fear, so your day can feel less stressful and much more enjoyable. Don’t suffer in silence.
If you’re not feeling inspired with your wedding planning and the myriad of tasks associated with it every waking minute of every day, this is normal. It probably means you need to take a beat. Take a break. Take yourself outside of your environment. Reconnect with your partner and just have some stillness for a while. We don’t always have to push on through. And if you keep hitting blocks, get curious as to why, let someone know, talk about it and ‘do something else’. Sometimes that is all we need to come back with fresh insight or clarity as to what is really going on and what steps to take next.
Ask for help
There are several hundred decisions to be made when planning a wedding, why we feel we can take them on all ourselves is beyond me. Let alone navigating our own lives at the same time, god forbid any life events that happen during that time too!
Ask for help.
From delegating and asking your partner, friends or family to help with the load. Or if you are feeling a dip in your mental health, reach out, tell someone, speak to your doctor or talking therapist, or if talking isn’t your thing, try The Big White Wall. There is support, understanding and help at your finger tips. It’s ok to need help and it’s ok to ask for help, even during a time that is pitched at us as being the ‘happiest time of your life”
I mentioned above, when we get into the throws of planning our wedding, it can feel like it is all-consuming. Taking every waking minute of spare time that you have, possibly preventing you from doing the things you enjoy.
When we feel stressed, pressured or unwell, the first things we drop are the things we enjoy, feeling like we don’t have energy for them or they are taking up too much time.
Re-instate them! They are our natural coping strategies which all contribute to keeping ourselves well.
Do something for you. Each day. Your mind and body will thank you for it and you’ll feel better for taking a step away. You are still YOU.
By giving ourselves this time and care not only are we giving our wellbeing a boost, but you are able to approach work and projects, relationships and make decisions, much more efficiently and effectively.
Self-care can be anything from having a digital detox, going for that run you’ve promised yourself you would do since last month, signing up to an exercise class, or cookery class, trying something new, colouring, meditation, yoga, singing, dancing, journaling, writing a gratitude diary, taking a weekend break, mindfulness, drawing, colour therapy, trying something new, being silly with your children, just having a good old belly laugh with friends and family.
Try it. And whatever you do, focus on it and only it. You deserve it.
Header Image: Sanshine Photography