The Emotional Stages of Planning a Wedding

The Emotional Stages of Planning a Wedding

The Emotional Stages of Planning a Wedding

Turns out, there are distinct emotional phases you may go through before getting married. You can experience these stages in any order, and every person’s experience is just as unique as their wedding.

Stage 1: Pure Happiness

Pop the champagne corks: This is really happening! Getting engaged to my husband Jason was a surreal experience, even though I had a feeling that bended-knee moment was coming. I was initiated into the incredibly wonderful (and wacky) world of weddings. I nostalgically look back on all of my wedding experiences now that my proofs are back, my beautiful wedding dress is dangling from a closet door, waiting to be preserved, and I’m transitioning into my role as a wife.

But the truth is that the source of my happiness was deeper than all of that. The Most Epic Party of Our Lives would just be the first of many adventures together: buying a house, traveling the world, and hopefully having a baby someday. Professing our commitment added another dimension to our relationship, no matter how cliché it sounds.

How to make the most of this stage:
Prolong the engagement bliss as long as you can before you have to buckle down and start making some big decisions. Talk with your fiancé about your wishes for the wedding, but don’t start asking everyone for advice on nitty-gritty details or scheduling that dress appointment before you’ve had a chance to discuss logistics — that’ll come in due time.

Stage 2: Bewilderment

Once the daydreaming phase was over, we realized that executing our wedding would be much more complicated than we initially thought. Confusion set in, compounded by the fact that people started offering their two cents on everything from what cake flavor they liked to which bridesmaid dresses they hated. We hadn’t even set a date yet! Secretly, I began to dread the “W” word and prayed it wouldn’t come up in conversation at family functions or nights out with friends.

Who do we invite? When do we do what? How do we make the wedding reflective of our personalities? I remember trolling through message boards desperately searching for answers. And then there was the biggest question of all: how much is this all going to cost? The sticker shock came fast and furious, forcing us to prioritize on what was most important. We made a lot of sacrifices over the next few years (eliminating vacations, Christmas/birthday gifts, and date nights out).

How to make the most of this stage:
Event planning is akin to building a house — you need a solid foundation, or else it all topples over. Start by locking in a date and deciding about how many guests you’ll want to invite since you’ll need that information before you look at venues. Now’s also the time to have that much-dreaded (yet necessary) conversation about finances, and decide who’s paying for what. Consider it good practice for married life! Determine the tone of your event — ultra-formal, a casual beach side affair or even a creative themed wedding — which will help guide the rest of your planning decisions.

Stage 3: Determination

Once critical tasks like choosing the venue, bridal party, and dress were checked off, other decisions that were dependent on those factors fell into place. A vision began to take shape: a glamorous mermaid gown with an intricate back, a vintage limo from the ’30s, an electric violinist who would play our favorite rock songs during the cocktail hour, etc. Finally, it all felt very “us.” And I fell in love with our wedding all over again.

To accomplish our goals in time, we broke projects up into smaller, more manageable pieces. For long-term projects that spanned the entire duration of our engagement, like my journey to get in great physical shape, I made weekly goals (e.g. attend three gym classes). When I met them, I would give myself a small reward, such as a pro manicure or my favorite lunch.

How to make the most of this stage:
Research rates for wedding services in your area so that you’re well-informed at meetings with vendors. Ask recent brides not only who they’d recommend, but which vendors raised red flags if any. On the flip side, ask your photographer, florist, DJ, etc. who they like working with since they may be able to recommend great vendors to fit your needs. Also, I can’t stress how many miscellaneous papers, sketches, receipts, etc. you’ll accrue during this time. Create an organization system that works for you.

Stage 4: Overconfidence, Denial, and Bargaining

I thought I’d be able to sit back, relax, and reap the benefits of being an early bird a couple of months before the wedding. I put off certain projects that I found undesirable — ahem, mailing out invitations — and preoccupied myself with anything that didn’t have to do with our big day. It wasn’t a conscious decision; in retrospect, it probably stemmed from anxiety over hurting the feelings of anyone who wasn’t invited.

When I wasn’t in denial, I was in bargaining mode. There were times when I wished I had someone (read: a paid professional) to play the role of The Enforcer and back me up in awkward situations. For example, I had to fire a vendor who was MIA and scramble to find a replacement at the last minute. I also had to keep the peace with a relative who created a major blowout the week before my wedding over something trivial. I realized that a year from now, these things wouldn’t matter, unlike truly difficult circumstances that other brides far more courageous than myself have had to face before their weddings. However, I felt drained nonetheless.

How to make the most of this stage:
Develop a support system of trusted advisors, whether it’s your mom, your best friend, a knowledgeable coworker, whomever. No one is Superwoman, and if you try to manage everything on your own, like I did, without asking anyone for help, then odds are you’ll crash and burn eventually. Learn to delegate smaller projects to those who want to contribute to the wedding cause. Try not to take things too personally and keep in mind that weddings can be stressful at times for parents, family members, and the bridal party, too — not just the bride and groom.

Stage 5: Decision Fatigue

A typical conversation with my now-husband in this stage went something like this:

Bride: “Babe, what song should we use for our same-day edit video? How about ‘When You Got a Good Thing’ by Lady Antebellum? Too country? ‘White Dress’ by Ben Rector? Overused? An acoustic male rendition of ‘Teenage Dream’ by Katy Perry? Too quirky? Forget it, just let the videographer choose, I’m done making decisions and never want to see another song list for as long as I live…”

Groom: …

Bride: “But what if we hate the one they pick? Oh yeah, did you remember to tell the groomsmen to try on their tuxes?”

Groom: …

Bride: “We have to drop off the programs, pick up a few extra favors and make sure we have everything for the hall. Want me to text you a reminder to-do list? Oh my God, we never submitted the final check to the DJ!”

How to make the most of this stage:
This frenzied kind of thinking is a scientific phenomenon. The New York Times reports that our capacity to weigh options gets maxed out when we’re calling upon it too often. Author John Tierney describes planning for a wedding “the decision-fatigue equivalent of Hell Week.” More often than not, decision fatigue not only saps your energy, but it can put a huge strain on your relationship, too. When you realize your partner is suffering from overload or vice versa, set the decision aside. Go out on a date, work out, read a book, do anything but talk about the wedding. Not only will this put you in a better mood, but it’ll give you perspective to eventually come up with the right answer.

6. Panic, Followed by Acceptance

Bursts of clarity can come from even the most unexpected places. One of the most vivid moments I recall was during a casual family conversation that started out about how excited guests were to attend the wedding. My parents became anxious about everything going perfectly. “I don’t care about wowing guests! I just want to marry Jason. I love him, and I want to spend the rest of my life with him,” I exclaimed out of nowhere.

My parents still tease me about my random outburst from time to time, but in all seriousness, it made me realize that no matter what happened, my wedding would be amazing because I was getting married, and that was all that mattered. A peaceful feeling came over me the week before the wedding. I just focused on having fun with my family, bridal party, and all of the people who had flown in for the occasion.

How to make the most of this stage:
Plan a few enjoyable activities for the week before the wedding to help distract yourself. I had a spa bachelorette party with my girlfriends, and a surprise Hawaiian bridal shower at work. I also entertained out-of-town guests from Europe with a boat sail around NYC, and an impromptu limo ride. It was the most fun I’d had in months, and it helped me remember what the wedding day was truly about.

When all else fails, remember that on your wedding day, you will be surrounded by all of the people who’ve touched your lives, from when you were a child up until now. For Jason and I, that count included ill elderly relatives and loved ones who had flown in from other states (and countries). Celebrating our new life together with all of them present was more beautiful than we ever could have imagined, and made all of the planning craziness worth it.

No Comments

Post A Comment