How (and Why) to Chill Out for Your Wedding

See Natalie Nunn. See Natalie Nunn throw things – hissey fits in particular – at her wedding. See what a bad idea that is.

I had – blessedly – never heard of Natalie Nunn before she showed up on Bridezillas. For two weeks now she’s been screaming on my television about how she shouldn’t have to pay for her wedding because she’s rich and famous and has people pay her to show up at parties… and there’s another week with the actual wedding to go.

She also, apparently, doesn’t have a clue what a wedding reception is.

She’s actually not the worst person on the show this season. It’s true. There was the woman on the Bridezillas staff who threw her dog (and real soulmate!) into the wedding cake because she was honked off that her groom had bought a birthday cake from a grocery store bakery section, scraped off the Happy Birthday, and written an apology on it.

Yeah, tell me that wasn’t scripted… which only makes it worse.

But this article really isn’t about Bridezillas or trying to figure out who was the worst of the worst of the season. It’s about the thing that makes so many of these women entirely lose their minds (well, in the actual spontaneous moments of the show) and make other brides and grooms all over the world lose their collective marbles whilst planning their weddings: stress.

Yes, planning your wedding can definitely be a stressful thing. You’re dealing with the intersection of available funds, cultural expectations, personal preferences, complicated relationships, and a major life-changing event all rolled into one big ball of people crooning that this is the single most important and happiest day of your entire life.

In other words, everyone is giving you heartburn as they gleefully inform you it’s all downhill from here, baby.

It’s no wonder that some people wind up gibbering in a corner. But I’m guessing you’d rather not be one of them.

The whys of reducing bridal stress are easy enough. You want to enjoy your wedding because it is a once in a lifetime event. Even if you do have another wedding at some point, trust me it will be a different unique experience. You’d probably rather not cause major rifts with friends and family members on both sides that will be difficult to repair. And of course you’d probably rather not look back at this special time and remember it as six months of constant tears and screaming.

The hows are harder, but still very much doable for most of us.

1: Know how you plan, and plan that way. Whether you’re the sort who does best with ages to plan and a finger in every pie, or the sort who prefers to spontaneously say ‘let’s do it next week, you take care of all the details’ or even the sort to want a little of each approach, plan in the way that makes you feel the most comfortable. Only you can tell for sure whether going all DIY or hiring a planner or delegating half the tasks to people you trust is the best approach for you. Listen to your gut if you’ve never planned a major event before.

If you choose an approach that stresses you out, then you’re just asking for unnecessary stress, which is what you’re trying to avoid.

2: Start with the basics and add what you want. It’s easy to start off with unrealistic dreams for a wedding you can never afford, and might not actually want if you got it. Or you may find your idea of a pretty wedding and your intended’s concept are very, very different things. But if you start out with what’s absolutely necessary (happy couple, marriage license, officiant, base number of witnesses, space to hold wedding in) and build from there, you’ll find some of the unrealistic ideas you may have had before dissipate. It will be easier to keep to your budget, and easier to keep your head.

Sometimes it’s better to let go of an old dream. It frees you to find a new one that might just make you happier.

3: Keep an open mind and open ears when others have suggestions. It’s easy for wedding planning sessions to turn ugly when everyone wants to talk and nobody wants to listen. So listen. Listen carefully. That way, even if you decide something someone thinks would make the wedding perfect would be a disaster in reality, they know you’ve listened. You can’t agree to everything. You wouldn’t want to even if you could. But in a lot of cases, people just want to know you actually heard what they were trying to say.

And who knows? Someone might come up with a really great idea you wouldn’t have thought of on your own.

4: Take good care of yourself. Self care is often the first thing to go on the back burner in potentially stressful situations. We eat erratically, sleep too little, bury our heads in the thing that’s stressing us until our eyes are crossed and our brains dribble out our ears and whine that we need to keep going… and then wonder at the lousy decisions we make in that state that just frustrate us more than ever. So when things start overwhelming you, take a break. Do your best to get three decent meals a day and enough sleep every night.

Not only do you make better decisions on a full stomach and a rested brain, you’ll also look and feel healthier on your wedding day. That means you’ll be able to party longer and enjoy it more.

5: Put things in perspective. You know that old saw about the happiest day of your life? Have a good laugh at it and throw it on the garbage heap. There are few ‘helpful’ phrases that have caused more woe and anguish over the years. You will have happier days, and more important days, if you live long enough. And that’s a damn good thing, too. Imagine getting married at twenty-five and never having a better day even if you live to be a hundred! What a wretched thought!

Yes, your wedding day is very important. Done thoughtfully, it will probably rank among your top ten best days ever. If you’re supremely lucky, it will be one of the top five. It’s even possible that you’ll look back from your fiftieth anniversary and say it was one of the top three days in your life. Just don’t put all that baggage on it before it even happens. That’s a one-way ticket to Angstville.

6: Make time for other things in your life. If you don’t have time for your job and your wedding and a personal life, then you need to change something. Here’s a hint: don’t quit your job or dump all your friends. Take a quick inventory and either change your wedding planning strategy, extend the timeframe, or scale back your plans until you can breathe without thinking about tulle for at least a few hours here and there. It may be time to call in a professional, or it may be time to come up with a more efficient way of making decisions. Whatever it is, leave yourself time to go to the movies, work out at the gym, read a book that has nothing to do with weddings, play with your pet, take that evening class you find so compelling, whatever makes you feel connected with your life.

A lot of brides talk about feeling like they fell off the face of the earth when the wedding was over. That’s a sure sign of a bride who let the wedding take over her entire life. If you’ve got a life the whole time, it won’t be so hard to get back into the workaday world, and you’ll be better able to relax about your wedding.

7: Do your best in the last few days before the wedding to find your quiet spot. I’m not talking about a physical place to go. No, I’m talking about a place of inner tranquility that you find when you forget about words like ‘perfect’ and ‘happily ever after’ and just let what will be… be. Choose someone you trust absolutely to take care of any last minute snafus. Remind yourself that the universe has a perverse sense of humor, and resolve to laugh at whatever jokes it may throw at you.

Then go and have the best time you can at your own party.

After all that hard work, you deserve it!

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