5 Tips to Protect your Mental Health While Wedding Planning
Let's start here, deep breaths. Maybe you just got engaged to the love of your life, or maybe you've been planning for the last several months. Wherever you are in the wedding planning process, I am so glad you are here. As an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist and a 2022 bride, I have the personal experience and clinical expertise to help guide you through.
Weddings are supposed to be a celebration of the love two people share. However, when you start wedding planning, you soon realize that it is much more than that. Family dynamics, friendships, the merging of various cultures, religious traditions, generational trauma, financial stress, harmful body image rhetoric, the list goes on and on of what you may encounter.
Tip #1: Dedicate a portion of your time to replenishing your emotional well-being.
It may be difficult when just starting, but one thing I can unfortunately promise you is that the closer you get to your wedding date, the more unexpected issues will come up. If you are at the beginning of your journey, I encourage you to take stock of your mental practices. How do you mitigate stress right now?
Do you enjoy healthy exercise? I emphasize healthy because it is vitally important that you use it as a tool to release endorphins rather than punishment to adhere to impossible beauty standards. Do you like to journal? Releasing your thoughts into a notebook can be highly therapeutic and can allow you to process your inner world with your own company. Do you enjoy mediation, mindfulness practices, creating art, trying new recipes, playing video games, reading books, etc.? Do you have a therapist you can talk to about your feelings during this process? If that is not accessible, a trusted non-judgmental friend, as things may get sticky with family members.
Whatever you do currently to release tension and de-stress, I want you to make a note that the next time you are feeling emotionally overwhelmed during this process, you are going to stop what you’re doing and turn to your healthy coping strategies. Emotional regulation is KEY to making thoughtful, intentional decisions. So once you have regulated your nervous system, you can return to whichever part of planning you’re working on.
Tip #2: Sit down with your partner and make a list of what is important to each of you.
Sounds simple, but when you get down to it, you might find that what is most important to you might actually differ from that of your fiancé(e). They might want a more intimate wedding, but you may come from a cultural background that requires third cousins twice-removed to be invited. Or maybe they want to get married in an Italian villa, and you would prefer to buy a house next year. Now, you might find yourself in conflict trying to determine a feasible budget, the size of your guest list, your wedding location, or a myriad of other factors that you never even considered. This is your partner, the person you are choosing to spend your life with; conflict resolution is a crucial skill for the success of your marriage. Make a list (separately) of 5 important factors to consider and recite them to each other. Acknowledge where you have similar desires and star those items as foundational to your wedding planning process. Now, recognize your contrasting factors and work together to find a way to meet in the middle.
Tip #3: Release those pesky people-pleaser tendencies right now before you get hurt.
This is YOUR day. Yours and your partner’s together. I am not telling you to become the dreadful “bridezilla” that we all admonish and fear of being. I am telling you that this is the time to address your personal boundaries and the ways in which you may have allowed others to violate them in the past. The second you get engaged, people from your past will come out of the woodwork expecting an invitation, personal details, will voice opinions on your decisions, everything. I understand, ESPECIALLY if you are receiving financial assistance from parents and/or in-laws, that you may feel obligated to acquiesce to everyone else’s preferences and opinions. However, you cannot please everyone. Say it again; you cannot please everyone. Yes, there is so much nuance in this, and the complexities of family systems cannot be solved with a simple tip from a therapist you saw online. But take it from a recovering people-pleaser; you have to protect your heart and maintain appropriate boundaries throughout this process.
For example, let’s make up a scenario: your future mother-in-law wants you to wear her wedding dress, but you have already bought your wedding dress, and her wedding dress from the 80s is not necessarily your style. So you tell her that you already have a wedding dress. Let’s say mother-in-law cries and uses guilt to make you feel like by politely declining you are rejecting her and your partner’s family. A people-pleaser bride would wear her mother-in-law’s wedding dress even if it meant losing thousands of dollars on a dress she already paid for to appease and maintain a particular role within the family system. A recovering people-pleaser bride would say, “I hear you, your wedding dress is deeply important to you, and I am honored that you want me to wear it. However, I will be wearing the dress I picked out. Is there any other way I can incorporate your dress or another sentimental item into our wedding day so the merging of our families can be represented?” Here, you are maintaining your personal boundary but also tapping into your empathy and the part of your mother-in-law that just wants to share in your joy.
Tip #4: Let go of comparison culture.
I see you right now. You found this blog post after scrolling through countless TikToks on bridetok, Instagram stories, and Pinterest pages, showing you the most beautiful, outrageous, expensive, most unattainable weddings you’ve ever seen. Now your mind is racing with the thoughts of I need the right location, the most stunning dress, the ultimate bachelorette party; I need to keep up. STOP. I know this is easier said than done. Limit your social media consumption because comparison culture will bite you right in your cute butt. I can speak from experience because it did for me. Your wedding will be PERFECT because it is yours. No one else’s will be like yours because you are unique. Throughout the process, if I saw something on social media that I thought was necessary but was completely of my price range, I had to stop myself and think about how I wanted my wedding to FEEL not to look. I used this mantra throughout the process to help guide my decision-making, and I encourage you to use it too. Your love story will shine through brighter than any flower, butter knife, or wedding arch.
Tip #5: Build a community.
This was my greatest saving grace while planning my own wedding. I had difficulty turning to friends and family for help out of concern for hurting their feelings or feeling invalidated in my own experience. The greatest help to me going through the process was talking to another bride who was planning her wedding at the exact same time. We consoled each other through countless family conflicts, budget concerns, body image issues, and the pressure to create the “perfect wedding.” I am forever grateful to have had her support. This experience planted the seed for me to create my newest group, “Bridal Support Group.” Group therapy for brides struggling their mental health and needing the objective support of other brides going through a similar experience. This niche has not yet been filled in the mental health industry, and I would love to emulate the comfort I felt during my process for others. As a marriage and family therapist, I am able to address clinical needs while facilitating group discussions on the topics brides are facing day-to-day.
If you are interested in learning more about my Bridal Support Group, please contact me for a free 15 minute consultation. This group is open to all California residents. If you are not located in California but would still like support, please contact me, and I will provide you with a list of mental health resources.