How to Tackle Wedding Planning Anxiety, According to Mental Health Experts
One glance at a wedding to-do list could cause anyone to spiral into a dark hole of wedding planning anxiety. Between calls to the caterer and scheduling conflicts for things like the cake tasting and the floral design consultation, suddenly, you might be asking yourself questions like: What if the consultation is a disaster? What if the whole wedding is a disaster? As your mind wanders to negative territory and your breath quickens, you might even start to quiver, overwhelmed to the point of nearly collapsing. This wedding can't come soon enough.
These symptoms are hallmarks of anxiety, but you may have never felt them before wedding planning. It might be difficult to reconcile that this onslaught of troubling symptoms began in relation to what will be an amazing day, but that's the Catch-22 of wedding planning anxiety. But there's help, and the first step to coping is clarity on what exactly it is that you're experiencing.
What is wedding planning anxiety?
Think: the classic symptoms of anxiety (overwhelming fear or dread, racing thoughts, shortness of breath, restlessness, shaking, etc.) but in this case, it's linked to thoughts about wedding planning. Though there might be certain triggers, including budget-related discussions or tough family convos, this type of anxiety could also be tied to the process of wedding planning as a whole.
Keep in mind: wedding planning anxiety is more overwhelming and physically taxing than stress, which wouldn't lead to those spiraling thoughts or major physical episodes. Your to-do list is already daunting enough without all the added worry of your physical and mental health.
How can you deal with wedding planning anxiety?
We tapped four mental health experts for their best tips on all things anxiety-inducing, from budget concerns to that 'I'm anxious about being anxious' stress. Follow these tips, remember to take breaths and rest assured: it won't always feel this way. You've got this.
1. Be open and honest about what's troubling you, even if it's super awkward.
Budget. It's the word that can evoke heart palpitations (and not the good kind) among even the most relaxed of to-be-weds—and understandably so. Money is far from the easiest topic to discuss. But according to Aimee Hartstein, LSCW and relationship therapist, that's exactly why it should be a topic of conversation.
"The best thing you can do to deal with financial anxiety is to be open and honest with everyone who is contributing to the wedding," Harstein says. "Ask your parents or your partner exactly how much they are planning to contribute. Figure out exactly how much you're able to set aside for the wedding. People really stress out when the wedding that they're planning is not at all in line with the funds that they actually have to pay for it."
2. Imperfection is inevitable, so embrace it.
You've heard it before, but just in case you needed the reminder: nobody's perfect. Your wedding day won't be either. "We can get so swept up in having the 'perfect' event that we lose sight of the fact that it's actually a meaningful ceremony," Harstein says. "It helps to realize most of the choices you're making are probably good choices. You don't need to torture yourself with every single bit of the decision making. The wedding will be beautiful whichever color scheme, entree, or cake flavor you choose."
3. Give yourself space.
This one is the ultimate fixer, no matter what's making your stomach turn or leaving you exhausted. "The best thing you can do for pre-wedding anxiety is to step away from planning once in a while," Hartstein advises. "Weddings can be so all-encompassing and if planning is stressing you out, it can feel that you have nothing else going on in your life. Go away for a night, spend time with friends, go to the movies, and don't forget that you aren't just planning 24/7." You'll welcome the much-needed distraction.
4. Set positive and healthy goals.
Eric Goodman, Ph.D. at the Coastal Center for Anxiety Treatment, says having a completely stress-free wedding experience is an impossible goal. Instead, Dr. Goodman advises setting two specific goals to counteract wedding planning anxiety or any such symptoms.
"First, remember that you, not anxiety, plan your wedding and you make all relevant decisions," the medical professional says. "Anxiety does not get a vote. Rather than planning your wedding based on anxiety's preferences, plan it based on you and your fiancée's core values." In other words, do you prefer the idea of a small, intimate gathering with close friends? Make planning that wedding a goal. This is about your vision.
As a second step, Dr. Goodman advises couples to be "psychologically flexible." What does that mean? In the face of anxiety telling you one thing, make a conscious choice to do what is most important to you. "Behave based on what you want your wedding to stand for, rather than having your attention on anxiety," Dr. Goodman says.
5. Feel your feelings.
Easier said than done, yes, but this one is the key to ridding yourself of all that worry. "Co-exist with the anxiety, softly and compassionately," Dr. Goodman advises. "Do so without making yourself suffer by trying to force it to go away. That will only serve to increase it." Let your emotions do their thing, and skip the negative self-talk or judgment. As Dr. Goodman puts it, "If you think of anxiety as the uninvited wedding crasher, then you will have extra anxiety about feeling anxious. That struggle against anxiety will also lead to feelings of suffering. Instead, think about anxiety as an invited wedding guest. Mentally welcome it to the party, but refocus back on what is most important to you: your connection with your significant other, family and friends."
6. Think big picture.
Steven Dziedzic, Founder & CEO of the Lasting app, which focuses on marital health counseling, believes couples should "take the long view" during the stressful planning process. "This phase will be over before you know it," Dziedzic says. "Even though it's stressful, remember that you and your partner are a team. Your partner is your advocate, and you're not just planning a wedding together—you're preparing to spend your life with your best friend. The best is yet to come."
7. Get vulnerable, but don't lash out.
Dziedzic encourages couples to take stock of their emotions and face tough conversations about anxiety or worry. "When you're ready to unpack your emotional world for your partner, invite your partner—lovingly—into the discussion," Dziedzic says. "Start gently, in such a way that puts your partner in a receptive state. The science shows us that 96 percent of conversations that begin poorly due to tone, volume, or words used, end poorly too."
On top of these tips, be mindful of when you might need to talk to someone. Are you feeling anxious to the point of extreme, debilitating panic? If you're unable to focus or function as you've been able to in the past, it might be best to seek help from a professional who will help you navigate this tricky period. All you need to do is take the next step forward.