Your wedding is meant to be the happiest day of your life, but there’s not a couple alive who’ll say that the wedding planning wasn’t stressful.
However, when you suffer from anxiety, throwing that “perfect” wedding brings about a whole number of new worries and pressures that can trigger you, from guest lists, budgets and managing logistics to having all eyes on you for the day.
We spoke to Anxiety UK about how to deal with anxiety while you're planning your big day. Plus, we’ve got seven top tips for brides and grooms-to-be with anxiety that’ll help you survive wedding planning.
If you're wondering how it all turned out for other brides with anxiety, then read two brides' honest accounts of planning their wedding, how anxiety affected their relationship and how the big day went.
Problem One: I Hate Being The Centre Of Attention
Image: Amanda Forman Photography
As a bride or groom, this is going to be difficult to avoid. Nicky Lidbetter, CEO of Anxiety UK, suggests that brides should gradually introduce themselves into situations where they are the focus of attention.
“The run-up to a wedding offers a number of great opportunities for this, including wedding dress shopping with bridesmaids or hair and make-up trials. Increasing your familiarity with these types of situations makes them a lot less scary,” she says.
Nicky also recommends confiding in your family or close friends so that they can bring others into conversations on your wedding day and take the pressure solely off the bride.
“Social anxiety responds very well to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), so it might be that undertaking a short course of therapy in advance of getting married may really help with a problem of this nature,” she recommends.
READ MORE: How To Reduce Wedding Day Stress
Problem Two: I Feel Like I Can't Match My Family's Expectations
As well as being constantly bombarded with social media images of the perfect wedding, couples have the advice, demands and input of their families to contend with – however well-meaning. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy that your wedding won’t match up to your Pinterest board or that you’re letting down the people you love.
Nicky advises: “It can be worth avoiding scrolling through social media sites filled with extravagant and ‘picture-perfect’ weddings. Rather, focus on meeting your own personal expectations, they are the ones that count.
“Write a list of what YOU and your partner want from your wedding and keep the items on this list at the forefront of your minds. Remember this is your day and whilst the wishes of other family members shouldn’t be totally disregarded they should not be prioritised over your own.”
This is even more of an issue for families from multicultural or strong religious backgrounds. Thank them for their feedback, but communicate your boundaries clearly and let them know it's your wedding without stirring up family politics. If you struggle with this, then speak to a close family member who might be able to mediate.
Read our advice on navigating your family when they're contributing financially to the wedding too.
Problem Three: I Can't Tell If This Is "Normal" Wedding Planning Stress Or My Anxiety Disorder
Acknowledging that line where normal wedding stress tips into an anxiety condition can be difficult to judge, but there are symptoms to watch out for.
"A change in eating habits, sleep or avoiding doing things which you used to do without feeling anxious are all tell-tale signs of anxiety becoming problematic.
"Physical symptoms of anxiety include difficulty breathing, palpitations, tension headaches, dry mouth, increased perspiration and dizziness," says Nicky.
If you begin to experience any of these symptoms, it’s best to speak to your GP.
Problem Four: Do I Have Cold Feet?
Most people feel pre-wedding jitters but when you’re prone to worrying and then questioning every worry, it can be easy to fall into the trap of worrying that you’re worrying because you actually might not be with the right person. Complicated, right?
Let’s be clear, every couple has some level of problems. The stress of wedding planning can amplify already existing problems and make them seem worse than they are. Throw in the negative thinking that comes with anxiety and it can all suddenly feel like cold feet.
Don’t start interpreting things as signs. You need to take off your wedding head, evaluate whether these issues were already existing or whether they’ve been caused by the wedding planning and will be over after your big day. Plan a day that’s just the two of you away from wedding stress and get back in touch with how you feel.
Communication is key; your partner will be your rock through the stress but you need to be honest with them. If you don’t know how to broach your feelings, consider booking a pre-marital counselling session - even Prince William and Kate were reported to have had marriage preparation sessions.
READ MORE: How To Plan A Wedding In Six Months
Problem Five: I Can’t Stop Picturing Everything Going Wrong
Image: The Light Painters
Writing your fears down can really help. Nicky says: "Commit your worst fears to paper and then alongside each, write down what the worst outcome would be for each. In the final column have a go at problem solving each of concerns listed. So, if your worst fear is no-one turns up, a practical way of mitigating against this would be to ask people to confirm their attendance and to ensure that the invitations are sent out in good time.
"Feeling out of control is a common trait of those that experience issues with anxiety and so doing as much preparation as you can in advance to avoid minor hiccups can help.
"Ultimately however, no-one can control everything and so learning to accept that things might not go perfectly but that this wouldn’t be the end of the world is key. Give yourself wiggle room to get some things wrong; you are human after all."
Problem Six: Everything Feels Out Of My Control
Image: The Light Painters
The logistics of an event like a wedding mean your catering, photography, flowers etc are all in the hands of different suppliers. When things feel out of your control, that can make you even more anxious.
Regular contact with your suppliers is key, but sometimes things are out of your hands and you’ll just need to find ways to cope with your anxiety.
"Simple steps like remaining active, limiting your alcohol and caffeine intake, and ensuring you allow time for relaxation can all make a big difference. Additionally, there are lots of really valuable self-help books, resources and groups available," Nicky recommends.
"Many people find taking a few minutes out each day to practice mindfulness can be helpful as this technique is about focussing on the here and now rather than the past or present. Keeping balance in your life is really important so as not to allow the wedding to completely take over."
Problem Seven: I’m Really Worried About Having An Anxiety Attack On My Wedding Day
Image: Imagications Photography
Try Nicky’s breathing techniques to reduce anxiety. "These can be as simple as taking a few moments to simply notice your breathing patterns, or breathing in deeply for 5 seconds, holding for 5 seconds, and then releasing slowly over 7 seconds. This will trigger your relaxation response," she says.
"Getting to know the physical lay-out of the venue where you are getting married in advance is also recommended; this helps you to feel in control. Some people also find having lavender oil or something similar that is strong scented and a relaxant can help too."
READ MORE: 12 Practical Things To Do After Getting Engaged
Tips For Brides And Grooms-To-Be With Anxiety
Image: Ed Clayton Photography
Accept It's OK To Hate Wedding Planning
Normally you'll love to plan and have every detail under control, but it's absolutely fine if you hate the process of planning a wedding. There's an overwhelming amount of things to consider. It does not make you a bad bride or groom.
Have A Long Engagement If You Need It
The average engagement is 12 months - so what? Resist the pressure to set a date immediately and enjoy the feeling of being a fiancé or fiancée instead. Speak to your partner about what you both want and don't put extra pressure on yourself to follow anyone else's timeline.
Say Yes To Offers Of Help
Things will come around quickly as the wedding gets closer so pick a friend or family member you trust and delegate things like getting quotes from hair or make-up artists, picking up decorations or doing the final checks with the vendors the week before the wedding. That said, if it stresses you out even more to not do these things yourself, don't feel you have to accept every offer of help.
Image: Jessy Papasavva Photography
READ MORE: How To Plan A Wedding For £10,000
Stick Within Your Budget
Your big day shouldn't leave you worrying about money for years after. Set a definite budget and work hard to stick to it. This might mean compromising on certain things so discuss this with your partner early on.
Ditch The Pinterest DIY
Quirky place cards with beautiful calligraphy are great, but not worth the stress. Spray-painted mason jars, DIY wood signs, a mimosa bar - all nice, but all unnecessary. Don't make more work for yourself and just prioritise the biggest finishing touches.
Meditation and mindfulness techniques are also really useful for coping with anxiety and stress and can be done really simply. Try downloading the Headspace meditation app (as part of Anxiety UK membership, they include a year’s free subscription). Using this for just 10 minutes a day has been found to have real benefits.
Image: Roo Stain Wedding Photography
Take Time Out With Your Partner
You'll likely experience some strong emotions with your anxiety, which could cause strain on your relationship. Plan in regular dates with your partner where wedding topics are banned and make sure to reassure them that you do want to be with them. If you've worried about your anxiety being cold feet, they may have too!
Go Easy On Yourself
Try to reduce the pressure on yourself as much as possible, and that includes from yourself. Accommodating everyone else's needs (or trying to squeeze in that last-minute plus one request) because you felt guilty saying no will only put unnecessary pressure on yourself. If you have to let something go, do it.
Find An Outlet For Your Anxiety
From exercise to a bath and a good book, embrace a hobby you love or an activity that destresses you and make time for it.
For more information about anxiety, visit anxietyuk.org.uk