How I Lost My Sanity Planning My Wedding and Regained it Just in Time to Say “I Do”
As I sat in my hotel room on the morning of my wedding, hair pinned up in curls, surrounded by my entourage of my closest female friends and family members, I felt remarkably calm. I couldn’t have felt more present and ready to get married that day.
This sensation of presence, ease and readiness served as a shocking contrast to the rollercoaster of emotions I experienced during the months leading up to my big day. I am certain however that it is because I intentionally rode the waves of difficult emotions and faced the challenges that arose head on during wedding planning that I was able to feel this way.
After going through the wedding planning process for 10 months, and celebrating my marriage to the love of my life in June - I have a newfound compassion for the fabled “Bridezilla,” and am thoroughly convinced that there is no such thing as a “chill bride.”
Personally, I despise both of these terms. Both of them are used to either demonize or control the bride in one form or another without ever granting her what she actually needs - support and understanding. In our western culture, a woman getting married is supposed to be nothing but a celebration. Most of the conversations targeting the bride revolve around what type of dress she is going to wear, what her color scheme is, and who her bridesmaids are. While these topics are well intentioned, and can be fun in nature, they completely glide over the core of what a woman is often going through when she is planning her wedding - a deep psychological and emotional transformation.
My own experience was no different. While the logistical aspects of planning my wedding took time and effort, the bulk of my energy was spent tending to my inner world, and learning how to navigate the intense transition I was going through. This was something that quite frankly, nobody prepared me for. So before I get into the three major areas that drove me to insanity, and the tools I used to come out on the other side, let’s first understand why marriage evokes such an intense inner transformation.
Getting married is one of the most monumental life events that any woman can go through. It’s right up there with going through puberty, becoming a mother, and entering old age. Each one of these stages requires a woman to shed her old skin and develop new skin. In other words, it requires her to let go of the self she knows and is familiar with, and learn how to step into a new role and identity that is completely unfamiliar. Like any growth, it is challenging and often painful, even if the outcome will be exciting and celebratory.
Additionally, it’s important to note that once the old self is shed, the new self is not adopted right away. There is an inevitable in between stage that makes her feel completely vulnerable, uncomfortable, and metaphorically naked. She doesn’t know who she is and isn’t certain yet on who she is becoming. This stage is the heart of any transition, and the way we navigate it can either build us up or destroy us. This is the stage when we are required to turn inward, dig deep and confront some dark matter in order to see the light again and fulfill our new selves. This is the stage that women, including myself, are caught in during wedding planning. So tell me, how can a woman be chill during a time like this, and is it really so wrong for her to lose her cool? I think not.
The challenges that each woman must confront varies, but take my word that every woman has them - and nine times out of ten, these challenges are never really about the wedding cake or bouquets.
And now, without further ado - here are the three challenges that drove me to insanity while planning my wedding, and how I navigated each of them so I could be fully present and enjoy my Wedding Day!
1) People’s expectations and seeming disapproval
From the moment Christian and I shared our news with the world that we were getting engaged, we were flooded with excitement and joy from everyone around. Soon after, however, came all the expectations. We faced expectations on how we should get married, where we should get married, and who to invite. Many of these were harmless suggestions that felt like expectations. Much more rattling were the handful of expectations that were delivered like demands that put challenging strains on some of our closest and most important relationships. At times, these caused not only days, but weeks and months of stress, fear, anxiety and overwhelm.
How I handled it:
When venting to one of my closest cousins about how frustrating it was to navigate all of the expectations, and my fear of disappointing the people I loved most she said “listen, there’s something strange that happens when two people get married. Somehow everyone around them makes the wedding about them even though it’s not. This is inevitable, so the only way to really navigate it is to do what you and your partner want.” I took these words to heart.
For starters, Christian and I decided to take a full year to relish in our engagement. This allowed us to release some of the immediate pressure we were facing, and get clear on what was important for us. When the time came to actually start planning the wedding, one of the first things we did was sit down and get aligned with our values so that no matter what, we were a united front. We discussed why having a wedding was important to us rather than getting eloped, and made a list of what was important for us to have for our wedding, along with what wasn’t important. This served as a road map for our unpaved path ahead, and allowed us to avoid the distraction of fulfilling someone else’s expectation if it didn’t align with our values and our “why.”
Navigating the stressful expectations set out for us was downright miserable, but it forced us to grow in necessary ways that ultimately strengthened our relationship.The biggest skill we developed through this was the ability to set healthy boundaries as a couple. To do this, we had to check in and communicate consistently with one another, learn what our boundaries were as a couple, and have hard conversations with our loved ones in order to set our boundaries. To my pleasant surprise, I found that setting these healthy boundaries garnered increased respect from our family even if they were undesired at first. Whenever we had a hard conversation, we always put it in the context of how we were doing it for the benefit of our relationship, and I think this made a huge difference. I believe it made people aware of how seriously we were taking things, and made them aware of the magnitude of their expectations not only affecting one of us, but us as a couple. In the end our boundaries were respected, and in some cases even celebrated!
I discovered that expectations often come from other people when things have always been done a certain way, and when certain family patterns have existed for many years. When you choose to challenge those expectations and set your own, it disrupts what is comfortable, but it also shows your family and friends another way of doing things that can be beneficial for everyone involved. For example, one of the expectations that was set for us (that was in all honesty not very harsh, but still challenging), was to get married in New Mexico or Colorado. Most of my family lives in these areas and most everyone who has gotten married so far has done so in these locations. I knew that it would be way too difficult for me to plan from afar, and I thought it would be symbolic to have a wedding in the city where Christian and I are building our lives together.
At first there was pushback because it would be more challenging for my family to make it out due to planning time, health reasons, and the cost of travel. This was not easy for me to reconcile, and many times I questioned whether or not I was doing the right thing, but I knew I had to stick to my why. In the end pretty much all of my extended family came out to celebrate with us and it was the first time that we got that much family together outside of New Mexico and Colorado! Everyone had an absolute blast, and was thankful for being able to create new memories together in such a historical city!
2) Family wounds rising to the surface and redefining the meaning of family
Family wounds appeared in a couple different forms during wedding planning. While there were some I was expecting like the negative relationship between my parents, there were others that caught me by surprise because they didn’t exist solely in my immediate family. I noticed that weddings tend to put relationships under microscopes for everyone involved, because it’s a time where everyone is going to have to see each other. Because of this, I found that family members both on my side and Christian’s, shared more with us during this time about strenuous family relationships. This was challenging as an empath because it’s very easy for me to soak up other people’s emotions, and I have to work hard to separate what my feelings are from someone else’s.
During this time, it also became clear that my meaning of family was going through a transformation of its own. Family wasn’t secluded to my family of origin anymore. Christian and I were creating our new family, and we were becoming apart of each other’s family. This is such a beautiful type of transformation, but nonetheless it required some careful navigating of its own.
How I handled it:
When family wounds came to the surface, I found it extremely helpful to have someone, or a few people to talk to that were not as emotionally involved and could give objective guidance and support. For me this came in the form of my therapist, and enlisting a few family members who are extremely skilled at not taking things personally and viewing things from a neutral perspective. Having these people to talk to who I knew would hold space for me to vent without judgement, and keep me grounded was invaluable. Additionally, I had to level up my communication with Christian, as what was coming to the surface involved both of our family’s.
Understanding the level of commitment we were taking as a couple opened up the understanding that we were not only creating our own family but were also becoming apart of each others family. Going through the wedding planning process forced us to have conversations around what we wanted to invite into our relationship from our original family’s, as well as what we wanted to let go of. These were conversations that we never really had before because up until this point, it was easy to still separate “his family” from “my family.” This step was crucial in setting the stage for our marriage.
I also found it helpful to bring more compassion to my family members with whatever they were experiencing at this time. Weddings bring out a lot of emotions not just in the couple, but for everyone involved. I had to acknowledge that this was a tricky period of transition for many people I loved, just as it was for myself and Christian. I also had to learn to take my self care more seriously, and take a step back from the heavy stuff when I needed to. This meant turning off social media for awhile, going on long walks, scheduling massages, and making sure I had days that I could separate myself entirely from wedding planning.
3) An unexpected sense of loneliness
One of the feelings that caught me the most off guard during wedding planning was a deep sense of loneliness. I was so surprised by this because I assumed that more than any time in my life I would feel connected during this period - more connected to my partner, my friends, my family. I mean after all weren’t weddings all about celebrating a union of two people and inviting the people you love most to celebrate with you? Yet, there were so many days where I would feel so disconnected, untethered, and shockingly alone.
I believe that this loneliness stemmed from a variety of reasons: the emotional and psychological transformation that I was going through, planning my wedding in a new city that was miles and miles away from any of my family and 99% of my friends, and not feeling like I had a lot of guidance in how to actually plan a wedding or deal with the complex emotions I was feeling.
How I handled it:
Asking for help does not come naturally to me, but it was exactly what saved me when I felt alone. After one distraught conversation with my therapist about how alone I felt, she encouraged me to think of ways my family members and friends could support me at this time that didn’t only involve financial or physical help (i.e. running wedding errands). It was hard to be so vulnerable, but I did it. I reached out to my godmother and asked if she could just be a sounding board for me. She listened to me cry on the phone and reassured me that the feelings I was going through were completely natural. I reached out to another aunt who is a wedding coordinator in Colorado to see if she could help me figure out how to do everything since I didn’t have a road map. Without hesitation, she was there for me 100%. I made a point to call my best friends, and let them know what was going on with me.
Christian and I also sat down and had conversations around who we could ask for support with various wedding tasks. We asked his cousin to be our officiant, and she flew out a few weeks later to spend the weekend with us so she could write a unique and beautiful ceremony. We called several family members, and every single one of them showed up for us and had our backs. I learned that it’s hard for people to know what you’re going through if you don’t tell them, and it’s easier for them to help you if you can share what exactly you need help with.
There were also several family members and friends who stepped up to the plate without us ever asking and at times when I felt alone it helped to know I had them to lean on.
Beyond asking for help, and leaning on my loved ones for support, it helped me to find resources that helped me understand what I was going through and why I felt so alone. My favorite resource that I used was “The Conscious Bride’s Wedding Planner” by Sheryl Paul. In this book, she goes through the various emotional stages that a woman goes through as a bride during the wedding process and shares some useful practices, and journal prompts to help navigate them. Going through this planner, and taking some of the steps she suggests allowed me to be more accepting of my emotions. I found the more I learned to accept my feelings and not struggle to change them, the more I allowed myself to move towards joy, presence and gratitude for my wedding day.
For every challenge that arose during the wedding planning, a gift emerged triple the force.
In the end Christian and I had the most magical Wedding I could have never imagined. We wanted it to feel like one big hug, and that’s exactly what it felt like. Our loved ones came in from all corners of the world and embraced us with the most powerful level of love I have ever experienced. Looking back, I am deeply grateful for the entire process, because it birthed us into our new roles as husband and wife. It brought together our families, our friends, and strengthened us as a couple.