As a psychoanalyst I have many twenties and thirties planning weddings who are already anxious people. Since these women (it was only women who I spoke with) were already anxious people, planning a wedding only escalated that emotion. I will write about many people in a composite as one person, so as to keep confidential anyone in particular. I will call her Ceci, age 30, verbal, talking at a fast pace, anxious to please everyone. Ah! That was her problem.
Ceci and many others like her aim to please. She wants the approval of everyone and struggles with everyone’s opinions about everything from the wedding cake, to her bridal gown, to how many to invite, to where to hold the wedding and how to pick out invitations.
Like many women Ceci has her own opinions but seeks approval from too many people in her family and then has to also contend with a new family, her husband-to-be’s parents. The mothers involved had planned weddings before and thought they knew how Ceci should plan everything. What about her husband? He was on board most of the time but was indecisive and left the final decisions to Ceci which only complicated matters. Sometimes he agreed with his own mother not his fiancé and sometimes he agreed with his fiancé and had to learn to disagree with his own mother. This certainly complicated matters.
Here are some tips that helped in the long run to reduce Ceci’s year long planning of her wedding while modulating her anxiety:
1. Remember that it’s YOUR wedding and you’re the BRIDE! Especially when the groom doesn’t take firm stands on choices, let your say be the definitive one.
2. Decide on the destination and stick to it.
3. At the same time that you are planning the wedding, you are rehearsing for becoming a real unit with your prospective husband. So, run things by him, even if he defers to you. Emphasize to him that you care about his opinions and want to share yours with him. Some items don’t need a discussion (plates and utensils) but others do (whether to have a wedding planner or not.)
4. Depending on who is paying for the wedding (in Ceci’s case it was her father) decisions need to fit in a reasonable budget (or, an unreasonable one if money isn’t an issue and sometimes it isn’t which complicates decisions because anything goes “for my little girl.”)
5. When dad says a $1000 wedding cake is out of the question and you agree, but your wealthy fiance’s mother says she’ll pay for it, make a joint couple decision without offending your father. Be sure to take your father’s feelings into account.
6. The bottom line is what is YOUR decision. That can’t be emphasized enough. You will be hopefully pleased to be a part of two families and are setting the tone for the future.
7. Remember this isn’t only a one-time event, it sets the stage for relations with those close to you for years to come. That’s the underlying problem with all the decisions—your future relationships.
8. Learn to let go of decisions once their made. This will serve you well in your marriage as well.
9. You decide who comes and doesn’t come to pick out and fit your wedding gown. It’s your body, your beauty, your style, and your dress! The impression you make should be the one that makes you feel pretty and happy when you look in the mirror. It’s your smile and the glint in your eyes that will catch your soon-to-be husband’s loving response. Don’t forget that when mothers and friends tell you where to buy your dress and how elaborate or simple it should be.
10. How many to invite and who to exclude can be an issue. This isn’t a performance! It’s a wedding. You’re not on stage on Broadway, you’re getting married to someone you love. So,invite those you want to share in that event and give in here and there to all the parent’s choices as well. They are proud of you and want to show you off, but that’s not primary! What you want is primary!
The key to planning the wedding is to understand that it’s a rehearsal for future relationships, a memory you want to enjoy, a time to be assertive, and mostly a time to practice being a unit with your prospective spouse. If that is clear to you, you’ll get a handle on your anxiety because the ultimate guide is YOU! Of course, care about other’s feelings, but ultimately, it’s a time to assert your needs and feel comfortable. Then you and your eventual husband can look back on the day with pleasure that you were able to please yourselves and each other above anyone else’s influence. That will set the tone for the future and you will indeed be a unit unto yourselves!
Laurie Hollman, Ph.D. is a psychoanalyst and author of Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child’s Behavior, The Busy Parent’s Guide to Managing Anxiety in Children and Teens: The Parental Intelligence Way, and The Busy Parent’s Guide to Managing Anger in Children and Teens: The Parental Intelligence Way. Visit her website for more guidance: lauriehollmanphd.com.