One of the weirdest things about becoming a bride is that you adopt a new "bridal identity." Regular Jessie is low-maintenance and accommodating, but if Bride Jessie can't find her wooden pew benches with a mahogany finish, then all is lost. (She may actually grab an axe and start tree-hacking. Watch out!) The point is: the strain of planning a wedding is real, and so are its effects on a person.
"Expectations coupled with all this unique pressure to create a 'perfect day' can turn you into somebody that you don't even identify with," Landis Bejar—an NYC-based, licensed professional therapist—says. "But there's no reason that anybody needs to feel that way. It's okay to take ownership of feeling emotionally balanced and healthy during this exciting, but admittedly stressful time." Noticing a gap in services between the wedding industry and the therapy industry, Bejar debuted her boutique wedding planning therapy service, AisleTalk, in January of this year. "As soon as we're engaged, we start making checklists of how we're going to take care of ourselves," she posits. "We hire a personal trainer, and figure out a health and beauty and skincare plan. Why aren't we talking about and taking care of our emotional wellness in the same way?"
Intrigued by this unique idea of "bridal therapy," I called up Bejar and asked if she'd be okay if I became the one asking questions for this session.
Read below for information on services, bringing your partner, and what to expect if you've never been to any kind of therapy before.
Is there a special story behind the beginning of AisleTalk?
About six months ago, my sister-in-law went wedding dress shopping with my mother-in-law and me. She came out in one of the dresses, and then my MIL made a comment. All of a sudden, my SIL erupted into tears while my MIL was like, "What did I say? What did I say?" Then I said something that made them both feel heard and we sort of regrouped and everybody felt better. My MIL joked, "Good thing we brought the therapist along. You should be a bridal therapist!" I laughed but it was totally an a-ha! moment. I was like, "Wait, why doesn't that exist already?"
With all the stress surrounding weddings, you'd definitely think bridal therapy would be a thing. What kinds of services do you offer?
On the phone [consultations], I'm trying to understand basics stressors, and what motivated you to reach out to us. Why did you feel we could be helpful? I first launched the bridal therapy, but soon realized it's also grooms, parents, other family members, and in-laws who are going through this stress too. So, we offer traditional individual therapy sessions, couples sessions, family sessions, and all kinds of combinations. If you're calling and saying, "I've never done therapy before, but I'm having this going on, and I don't know what would be helpful," then I'll offer suggestions. Everything is really catered to each client. Sometimes we start with individual sessions and then someone says, "Oh, I think I actually need my partner in here to talk about this" or "I really need to address this with my mom in the room." We really try to make it accessible for all.
I didn't realize how "not-myself" I'd feel as a bride. There's all this guilt and me-shaming that can come with spending so much money and effort on "a big party for one day."
Exactly! The people around you are like, "Wait? What? You care about this?" That is the other part of this whole thing. You're hyper-focused on planning this wedding, but you're also balancing your day job and your partnership. So often times, your partnership is taking on pressure. Sometimes the grooms aren't used to seeing their brides in this stressed state, and they're confused because the ways in which they're normally supportive aren't working in the same way.
Is AisleTalk accessible to people nervous about trying therapy for the first time?
We all need someone to talk to, but how many times have we heard somebody say, "Oh god. All she can talk about is her wedding" or brides themselves say, "I feel like all I can talk about is the wedding," or "I'm stressed, and I can't talk to my mom because she's the person stressing me out." During this process, we really lean on people a lot, but sometimes those people are too close or they hit a limit of how much we can talk to them, and that's what a therapist is there for. This is a scheduled time to explicitly talk about this thing that's a really important part of your life with no judgement of how much you talk about it, or what's too small of a thing to get stressed about.
We're trying to work with the wedding industry by coming to events and expos. We want to be very visible, because we don't want people to feel like this is a private thing they need to hide. We're right next to the skincare people and the personal trainers. We're all here for you! We want people to know that there is support, even if it's just a short-term thing to get you down the aisle. I want people to think about us as the anti-bridezilla. And, we'll never tell you you're talking too much about your wedding.