According to a Zola survey of 500 engaged or newlywed couples, most of you are freaking the eff out about wedding planning—96 percent of you. Having your stress level in overdrive is completely understandable—you still have your job, your family, your bills (you know, a life), plus, you’re spending a lot of money on a party for 120 of your nearest and dearest. No biggie, right?
According to the survey, 40 percent of couples categorized wedding planning as “extremely stressful” while 71 percent thought it was more nerve-wracking than other major life events like finding a new job. "It’s really not as much about the wedding planning as it is about what wedding planning and weddings represent," explains wedding therapist, Landis Bejar, LMHC. "It’s a life transition for everyone involved, and with life transitions come identity shifts and a sense of loss of who you were before. Meanwhile, all this happens while everyone’s eyes are on you, you’re spending loads of money, and you’re expected to be the happiest you’ve ever been. The culmination of all these circumstances makes wedding planning a pressure cooker for stress, exacerbation of already-strained family dynamics, hurt feelings, and conflict."
Meet the Expert
- Landis Bejar, LMHC, is a wedding therapist who specializes in helping soon-to-be newlyweds manage stress. She is the founder and director of AisleTalk: Consultation and Therapy.
- Lynn Goldberg is a meditation coach with over a decade of experience. She is the cofounder of the Breethe meditation app.
- Michelle Leo Cousins is an event designer and planner with over 10 years of experience. She is the owner and design lead of award-winning firm Michelle Leo Events.
Before you go down the stress-out rabbit hole, there are easy ways to calm those nerves and enjoy this experience with your fiancé. We asked Bejar, meditation teacher Lynne Goldberg, and expert wedding planner Michelle Leo Cousins what you need to do to keep calm and plan on. Here’s what they had to say:
For 35 percent of the couples surveyed, it’s the details that are driving them the most cray. “Decide right now that if you’re going to nitpick every single detail, you’re going to be unhappy,” says Leo Cousins. “If you’ve got a great attitude about your wedding, you’re going to have a great day.”
To help keep things in perspective, prioritize the essentials—those things that are super important to making this your dream wedding. Then refer to your “must” list over and over during the planning process, so you don’t go down a spiral of DIY projects you saw on Pinterest or feel the need to constantly upgrade your flower arrangements. Repeatedly checking in with your initial goals will help you stay on track—and on budget.
“By putting a lot of those key pieces in place right at the very start of the planning process, you’re going to avoid a lot of stress down the road,” says Leo Cousins. “You’re going to avoid overspending on things you decided at the get-go weren’t that important.”
Parents are also the source of some major tension: 53 percent of couples said their parents are the biggest stress-causing culprit, while 33 percent said it’s their in-laws. If mom and dad are contributing to your wedding budget, they’ve bought themselves a say in the planning. Sit down with them right from the start and talk about your vision for the big day and hear what they have to say about the things that are important to them. Then find ways to compromise, so everyone is happy.
"Communication is everything!" says Bejar. "So many of family arguments come down to lack of or miscommunication—we assume people’s feelings and intentions, and we let them fester in our minds. Talking it through with that person almost always alleviates the stress [because] we’re often more aligned than we think, or things aren’t nearly as bad as our imagination would have us believe." Getting your families on the same page right from the get-go is the best way to avoid butting heads when you’re in the thick of planning.
Use "I" statements to start difficult conversations. This will help you identify your feelings without invoking a defensive reaction from your audience.
Create a Plan B
There will be things that happen that are out of your control—namely, the weather, says Leo Cousins. Being prepared for any worst-case scenarios will help you roll with the punches if—and when—something does go awry.
"Remember that you don’t have to like everything to enjoy the process in general," adds Bejar. "It’s perfectly okay to acknowledge that some things suck and some things are kind of fun. An engagement and wedding planning is an inherently temporary state, so when things get hard, remember it’s not forever." And if the going gets really tough, all experts agree that the best course of action is to take a pause and center yourself by remembering the real reason why this is all happening: love.
Make Time for Self Care
Eighty-six percent of couples said pre-planning stress caused them to experience physical symptoms like breakouts, reduced sex drive, headaches, and changes in appetite—even hair loss! Maintain your sanity by setting hard stops for wedding-planning activities and sticking to them. For example, allot two hours in the evening three nights a week for wedding-related tasks. The other nights, do something you enjoy: 61 percent of the Zola respondents chose to listen to music, 27 percent hit the gym or got a massage, and 12 percent found stress relief in a yoga class.
"Self-care is not a one-time thing," notes Bejar. "It’s not just something you do when you’re stressed—it’s something you do regularly and preventatively to reduce your reactions to stressful situations when they arise. The best self-care practices look across all five domains of physical, emotional, spiritual, social, and professional and incorporate behaviors that are done at regular, preventative frequencies that make sense for your life."
Taking a break and doing something restorative, like a manicure, yoga class, or Netflix binge is critical for your overall well-being. Bejar stresses the importance of being fully present while doing so, not multi-tasking while trying to benefit from caring for yourself.
When your iPhone is lighting up endlessly with text messages from vendors, it can be tempting to throw the thing out the car window. But that little device can be a lifeline to some peace of mind. Apps like Calm and Breethe offer timed meditation practices that can help you go from manic to chill in anywhere from two to 10 minutes.
“Ultimately, what meditation helps us practice is nonjudgment, gratitude, but sometimes you need little cues for specific tools that you might want to pull up faster,” says Goldberg. “When you get stressed and you get into that fight or flight reaction, your heart rate increases, your blood pressure goes up, you're releasing cortisol and adrenaline into your bloodstream. When you meditate, what you’re doing is the antidote. You’re releasing oxytocin, serotonin, you’re slowing your heart rate, you're lowering your blood pressure, you’re actually changing your mood. It helps you see things with a lot more clarity.”
Go on a Date
According to the Zola survey, 43 percent of couples say that wedding planning put a strain on their relationship. Respondents said the stressors came from differing opinions on the wedding details (50 percent!), followed by problems with family and friends, and when their significant other either didn’t help with the planning or didn’t do things on time. Double down on the reasons why you’re marrying this person—it can help you maintain connection and work through tiffs because they forgot to return the DJ's call.
"It’s really important to keep up routines that allow you to feel grounded in your partnership," says Bejar. "I love the idea of regular date nights, but one thing I like even better is some structured, planned activity where you are both engaged in something outside of yourself." Her top suggestions include learning activities that can be "bonding, exciting, and connective" like joining a recreational adult kickball league, taking a pottery class, or becoming members of a book club together.