Pre-wedding jitters are a totally normal part of getting married—but they’re still enough to make anyone panic. Despite the fact that most people have them, they make you start thinking about the big questions: Have I made a mistake? Am I ready? Is this really the rest of my life? Even if someone is completely in love and ready to get married, these questions can creep up. And, if you’re a friend of the bride, it may feel like your job to warm up the cold feet. Which is pretty daunting, to say the least.
“If your friend has pre-wedding jitters, you can be a great sounding board for them,” relationship therapist Aimee Hartstein, LCSW, tells Brides. “Wedding jitters are normal, but there’s always the possibility that they have real fears that they are marrying the wrong person. But more often than not, wedding anxiety is quite normal.” So you need to sit there and you need to listen—but what do you say? What do you do? It’s difficult to know how to handle it when someone is asking you about such huge life decisions. Here’s what to keep in mind.
Meet the Expert
Aimee Hartstein, LCSW is a New York- and New Jersey-based licensed psychotherapist with advanced training in the areas of relationships, marriage counseling, infidelity, and divorce.
Be a Positive Force
First, try to bring them back down to earth a bit. “You can listen to your friend, remind them of the things they love about the person they are marrying, and in general just try to make their weeks leading up the wedding easier,” Hartstein says. There are a lot of reasons why they decided to marry this person, so it’s time to remind them of those. Maybe they just need a reminder of all of the positive things about the relationship.
Sometimes people are getting married to the wrong person. It’s unusual that a relationship would make it that far, but be sure the jitters aren’t really a cry for help. “However, if you sense that it’s a bad match and have a feeling that your friend has very real fears that they should not be getting married then be open-minded and supportive,” Hartstein says. “I wouldn’t lead them in either direction, but feel free to reflect back to them things they have said about their partner. The things that really work in the relationship and the things that really don’t.”
Try to work as a mirror for what your friend is saying. Explain what you’re hearing back to them, and let them draw their own conclusions—you don’t want to be the friend who encouraged a bride to run when it was just normal nerves.
Don’t Be Afraid to Indulge
When my best friend got married, I was there to help—with whatever she needed. I had champagne and vodka on hand. I had two emergency cigarettes wrapped in a tissue (nabbed from the best man, because neither of us really smoke). I had chocolate. I knew it would be a stressful time and sometimes talking just doesn’t cut it. You know your friend, so use that and think outside the box. It’s a big day, so you can let loose a little.
Take on the Voice of Reason
There’s so much pressure on modern relationships to be perfect. We hear about "the one" and project this fairy tale onto our partner. The wedding day is often the epitome of that, with expectations that are just out of control. You need to give your friend a healthy dose of reality. “You can also remind them that no relationship is perfect,” Hartstein says. ”It’s normal to have things in a partnership that are problematic. One wouldn’t throw out the baby with the bathwater because of a few fights or disagreements.”
Have Some Agency—but Remember You Can’t Change It All
Ultimately, getting married is a huge, but very personal, decision. Their jitters will also be personal. You can’t be inside her head. And even if there are major problems, you can’t make your friend see them—or fix them. That’s on them. All you can do is try your best to take control of the situations and snap them out of their nervousness. At the end of the day, how they feel about their wedding and whether they decide to go through with it or not is their decision. Your opinion and your actions will only go so far—so let yourself off the hook a little.
Dealing with pre-wedding jitters always feels really tricky, but more often than not it can be sorted out with a pep talk. Remember, you know your friend and you know how to get through to her, so don’t be afraid to think outside the box. But if the nerves seem to point to bigger problems, try to stay measured. Ultimately, you’re just there as support—it’s her decision.