Are wedding bells causing more than just excitement in your heart? Pre-marriage anxiety is as much a part of the wedding planning process as save the dates and family drama! It’s perfectly normal for the mixture of joy, anticipation, and apprehension that are present leading up to a wedding to create a whirlwind of emotions, but fear not! Below I’ll walk you through my proven effective strategies for tackling pre-marriage anxiety head-on. Keep reading for practical tips to ease your nerves and make the journey towards the altar a smoother one.
Understanding Pre-Marriage Anxiety
Before diving into strategies, let’s get familiar with what causes pre-marriage anxiety. This brand of nervousness actually isn’t usually an indictment of your relationship; rather, it’s an acknowledgment of the gravity of the commitment you’re about to make, and it presents an opportunity for growth. Reframe anxiety as a sign of the magnitude of your decision. This way, you can channel it into constructive avenues.
Share Your Vulnerability
Being vulnerable isn’t something that comes naturally to most people. After all, vulnerability means leaving yourself open and exposed to harm. However, it’s also 100% essential for genuine human connection. Only by showing your authentic self and feelings is it possible to genuinely connect with another person; connection without authenticity is not a true meeting of selves.
In the case of pre-marriage anxiety, being vulnerable means opening up about your worries even though that’s probably very uncomfortable and feels like a risky and high-stakes discussion. But good news: you’ve got plenty more difficult conversations ahead of you in marriage, so this one will be a great training ground for honing your communication skills. On a serious note, however, expressing your fears or doubts to your partner not only lightens your emotional load, but also invites your partner to be your ally in navigating this transition.
If you’re nervous that they might react badly or get anxious themselves, use the wording above; ask them to be your ally and to help you navigate the transition together. Calling upon them as an ally, rather than an adversary, reminds you both that you’re a team and that your feelings of pre-marriage anxiety do not position you as somehow against your partner, but rather that these feelings are something you need their help in dealing with and overcoming together.
Set Realistic Expectations
Weddings are picture-perfect affairs, complete with flawless decorations, exquisite attire, and seamless ceremonies…and after their weddings, couples ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after. Right? Wrong. Perfection is a myth, but it’s one that’s all too easy to believe in–and to attempt to measure up to. The most important thing to remember is that this is all about a healthy long-term relationship. Don’t forget about your marriage when you are planning your wedding!
You will probably encounter a few snags in planning and executing your wedding, and during your marriage there will likely be occasional phases of disconnection, major conflicts to weather, and periodic doubts. Set realistic expectations not only for your wedding day, but also for your marriage itself. In doing so, you alleviate the pressure of achieving the unattainable. Rather than striving for perfection and berating yourself for falling short, embrace the beauty of imperfection; that’s where authenticity lives. And as discussed above, it is only through authenticity that one can experience genuine connection.
Premarital Counseling: Why It Matters
Now, before you tell me “only couples with problems go to therapy,” let me tell you about the virtues of premarital counseling. The first, and most important point is that couples that do any sort of premarital counseling automatically have a better chance of staying married. Every study done about this reflects the value of this work. Secondly, this will allow you and your partner healthy space during the wedding planning process to talk about your pre-marriage anxiety in a productive way. Third, it allows you to establish a relationship with a therapist that you can pick back up when you run into challenges in your future.
Self-Care and Mindfulness
Don’t neglect your well-being amid the whirlwind of wedding preparations; this is one bad habit that may actually lead to pre-marriage anxiety, as overwhelming emotions are more likely to creep in when one is not caring for themself adequately. Instead, make an extra effort to put time aside for self-care practices such as meditation, exercise, and quality sleep in order to anchor you amidst the chaos–especially if you’re feeling anxious about your future married life.
If meditation is not your thing, identify an activity that’s meditative for you. It could be as simple as singing along badly to embarrassingly cliche pop music while you do the dishes, or taking a bath while you listen to a podcast. Anything that gets you out of your head and into the moment will suffice, as long as it’s not mindless scrolling on social media.
As for exercise, there are a plethora of studies that speak to the benefits of exercise in reducing stress and pacifying anxiety. High-intensity exercise is the best; think sprinting over running. Still, any physical activity will make a difference. Try to do something that gets your heart rate up at least a little bit. If you don’t have time for exercise, make time. Even a 15-minute HIIT workout at home in front of YouTube makes a world of difference when it comes to calming your nerves.
Good-quality sleep is something that may feel completely elusive as your wedding approaches–but ironically, this is a time period in which it’s even more important than usual. If you’re having trouble sleeping, here are a few strategies to get sufficient zzz’s ahead of your big day.
Yoga Nidra is essentially a guided progressive relaxation exercise well-known for putting many an insomniac to sleep. Plenty of video demos are available for free online.
This involves breathing in for four seconds, holding your breath for four seconds, and breathing out for four seconds. Those who practice this technique regularly while going to sleep maintain that they fall asleep quickly.
Put this term into youtube and you’ll find hundreds of soothing voices guiding your unconscious mind towards a deep, deep sleep. This one has been known to be disarmingly effective even for stubborn cases of insomnia.
Although it’s never a good idea to rely on medication for sleep over the long term, if nothing else works, consider going the pharmaceutical route just temporarily for the weeks leading up to your wedding day. Alternatively, a range of natural, herbal and homeopathic supplements are available to promote healthy sleep, as well. And, of course, please speak to your doctor before taking any medication or supplements!
Delegate Wisely: Don’t Do It All
Some pre-marriage anxiety can simply be chalked up to the stress of planning a wedding, which usually involves an exhaustive to-do list. In order not to go crazy, let go of a little bit of control and embrace the power of delegation. By involving friends and family in the planning process, you not only share the workload but also bolster your sense of community and make your nearest and dearest feel all warm and fuzzy.
Focus on the Love Story
In the flurry of nerves and logistics and plans that bring the biggest commitment of your life closer and closer by the moment, make it a point not to lose sight of your love story. Make time to reminisce about the journey that brought you together–by yourself or with your partner. This reflection will reignite the emotional connection that underpins your partnership and remind you of the ‘why’ behind your wedding. And, it might just re-center you enough to reduce your anxiety.
Healthy Distractions and Hobbies
Engaging in activities you’re passionate about serves as a healthy outlet for anxiety. Whether it’s a creative pursuit, a sport, or a hobby, these distractions offer a mental respite from pre-marriage anxiety and wedding-related stress. They also infuse your life with positivity, leaving less space for anxiety to monopolize your thoughts.
Support System: Lean on Your Tribe
Your friends and family are more than just attendees at your wedding; they’re your support system and they’re there for you, so confide in them. Some of them have probably also experienced their own versions of pre-marriage or relationship anxiety, and they may be able to share valuable perspectives. At the very least, they can act as sounding boards, help you shoulder the emotional burden of your anxiety, and help you prepare to bring it up with your partner if you’re also nervous about doing so.
Find the Reason
Get curious about the roots of your anxiety. Why, exactly, are you feeling nervous? What doubts do you have, and why are they coming up now? In some cases, it might simply be that you’re nervous about the wedding itself, or about being witnessed in such a personal moment by all your friends and family members. In other cases, pre-marriage anxiety stems from doubts about the relationship…and in most of those cases, the doubts become much less scary when you bring them out into the open, like how a flashlight in a dimly-lit room illuminates and disarms all the intimidating shadowy figures.
You’ve gotten to this point with your partner for a reason, so it’s likely that whatever lingering points of disagreement or conflict exist are things you can talk about and manage together. If you’re having trouble doing so, I highly recommend seeking premarital counseling. Your future selves will thank you for dealing with your doubts before the wedding.
In a few cases, pre-marriage anxiety is actually there to alert you of problems big enough that you should either delay or rethink the wedding entirely. While I sincerely hope that’s not your case, if you think that’s a possibility, don’t avoid addressing your anxiety and giving serious thought to how to best proceed. If your doubts do spell the end of the relationship, you’re going to be glad you dealt with that before approaching the altar, not after.
Financial Planning and Open Discussions
Any money-related concerns that might be hiding in the back of your mind will amplify pre-marriage anxiety. To preempt financial stress, engage in open discussions with your partner about your financial values, goals, and expectations. If you haven’t already, create a budget that aligns with your vision and sets a stable foundation for your union.
Pro tip: This is an arena in which getting a prenup can really help you out! It will clarify your financial roles and expectations as well as put to rest any worries about what will happen financially in the unlikely event things don’t work out.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Pre-Marriage Anxiety
Q: Is it normal to experience pre-marriage anxiety?
A: Absolutely. It’s very common, so don’t despair–there’s nothing wrong with you, and there’s probably nothing wrong with your relationship either. Pre-marriage anxiety is a natural reaction to the gravity of the commitment you’re about to make. That said, it is important to address any underlying fears or doubts about your relationship.
Q: How can I balance wedding preparations with self-care?
A: If you’re having trouble managing your time and taking enough time for yourself, schedule time every day for activities that nurture your well-being–and stick to that schedule. No one but you can convince you to take care of yourself, but it’s 100% within your control to do so; you just have to exercise some willpower. If you need a push, it will help to think of self-care as an essential aspect of your wedding preparations.
Q: What if my partner doesn’t understand my anxiety?
A: Be mindful of how you approach the issue. Before you open up the discussion, let them know that you need to talk to them about something difficult, but that you trust the two of you and your relationship to be teammates in navigating issues and tricky conversations. Assure them that you’re glad to be partnered with them, then let them in on what’s going on–and communicate with transparency, but without harshness.
If you follow this advice and they react poorly or in a way that is not constructive, see a professional or talk to a trusted family member or friend together. They might need a little bit of guidance in dealing with the big feelings that can come from difficult relationship discussions, and that’s ok. We all do from time to time.
Q: How do I know if I need professional help for my pre-marriage anxiety?
A: If anxiety is significantly impacting your daily life and well-being, seeking professional guidance from a therapist is a wise step. As mentioned above, you should also reach out for help if your partner is not able to react to your feelings in a constructive way.
Q: How can I involve my partner in managing pre-marriage anxiety?
A: By telling them about it, letting them know you need their support, and allowing them to be there for you! You might also try getting back to your shared hobbies (if you haven’t been doing them much lately) or joint activities that promote relaxation and bonding.
The Bottom Line
Pre-marriage anxiety is a very normal experience, and it’s a testament to the significance of the commitment you’re making. That said, it also isn’t to be ignored or minimized. In order to transcend it, you have to address it–and addressing it means an opportunity ripe for growth, improved communication, and mutual understanding. Use the strategies above to navigate this phase with grace and also lay the foundation for a lifelong, resilient, and harmonious marriage.
Trevor White is a Marriage Therapist with a Private Practice in Seattle. He specializes in premarital counseling and developed a web-based premarital counseling video series called Launch to Land for couples to be able to access a low-cost and convenient therapy option as they approach their wedding. He also hosts a podcast called Marriage Stories where he interviews real married couples as they discuss their unique success stories in their marriages. When he is not doing therapy he loves playing volleyball, spending time with his wife and kids, and running with his Siberian Husky Athena.