They say your wedding is supposed to be the most wonderful time of your life, but ask any bride in the planning stages and you'll find she's anything but blissful. Bickering relatives, flaky friends, money woes, and the general stress that comes along with throwing a matrimonial shindig can turn any usually sane lady into a screaming ball of anxiety and emotions.
"Brides tend to be stressed out because they are banking their whole future on one day," says Nora Cabrera, a success and life coach for women, and author of
Zen Bride. "To them, it's like 'if the wedding is perfect, then their life will be perfect.' The reality is that it's about coming together with your partner and future spouse, sharing your vows together." Sadly, it's easy to get wrapped up in the pursuit of perfection. No wonder many brides lose sight of the big picture and wind up freaking out about things that have no bearing on the actual marriage.
That stress is not only detrimental to your health (we're talking depression, lowered immune system, and sometimes even physical pain), it also impacts how you deal with your loved ones. When we are stressed, we often tend to lash out at others, when what we need to do, says Cabrera, is put things in perspective and detach ourselves from the stressful situation.
Cabrera also blames reality shows and celebrity weddings for the unrealistic expectations many brides have. "They see this fairytale wedding and they think everything looks perfect, and this is kind of a metaphor for life — that it's not about getting to a place where everything is perfect, it's about how you live through the actual experience."
Since living through the experience without losing your marbles can prove challenging, we asked Cabrera to give us some real-world solutions to eight common, stress-inducing situations that many brides face. Click through for her tips on how to tame your inner bridezilla and keep your sanity throughout this whole "blissful" process.
Illustrated by Zhang Qingyun
Your Mom Will Not Stop Calling You With Ideas
We know you love your mom, but when she calls you 15 times a day to talk flower arrangements, it can be hard to keep your cool with her. "When you are planning a wedding, all those family issues you could skate by before really come up strong," says Cabrera. A lot of times your mother is just excited and wants to share in the moment with you — sweet, but that doesn't make it any less irritating. But, sometimes, says Cabrera, an overbearing mother might possibly be living her wedding dreams through you, which can be exacerbated if your parents are contributing to the cost of your wedding.
"There needs to be a clarity of what the expectations are if the parents are contributing money," says Cabrera. "Establish boundaries at the very beginning. Don't take anything personally, and step back and try to see where they are coming from." Many moms, says Cabrera, feel like that because they are contributing financially, they should have a say. Cabrera advises brides to be clear with parents up front, asking if this is a gift, or if they expect to have decision-making power. "If there is discord or friction," she says, "take a step back and approach the situation with those boundaries and some compassion. If it's something you don't want to compromise on, it's not so much the fact that you don't want to compromise, but in how you deliver that message."
Half Of Your Guest List Has Not Returned Their RSVP's
One would think that the concept of an RSVP is pretty simple: You fill out a card, check off a meal option, and drop it in a mailbox. The stamp is already on the envelope! And yet, many brides are left chasing down stragglers mere months before their ceremony. "This is a really interesting situation because you don't have a lot of control over the problem," says Cabrera. What makes it even more frustrating is it's something you have to know, because you are usually paying per plate or per head. "You can't go knocking on every door, and even if they do say yes, there's always that 5% that RSVP and then just never show," she says.
So what's the stress-less solution? Cabrera says to allow your guests to have multiple ways to RSVP — such as via email, Facebook, or wedding website. "Brides think that this is the most important day of their life, and there is an assumption that everyone else gets that," she says. "But your guests have their own busy lives, so the easier you can make it for them to get back to you, the better." For them and you.
Your Single Friends Keep Harassing You About Your "No +1" Rule
The etiquette on this one is tricky, because you don't want your single friends to think that you're excluding a date for them because it's not a serious enough relationship. At the same time, you need to be up front about something people generally do not like discussing: money. "The truth of the matter is that you are telling them they can't bring someone because it's a budget issue," says Cabrera. "We as women tend to skirt around the issue and not be comfortable discussing money."
But, if you want to avoid hurting feelings or going into debt, you need to be straight up with your best buds. Cabrera suggests telling your friends that it's a budget issue, that you don't want to start your new life off in debt, and this would impact you negatively. That should help clarify things for them without causing any hard feelings. And if it doesn't, well, they're just being brats.
Your Dress Doesn't Fit And The Wedding Is Weeks Away
With all the drama you've got going on right now, it's only natural that you might resort to stress eating. Great for calming your nerves, but not so awesome for fitting into your tailored dress. While the urge to have a major panic attack when that zipper won't go all the way up may be strong, try to keep a level head, says Cabrera. "In a high-stress moment like this, some people spend two hours freaking out, instead of having a moment and then problem-solving," she says. "They stay in that high-stress victim mode and don't shift into 'Okay, what do I need to make the best of this situation?'"
Instead of going into a why-me moaning fit, acknowledge that something crappy has happened, then work to find a way to fix it. "In those cases, you need to start looking for a practical solution," says Cabrera. "Things like calling the place where you bought it to see if they have the number of any emergency seamstresses. Many brides experience things out of perspective because they react to situations almost as if they are life or death. It's not — it's a party." Preach, sister.
Your Florist Sent The Wrong Flowers
So you ordered calla lilies for your bouquet and now you're staring at a bunch of carnations wrapped in ribbons. Womp, womp. You could go into a major frenzy, screaming and shouting about the ignorance of the horticultural community — or, you could just let it go. "This goes back to that control issue, and the importance placed on this vision of a wedding representing the rest of your married life," says Cabrera. "In that moment of carnations, ask yourself: Is this really about the flowers? No? Okay, then let's move on."
Cabrera says you should take a moment to realize that this one tiny detail is not going to place a cloud over your future wedded bliss. She suggests taking a deep breath and recognizing three important, positive things: that you are marrying the love of your life, that you are surrounded by people who love you, and that you are healthy and happy.
You're Over Budget And Still Have Half The Wedding To Plan
It's not about the money, money — well, okay, technically it is about the money, but the stress here goes deeper than that, says Cabrera. Most people don't have a budget in their everyday life, she explains, so when asked to exercise one on something like a wedding — where the pressure to have everything be perfect and part of a fully realized vision — all logic goes out the window.
"If someone goes over budget on something like flowers, you have to look at why it's so important to have these flowers at the risk of their financial stability," says Cabrera. "You are making financial choices based on emotions that are based on beliefs that may not be true: If I don't have these exact flowers, my wedding won't be perfect, and a perfect wedding is the key to my overall happiness." In our experience, no one's ever walked away from a wedding complaining that the flowers weren't up to snuff.
Another important note on budget: The habits you have while planning your wedding aren't ones that just magically manifest at that time, says Cabrera. "A woman who is more conservative with her money is going to be more conservative in her planning," she says. Similarly, someone who blows her budget on pricey favors or flowers is probably someone who is used to being in debt. "A wedding gives you a snapshot of what your relationship with money really is. How you and your partner deal with the money situation during the wedding is a huge indicator of how you will deal with financial issues in the relationship," says Cabrera.
Your Maid Of Honor Has Flaked And Isn't Doing Anything You Asked Her To
Picture this: You go on a job interview and are told what your title is going to be, but not told what your duties or the expectations are, and then you're asked if you would like the job. That, says Cabrera, is basically what is happening to your MOH — everyone knows what one is, but the duties and responsibilities aren't clear-cut. It's up to you as the bride to fully lay out those expectations and what it is that you want her to do. "We get to this point where we have this vision and idea and all this emotion for the wedding, and there's this idea that everyone will understand exactly what we want," says Cabrera.
It's also important not to dictate everything and leave her some choice in the matter. Remember, your MOH has a life of her own that does not revolve around picking up your invitations and putting Jordan almonds in little tulle bags. Be clear about everything that you expect her to do, and ask her if there is anything she doesn't think she is going to be able to handle. That way, says Cabrera, you're not left feeling like she flaked, and she's not left thinking you're the Kim Jong-il of brides.
You've Spent So Much Time Arguing Over Menus, You're Barely Speaking To Your Partner
Where is the love, people? The point of a wedding is about you coming together with your partner, so if you're constantly bickering over seating charts and food options, it defies the very essence of the wedding. "The wedding is the destination for some people and they justify being miserable on the journey because of that," says Cabrera. "The big cosmic joke is that there is no destination, only the path. A wedding is a few hours of your life, and the planning can last for years."
Women are raised to believe that a wedding is their day, but the reality is that it's actually about the union of two people. says Cabrera. "A wedding should be about this coming together — emotionally, spiritually, and physically. You have to ask yourself: If I'm willing to sacrifice the joy, love, and sex in my relationship for this wedding, then who is it really for?" Communicate with your partner to make sure you are sharing the same vision, she says, because it's about the both of you. "Don't be in an intimate relationship with planning your wedding — be in an intimate relationship with your partner," she adds. That means having a date night where you make a pact not to talk about anything wedding-related, or have other designated activities where the wedding is an off-limits topic. "The wedding planning is about the future," says Cabrera, "and if you are constantly in that mode, you are not present with your partner."
Cabrera's parting words of advice: Be sure you have an activity that you both can focus on when the wedding is over. "There's a build-up to this wedding — whether it's a year, or two years, or more — where you are focusing all of your time and energy on this creation, and then it's over," she says. This leaves behind a void, which many brides have said can lead to minor depression — seriously. Cabrera recommends having a project ready when you get back from the honeymoon — be it home improvement or taking a class — that you can do together to fill up the space of wedding planning.