The word bridezilla has become an oft-used part of our lexicon, and many people who have never been married are confused by the panic and stress that seems to surround wedding planning. But a newly engaged couple quickly learns that the stress of wedding planning is not the overexaggerated fantasy of people who simply have no stress tolerance. Wedding planning is stressful for almost everyone, and yet people never stop to think about why this is. Here’s what is really going on.
Expectations vs. Reality
A wedding is a major rite of passage, and many people—especially women—have been raised to expect their wedding to be a perfect fairy tale. But nothing can be perfect, even a wedding, and the drive for perfection can be profoundly stressful and emotionally fraught. Many people use their wedding as an opportunity to take stock of their lives so far. If they can’t afford a dream wedding, they may feel like failures. Some people have a specific list of things they intended to do before they got married. No matter how unreasonable this list might have been, unfulfilled dreams can still cause stress when you’re planning a wedding.
A Stressful Engagement
The time before you get married should be one of the happiest, most romantic times in your life. Instead, many people spend this period frantically planning a wedding, stressing about finances, and fretting over guest lists. Wedding planning can cause you to pull away or turn on your future spouse, and constant planning certainly eliminates any opportunities for romantic time together. Thus some people arrive at their wedding day feeling pretty humdrum about their future marriage and pretty frustrated with the process that got them to the altar.
Disagreements about money are among the most common marital problems. When surveyed, people indicate that financial problems are one of the biggest stressors in their lives. Weddings are expensive, with the average wedding in the United States costing well over $30,000, so it’s no wonder people can be driven to a state of panic by weddings. Couples frequently must make huge sacrifices, compromise with their parents, and work extra hours to get the money to pay for their weddings, and all of this effort can take a toll.
Requests of Others
Many newlyweds report that it wasn’t the wedding planning itself that was stressful. It was the constant pressure, opinions, and criticism from other people, such as the mother who’s enraged that you’re keeping your maiden name or the father who insists on a traditional wedding ceremony. A wedding frequently puts the differences between parents and their children on full display. Many engaged couples worry about their parents making snide remarks just before their wedding, or spend the entire time they’re engaged bending over backward to please their parents, only to find out that nothing they do is enough.
Relying on Others
No matter how much you might want it to be just you and your fiancée, a wedding is a group event. From bridesmaids to florists, officiants to flower girls, you must coordinate with many people, not all of whom will be cooperative. Trying to get everyone to understand your vision for your wedding can be like herding cats. And even simple tasks such as getting your best man to finally get fitted for a tux can be extremely stressful. When people have to rely on others to get tasks done, their stress levels tend to rise. This reliance on others is made even worse by the stress most couples feel to create a perfect wedding.
So, no matter how simple you may try to keep the wedding plans, there will still be stressors that you should anticipate and plan for, just as you plan for your cake and photographer. Start thinking about the people and events that may create stress for you and your fiancé, and take steps to reduce those predictable conflicts. Acceptance of the things you can and cannot change is key, and practicing now can only help once you become a partner in a marriage.
- Miller, R. S. (2011). Intimate relationships. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
- Reis, H. T., Rusbult, C. E. (2004). Close relationships: Key readings. New York, NY: Psychology Press.
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