Wedding Season Stress: Why Is Wedding Planning so Stressful?

Bride and groom smilingThe 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.

Finances
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.

Sources:

  1. Miller, R. S. (2011). Intimate relationships. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
  2. Reis, H. T., Rusbult, C. E. (2004). Close relationships: Key readings. New York, NY: Psychology Press.

Related articles:
The Fear of Hurting the Other and the Inhibition of Self
Embrace Conflict as a Path to Deeper Connection
Decision Making in Relationships: Three Important Values to Help you Know When to Give in or Dig in

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  • wilkie

    wilkie

    April 25th, 2012 at 12:32 PM

    I think all of this is so stupid. Why get so worked up over one day? I mean, yes, I would like to have a nice wedding too, but all of that craziness and expense over one day? I can spend $100 bucks and go to the justice of the peace and be just as married as someone who spends a fortune on their wedding. I sure do hope I can find a girl who agrees with me on that!

  • Langston

    Langston

    April 25th, 2012 at 4:49 PM

    As the proverbial bridezilla, I had to make sure that everything was absolutley perfect on my wedding day. My mom and I spent months ensuring that everything was just right, down to the very last and most minute details. And you knwo what? It gave us some great quality time together that I would not trade for anything in the world and it gave me the wedding day that I have dreamed of for years now. I don’t think that it has to be so stressful as it made out to be, and it helps when you have great people by your side helping you do the planning and implementing. You have to delegate and let some things go, but just make sure that you are letting people that you trust help you with all of the details that you could not stand to be messed up.

  • Allen

    Allen

    April 26th, 2012 at 4:20 AM

    You have to remember that most women grew up as little girls dreaming of that perfect day. But what you would hope is that is that as they grow up they would realize that there is no such thing as creating this kind of perfection. They have all of these dreams that nothing in reality is ever going o live up to, so they become these horrid stress monsters who in the end wind up making everyone around them hopeful for the day just to hurry up and be over. That is not what the events leading up to the wedding should be like, but I have seen that happen a lot lately. Look, it is just a wedding. If you want to be really pessimistic you could even say that it only has a 50% chance of surviving anyway, so why worry about it so much? I try to be a little more positive than that, but I don’t see the use in getting all bent out of shape about it either.

  • gamecockfan96

    gamecockfan96

    April 26th, 2012 at 3:20 PM

    It does not have to be as stressful as we make it out to be. First of all, it should be about the love and the beauty of the ceremony and not worrying so much about all of the petty details. Surround yourself with loving people and not those who are only going to be catty about every little thing. Those things mean a lot! And focus on the fact that hopefully you are marrying the person that you love, someone with whom you can share the rest of your life. And finally, just don’t swear the small stuff!

  • Kelly

    Kelly

    April 26th, 2012 at 9:55 PM

    No matter how well you plan and how much you spend there will always be somethig imperfect.Rather than trying to make the wedding a perfect one try and make the marriage and relationship perfect,that will reap bigger rewards I’m sure!

  • Ma'shel

    Ma'shel

    April 27th, 2012 at 4:23 AM

    Don’t go off on these brides- they are just trying to make this day perfect. Why is that wrong?

  • Gwen

    Gwen

    April 27th, 2012 at 7:52 AM

    First of all,every girl wants her wedding day to be a perfect one,no doubt.But the expectations are often centered around what is seen in the movies,read in books and also influenced by what happens at friends’ or others’ weddings.So the picture that we see in our mind of our wedding may not be what we truly want but rather something heavily influenced by external factors.

  • killian f

    killian f

    April 27th, 2012 at 4:46 PM

    I went all out on the first wedding because I got so fixated on having everything be the very best. It wasn’t the very best of anything except a real buzz kill. I got so caught up in the wedding that I kind of forgot that there was this serious marriage thing going on. As you can probably tell the marriage did not last long because it was based on all the wrong things, for both of us. And all I could think about was how much time and money I wasted on something that did not even last a year!

  • Mackenzie

    Mackenzie

    April 28th, 2012 at 11:02 AM

    It isn’t me who has made my wedding into this logistical nightmare, but my mother in law who is ratching up the stress levels of everyone inch by inch! She is so controlling, that if it isn’t all over soon (and I know that sounds just awful but I am seriously looking for a way out, just to elope and be done with it) I think that I am going to scream! She is so over bearing that none of us feel like we can tell her no, even when we know that it would be in the best interest of all of us if she would just let us do the rest of the work. I really don’t want to a;ienate her though because, I mean, she is going to be my mother in law. How do I ever keep the peace with that relationship if I get on her bad side even before the wedding is over?

  • asheton

    asheton

    April 29th, 2012 at 8:35 AM

    Las Vegas all the way, baby!

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