The Australian magazine, Bride to Be ran a short feature on “How to Have a Stress-free Wedding”.
I was asked for expert comment by journalist, Bessie Recep.
You can read her excellent article here. I wholly agree with the advice given by the other experts, Dr Mary Casey and Dr Vicki Williams. I just wish I’d also told Bessie I’m a Dr too – it would have made my mum happier!
This is the full interview that I gave with Bessie.
It covers a wider range of questions than her final article.
Why are weddings often associated with stress?
The simple answer to this is control or, to be more precise, lack of control. Let’s consider three situations:
- A classic situation for a bride and groom occurs when some family members – perhaps the bride’s family, say – seem to take control of the planning and preparation. The happy couple want the wedding of their dreams – and they know what their dreams are. Yet it is somebody else whom they feel is in control of interpreting these and planning, sometimes even making plans and inviting guests that are contrary to the couple’s preferences.
- Even when the couple take on their own wedding planning, they will never feel truly in control. Even if the two of them could see eye-to-eye on every tiny detail and not feel their partner is controlling some aspect they care passionately about, who do they feel is really in control? Is it the caterer, the venue management, the celebrant, the vehicle hire company? These are the experts, yet despite saying things like ‘we’ll do it the way you want us to’ the couple will always feel that the professionals are leading them.
- Then comes the happy day. While the bride is busy being the bride, and the groom being the groom, who is in control? The best man controls some things, the caterers others and the celebrant runs the ceremony. It’s hard not to feel stressed and out of control, when you are handing over the most important day of your life to other people, many of whom were complete strangers a few months or even weeks ago!
What are the top sources of wedding stress?
I don’t know of any research on this, so let me talk anecdotally. I think it is most often the little things: the car is due in one minute; why isn’t it here? The dessert has been cleared away; where are the coffees? Does the band know that we want to start the dancing with this song… or that? Will the caterer remember that uncle Thomas is allergic to nuts and that aunty Peggy needs a milk-free meal?
The big things are often covered clearly in briefings and even contracts, and we know our best friends – the Bride and Groom’s supporters and close family – will sort them out. But in wanting the day to be ‘perfect’, the slightest scratch of imperfection is magnified in our minds to a huge chasm of inadequacy.
Is it possible to have a stress-free wedding?
I think this is more about whether you have the sort of personality that allows to kick back and enjoy everything good that is happening, without paying attention to the little details. But there are things that you can do to help eliminate points of stress. We do that by turning them into points of control.
So, what are the best ways to eliminate stress in the lead-up to your wedding?
To keep it simple, let’s stick to three major points of control.
- Start by thinking through what aspects of your wedding are absolutely the most important to you both. It will be different for every couple, but discuss, for each of you, which things really matter to you, in making the day – and the time around it – just as you want it. These are the things that you must fight, as a couple, to keep control of and have exactly as you want. Other things you can compromise on. It is also important for each of you to respect what is important to your partner. If there is conflict over one of these, this will be a big test of your relationship. Look for a solution that transcends what both of you want and is a true win-win. Neither of you should need to compromise on this one day.
- Once you know what is important, knowing that it is taken care of, and so are the little details that matter, will reduce your stress levels massively. The only way to get this comfort is to plan scrupulously. Look at your wedding as a military campaign and plan the schedule and the details. Have other people scrutinise your plans for mistakes, omissions and faulty assumptions. Think through what could go wrong and plan around it.
- On the day details will stress you out more than anything else, so if you are worried that grandma Jones must not sit near to Mr Smith, assign someone you trust to keep an eye on things. Give each vital detail to one person to look after on your behalf and agree a signal: you look at them whenever you are starting to feel stressed and they wink, or nod, or give a thumbs up to show you they have it under control: instant stress relief.
What sort of communication style should you adopt, to keep bridesmaids/partner/in-laws happy, without compromising what you want for your big day?
How can you confront people/problems?
One word: ‘honesty’. If you cannot be honest with these people, who can you be honest with? If they truly love you, then they will want the best possible wedding day for you and will respect your wishes. Be firm and confident in telling people what you want, and the secret to that is respect. When you respect them and their wishes, and respect yourself and your wishes equally, you will find that your honesty will carry conviction and will be compelling.
If you do have to confront people over a problem or a disagreement; do so respectfully, but know what you want. Retribution, blame and shame are natural desires in us, when people let us down; but remember that the only thing that matters is getting the day right. Seize solutions that are offered with gratitude and put past slights or errors behind you. When you make it clear that this is your approach, resolving problems will become a collaborative venture, not a battle.
Mike Clayton is author of Brilliant Stress Management, published by Pearson.
Mike and his wife Felicity had a relatively stress-free wedding (despite a bomb scare at the Register Office and a 30 minute delay) thanks to careful planning, good suppliers, and great friends and family.