Help me enjoy my wedding (and keep from freaking out beforehand and the day of!)
September 13, 2012 2:31 PM   Subscribe

What can I do to manage my stress and anxiety (about being the center of attention, the logistics, and getting married itself) on and leading up to my wedding day? And do you have any other advice to help me enjoy and appreciate my wedding?

So I'm getting married in a couple weeks, and besides being super-stressed about logistics, I'm starting to feel spikes of anxiety poke through that I imagine will get stronger as the time comes closer. I'm an anxious person in general (have been in therapy but not currently, and have never taken meds for it), and have some social anxiety about being the center of attention as well as some mild to moderate anxiety about getting married itself. (Not because of any red flags, he's a wonderful guy and we have a fantastic relationship, I'm just a really indecisive person who's always worried I'm not making the "right" choice... it took me forever to decide to marry him because I worried that it would be a mistake because I wasn't giddily head-over-heels, and although I've been surprisingly at peace with the decision during our year-long engagement, the "maybe I'm making a terrible mistake" feelings are slowly starting to ramp up again.)

I'd love suggestions about how to deal with my anxiety (both ways to prepare and to approach the day itself) as well as other suggestions for how to really enjoy and appreciate the experience. Practical tips, psychological techniques/mantras/etc, and substance-based suggestions (alcohol, meds, etc) all welcome.

As for the latter, I've been considering having a drink the morning of the wedding-- which has usually been pretty reliable for my social anxiety, at social occasions I generally go from being nervous and clamming up/overthinking every word before a drink to loose and more talkative and enjoying myself-- on the downside, I'm a lightweight and there's a pretty small margin for error between relaxed/buzzed and tipsy, and I really don't want to be drunk during my wedding. Would Xanax or something like that be better? (I've never taken a benzo, what's it like?) I've never had a panic attack and am not particularly worried about having one, but I'd love something that could take the edge off my anxiety so I can enjoy myself (if necessary) but without the potential downsides of alcohol. (But are side effects with meds just as bad or worse? I read things about people feeling really out-of-it, having memory loss, etc.) I want to truly experience the day and not have it be muffled or distorted by the effects of anything I'm taking... but I also don't want to be totally anxious and miserable.

Also very very welcome: stories from anxious brides and grooms about how their day went. There's a lot of talk about worries magically melting away on your wedding day-- does this actually happen for people with anxiety? And/or what did you do to manage yours that helped? Any self-talk/mantras? Any practical/logistical advice?

Also, how do I make sure I get enough sleep? I'm a bit of an insomniac to start with, and the stress and anxiety doesn't help. (I got prescribed something called hydroxyzine but I'm reading about lots of people being totally exhausted the next day after taking it-- obviously I'd test it out ahead of time, but I've got so much left to do that the idea of taking myself out of commission for a whole day worries me and stresses me out even more trying to think about how everything would get done. And I just recently tried melatonin for the first time, but while it made me feel more exhausted it didn't shut up my brain to help me sleep, and it seemed to actually disrupt the latter portion of my sleep.)

And any other general advice about what to do/not do leading up to the day and on the day itself to make the most of it? I really want to enjoy the experience and my time with with all these special people (many of whom I don't get to see very often.)
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (27 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
As you probably realize, the trick is to accept that you can't totally control everything.

As you may not realize, part of that trick is to accept that you can't totally control your own anxiety levels, either.

Wedding jitteriness is par for the course. That's why we have best men and maids of honor.
posted by feral_goldfish at 2:37 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ask your doc now for a few Xanax or Ativans and test-drive them. Low doses don't knock you out or make you goofy - they just kind of put the anxiety farther away, and you care less about it. YMMV, as with all drugs. I've taken Ativan and it just kind of chills me out and makes me give much less of a shit about whatever I'm anxious about.

Try sub-lingual melatonin for the sleeping thing. Good luck. It will be fine.
posted by rtha at 2:39 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

on the day of, let go of everything. some of the best advice I got was to keep three (and *only* 3) things in mind:

1. say "I do"
2. get something to eat
3. get the heck out of there

everything else is icing on the cake (or remedied by #3).
good luck!
posted by acm at 2:45 PM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

1 You need a really good friend to look after you on the day, often the best man or Maid of hounor. Looking after the bride/groom (mentally and physically) in the morning before the event is totally in the job description. That's what friends are for.
2 The fear ends as soon as the ceremony starts.
posted by Drew Glass at 2:49 PM on September 13, 2012

posted by eq21 at 2:56 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was super anxious before my wedding. I woke up the morning of the ceremony, and my very first thought was "today I get to start being married."

My anxiety simply evaporated. For the rest of the day, every time something unplanned or unpleasant happened (the flowers were messed up, I realized we forgot to bring a check for the minister, it was too cold to dance outside, the guest book got lost, all the cake was eaten before I got a piece, my grandma threw a gigantic embarrassing hissy fit about the handling of the wedding gifts, I got ketchup from the car the groomsmen had decorated on my dress, etc....) I simply repeated that to myself, in one of two ways: either
Today I get to start being married -- or --
Wow. I just started being married.

My suggestion is to think of a mantra like that for yourself, some little mental trick to help you focus on the big picture. I got lucky and mine just came to me.
posted by OrangeDisk at 3:13 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh hey! Here is my panicked day-of-wedding thread from last year. We celebrated our first anniversary last Monday. And I won't lie; I'm AWFUL with anticipation, so Monday triggered anxiety about THE REST OF OUR LIVES and all that.

But let me tell you, Monday evening was great (we went on a lake cruise), and the rest of the year has been really great too. I'm even saying that having upped my antidepressants recently. Having a great partner made it easier for me to stop worrying about my relationship and start recognizing other things.

I was married once before, and I flipped out after the wedding with that one, too. And even knowing how that went well ahead of this wedding, I still had issues. But I was able to tell myself, even in the most frightening time, that I had been through the worst times and come out better.

And even with that first wedding, when in retrospect I actually HAD made a less-than-great choice... you know what? He took me aside and said, "You're working with the best information you have available to you right now. That's the best you can ever do." He was right.

Listen: there is no shame in being scared, feeling ill, being nervous, whatever. This happens to people all the time. And you know what? This IS a big thing. You ARE right to feel apprehensive about making a big commitment like this.

But read hermitosis' fabulous, fabulous comment and remember that at any time, you can either stop and say no or raise your head and say yes. It is all up to you... and whatever you choose, life will go on, filled with the same beautiful and frightening and strange and wonderful things it had before your wedding day.

MeMail me any old time, even on the day of the wedding. I'm here for you.
posted by Madamina at 3:16 PM on September 13, 2012

1) Accept that something, somewhere, is going to go wrong. Something goes wrong at every wedding. The secret is that ninety-nine times out of a hundred, none of the guests notice, because they don't know what you were planning in the first place.

2) Trust in your support network. Your wedding party exists for a reason - to let you focus on getting married. Let them help when they offer. Give them tasks. Encourage people with day-of concerns to go to your best man or maid/matron of honor. You have more than enough on your plate, and they all know it. They wouldn't have signed up if they weren't willing to help.

My story: We went into the wedding with no planners other than ourselves and our friends, and were overwhelmed by the help and support we got from them. It was a largely DIY affair, and as stuff kept cropping up on the big weekend things got pushed back to the day of the ceremony itself.

I was fully expecting to run around like a headless chicken to get everything ready that afternoon, but it turned out to be mainly a matter of delegating. No flowers for the flower girls (or the bouquet!)? Three volunteers to go out and buy them. Assembly required on the centerpieces? One of my groomsmen, with his whole family, leapt into it without even being asked. My main task ended up being to greet people, and occasionally fetch some ice for the coolers.

What went wrong (and how it wasn't a big deal): My grandmother's ring pillow, which was made out of her old wedding dress and a big family heirloom, got left at home because nobody was actually assigned to bring the thing. We used a book with paper towels wrapped around it, and nobody noticed it wasn't a pillow (except the ring bearer). The DJ never played "our song" for a dance, so we listened to it on the way home. Soft drinks were still being set up as the reception opened, so we had the groomsmen lay them out and the DJ told people where they were.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 3:18 PM on September 13, 2012

OH! And I almost forgot one of the most important things:

MetaFilter, and the MeFites, can help get you through anything.


I just want to tell you both: good luck. We're all counting on you.
posted by Madamina at 3:20 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you are married at the end of your wedding day, you did everything well enough. May you both keep before you the prospect of joy in a long and happy marriage. Congratulations!
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:23 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was very nervous my wedding day, for similar reasons as you. I don't like being an object of other peoples' attention, and I worried a bit about things going as planned, and people having a good time.

One of the groomsmen in my wedding said something that helped me quite a bit. He reminded me that by the day of the wedding (when I was feeling nervous), that things were pretty much driving themselves at this point, and that no matter what, THINGS WERE GOING TO HAPPEN. I simply had to stand up in front, in my designated spot, do what I needed to do, and I was going to get married. I could trust that things were in place at that point to bring things to their natural conclusion.

This helped me a lot (as soon as I drank some more water to get rid of the dehydration).
posted by SpacemanStix at 3:29 PM on September 13, 2012

I was really nervous about being the center of attention at my wedding, and my groom just told me, "You only have to look at me. You only need to say your vows to me. Don't worry about anyone else." I just looked at him and he was right, I didn't notice anyone else. And at the reception, I wasn't the center of attention, because everyone wanted to spend time with a lot of people who were there, so I only ever had a few people to talk to at any given time. It'll be fine. Good luck.
posted by Margalo Epps at 3:29 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

As a bridesmaid, I told my friend to relax, think about her fiance, and realize that people are looking at her because she looks beautiful and because they are happy for her and love her. They're not judging her, they're just there to support her. I hoped that the reminder that every bit of attention is positive would help.
posted by sarae at 3:33 PM on September 13, 2012

Also! Make yourself a "comfort mix" of music that helps calm you down and feel taken care of. (A lot of my anxiety stemmed from the fact that I had done pretty much everything myself. My mom is crazy, my maid of honor was my brother in Chicago, and my other bridesmaid was in the Twin Cities.)

I basically let this song play in my head all day until I got to the wedding.
posted by Madamina at 3:35 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

  • We hired a wedding coordinator just for day-of stuff. It was still expensive and might not be an option, but I didn't have to worry about most of the logistics that day and it made it nice and relaxed. Without a coordinator, you can still assign tasks and areas of responsibility to close friends and family members to take the pressure off you.
  • If it's buffet rather than a plated meal, assign someone to make you a plate so you don't have to make time for it (or worry about getting food on your dress).
  • I took a quarter of a Xanax bar (I think that's a half-milligram dose) the night before to ensure I got a good night's sleep. If I'd been a ball of nerves the next day, I absolutely would have taken another dose. That's not enough for me to be out of it or really feel any effects at all; it just makes everything OK. You can't really drink with it, though, so pick one or the other. (If you can test-drive it ahead of time, so much the better.)
  • Things will go awry. Remember that 98% of it doesn't really matter; no one will care that the boutonnieres got misplaced.

  • posted by magicbus at 3:39 PM on September 13, 2012

    I was nervous about being the center of attention too. I told my mom, and she told me that all anyone was going to think, or tell me, was 'You look beautiful!'. It was true.
    posted by bq at 3:41 PM on September 13, 2012

    Something will go wrong. Don't sweat it when it does.
    posted by notned at 3:47 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

    Re: benzos. Some leave you feeling more stoned than others. Ativan reportedly leaves people pretty clear headed, Xanax not so much. YMMV and all that. The memory loss is an effect of long term use. If you take half an Ativan once your memory will be 99% normal
    posted by slow graffiti at 4:05 PM on September 13, 2012

    I'm so glad Madamina showed up to point you to her Ask last year. I remembered it well and thought it was a great example of Mefi at it's best. (Happy Anniversary Madamina!!)

    As far as sleep aids go, Benadryl works great for me. I usually take 1 25 mg pill although I've taken 2 when I felt I needed the extra help without any ill effects. If I'm going through a bad patch, I might take Benadryl every night for a couple of weeks with no problem. Occasionally I feel like I might be a bit sleepy the next morning, especially if I get to bed late (and so take the Benadryl late) and then have an early morning. I usually take it a half hour or so before I want to sleep. Maybe try it a couple of times and see how you feel the next morning.

    Good luck and best wishes!
    posted by SweetTeaAndABiscuit at 4:05 PM on September 13, 2012

    nthing the xanax, I took it on my wedding.

    Things went wrong, but they will fade.

    It will be wonderful, good luck!
    posted by ibakecake at 5:18 PM on September 13, 2012

    I may just threadsit in here. I'm kind of an expert now. Just call me Heloise for Freaked-Out Brides.

    Here's the way it'll probably go. Right now, you're thinking, "Okay, Detail X and Ritual Y are mandatory and we need them to be perfect or I will not be happy." Next week, it'll be "Okay, Detail X isn't going to happen unless I give it 10 hours of work this week. And I'm totally going to do it! Totally! Also, maybe we'll scale back Ritual Y a bit." Two days before the wedding, it'll be, "Ah, Detail X would have been great, but I am not tearing my hair out, because there are other ways to represent what I was thinking of that'll already be in the ceremony. As for Ritual Y? Okay, Grandma; you said you'd do anything, right? You get to do Ritual Y. See you at the altar, honey." And then the next year you only remember you were planning either of them because you find your old craft supplies every time you go looking for AA batteries.

    My point: the important stuff will get taken care of. If everything else is good enough (hell, we had the wrong cake), nobody will care. And believe me, "good enough" is an AWFULLY wide spectrum.

    In my experience, Xanax is awfully heavy. Benadryl helped to some degree I didn't really recognize, but at the very least was a bit of a placebo. With both Zofran (pregnant-lady antinausea drug also used for chemo patients) and Atarax (the drug I eventually got prescribed long-distance), I don't recall feeling out of it at all. I just felt less frantic and less physically involved in active stress.

    Basically, many antihistamines, antianxiety meds and antinausea pills do similar things. If you're in need of something, though, Benadryl is a good OTC start. (Please note that Bridal Heloise is not any semblance of a medical professional; consult your own doctor and check out the stats online.)

    Do NOT feel guilty about bending traditions if it makes you feel less stressed. I know it's easy for me to say this on my second wedding, but I don't know what I would have done if I couldn't have slept with my fiancé the night before the wedding. We are close sleepers, so being apart from him would have been a pretty significant disruption. Plus my panic started very early in the morning. He was there. He and I split do do our prep, but it was huge to know he was there.
    posted by Madamina at 6:09 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

    It's perfectly okay to have a glass of wine or a mimosa or whatever before the ceremony (just don't polish off the bottle!).

    Go in with the expectation that something may very well go wrong... But so many other things will go right! And if something does go wrong, very likely you will be the only one to notice, so don't allow yourself to worry what others may think. Case in point: My florist forgot to bring the white runner for the center aisle. Even my groom didn't notice, and since I never mentioned it, no one else did either. Also, my dj was late, that just gave folks more time at the bar! By the time he got there, folks were in a real good mood. And 11 years on, they still tell us how they enjoyed our wedding. No one has ever mentioned the dj. And you know what? When we talk about it now we remember fondly how much fun we had, we don't think about those small hiccups.

    Okay, and now a protip from me to you: when you go to get your hair done, wear a button down shirt. Don't get stuck having to cut your tshirt off because you don't want to pull it over your hair!

    posted by vignettist at 10:23 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

    I've been to tons of weddings in the last few years and never, never, ever have I negatively judged the couple on anything that went wrong on their wedding day. This is perhaps one of a very few days in your life when everyone wants to give you the benefit of the doubt and everyone thinks you look gorgeous. I've been to a couple where traffic noise at the venue made it hard to hear some lines of the ceremony (hazards of living in southern California) and remember having the mad thought, "Couldn't these people stop driving for a minute? My friends are getting MARRIED over here!" Went to another where the DJ was a really weird, awkward guy playing inappropriate music and thought "Wow, we are such bad guests for not dancing more at this wedding." I think it's natural to just blame circumstances for anything that happens to mess up the day, because everyone knows how badly you want it to go just right.

    My worries magically melted away on the day of my wedding because I was soooo busy. I did my hair and makeup myself, and didn't hire a day-of coordinator so ended up taking time out of the reception to write checks for the vendors. I made all the placecards in our hotel room the day before the wedding. I think I left a bunch of stuff to keep me really, really occupied so I wouldn't have any time or energy to unspool. Only you know whether this is an approach that will work for you. My only recollection of worrying that day was when my godparents were running late and I was worried we'd have to start without them. We were all waiting in the little anteroom to start up the ceremony, and it was probably one of the few idle intervals I had all day.
    posted by town of cats at 10:51 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

    My best friend played The Carpenter's " Sing a Happy Song" on the way to the ceremony, but sang it to me and the bridesmaids in Spanish.


    I reccommend something like this.
    posted by jbenben at 1:07 AM on September 14, 2012

    I did the breakfast drink thing for anxiety in a high-anxiety situation, and it worked Well for me - it was the one drink, I felt a little silly, but it just helped the way it Usually does in social situations. So if that works for you? Do it!

    Speaking of which, what else works for you usually? I find exercise helps, even if it's just a walk, and giving myself a "job" like town cats described helps. So instead of thinking of it as being the center of attention, you can break it down to your various tasks, that might help. Friends help. My brother and SIL watched a comfort movie the day of to distract themselves. Sometimes taking care of someone else helps - think through the things that have worked for you in the past, and go with them! Congrats!
    posted by ldthomps at 7:59 AM on September 14, 2012

    Did I write this question in a fugue state? I am getting married next weekend and feel very much like you do. I am honestly sort of dreading it. Not getting married or even that whole "what if everything doesn't go EXACTLY AS PLANNED" feeling - just the being the center of attention. I feel sick to my stomach thinking about the moment before I step out to walk down the aisle.

    I don't really have advice to offer but I wanted to say thanks for writing this question. Anytime my mind even starts to go there I just wall it off, so I appreciate your courage towards facing your feelings and putting them out there to get advice. I am planning on having a mimosa or two or three to get through the day. Maybe I'll change that based on the advice given here, but if it's worked for you in the past, it should be okay here. Maybe assign someone to make sure you aren't absentmindedly drinking more than is wise.
    posted by coupdefoudre at 8:41 AM on September 14, 2012

    When we were planning our wedding, one of the things we decided was that anything that didn't get done by a certain time (we chose noon) on the day Officially Did Not Matter.

    Highly recommended: plan to give yourselves at least 10-15 minutes, immediately after the ceremony, just the two of you, alone, in private in a room with nobody else. Spend the time together letting it sink in: this is it, here we go, hand in hand into our future together.

    Don't let yourself get stressed out by the details. (Fourteen years out, you'll have forgotten many of them. *cough*) If you're there, your partner is there, and the legal paperwork/necessary officiant are there, everything else is gravy.

    EAT DURING THE RECEPTION. Sorry for yelling, but really, it's important. Recruit a friend/attendant ahead of time to be on make sure anonymous always has a plate of something tasty within easy reach, and be sure that some of it gets eaten duty. Also be sure anonymous has appealing non-alcoholic beverages as well as champagne duty.

    This might sound a little odd, but if you have the possibility of incorporating musical interludes in the ceremony, I highly recommend it. We were lucky in that my family is lousy with classical musicians, so we had live music, but recorded would be nice too.

    We added that based on the recommendation of my uncle the trumpet-player, who's played at many weddings. "The ceremony will go by faster than you can imagine," he told us, "so it's good to build in opportunities for you to be with what's going on." And he was right. (Plus, walking down the aisle to a trumpet voluntary? Totally awesome.)

    And you can clutch this to your heart because it's true: BEING married is SO much better than GETTING married.
    posted by Lexica at 7:40 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

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