Bride Anxiety: Coping With The Stress Of The Perfect Day

By Keosha Johnson
WBUR

Since getting engaged, I’ve learned that ‘Bridezilla’ is more than just an entertaining reality TV show. Based on my symptoms after my fiance proposed — including insomnia, loss of appetite and more — I started to wonder whether I was developing a true clinical disorder: Bride Anxiety.

I was so burdened by the demand for perfection in every aspect of the wedding and pleasing everyone involved…I began asking the question: “Who is this person?”

It didn’t start out that way. The day of the proposal I was calm, serene and completely filled with bliss. But over the next few weeks my euphoria over planning for the big day was less apparent. At times I lost my appetite, would occasionally spend hours on end obsessing over wedding venue options and was up many nights filled with worry. I never imagined this would be my response to what has been one of the happiest moments of my life.

(Courtesy of Flickr/LibertyD8

I’ve since been able to calm down — I think. (With some support from my bridesmaids — thank you girls!). But we all know brides-to-be like this. Which brought me to my quest to find out whether there really is such a thing as bridal stress disorder.

Apparently not, according to Dr. Todd Farchione, master clinician and director of the intensive treatment program at Boston University’s Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders. In an email he wrote:

Bridal stress is not medically recognized as a disorder. Of course, even positive things in our lives, such as moving, getting married, etc. can cause stress. Depending on how the stress is handled, it could contribute to the emergence of an anxiety or mood disorder.

For instance, it’s not uncommon for people to experience an uncued panic attack during a stressful time, such as preparing for a wedding. Or someone who has a tendency to worry may find that the worries become more frequent and difficult to control during a stressful time.

It’s not a disorder, Farchione says, because it’s stress that’s related to a specific event.

“People experience stress over an event, so it’s not diagnosable — stress is not in and of itself diagnosable,” he said.

“When we diagnose generalized anxiety disorder, we look at the frequencies of the worries, and are they excessive, and the extent to which the person can control the worries. The worrying and the lack of control over the worries has to be present for at least six months or more, and it has to be interfering and distressing for the person.”

OK, so maybe bridal stress is not officially recognized by the medical community. But it’s still a serious issue many women experience. Francie Elaine, who happens to have been a marriage counselor for 18 years, talked about her stressful time planning her wedding for her second marriage on Brides.com.:

I have been a marriage & family counselor for 18 years, and last month I decided to devote my entire practice to bridal counseling. This is a fairly new concept, not too many licensed professionals doing it. But I feel there is a need! There seems to be so many stressed out brides! My wedding was simple but I worried constantly! It is supposed to be the happiness time of your life, but things can go wrong.

Another woman, in response to her post:

Not only is there pressure out there to have the best. Wedding. Ever. There’s also pressure out there to be the happiest. Bride. Ever. I’m already an overly emotional person (I cry at everything) so that pressure to not be anything but happy-go-lucky becomes overwhelming. It took one of my recently married friends telling me “It’s okay, there’s nothing wrong with you, there’s nothing wrong with your relationship, and it’s even okay to not enjoy planning the wedding — I couldn’t wait for the planning to be over.”

“What happens with these events, especially with weddings, is they take on such an importance — part of it is they’re so expensive, there’s a social aspect to it, everybody’s looking at, judging it…these brides-to-be are under a lot of pressure,” he said. “It’s a tough position to be in.”

Farchione offers a few tips for brides getting ready for the big day:

  • Keep it in perspective: Try not to make everything into a catastrophe. “I’ve watched these bridal shows, and I’m sure it presents the worst of these situations, the Bridezillas, but some of the things I hear them say, if I were there I would say, ‘Is that really what’s going to happen?’ Or, ‘What if that did, could you manage that?’
  • Relaxation techniques: Tried-and-true stress relievers like yoga, exercise and progressive
    muscle relaxation (PMR) can help to relieve physical tension induced by stress
  • Support: Seek support and advice from other brides.

When it comes to weddings, what are your tips for staying stress-free?

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Rosa

    I understand your point, and that’s what I thought most of my life… Until my turn came to get married.  It started with wanting to do “a little something” to share with the family and closest friends… my parents and grandparents mostly, because I knew how much it meant to them.  But little by little it started snowlballing into something very hard to handle.  My lovely mother and grandmother started thinking that this was the wedding they never had, wanting me to invite people I don’t even know (THEIR friends, and family I haven’t even interacted with once in my life); and everything else is just more expensive than I thought.  It definitely IS possible to do whatever you want and not buy into the nonesense, but it takes MUCH MORE effort and strength than you would think, especially when feelings get in the way.  Your judgement gets kind of blurry, also.  Everything seems like such a big deal, so necessary, so final.  I am making a gigantic effort just to keep myself grounded, and to find the courage to stand up to my mother and tell her that the two sisters of her friend from work, with their husbands and children are not essencial people for me and I am not going to invite them to the wedding.
    It is easy to judge, but it can be surprisingly tough when you’re in there.  God bless the brides that have the balls to do exactly what they want and nothing more.

  • guest

     I found the article interesting because I was exactly the same during the planning for my own wedding. I wanted a perfect day for myself and my husband but I also wanted everyone to enjoy themselves during our celebration – trying to please up to 200 people is extremely stressful. You feel as though if anything goes wrong on the day you will be a failure because your planning or organisational skills will be called into question (even if the disaster was unavoidable or not your fault). It is internal pressure you put upon yourself, (and for some brides pressure from friends or family too) that is a very difficult thing to shake.

  • Stephaniemar17

    This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever read. How about not buying into this nonsense and putting yourself through this in the first place. You actually have a choice not to have a wedding and not spend enormous amounts of money to create a “perfect” day. If that is all you have in your life it is pretty sad.

  • Mimi Arbeit

    interesting, but it still makes me really angry to see the effects of sexism pathologized, a la “histeria” way back when. they are saying that brides get panic attacks planning a wedding, and then asking if this is a medical disorder. they are not asking, why don’t grooms get panic attacks? what’s going on that’s putting these women in such a difficult state of mind? finally, they end with “suggestions for the bride.” what about suggestions for the groom, for the male friends and family members, for the female friends and family members? i think there is a general recognition of the social problem that weddings cause a lot of stress to brides, but there is not a general recognition of the fact that this stress is rooted in the patriarchal, sexist, materialist extreme that is the wedding industrial complex.

  • Guest

    Control what is in your control and let the rest go. People will think you’re beautiful if you shine from within, not because your hair or gown are micromanaged into perfection.

    The main problem with weddings is that it’s the one and only time any one person is required to act as producer, director and star of their own show. Hollywood mostly doesn’t even encourage this kind of ‘taking it all on by yourself, and that’s for experienced folk. It’s only natural that a first time bride would feel overwhelmed and stressed by this. The mistake is that they expect to be able to do fulfill all those roles perfectly, which, frankly is only a mistake women and novices make.