I’ve always known I don’t handle stress well. Planning a wedding reinforces that. I missed the last week of my senior year of high school because I stressed myself out so much I got sick with a head cold and the flu at the same time. When I was in college I stopped sleeping because I was so stressed with working full time and going to school full time. I eventually had to become temporarily medicated to make it through graduation. At my last job I used to do the sales onboard trainings and management trainings that would involve all aspects of accommodating and entertaining the staff. I would get stressed in the weeks leading up to it, it would peak the week of, and then it would take almost a week after the training to unwind and get back to my normal, still anxious lifestyle. In addition to that, my job required me to travel 2-3 weeks a month. The lack of routine, changing time zones, eating out for every meal, sleeping in different beds every night, etc. stressed me so much I’d get tension headaches for months and would have to take a break from traveling. Once the headaches went away I’d go back to my reckless schedule.
When my KISA and I started talking about getting married I told him I didn’t want a wedding. Of course I liked the idea of it, but I’d had enough experience with myself to know I’d be miserable. He conceded and after he proposed he announced he’d like a wedding, but we’d be getting a day-of wedding planner to ensure that I was stress free. I challenged him on not wanting a wedding and he was fearful I’d regret not having one and therefore we’d have one. (Plus, let’s be honest, he loves a good party.) I proceeded to not sleep for the next three weeks in a panic of trying to figure out what I wanted for a wedding and scouring Pinterest for inspiration. Having a wedding had never been more than a fleeting thought, so I felt ill-prepared as people started asking me what our wedding colors would be, where we’d be getting married, etc. I didn’t have answers and my KISA had no strong opinions on any of it. I inevitably spent Memorial Day, four days after getting engaged, with the flu.
After the first push of booking the big vendors and determining we’d do the wedding back in Madison the stress of wedding planning alleviated and we moved to blissful planning. It started being fun. That is until my trip back to Wisconsin in June for my brother’s wedding and my bridal shower. I again stopped sleeping, spent a bunch of time crying alone in the bedroom, and could feel my stress level rising. By the end of the trip I didn’t feel like I’d gotten everything done that I needed to feel prepared for my return trip in September. Thankfully my brother was having a wedding reception in August so I could have some more Wisconsin time to plan.
Unfortunately flight prices never dropped for the weekend of my brother’s reception, so we accepted the fact that we wouldn’t make it back to Wisconsin again before the wedding. This also meant I couldn’t do more wedding planning in Wisconsin. On July 20th, two months before the wedding IT happened. I was talking to my mom on the phone about all the wedding planning that still needed to be done. By the time I got off the phone with her I could feel the sharp pains in my chest and back. I couldn’t breathe and I knew I was having a panic attack. I couldn’t stop shaking and when I stood up I fainted. Thankfully my KISA was home to come to my rescue. After making out a list of all the things I felt I needed to do before the wedding he forced me to lay down on the couch with him and watch a comedy. The pain subsided during those two hours and it was less painful to breath. As the day wore on the pain came back and I didn’t get much sleep for the next couple of days. The wedding to do list made things seem manageable and realistic, but I’ve still had stress headaches every day since.
In my sessions with my therapist she has helped me come to terms with the fact that panic attacks are like a disease that you don’t choose to have. And, as much as you can try to prevent it, it’s sometimes inevitable. It took me a while to wrap my head around that because I’m a control freak and like to think I’m in control of my body and how it reacts to things. Plus, millions of people plan weddings every year without having panic attacks. Some even enjoy it. Unfortunately I’d have to accept this wasn’t something I could control.
Another interesting thing has happened in the wedding planning – my self-perception has changed. I have always been accepting of how I look, even when I knew I wasn’t a top quality version of myself. I had self-compassion and have never been too hard on myself. However, this has changed as the wedding is getting closer. I find myself scrutinizing the size of my arms, the whiteness of my teeth, how long my eyelashes are, my skin quality, etc. I had a dress fitting last week with all my accessories, my hair and makeup done, and looking as closely to how I hoped to look on my wedding day. My KISA saw me before I left and was commenting on how good I looked. For some reason I couldn’t see the person he saw and I came home crying about how I didn’t look like a beautiful bride in my dress like I’d hoped to. He reinforced that he’d seen me before I left and that he’d thought I looked good even in street clothes. My response: “Maybe I look good in street clothes, but I don’t want to look just mediocre on my wedding day.” It’s obvious I have unrealistic expectations of how I should look as I’ve always believed my wedding day would be the day I looked the most beautiful I had ever in my life. I cringe even as I write this. And, it saddens me to know I’m that hard on myself right now.
However, I will say one very positive thing: my friends and family have been incredible. I’m serious. They’ve been absolutely amazing. Anything I even mention my mother executes on. She’s been a workhorse getting everything ready and scouting for items at thrift stores. My aunt Amy has been my sounding board for all of my ideas and gives me her honest feedback. Her husband made chalkboards for the wedding so that we didn’t have to rent them, which their daughters then wrote on and designed (in addition to making coloring books and a beautiful display of origami cranes). My aunt Karen has comforted me through my anxiety and is reminding me of why I’m marrying my KISA through the questions she’s been asking to prepare for her speech (she’s our officiant). My sister has checked in regularly with me, even just to hear my latest ideas, and planned my bridal shower. My bridesmaids and close girlfriends have been quick to reply on requests, advice, plan a memorable bachelorette party, and also to check in. My sister-in-laws are planting flowers for the bouquets. My nieces and nephews have had an excitement for the wedding that is almost tangible and makes it seem more important than Christmas or Kindergarten (which is a big deal when you’re little). My brothers and brother-in-law haven’t complained once about having to buy a suit to be in the wedding and have asked about details of the wedding and taken an interest in it. My Godfather, who’s our wedding photographer, makes it seem like we’re the only wedding they have scheduled this year. All of our friends who are paying loads of money to come to our wedding and are so excited about it. And, most of all, my KISA has been my rock throughout all of the craziness.
I have to say, even with the stress and toll it has taken on me to plan this wedding, if the love I’ve felt by everyone leading up to it is an indication of what our wedding day will be like, it will be all worthwhile. Seriously.