• Laura O'Toole

Managing stress and anxiety during wedding planning and on the day of your wedding

When we think of weddings, our minds immediately go to the all the lovely things we associate with them - the joining of two people, the amazing outfits, the epic party. The reality however is that for a lot of people, weddings also come hand in hand with anxiety and stress.

Unfortunately for myself, anxiety played a huge part throughout my wedding planning journey and resulted in me not really enjoying the process very much at all. I did not cope well with what felt like an overwhelming amount of things to organise. I also couldn't cope with the lack of control I felt over elements of the day, such as the weather. People pleasing was incredibly stressful, as I felt I was constantly trying to balance what we wanted in our wedding with keeping other people happy. I know this is a reality for many people, which is why I wanted to put together a blog post that addressed wedding planning anxiety with some proactive steps to help you through this potentially stressful time.

But it's not just the planning process that can feel overwhelming; for many people the wedding day itself can be a huge source of anxiety. This will be addressed in the second half of the blog post, as I have enlisted the help of Selenite Wellbeing to provide us with some amazing breathing techniques that can be used on the day of your wedding to help calm your nerves. Our breath is such a powerful tool and the way we breath has a massive impact on our emotions and wellbeing. I'm very excited that Maya has kindly offered her expertise in this area and I'm sure you'll find it incredibly helpful.

*Quick Disclaimer*

This blog post aims to provide proactive steps that can be implemented in order to avoid overwhelm and alleviate potentially stressful and anxiety-inducing situations during wedding planning. I am not a trained therapist or counsellor therefore I am not providing therapy-based advice. I write purely from my own experience of anxiety and wedding planning. This blog post should not be used in place of seeking professional help, so if you are really struggling, please speak to a health professional who can determine the best course of action to help you. Mental health crisis helplines are included at the end of the blog post if you need them.

Proactive ways to help avoid overwhelm and alleviate stress and anxiety during the wedding planning process

1. Decision Making

Planning a wedding comes hand in hand with decision making. This alone can be an anxiety trigger for a lot of people. I am terrible at making decisions, so I really struggled with the overwhelming number of decisions I had to make planning my wedding! There is so much choice in every aspect of a wedding - what cake to have, what shape of dress, do we have a seating plan, what style of photographer do we want (hint hint, it's me). However, decisions don't have to be overwhelming. My best advice for those struggling with decision making is to make your decision and then put a line under it and put it to one side. Do not dwell on that decision after you have made it, because you have made that choice and now it's time to move on to the next thing. Don't seek reassurance from other people over whether you have made the right decision or not. Tick it off the list, put a line under it, shove it in the "fuck-it bucket" - however you want to think about it, that decision is made and there's no need to dwell or thing about it anymore.



Have a biscuit to celebrate your amazing decision making skills, then move on to the next one, you marvellously decisive wedding planner, you!

2. Make choices with your wellbeing and mental health in mind

While you're busy making all your decisive decisions, try to be kind to yourself and make choices that take your mental wellbeing into account. For example, I knew that I absolutely could not have loads of people around me on the morning of my wedding. I knew I was going to be stressed off my tits when I was getting ready and as much as I adore my friends, I just couldn't see myself coping well with having lots of people in my space. For this reason, I decided to just have one bridesmaid - my sister. Not only did I choose her because she is my sister, she is one of the few people who can make me feel better when I'm in my anxious mode. It was vital that I had that support, and so I made that decision accordingly.

Perhaps you're worried about difficult family dynamics at your wedding and how certain people might interact during the wedding breakfast. A sensible choice to help alleviate your worries could be to not have a traditional top table at your wedding, sit the difficult family members away from each other and instead sit with your friends. Or maybe you're stressed about how part of your body looks (for me, it was my tummy). Instead of getting an outfit that requires you to change how your body looks in order to feel comfortable in yourself, get an outfit that you feel rockin in, just as you are. Don't put unnecessary stress on yourself when instead you can make a decision that is going to benefit your mental wellbeing in the long run.

3. Don't add to your stress by setting yourself unrealistic expectations

This feeds on from the last one. Weight loss is a pretty obvious example (gentle reminder - you don't have to lose weight to be beautiful, especially on your wedding day). But there's also so much hype around how weddings look nowadays, with Instagram and Pinterest making weddings alllllll about the aesthetic (ugh). Being bombarded with perfect images from perfect styled shoots with perfect models in perfect outfits in perfect lighting conditions isn't helpful in the slightest if you're already stressed out. Styled shoots are not a realistic representation of what a wedding day is like, in the slightest. These images have been immaculately conceptualised and created. The resources spent on designer dresses and floating flower waterfalls and suspended cakes etc would probably be an entire wedding budget for a regular couple. It's just barmy. Get off Pinterest and Instagram and focus on what you can afford and realistically achieve within your budget and timeframe. Also try to focus on what you want because it's important to you as a couple, not because you feel under pressure to follow a trend and have an Instagram-worthy day.

4. List making

When we're wedding planning, we're juggling so many things at once. There's too much stuff to hold in our heads and that's when we can get overwhelmed. Lists are a simple way to get the mess in your head down onto paper where it can be laid out clearly. I personally find it more therapeutic to write lists out by hand but some people prefer keeping things on the computer in a spreadsheet format, for example. However you make your list, put things in order of importance. Start with the big bits that absolutely need organising or the wedding won't happen. Put those big boys at the top and then the rest can be bonus things that aren't really important, "but if we get time we'll sort them out" sort of things.

5. Don't Procrastinate

Easier said than done, I know. However, don't do things like list making in place of actually getting stuff done. Use these tools to help you, not to avoid doing what actually has to be done. Procrastinating just fuels anxiety because it wastes time and then you end up under more pressure. So by all means, make a list, then get to work crossing those things off that list.

Dexter helping me sew the wedding bunting

6. Enlist the help of others

Don't be like me and try and do everything yourself. Unless you've got three years to do it in, you're really going to need the help of some friends and family. I know this is hard for a lot of people because delegating tasks can lead to a feeling of "not being in control". If this is you, then my best advice is to get over the idea that your wedding will be perfect. That can be a very difficult thing to accept, but the sooner you accept it, the easier your life will become. Your friends and family will want to do a great job of whatever task you give them, so let them. Accept that whatever they produce might not be as "perfect" as you would have done it, or maybe it'll be even better. The little things really do not matter on the day, as much as they seem to matter now. Try and let go of that tight grip you have on "the perfect wedding" and feel your muscles and mind relax as you do so.

7. Give yourself enough time

I know there's a lot of couples this year who are planning things last minute, so if you just don't physically have the time, refer to point 6 above and enlist the help of others! For those of you who do have time, make sure you use it wisely and don't leave everything to the last minute. Time management is a big part of keeping your stress levels under control.

Take time out to breath

8. Take time out for yourself

Wedding planning will take over your life, so remember to take time for yourself to relax and think about something else. Do some exercise, read a book, listen to a podcast, meditate, bake some big ass cookies or just take time out to breath. This leads on nicely to the next part of this blog, which is all about using the power of breathing to help you relax and calm your anxious mind.

Breathing into your Big Day

by Selenite Wellbeing

For many brides their wedding day is the happiest day of their lives. This wasn’t the case for me, I was crippled with anxiety that really took over the whole day. If I knew what I do now I am almost certain that this wouldn’t have been the case.

As a certified breathwork facilitator I support and guide people to feel safe, calm and empowered through simply using their breath. I specialise in conscious connected breathwork, a powerful open mouthed, circular technique that alters the state of consciousness and can be really transformative and healing. Clients come to me for various reasons form chronic pain to wanting to gain clarity or insight on something, to let go of a person or situation that is holding them back, those with depression and feeling lost. The list is endless as the beauty of breathwork is it helps both the emotional and physical body and it is there for us to use whenever we need it and wherever we are. Alongside this I also see people who just want to feel calm and relaxed who are dealing with stress and anxiety and I usually bring in much more gentler techniques in these cases.

"Check in with the breath"

We take thousands of breaths every day much like blinking, without thinking. When we actually start to become aware of our breath, connect to it and consciously use it we have the ability to tap straight into our nervous system via the vagus nerve which runs through our diaphragm. Taking some gentle diaphragmatic breaths can be like a switch and take us from what we call fight or flight mode back into rest and digest where we feel calm and in control. Breathing deeply and slowly we are sending messages straight to the brain that we are ok, we are safe. Before trying any techniques I always encourage people to simply practice breath awareness throughout the day. We have a different breathing pattern for every emotion, which is unique to each individual. The more we get to know our breath the more we can start to understand how we are feeling on a deeper level and also what our body needs to feel balanced. Checking in with how we are breathing, where we can feel the movement of breath in the body, the pace and the depth of the breath is where we need to begin. The breath is like a mirror for our internal world so if we are feeling stressed and our day is chaotic our breath may appear disjointed and quick. Similarly, if we are relaxed and calm then our breath may be slow and smooth. If we are really tense or holding onto emotion we may be barely breathing at all and holding our breath. Place a hand over your chest and the other over your tummy and check in now with yours. What is it telling you?

"Slow the breath right down"

Once we check in with the breath we then need to begin to breath into the diaphragm, expanding the tummy, allowing the ribs to move out and sending the breath all the way up into the chest. Breathe through the nose and start to slow the breath right down. According to experts the perfect breathing pattern for health and harmony in the body and that brings coherence is breathing in for 5 and out for 5. I personally do 10 rounds of this every morning before I get out of bed each morning. You can even set an alarm a few times throughout the day to simply pause, check in with your breath then try some coherent breathing or do it before each meal. Often 5 minutes is all you need to feel a remarkable difference to how you feel. Perhaps try this leading up to your big day and especially on the morning of your wedding.

"Extend your exhale to double your inhale"

If you are feeling particularly stressed, anxious or overwhelmed then simply breathe in through the nose and extend your exhale to double your inhale. Start with breathing in for 4 and sighing out the breath for 8, then try 5 and 10. If that isn’t doing the trick then close the mouth and purse the lips, creating a very small hole and gently blow the breath out, visualising a string coming through the mouth, this helps to really slow, focus and steady the exhale.

Box Breathing

Box breathing can really help if you find your mind wanders and can help you to stay more focused on the breath. Visualizing a square or drawing one in the air with your finger, trace up each side as you count to 4. Breath in for 4, hold the inhale for 4, exhale for 4 and hold the exhale for 4. I personally love a breath hold now but at first they can seem a little scary as we naturally don’t like holding our breath. Once you realise you are safe and that your body will always naturally take over and instinctively breathe so you aren’t in danger you can really lie back into them, they are little nuggets of complete stillness which we all need more of in our lives.

4, 7, 8 Breathing

The final one I will share with you is the 4, 7, 8 breath which can also help you if you struggling to sleep in the lead up to or night before your big day. Take a deep breath in and then open the mouth and sigh out. Close the mouth and breathe deeply in through the nose for a count of 4, pause and hold the breath for 7 and then exhale, sending out the breath for a count of 8. Do this at least twice a day for a few minutes or so .

This isn’t an extensive list, there are many others but I hope these help and if anyone is interested in joining my online classes I run these once a month but also see clients one to one in person or online where we can work around exactly what you need support with. I really hope you all have a beautiful day and remember to take some deep breaths before you say “I do.”

Follow Selenite Wellbeing on Instagram and Facebook for more information on her wonderful services and wellbeing tips.

Mental Health Resources and Helplines

Urgent mental health helpline in your local area: https://www.nhs.uk/service-search/mental-health/find-an-urgent-mental-health-helpline

Mental health information and support: https://www.mind.org.uk/ or https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/getting-help

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