Planning a Wedding? A Psychologist's Take on How to Focus on What Matters

You've played the image in your mind, over and over -- you and your sweetheart beginning a new chapter of your lives together, so blissful and happy, with the full support of everyone around you, cheering and smiling. There's so much to be excited about. So why are you
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If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you.
--A.A. Milne.

It's summer... wedding season! Your big day is just around the corner. You've dreamed about this event a million times: The groom seeing you for the first time in that gorgeous dress as you walk down the aisle... the look in his eyes, telling you that this is the best day of his life (just like it's yours, too).

You've played the image in your mind, over and over -- you and your sweetheart beginning a new chapter of your lives together, so blissful and happy, with the full support of everyone around you, cheering and smiling.

There's so much to be excited about.

So why are you so insanely stressed?

It's difficult to believe, but according to the Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory -- a list of the top 43 most stressful life events, as determined by studying 5,000 people -- getting married clocks in at #7. (For many people, it's more stressful -- in terms of the potential impact on your health -- than getting fired from your job!)

But of course, getting married doesn't have to be the seventh most stressful experience of your life! As a bride (or groom), you can choose to change your perspective, simplify your plan, and learn healthier ways to manage your emotions.

Here are my tips for soon-to-be-wedded couples who want to stop freaking out -- so that you can focus on what really matters. (Hint: It's love.)

Laugh it off. (And get support.)

Imagine walking into a hospital and saying to a physician, "Hey, you there. Can you please whip up two hundred gourmet meals for these people that I've got waiting at a five-star restaurant?" She'd probably say to you, "Excuse me? I'm not a chef!"

It's a ridiculous scenario, but that's essentially what's happening for you ... if you're trying to plan a major event all on your own, and you're NOT a professional event planner!

So laugh about the ridiculousness of it all. And then, get help. As much as you possibly can. If you can't afford to hire a professional wedding coordinator, find a less-costly helper on a website like or ... or ask friends + family for support, and truly open your heart to receiving it.

Even a little bit of help can make a big difference!

Make a "We Don't Care About..." list.

A friend of mine knew a bride who began her wedding planning in a very smart way: by making a "We Don't Care About..." list with her husband-to-be.

They sat down and made a list of everything they didn't care about, when it came to the big day.

We Don't Care About ...

: Having real china plates and silverware. (Compostable bamboo plates will be fine!)

: Having expensive champagne or a signature cocktail (We'll do regular wine and beer.)

: Having a gift registry (We'd rather have people donate to our favorite charity -- or their own!)

By the time they finished writing out their "We Don't Care About..." list, they had pared their wedding down to the absolute essentials ... and it felt wonderful!

Even if your wedding is just a few weeks (or days!) away, it's never too late to simplify the plan. It will lighten the emotional weight of the whole event. (I'm not planning a wedding right now, and I feel better, just thinking about it!)

Thwack out your emotions.

You know that reality TV show, Bridezilla? Where brides fly into screaming rages and lash out at the people they love? It's not funny or entertaining, to me. It breaks my heart. Because what I'm seeing on the screen is a woman who hasn't learned how to uncork her emotions, safely and appropriately.

If you're feeling angry, frustrated, overwhelmed or just scared, all of that is understandable, and you don't have to feel "bad" about it. But it's your responsibility, as an adult, to uncork those feelings safely.

One of the best ways to do that is to get yourself in a private place, knot up the end of a hand towel, and then thwack a soft pillow with the knotted end of the towel, while vocalizing your frustrated feelings out loud. ("I'm so mad at our wedding coordinator for quitting, two weeks before the big day!") If you're scared ("I'm scared that I won't be a good-enough wife!" "I'm worried I'll be a terrible step-mother!"), scream into the pillow. It muffles sound.

Keep thwacking or screaming until you feel a sense of emotional relief. Many people experience this as a physical sensation -- like a weight literally being lifted from your shoulders.

Make this "thwacking" and / or screaming exercise a regular practice -- just like going to the gym or brushing your teeth. You'll be amazed at how quickly + effectively it will lower your stress levels (I was amazed, myself, when I studied this technique for my PhD dissertation!)

Most of all, remember:

You're marrying your sweetie!

It's understandable that you want everything to be flawless on this important day.

But don't forget what your wedding day is really about: making a public commitment to the one that you adore. A person who can't wait to see you walk down the aisle ... who thinks you are so beautiful ... and who can't believe how lucky he (or she) is to have found you.

All of the other details pale in comparison to the bigness + amazingness of Love.

In the words of Lao Tzu:

"Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength; loving someone deeply gives you courage."

Keep it simple. Be courageous. And savor the entire experience!

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