You guys …. ONE WEEK from today, I am going to be getting married! And while our 18 month engagement certainly felt like an eternity at times … and the 6.5 years of our relationship haven’t exactly zipped by in a flash …. I somehow still can’t believe this day is finally here! Where the heck did the time go?!
From a very early point of our relationship onward, I’ve been eagerly waiting for the day I get to introduce Mac as my husband. So much so, that I have a (probably kind of embarrassing) confession to make:
When I’ve been home alone over these last few months, I’ve looked in the mirror and quite literally practiced letting those delicious words slip off my tongue, saying things like, “Oh, let me check with my husband,” and “My husband loves that book!,” and “My husband and I are out of town next weekend.”
I know that probably sounds crazy, but seriously … Those words just sound so good, and feel so right. There is nothing in my life than I’ve ever been more sure about, and while I certainly have nerves leading up to our wedding day, I can 100% honestly say that I feel completely and totally ready for what comes afterward … Marriage.
However, right now, I’m in the pre-wedding phase … Alas the joy of planning! I definitely feel prepared when it comes to all the logistics & itineraries, however in spite of my preparedness, I’ve still been dealing with pre-wedding anxiety over the last few weeks. This is what I want to write about today.
Other than a few particularly tough moments, the lead-up to this moment has actually been relatively calm, due largely in part to the fact that we did so much planning well in advance. When I tell people that I am feeling stressed, I hope they understand it has nothing to do with the ‘small details’ like floral arrangements, centrepieces and the like.
My stress is primarily rooted in another place. The largest source of anxiety for me has been fueled by the reality that I can no longer ignore the fact that my mom will not be at my wedding. That is a burden far heavier than I expected it to be, and managing that takes up most of my emotional energy, leaving little behind to deal with all of the other stuff that needs to be done in this final week.
I’ve done my best to be open about this, after having a pretty big melt down over it when one of my best friends / bridesmaids was visiting a couple weeks ago. She encouraged me to share this struggle and reminded me that this kind of vulnerability is raw and real, and part of what makes me who I am. With that in mind, I’ve gone ahead and chosen to share with others when I’m feeling overwhelmed or stressed.
For the most part, sharing this truth has been well received. Almost everyone I speak to acknowledges two things:
A – This is completely normal. Brides are nearly always a little tense in the weeks before the wedding. In fact, it’s okay to be stressed – even if it is about the ‘small stuff’ that other people would like to tell you is silly or irrelevant. That small stuff needs to get done, regardless of whether or not it matters in the big scheme of things! And if it falls on yours shoulder, I believe you’re the only one who can dictate how you should feel about it.
B – Approaching a wedding, and soon enough, wife hood, without my mom is a big obstacle. Denying this would be delusional. However, it’s also an obstacle that no one else can overcome for me, and therefore being open with and processing my emotions as they come is actually a good thing. The only thing anyone else can do is offer patience and grace as I process each wave of grief as it comes. Platitudes don’t help, but kindness does.
In the past week or so, I’ve shared these feelings with friends, family, in-laws, along with a few others. When they’ve acknowledged these realities, I’ve felt reassured and validated. For that, I am very, very grateful!
As you know if you’re a reader of this blog, I believe that all of our feelings demand to be felt. I strongly disagree with pushing away sadness or grief. Rather, I believe it’s imperative to honour those tough emotions for what they are: A crucial (and beautiful) part of the human experience.
I’ve done a lot of online reading about wedding planning (obviously), and it drives me a little crazy when people suggest that brides “let it go,” and “just enjoy the experience” in these last weeks before their weddings.
The truth is, there is nothing for me to let go of other than my mom’s asbence. (and sorry, but no thanks). Secondly, I am enjoying the experience! A LOT!!!! I’ve been smiling, laughing, and having fun along the way. Honouring the anxiety that comes with my grief by acknowledging it and using the healthy coping mechanisms I’ve learned in therapy is exactly what allows me to have fun. Pushing that anxiety aside would only cause it to bubble and boil, and ultimately burst in a not-so-pleasant way.
I guess, my message to all of you in this final week before my wedding is that I have learned a pretty valuable lesson through this. I’ve realized that the way we speak about women and their emotions, when they’re anything less than cheery, is not always kind or fair.
Stress is normal. Anxiety is totally okay. Nerves before a huge life event are 100% to be expected. Imagine you weren’t nervous at all before a huge job interview? Or having a baby? A move across the country? Or your wedding…
We should all be comfortable enough with the ones we love to be vulnerable and open in sharing those feelings.
Even though I am completely beyond over-the-moon joyful about my wedding; the best day of my life also comes with the bittersweet sadness of my mom’s absence. And while not all brides experience this exactly the same way as me, most women do experience some sort of pre-wedding stress. After all, it’s likely the largest event they’ll ever plan in their life, and most of us just want to be a good hostess, show our appreciation to everyone in attendance, balance two families, have a meaningful ceremony, serve good food, have a great party, and enjoy each moment of the day with our groom. That’s a tall order!
I believe we should support one another by validating not just the happy moments, but the tough ones too. I believe the best thing we can do when our friends are in a stressful or tense moment, is not to push the anxiety aside and pretend it’s not there, but to acknowledge it. Because it’s completely normal. And in no way does it counteract the happiness. Not at all.
Now that I’ve had the experience of being the ‘bride-to-be’ I believe I will handle being the ‘supportive bridesmaid’ or ‘bff’ a bit differently in the future. In the future, I plan to validate, acknowledge and support every part of the pre-wedding experience for the gals I love. I don’t want them to add “Pretend I’m Not Stressed” to their to-do list on account of me, and rather I hope to be their safe haven where they can be a full and whole human being – one with a wide array of emotions. Because I know that pre-wedding nerves do not mean the bride is hung up on the small details or being a bridezilla (which by the way, is a sexist and archaic term).
I am so grateful that I’ve been met with compassion when I’ve shared my pre-wedding stress with those I love. However, I’m regretful that it took me having a legitimate meltdown (a few weeks ago) to find the bravery and vulnerability to do so. As someone who is generally very positive and upbeat, I get frustrated with myself when I’m feeling anything less than that. This is why when anxiety first became a part of my life, I tried for a very long time to deny it. However, being open, truthful, and honest about our rawness is what strengthens our relationships with those we love. I am thankful that in this final week, I know I have a close knit inner circle I can count on fully.
Much love to you all … See you on the other side!
XO Heather Jane (almost Brown!)