Wedding stress is something I hear about a lot from couples who are planning a wedding. You’re basically organising a whole day celebrating you. So with so many tasks to do, things to assemble, it’s inevitable that it may be pretty stressful.
I have heard this a few times from couples a few days before their wedding:
“So how are you feeling? Excited?”
“We can’t wait for it to be over to be honest”
Would you feel the same way if you were about to blow a tonne of money on a round the world trip?
I feel that it’s a sign that something has gone a bit awry when couples can’t wait to get the wedding ‘out of the way’. More so because of the insane expense and pressure that can accumulate.
It doesn’t have to be that way though. I’m here to help you out.
Before I go into the 10 sources of wedding stress and how to deal with them, I really want to encourage couples to meditate.
The power of meditation
Meditation isn’t just something for Buddhist monks to do, and it can really help alleviate anxiety and calm the mind, down.
To get started with meditation, there are two excellent resources I recommend:
- Calm World: Introduction to meditation – This is an audible production by Alice Fraser, Ash Ranpur, who use scientific research and actual accounts to disseminate the science and power behind meditation. I found it insightful, funny, and helpful.
- Headspace App – Chances are you’ve come across Headspace’s animations narrated by Andi Puddicome. The app is fantastic at setting you small daily meditation routines to help you get into the swing of it. It really does help you slow the mind down and get some peace from it all.
So here are 10 of the top stresses I’ve found after talking to a tonne of couples, and how to deal with them.
Coming in at number one on the most common stresses for people; money.
Weddings are expensive. I’ve written before about how expensive weddings can be, with the average being $65,482AUD.
Let’s be real. An investment of $65,482 to be blown in one day is pretty horrifying on paper. If that figure was for any other day, you’d probably go into cardiac arrest. Imagine going out for a great evening with friends, and the waiter handed you the bill with that figure on.
This is exactly what a wedding can turn into. Blowing what is essentially a house deposit in one day.
We live in an age where millennials are mocked continuously for spending a mortgage’s worth on avocado on toast. Beyond the jokes lies the actual fact that financially, we live in a much stricter world today. There are more freedoms, but also more financial pressures. Insurance, bills, subscriptions, and living expenses all add up. It is just the way today’s world works.
You want to have a great wedding and celebration, but you don’t want to spend a house deposit.
How to reduce financial stress
First and foremost, I always love to ask couples if they know about eloping. Eloping is on the rise and with great reason. So what is an elopement? Well, it’s not what your grandmother and grandfather thing; you aren’t going off the grid and disappearing forever.
Nowadays eloping means having a much more personalised and focused ceremony for you both. It can range from a quiet and intimate ceremony with just the both of you up a mountain, to a simple ceremony at your local office.
Eloping is a tonne cheaper than a traditional wedding. You’re cutting out guests, expensive venues, and tens of vendors. Instead, you can elope for a lot less. This takes a whole tonne of wedding stress out of the process.
What’s more, you can elope and make a whole adventure of it. To give you an idea, if you wanted to elope in New Zealand, and then have a holiday exploring the island for a whole week, the cost would be roughly $10,000. That’s a $55,000 saving and an extra 6 days of adventures and celebration.
There is a tonne of ways to do this, and I’ve written about the top 10 reasons to elope here.
It’s never too late to change the decision to elope.
So, what if eloping isn’t really what you’re looking for?
A lot of traditions at weddings are just that; traditions. However, at the time of writing this, it is 2020, and things have changed a lot from the olden days.
Here is an example of each tradition and how you can cheapen it up:
- The guestlist. Cull it right down. I’ll talk about this in another stress point, but be ruthless. If you haven’t seen someone in a year (and they don’t live overseas), get rid of them.
- The wedding dress. Get it second hand, or go for a dress that isn’t a ‘wedding dress’. Yes, there is the classic tale that as soon as you put the word ‘wedding’ in front of something, it triples in price. Wedding dresses are no different. Get a second-hand clothing from the fantastic Still White. It’s definitely possible to find stunning dresses for less than $1,000. For example, this gorgeous green dress from Naomi Peris Bridal.
- Wedding venues. If you want to cut down on the expense of a large wedding venue, you can always get married outside in the bush. For free. I’ve done it a significant number of times. Simply find a place that you love, and you can set up a ceremony there. The only limitation would be making sure that you respect the wildlife and the area, which means you won’t be able to have 150 guests coming on the trek. However, if you love the idea of something in nature, and you want to save a heap of money, this is a great idea.
Now there’s only one thing that I would not recommend trying to get for cheap, and that is (surprise surprise) a photographer.
The difference a professional photographer makes
Many couples who come in for my adventure portrait sessions say that they had a family friend do their wedding photography. Unfortunately, 99 times out of 100, it’s the same story, how the friend with the camera:
- Couldn’t help with the timeline of the day because they didn’t really understand how a wedding timeline works
- Turned up a late
- Wanted to just do cheesy ‘smile and kiss for the camera’ poses
- Delivered the images 7 months later
- Only a handful was actually good, the rest being over or under edited
- Isn’t a professional photographer so doesn’t have access to high-quality album makers and photo labs
- Was sick on the day, so couldn’t come anyways, meaning no images were even captured in the end
Without fail, this happens every single time that a ‘family friend’ with a camera is used for photographs.
Saving money with this family friend will get your photography for your day. However, you only get one shot at your wedding day. Far too often, I hear that couples are disappointed that they didn’t invest in a real wedding photographer for their wedding. Worrying about these expectations can add to any mounting wedding stress.
So what does a professional wedding photographer get you? Well, you’ll get someone who:
- Can help you design the timeline of the day, reducing stress even more
- Will be professional, meaning that they turn up on time and have backup plans in the case that something happens to them
- Take the time to understand you, and create an experience that is relaxed, and fun
- Deliver images within 4-6 weeks
- Have a consistent, beautiful and artistic style that captured your day in a timeless fashion
- Has access to the high-quality album and art printers, meaning you’ll have the opportunity to invest in archival quality art pieces from your day
The average investment for 6 hours of a professional wedding photographer can vary from $3,000 – $5,000.
My advice is to find a wedding photographer that you gel with in terms of personality, and one whose style you’re drawn to. To make things flexible, many wedding photographers will also require a 30%/50% deposit at the time of booking, and the remaining balance due 30 days before your wedding.
The second most common stress that couples experience on their wedding day is parental interference.
Let me paint a picture for you.
You and your partner want to have the wedding of your dreams. It isn’t anything fancy, to be honest, you just want to have a great time with you and your mates down the coast at a cute little getaway. It isn’t going to cost you an arm and a leg.
You tell your parents with excitement what you are planning to do, giddy that they are going to support you and give you the thumbs up. They’ve said before that they would contribute to the wedding, which would help you out a bit. However, you go to tell them, and you’re met with:
- What about that church down the road we’ve always gone to?
- What about Aunt Beth?
- What about your cousins from England?
All of a sudden, the crystal clear lake that was your wedding day starts to muddy a bit. “Ok, I’m sure we can expand the guest list a bit if that’s what you want”.
So you expand the guest list. It’s now gone from a humble 50 people up to 80 people.
The extra 40 people, however, has kicked your budget out a lot, with $170 a head in food meaning an additional $5,100. You tell your parents this, but they say that they will cover it in addition what they are already contributing.
You’re starting to feel very in debt to them.
You tell them that you’ve seen this really fantastic dress that you love, which is green with a gorgeous floral design and pattern. You don’t really like the idea of a white wedding dress. You tell your mum, and she gives a slightly backhanded comment about how she’s been storing away her wedding dress for you for years, and she has always wanted you to wear it. It’s the classic 80’s style with big puffs, and while it was cool at the time, it just isn’t something that you’re drawn to.
Mum says she doesn’t like the idea of your new dress. Suddenly you realise that there is this rift forming over all of these choices at the wedding.
This continues for months until your wedding is being held in a glamourous local hotel. This is so that all the cousins and family members can be seated, and the decorations are a classic ‘white and lace’ to appease your parents.
You sit down a few weeks before the wedding and feel stressed because something dawns on you.
You realise that this isn’t actually the wedding you saw in your mind and wanted. This will be the wedding as a result of parental interference.
Hand on heart, I have heard a story similar to this more than a dozen times from brides. It breaks my heart.
How to reduce parental stress
Firstly I’d say think about getting into the mindset of being ‘polite but firm’.
The fact is that, as with a lot of things in life, we as children don’t have control over what our parents spend on us. None of us asked to be born, so if parents want to contribute to your wedding, it should be to make you happy. If your wedding is being railroaded, it is time to step in and be polite, but firm.
Let’s go back to the previous instance where the parents are pushing pressure to have cousins, aunties and the neighbour’s cat there:
“Mum, Dad, I know that you said that you want to have all of the extra family members there. We really appreciate that you are contributing towards us having the wedding of our dreams.
However, Sam and I have had a chat, and we feel that it’s going to mean that we are going to need a much bigger venue than we originally had planned. We wanted to have a rustic styled wedding at The Coastal Barn because we could have our closest friends and family there to celebrate with us.
If we invite these other family members, it’s going to start diluting the idea we had of the dream wedding that Sam and I have always wanted for ourselves.
I know you’ve also said that you’d be happy to pay for the food and drink for the extra family members. Still, we are starting to become concerned that, as generous as the gesture is, the extra money will start pressuring ourselves to create something for you, rather than for us.
For us to have our dream wedding, it really needs to be our dream wedding with our ideas for the day. We want you to be a part of that day. We have a wedding photographer who will be capturing all of the elements of the day so that everyone who can’t make it will be able to relive the day as well. You can check out their work at www.website.com.
At this point in time, we want to, therefore, say that we’d prefer to keep the guest cap at our chosen 50 people.
Always here to chat.”
If the above doesn’t work, please direct them to this page and read the following:
To the parents
If you’ve been sent here by your children to read this, parents, I’ve got to say something:
This isn’t your wedding. It is theirs.
You raised your children (I hope) to be independent and create their own timeline and personality in their life. I know that when growing up, children are seen as your labour of love, and nobody is taking that away from you.
I’m not saying you can’t help. Helping out your children with the research of locations, venues, ideas, clothing and everything else can be one of the most helpful things ever.
It’s also very generous that you’ve offered to pay for part of the wedding. That is no small feat, and your children are thankful for you doing this. So put your money to the best use possible and help them create the wedding of their dreams.
Sure, maybe you’re not into your daughter wearing a vermillion dress with a lace animal skull design. You’re definitely not keen on the fact that they want to have an open-air ceremony instead of opting for the church. However, as Bob Dylan said, “the times they are a-changing”, and if you help your children with their perfect vision of their wedding, they really will have the day of their dreams, and be happy.
Now if the above two ideas don’t work, I’d recommend compromising.
It’s not ideal, but for parents who really dig their heels in, then you can try to find a happy medium. If they say you need to invite all 30 cousins, say that you’d be glad to welcome 15, for example.
This will help relieve any wedding stress, once you start being honest and firm with your parents.
3. Planning the timeline
How many hours should you allocate for the couples photos? How long should the ceremony take? When should we do the speeches?
Planning the timeline of your day can seem a bit daunting. It’s one of the most common things I hear from couples when they come into a chat with me about wedding photography for the first time. It’s a great source of wedding stress at the start of the process.
How to have your timeline planned
The best source of help when it comes to having a schedule of your day sorted, should be your wedding photographer and venue.
Your wedding photographer would have captured a lot of weddings and so should be easily able to whip up a ‘draft timeline’ for you. This can be done according to what times would work best for your ceremony, couples photos, and getting ready images. Venues can also be accommodating as they will typically know what times may work best for the service as well.
However the wedding photographer should be the first port of call, just as depending on what sort of day you’re going to have, it could all vary.
For example, you may want to forsake the getting ready photos, and instead do a first look before your ceremony. So when would be the best time to get prepared to make sure you’re on time for that? When should the makeup artist arrive?
Maybe you’re the sort of couple who want the whole getting ready process captured. Perhaps you also wish to get insanely cool sunset photos (note: you should always go and get sunset photos!). What times would work for this?
The bottom line is if you want to relieve the stress of planning the day out, have a chat with your wedding photographer and draft something up together.
4. Doing the ‘traditional’ things to keep people happy
Your wedding should personify who you both are as people. If you’re into mountain climbing and have Bernese mountain dogs, a venue out in the forest with some epic views would suit you. If you’ve always loved diving, the something by the beach with lots of water and seafood may be your jam.
Traditional weddings are still a big thing in today’s age, but people are waking up more and more to the concept that traditions are made to be broken.
Far too often weddings can get railroaded and go down the path of ‘what works best for everyone works best for me’, when in fact it doesn’t.
For example, if you’re a metalhead at heart who loves wearing black, and listening to Slayer, a white wedding dress probably isn’t going to be your thing.
Lean in to what makes you and your connection together unique. Don’t let trends and traditions dictate your day.
How to rethink traditions
Here are some of the most common traditions and alternative ways to do them.
- The white wedding dress – designed initially white to represent purity, innocence, and all other kinds of wanky bullshit that a cult member would aspire to. Go with a colour you love and rock it. Colours can mean lots of different things as well, so go with what suits you!
- The father giving the bride away – charming, but also very ingrained that the woman is the father’s possession that should be given away. Instead, you can get mum to give you away, or even someone else. Hell, why not walk down the aisle with your dog?
- The cake – don’t get me wrong, I love a good wedding cake, but lord above the cake is an ornament for 95% of the wedding, and an edible snack for the remaining 5%. Also, it is incredibly sad how much cake gets wasted at weddings. Instead, you can do something a bit different, like have a cake piñata smash, or even go with the cake but use a chainsaw to cut it.
5. Finding the right venue
Many venues can be booked out years in advance, and so finding the right venue is sort of like finding that ideal house that you love. It may take a lot of time and research, and you’ve got to be quick to snatch it up.
Many couples I talk to say that they had a tough time finding the venue that really fit their dreams, and when they did, they were fully booked.
How to find the right venue
When it comes to finding a venue that gels with you, I recommend sitting down and working out the following:
- What sort of environment do you like? Water? Forest? Mountains? City? – this will help you get an idea of what environments to look at.
- How many guests do you want at your wedding? – this will give you an idea of what capacity the venue should have.
- What sort of style wedding do you want? Rustic? Classic? Vintage? – getting this in your mind will help further understand what kind of venue you’re looking for.
With the above in mind, get on Google and type in ‘top 10 [style] wedding venues in [environment location]’. For example, Top 5 Rustic wedding venues in Canberra, or Top 10 Beach wedding venues in Jervis Bay.
This will give you a significant number of ideas of what these venues are like.
Next, make a shortlist of which of these venues you love, and get onto Instagram. Type each location into the search bar, and find:
- Their Instagram account (they should have one)
- Their location on Instagram
This will give you a great set of images which should show you what each venue looks like as well. Get a great sense of which ones you’re really drawn to, and then make a weekend plan sometimes of going around them, and having a look at them.
6. Awkwardness of photography
Having photographs taken of yourself isn’t something that happens every day unless you’re someone like Robert Downy Jr. It totally can be an awkward thing. There’s a reason why so many of the couples I speak to say “we honestly don’t like having our photo taken because we feel awkward in front of the camera”.
I also know that many couples have a fear that they don’t look photogenic. I hear it all the time that couples worry that they won’t look like the people that they see in these bridal magazines.
To that I want to just reassure you of something; the magic of the wedding day isn’t in how many sequins your wedding dress has, or how scenic your location is.
The magic comes from you both and your connection.
The truth is that everyone deserves incredible photography of themselves. No matter your shape, size, height, or colour, you’ll always have excellent images of yourselves if you want to give it a red hot go!
How to get excellent photography
To overcome the awkwardness of photography, I have some hints here to help you understand what makes great photography on your wedding day:
- Realise that photography can be awkward. No photography session in the whole full world has been 100% awkwardness-free. However, if you realise that and lean into the experience, you’ll find all that worry goes away.
- Choose a wedding photographer who’s approach you like. Some wedding photographer prefers to have a setlist of poses to capture. Others prefer to let things go with the flow a bit more and work on the fly. Personally, I’m definitely in the latter mindset. Wedding photographers who do approach it with a setlist of poses will probably mean that you’re going to have a lot more of a rigid approach to the day. I prefer to have a relaxed and candid approach to my style because you can lean into just enjoying the day and not feeling this pressure of getting the right pose.
- Lean into the experience. Hand on heart, the difference between couples who hate being photographed, but who want to try, vs those who don’t want to give it a go, is like night and day. I always say that couples who are more affectionate during their sessions tend to have ‘better’ images. You don’t need to be necking on each other 24/7 at all, but rather it’s about having the right intent.
- Talk to your wedding photographer about what experience you want. Maybe you’re the type of couple who is happy to have their guests chill out while you explore the grounds for a couple of hours, getting ace photos. Or you may be the couple who really wants to hang with their mates, and not have too long with couples photos. If you let your wedding photographer know which type of experience you’d like, they will be able to create a custom timeline of couples photography for you.
7. Leaving everything to the last minute
If you’re a procrastinator, you’re very familiar with this approach in life. I won’t lie, I’ve been there before and totally get it.
However, as far as stress goes, there is nothing worse than finding out that that one wedding venue you wanted is fully booked for when you wanted it. As well as finding that the dress may take 6 months to fit and sort and you only have 5 months to go.
How to be prepared for your wedding
One of the most significant hints I’ve heard from brides before is to get an A4 binder, complete with those tab separators and set up different tabs for the following:
- Frontpage – summary sheet with each of the below names and contact details listed for quick reference.
- Dress & Suits
- Cake & Food
Make sure all documents and transcripts are printed off and put in these folders.
The next big tip is to dedicate a set amount of time each weekend or week to wedding planning. You don’t have to go mad, but having an hour or two every weekend will help you keep up to date with everything.
The final big tip is to organise and book vendors early. It’s too often that vendors will sometimes be booked out years in advance. For example, I frequently take bookings up to 2 years in advance sometimes.
The best practice to combat that is to just bite the bullet and see who you’d love to have for your wedding ASAP. A lot of vendors will be happy to chat as well, without any commitment required from you yet. This means that you can at least go and see what their vibe is like, to see if they’d be a good fit.
8. Finding a wedding dress
The wedding stress of finding the perfect dress is real.
From choosing which designs draw you in, to finding the right size, it can seem like a bit stressor to some. Dress shopping can result in weeks and months of trying on new dresses, and feeling like the right one is out there but you can’t find it.
How to find the perfect wedding dress
Before you start, I’d sit down and write out what sort of style wedding dress you love the look of. Pinterest is hands down one of the best search engines for this.
See what colours, materials, and styles you’re drawn to. There is an infinite number of designs and styles for your wedding dress. Although a lot of wedding magazines love to showcase the classic ‘white’ look, I really recommend getting a copy of Rock N Roll Bride. Kat does an excellent job of curating alternative and personal wedding styles which work to show someone’s real style.
Choose your dress based on style and function, rather than a high-class look. If you’re the sort of bride who loves the idea of having pockets in her dress, awesome! Maybe you love the idea of having something a bit shorter than longer. Great!
One important thing to mention is that on your wedding day, your wedding dress will get messy. This is part and parcel of the experience, so make sure you choose a dress that also has a good bit of functionality to it!
If you’re looking for a second-hand wedding dress, I really recommend Still White, who specialises in the used wedding dress industry. If you’re looking to save money for your wedding day, I really recommend that you re-evaluate the ‘preciousness’ of what a new wedding dress really means, and go with Still White.
9. Guestlist and numbers and seating
Right, so here is the most significant piece of advice when it comes to sorting your guest list:
Stop inviting people you don’t care about to your wedding.
I’m sorry to be brutal, but I hear it so often from friends that they are going to someone’s wedding because of the free alcohol. Yup. Make no mistake, a lot of people who you don’t really care about, and visa Versa, will go to your wedding and say yes, because of the free booze. It isn’t all about that, but come on, you know it is a big seller.
At the end of the day, there are quite a few reasons why you’d want to keep your guest list concise and not too bloated:
- Heads cost dollars. The average cost per head for a wedding is roughly $200-300, which includes food and alcohol.
- Venues will cater to a specific volume of people. You may love the rustic barn venue down the coast, but due to the way it is designed, it may only fit a top of 100 people.
- You may need a second wedding photographer. Typically I cap myself to weddings of no more than 120 people because otherwise to capture everyone at your wedding, I’d be a very busy boy. If it does go over this number, I say that a second photographer will be required, unless you’re not fussed about having everyone captured there. In which case you then again need to maybe ask why you’re inviting more people?
It sounds harsh, but you have to ask yourself if you’d pay $200-300 for that one person to come to your wedding. Baring in mind every 10 people may set you back $3,000. This extra financial strain can be a wedding stress.
However, of course, the fear of the response of not being invited to a wedding, especially if you have a vast friend circle, can be a tough one. Some people have large friend groups, others have smaller groups.
How to deal with the guestlist problem
You need to be ruthless with choosing who can come and who may not be the best guest.
I recommend taking a few missing people out for dinner before or after the wedding to make them still feel included. This can always help combat these feelings of FOMO from them.
10. Hoping everything will go to plan
The wedding stress of worrying if everything will go to plan is something that a lot of brides and grooms worry about as well. I frequently hear from couples a few days before their weddings “I just hope it all goes right without any problems”.
The expectation of what your wedding will be in your mind’s eye will usually be very different to how it all unfolds. Being at peace with this idea and living in the moment will give you peace of mind and help you enjoy the day.
In my honest experience, there will usually be one thing that may be out of place on your wedding day. However in saying that it is something generally along the lines of ‘it’s a bit windier than I thought’, or ‘the car journey was a bit delayed in getting to the ceremony location’.
How to stop worrying
Accepting that you can’t control everything on your wedding day is what will give you peace of mind. I know it is easier said than done, but I believe in having a lot less stress, it can be about changing your mindset.
Referencing back to reducing the cost of your wedding can also reduce the pressure and expectations of the day. If you’re investing $61,000 on a wedding, chances are you’re going to put yourself under a lot of pressure to make sure that money is spent correctly.
Chances are you’ll have a combination of at least 5 different vendors all working to make your day go as smooth as possible. If you find yourself being responsible for running all of these, you’ll wind yourself up in knots.
Professional vendors will have the best idea of how to make your day run smoothly as butter. Check with them before your big day to make sure that they have an idea of the timeline for the day.
Stress is an inevitability with such a big day like your wedding. However, I believe that your wedding day should be filled with fun, adventures and great memories. You want to look back at your wedding day and feel those awesome emotions, rather than remembering it being the most stressful time ever.
To reduce your stress:
- Try meditation. It’s fascinating, and it works.
- Ask your vendors for help. If they are professionals, they’ll be able to give you a hand with planning.
- Re-examine the traditions and don’t let your wedding become something that you don’t want it to be.
The last thing I want to hear out of someone’s mouth is “I can’t wait for it to be over”. If it gets to that point, with all due respect, it’s time to rethink who you’re doing this for!
If you’ve found this article helpful and love the sound of what I’m about, I’d love to help take the stress out of your wedding day and design the perfect day with you!