Sustainability: weddings and your mental health
So often we hear about “wedding stress” that it’s almost taken as a given: you should expect wedding planning to be stressful. I think this is a dangerous perception, as wedding planning can be difficult, but it shouldn’t have an impact on your mental health.
If you’re suffering from stress as a result of wedding planning, it’s time to take a step back and look for help.
Wedding planning can be hard.
It’s the first test of your marriage, before you’re even married!
Planning a wedding can cause family arguments and plenty of tears.
It can also be a joyful adventure – and it’s all about balance and how you approach your wedding planning journey.
Our approach is to be conscious of the potential impact of planning a wedding, and to focus on your mental health from the very beginning.
We talk about mental health as part of our sustainable wedding series for one reason: weddings shouldn’t break our planet or people.
We don’t hear enough in the wedding media about looking after your mental health. That’s such a shame – we think it’s really important.
- You’re a team – be strong together
- Be there to support each other
- Don’t overburden yourselves
- Balance responsibilities
- Think carefully about what you both want
- Avoid people-pleasing
- Focus on having a personality-filled, joyful celebration
I asked top UK wedding planner Mark Niemierko about wedding planning and managing stress. As wedding planner to the stars, the Niemierko brand is known for huge and extravagant celebrations – and Mark had some wonderful tips to share with us.
So much wedding planning stress comes from peer pressure. This has always been an overall factor, but when you add in the pressures of social media – the likes of instagram, Pinterest and even WhatsApp, peer pressure is huge.
Mark talked about weddings being one of just 3 major life events: the others being the (very private) birth of a child, and funerals. There’s something about weddings which everyone finds so exciting. They’re the one celebration in your lives where everyone will be together: your closest family and friends, as well as work colleagues – most likely you’ll have people from all kinds of different backgrounds together in one space.
I like to remind a couple, as cheesy as it sounds: “You’re in love. You’re committing to one another. Let’s bloody celebrate it! But celebrate it in YOUR way.”
Focusing on having a celebration full of personality is key to managing wedding stress. It’s far easier to plan a day which feels natural and enjoyable to you both, than it is to style a celebration inspired by Pinterest.
And we’re not talking colour palettes here: we mean finding a venue you’ll feel at home in, embracing only the traditions YOU really care about. Perhaps most importantly of all, reducing your guest numbers and having a more intimate celebration will help reduce wedding planning stress on so many levels.
- Stop trying to do everything at once.
- Put things into categories and tick them off one at a time.
- “You’ve got to be practical before you can be pretty” – ie, understand all of the logistics around the venue before any decorative ‘extras’
DON’T SHARE INFORMATION ABOUT WHAT’S GOING ON WITH YOUR WEDDING, WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Everyone has an opinion. Unless you specifically need someone’s advice or opinion about something, don’t ask for it!
Mark told us it’s amazing for guests to experience your wedding for the very first time on the day, and be surprised and delighted by what they see! – so keep them guessing!
(And in the run up to your big day, who cares about their opinion anyway?!)
How to politely tell family and friends you don’t need their opinion on your wedding plans
It’s not always easy to keep secrets about your wedding, or to avoid a conversation with someone who wants to know all about your plans (and then share their own ideas and opinions about your wedding!) – so how do you politely but firmly avoid their questions?!
I asked lovely Mark, and these were his tips!
Answer with, “Darling, all I need you to do is look fabulous, turn up and enjoy the day!”
Say, “I don’t want to turn into that person who sits with their friends and talks about their wedding.” – and then ask them a question about their life.
You might want a best friend’s opinion on your dress… but don’t take four friends with you when you’re choosing your dress! (You could always take friends to one of your fittings.)
If you have an overbearing parent who wants to be involved, the best thing is to involve them in something specific – for example, you might have narrowed your menu choices down to two options and you don’t really care which is the final choice – get your parent to make the final decision. That way they feel important.
If parents are paying for some or all of your wedding, they do need to have more involvement. It’s just about managing it.
And if you overshare, be prepared to get opinions!
Although the Niemierko brand is known for the most incredible luxury weddings in the UK and beyond, Mark’s background is modest, and he’s a wonderfully down to earth and charming person. When it comes to unique weddings, Mark’s secret is to fill your day with your personalities:
“There’s something unbearably chic about just being yourself!”
Niemierko weddings are famously unique and different. And while they’re extravagant and fabulously decorated, the secret to having an amazing wedding is one that works for any budget: it’s that whole ethos of just stripping it back to create something really personal.
“People getting into debt for their wedding and the need to do that is a really terrible thing. I think it should all be relative.”
Think of your wedding as an opportunity to create NEW traditions. If you don’t fancy a cake or flowers, then don’t have them! If your passion is vegan food, have the most incredible plant based feast you can dream of! None of the ‘standard’ wedding traditions (outfits, transport, classic venues) are must-haves.
Don’t feel pressured to style your wedding a certain way
Wedding stress can come from feeling the need to tick the box or the latest trend on the internet – for example, the whole ‘learning to have a dance’ thing was a big trend a while ago, and it can leave the groom (if he’s not a good dancer) feeling absolutely nervous and not enjoying it. (Mark says, “He should be dancing really badly and being himself! The only time you should do something like that is if you’re a professional dancer on Strictly Come Dancing, in which case the entire wedding should be themed around dancing!”
Look for inspiration but do things your way.
For example – One of Mark’s couples wanted karaoke in the dancing. They knew it was naff but they didn’t care, and the groom was a singer. It worked out brilliantly!
The first time Mark heard of a photo booth was before they were a thing: “it was really different, and look how that took off!”
I agree 100% with Mark at Niemierko that fun is such a big thing – the amazing excitement of being engaged can be followed by all the stress of planning and the feeling changes – but you’ve got to have fun.
Planning fun things can be amazing (for example, Niemierko had a Prince impersonator at a wedding – it’s something that’s really quite weird, but it’s fun! The groom was obsessed with Prince. He knew every single song, even the B-sides. Everyone in the room knows he was obsessed with Prince) – we hear Mark and his team are planning another wedding with an amazing lookalike to appear late in the evening after the main band.)
“It could have been a bit tacky, but it wasn’t – well, it was, but in a good way!”
7 secrets to reducing wedding planning stress
- Have a plan
- Work out what to do when (and allow yourself lots of time)
- Allocate responsibilities: who does what? (Remember you’re a team: don’t split everything down the middle! Divide and conquer doesn’t work in weddings!)
- While you’re planning your wedding include breaks, treats and rewards for yourselves
- Remember real life
- Make sure you schedule in plenty of wedding planning-free days
- Look to the future: plan treats and adventures for after your wedding. Life doesn’t stop once you’re married!
1. Have a plan
Mark shared some fantastic advice to focus on the core components of your wedding first of all. The best way to think of of planning a wedding is like building a house from scratch:
Think of the venue as laying the foundations and think of the florist as the cushions and curtains.
Would you go cushion and curtain shopping before you’ve even laid out your house?
Those 5 core components to decide first are:
- Your guest list
- Your dates (but don’t fixate on a single date until you have…)
- … your location
- Your budget – and be honest, what can you afford without getting into any debt?
- Your ceremony type (religious, civil, celebrant-led etc)
2. Work out what to do when
Perhaps you’d like to get married two years’ from now, or maybe you’d like to be wed before Christmas. Either way, you will need to figure out when stuff needs to be done.
Have a plan – however you two work best as a team (it might be Excel or a kitchen wall planner – something that works for you both). Work out what’s important and when you need to tick it off as ‘done’
(Wedding checklists online aren’t necessarily helpful here – keep things simple at first and don’t listen to anyone who says you NEED to send out invites three months in advance or Save the Dates a year before the big day. There are no rules!)
However, if you’re hiring a venue, buying a traditional wedding dress or booking a photographer, don’t let time slip through your fingers, as they can book up a couple of years in advance. Flexibility is your friend: do you really need all of these?
3. Who does what?
Most of your wedding planning items should be done together (e.g. photographer meetings, venue visits, guest list decisions) – but there will always be little bits you can allocate between you (budget overseer / spreadsheet queen) or to family and friends (chief gardener / maker of signage).
If anything, writing down responsibilities is a reminder that you’re in this together, working as a team!
4. Breaks, treats and rewards
If every weekend has a wedding planning task, it will drain you. Letting your wedding take over your life is a warning sign that your mental health could suffer.
So reward yourselves and make it tons of fun. Have a weekend away after you send out your invitations. Get together with friends for a barbecue when the sun shines. Treat your mum or dad to a lovely day out… and don’t talk about the wedding!
5. Real life
At first you might think you have eighteen months to plan your wedding – and it’s easy to assume that the whole of that time can be used for wedding stuff. But reality check: life carries on.
Allow yourselves to relax and unwind. Expect that you’ll still need time for all the usual stuff: a family member might need your support if something unexpected happens. A friend might need help moving house or you might be faced with a sudden career change. Real life won’t stop for your wedding, and anything at all can happen.
There will be times when your wedding isn’t the most important thing in your life, and that’s absolutely fine. Remember – be kind to yourselves.
If for any reason you need to postpone your wedding, we’ve a useful article from the mental health team at Bupa on how to deal with wedding postponements. This was written when Covid was impacting lots of couples, but it’s equally relevant for postponements due to family illness or other situations.
Take a break. Allocate days in your shared calendar where you’re not doing ANY wedding-related stuff. Taking the pressure off for a while will help keep you sane through the busy times!
And schedule these planning-free-days in. Because as your wedding planning gains momentum, it’s harder and harder to ‘find’ time for other stuff. If that time’s already set aside, it’s easier to tell people you’ve got other things you need to do on a particular day or weekend.
7. After the wedding
Don’t forget there’ll be a day when you’re all married and don’t have any wedding planning to do. Keep making plans for then – book in time to visit friends and family, for your hobbies, for whatever adventures you love doing in ‘normal life’!
The build up to a wedding can be intense.
The comedown after a wedding can be really hard if you suddenly find your diaries are empty after months of being busy doing exciting things. So make sure you plan good things for this time!
Most importantly, above anything on this list, is to ask for help if you’re struggling.
Mental health issues can’t be fixed by a few tips on the internet.
If wedding planning stress is having an impact on your life, reach out. Look for professional support and therapy. It really is ok not to be ok – and the support is there for you.
Our friends at Bupa shared their top 5 tips for stress free wedding planning