There’s a lot of pressure to make your wedding absolutely perfect. After all, this is a once(ish) in a lifetime experience, so it’s understandable you want it to be just right. And when you add in the extra wedding stress of attempting nearly impossible Pinterest crafts, placating future in-laws, sticking to your budget, and fitting into garments you have to buy way in advance, wedding season can definitely leave you feeling overwhelmed.
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Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to reduce your wedding stress—and while it may be unreasonable to expect your wedding will be a totally stress-free experience, you can definitely cut down on stressors by a whole hell of a lot.
1. Plan it out.
One way to combat stress is to plan for it: Make sure you develop a reasonable strategy for the wedding that is specific, manageable, and includes a backup plan in case something goes wrong. (And, yes, that backup plan can include taking a shot of tequila and letting someone else handle it.)
Sharokina Pazand, event director for Citygirl Events in Chicago, stresses the importance of giving yourself enough time to get everything done. “I always suggest taking things step-by-step in planning,” Pazand says. “While you can plan everything pretty quickly, you don’t want to go into wedding burnout mode. You also don’t want to wait until the last minute to book your vendors and plan everything because you’ll get to the point where vendors aren’t available, and you just throw your hands in the air and say “forget it!'”
Pazand suggests writing your plans down to keep everything easy-to-follow and stress-free. “Whether you’re into digital calendars or like to write things out manually, tracking wedding vendor and tasting appointments is an important step in keeping the event planning process stress-free,” she says. “As soon as a vendor confirms the time of your meeting, write it down or add the calendar invite—and add your partner so you don’t forget.”
Or if you’re looking for something a little more structured, you can use a project management system like Asana or a pre-made wedding checklist. The most important thing is to divide and conquer. Break it down into steps, starting with your overall “vision” for the wedding and your budget, and go from there.
2. Talk money—even if it’s not super comfortable.
One of the biggest causes of wedding stress? Money. Make sure to discuss your budget with all parties involved—including your partner, both sets of parents (if they’re involved financially), and your wedding planner—to avoid any unnecessary surprises. Wedding-related expenses can pop up in the strangest places, and you’ll want to make sure you’re ready for anything.
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3. Consider hiring a wedding planner—or ask for help for friends.
If you can afford it, it’s a really good idea to hire a professional—a good wedding planner can be a total lifesaver. Not only will they take extra wedding stress off your plate, they can also help make your dream wedding a reality.
“Your planner will help mediate issues and disagreements,” says Hovik Harutyunyan, owner of Harutyunyan Events in Los Angeles. “They will create a realistic and thorough budget that outlines all forecasted expenses. And their recommendations for great quality venues and vendors will be the most value added.”
However, it’s important to ask for help even if you can’t pay your helper. Friends you bribe with pizza and alcohol can be great at helping pick out flowers (especially if your S.O. isn’t too invested in it), crafting Pinterest-worthy decorations with you, or simply hanging out post-reception to make sure everyone gets home safely.
This is a great opportunity for you to work with your partner as well, especially since you’re about to walk down the aisle with them—make sure you two are divvying up the workload. Even if your partner isn’t super invested in the wedding planning process, don’t be afraid to ask for their input.
“Weddings are about compromise,” Harutyunyan reminds us. “It’s not just your day, it’s a day that should be designed by your combined visions. Allowing concessions for one another is far more worth it than arguing during what should be one of the most romantic times of your life.”
4. Take care of yourself.
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Self-care matters. Whether that means taking a yoga class or a bubble bath, it’s important to remember to just breathe. Stress can have a devastating impact on your health—high stress levels are linked to several health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, depression, and anxiety.
“Time spent with your significant other that doesn’t focus on wedding plan is crucial! Remember, after the wedding comes the marriage,” Pazand says. “Make sure you keep time in your schedules where you don’t talk about the wedding and instead go out and do the fun things you would do together before you got engaged.”
(And if you still need help relaxing, we’ve got 40 ways to reduce stress in five minutes or less that can totally help.)
5. Work it out.
While it’s important not to unnecessarily stress about looking a certain way pre-wedding, incorporating workouts into your schedule is an important tool for combating wedding stress.
Pazand recommends that engaged couples consider hitting the gym together. Not only is it a great way to keep calm, it also counts as wedding discussion-free quality time.
6. Learn to say “no.”
Despite your best efforts, you will not be able to please everyone. This is a hard lesson to learn, but it’s one of the most valuable.
Overcommitting yourself is a fast-track to more stress in your life, which is the opposite of helpful for everyone, whether or not you’re planning a wedding. Sacrifices are inevitable (sorry, Aunt Laura, you can’t bring your dog to the ceremony), and people are—unfortunately—bound to get a little upset. Regardless of outside opinions, you need to weigh the cost-benefit of each decision.
Will saying “no” ruffle a few feathers? Maybe. Will it protect you from spending extra time, money, work, and/or stress? If the answer is yes (even if it’s maybe), then it’s worth considering.
7. Remember why you’re doing this.
Keep your eye on the prize, right? The wedding planning process can be overwhelming, but don’t let it distract you from the ultimate goal: You’re about to marry the love of your life, which (hopefully) makes all of this wedding planning stress worth it.
Stressful things are bound to pop up before your wedding day, and that’s totally OK. And—according to Pazand—it’s important to remember that it’s also OK to need a break.
“If you find yourself stressing out so much in a meeting over which flowers you’re picking and you go into a full-on meltdown, then take a minute, back away from the buds, and remember that planning should be fun. And no matter what decisions you make, you will have an amazing wedding because the two of you have found each other,” she says.
Just focus on your priorities and what you can control (so… not everything) and work from there.
8. Let go of perfection.
Before my own big day, no one told me that your wedding day can be one of the most stressful days of your life. Is it worth it? Absolutely. However, I can truthfully say that my wedding day was both one of the worst—and best—days of my life.
I had family cancel the day before the wedding and also witnessed a fatal car accident hours before the ceremony (yep). Look, wedding days are almost never perfect, but guess what? That’s OK. All that matters is that you’re marrying the person you love, and everything else will follow.
“Don’t put too much pressure on yourself,” says Harutyunyan, who definitely understands the pressure of having an Instagram-worthy wedding. “Your wedding is not meant to be a stressful, expensive party with 800 of your closest friends. It is the moment you become life partners with your best friend. And to all the people who matter, your celebration of that moment will be fabulous regardless of what happens.”
Once I made it to the end of the aisle to hold my now-husband’s hand, the wedding stress melted away. Was our reception perfect? Definitely not. It started an hour late, my maid-of-honor got lost picking up food and missed half of it, and no one danced. At all.
However, I’d still do it all again in a heartbeat, because screw perfection. Life—and love—are messy, unpredictable, and sometimes disappointing, but that doesn’t make it any less wonderful.
Jandra Sutton is an author, historian, and public speaker. After graduating from Huntington University with a B.A. in history, she went on to receive a master’s degree in modern British history from the University of East Anglia. In her spare time, Sutton enjoys fangirling, running, and anything related to ice cream. Pluto is still a planet in her heart. She lives in Nashville with her husband and their two dogs. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.