Wedding season is here, which brings both excitement and stress for the couples getting married. There is pressure on the big day to be the happiest day of our lives, and that comes at a toll. We want to look our best and feel our best. We want every detail to be perfect. We want everyone to be pleased, including ourselves. With expectations as high as these, how could the planning process not impact our mental health?

Getting married is a significant life change. According to the Life Change Index Scale, marriage or having a wedding increases your total impact score by 50 points for the year. Adding these points to other stressors you might experience like moving, starting or changing jobs, a death in the family, or even “minor” changes in life, like fluctuations in eating or sleeping habits, can really add up. The higher our point total for the year, the higher likelihood we have of developing an illness. The higher our score is, the longer it takes to get our health and stress level back to a reasonable state that we can manage. You get the picture. High stress levels are harmful, and we know that getting married is going to make us feel more stressed out than usual.

Stress has serious implications for our mental health. Increased stress can contribute to anxiety, depression, sleeping issues, substance abuse, and so on. It’s important for couples to realize the amount of stress that’s building up in their bodies through the wedding planning process and take action to prioritize their mental health. How can wedding planning feel fun again? Let’s talk through some strategies to make wedding planning as low-stress as possible:

· Prioritize you and your partner: Wedding planning can cause us to lose sight of why we’re here in the first place. Friends and family get excited, loved ones may impose their opinions, and the couple forgets that they won’t be able to please everyone. Remember to consider what is best for you and your future spouse. What is important to you? What would make your day special and memorable? What do each of you value? These are the questions to remember through the process.

· Set boundaries: Most of us look forward to our loved ones getting married. It’s an important day for the couple, and also for their friends and family. Sometimes, members of the couple’s lives get a tad carried away and exercise what they would like included on the wedding day versus taking into consideration what the couple wants. It is up to you and your partner to set limits and communicate what you are okay with, and what you are not. It’s also important to set internal boundaries, meaning accepting that we cannot make everyone happy nor give everyone what they would want. This can be difficult to grapple with, but these boundaries will help you and your partner enjoy wedding planning much more.

· Communicate expectations: No one is going to know what you want or how you feel unless you tell them. Don’t be afraid to share what you expect or how you’d like something to go. Being able to communicate your expectations is going to save hurt feelings and frustrations later on in the process. If you’ve already experienced some difficulty, it’s never too late to have a conversation and re-adjust to get everything going the way that works best for you and your partner.

· Enjoy the process: Wedding planning is supposed to be fun! Use this time to connect with your partner and experience this time in your lives that you’ll only have once together. Collaborate on ideas; savor moments like menu tasting, dance lessons, and picking out songs you’ll dance to at your wedding. Try to be present through the process and remember this is the time to celebrate you both as a couple. It’s setting the precedent of moving forward together and it’s worth enjoying.

· Engage in self-care: Self-care is more important now than ever. You’ll feel overwhelmed with all of the new tasks added into your schedule and taking time to address your basic needs is key. Learn to shift things a little bit. This might mean not taking on that optional project at work or seeing your friends once on the weekend rather than twice. There is still time for everything that fills your cup—it’s all about prioritizing what you need at that time.

· Seek help: Reaching out for help through the wedding planning process may look a number of different ways. It could be asking your partner to help tackle a task together or delegating aspects of the planning process to others who can help you. Learning to ask for help is crucial here—you and your partner are two people and can’t do it all. Check-in with your mental health and be mindful if you need to speak to a professional. There is no shame in engaging in therapy to help curb some of that stress you are most likely experiencing.

Wedding planning is a unique and special time in life. All of the added stress can impact our mental health in ways we may not have expected. We have the ability to redefine the experience—planning the big day doesn’t have to come at a cost.

Jacqueline Siempelkamp, MS, NCC, LPC received her Master of Counseling degree from Villanova University and is a Licensed Professional Counselor. Jacqueline enjoys working with clients of all ages and has experience in working with young children, adolescents, college-age students and adults. She works with clients presenting with a range of concerns, including depression, anxiety, LGBTQIA+, adjustment or phase of life transitions, body image, self-esteem, relationships, divorce, substance abuse, behavioral concerns, and school/academic issues. Jacqueline uses an individualized approach to best suit the client’s needs and will use a combination of treatment modalities including Person-Centered Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). She works diligently to facilitate a strong therapeutic bond and creates a safe, nonjudgmental space. Jacqueline supports collaboration with parents and other professionals to effectively achieve goals and facilitate change.

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