It’s Okay to Have Wedding Anxiety

About a month ago I got married. I was so prepared for that day. I had spent months stressing and planning and I was ready for it. And you know that part of the ceremony where everyone is coming down the aisle, then they all just pause, and you know that next up is going to be the beautiful bride in a gorgeous dress, accompanied by her very proud father? Well at my wedding everything was going smoothly until exactly that moment, bridesmaids were out at the front, groom standing there nervous…. and then the doors closed back up and nothing happened for probably about 5 whole minutes. It probably felt like an eternity, especially to my groom. What not everyone knows is that just outside those doors I had slumped into a chair, sweating from every pore in my entire body, my vision going black as my dad fanned me with a program. Yeah, I had a full-blown panic attack at my own wedding.

Let’s talk about why this matters. As anyone with anxiety can tell you, even very positive things can be stressful, sometimes even more stressful than the positive things in your life. Sometimes your body doesn’t know how to handle all of the feelings rushing through your body, so the only thing it can think of to do is to give you a panic attack so that you are forced to acknowledge your emotions instead of pushing them away. It’s hard to let the feelings in. For days I had been worrying, but I just kept telling myself that it was a good thing and that I’d be fine and everything will go smoothly. I didn’t let myself acknowledge that being in front of people freaks me out. I don’t want to be the center of attention. I don’t want to be trapped at the front of a church where I can’t run away. That just isn’t me. And that’s okay.

Some panic attacks take you by surprise. Maybe the first one, or the first one in a while. And some panic attacks you can see coming a mile off, but there really isn’t anything you can do about them. Maybe that’s the point. Desperately trying to maintain control when I felt like I was being forced into this role that is very outside my character and makes me uncomfortable didn’t help me get through it. I wasn’t able to avoid the panic just by telling myself that my wedding should be happy, that only made it worse. Knowing I was feeling a way I shouldn’t be feeling right now made me more worried about what I was feeling. And fearing my own emotions is what makes it all bubble over.

Pushing away your feelings never helps. Feel the emotions. It’s okay to be afraid. It’s okay to be worried. It’s okay to be scared on your wedding day instead of just plain old “nervous”like everyone else assumes. They don’t know the difference between your anxiety and regular nerves. It’s okay. They don’t have to understand.

See, not every wedding is going to go smoothly. No matter how much you plan, something will go wrong. And stressing about making everything perfect won’t make it happen. When that moment comes to walk through those doors, you will feel a whole range of emotions. For me, it was excitement about getting married, eagerness to see my groom, fear for all the eyes being on me, worry about being afraid, and then helplessness as the anxiety overtook me and I felt like I was about to faint. And nothing I planned for could have stopped that.

Luckily for me, everyone around me was amazing. My wedding coordinator fetched me a glass of water while my dad fanned me with a program. My organist just kept looping the song he was playing while everyone stood there waiting. The pastor came out to make sure I was okay, and someone let my groom know I was just having a fainting spell. And most importantly, my groom knew of my panic attacks and instantly understood. Having a panic attack at the moment my wedding was supposed to being didn’t mean I was having second thoughts or backing out. It didn’t mean we are clearly not supposed to get married, like some sort of bad omen. No, all it meant was that I was feeling overwhelmed by all of the emotions I was feeling, and needed to take a moment to acknowledge them.

In the end, the panic subsided. I wiped the sweat from my face as best I could, and gave my dad a hug. He didn’t know I struggle with anxiety and panic until that moment, and he didn’t love me any less because of it. Even on my wedding day, I was still his little girl, and when I needed him, he jumped into action. Then he offered me his arm, I gave him a firm squeeze, and we opened the door and walked down that aisle together just like we had always planned.

When I used to imagine how my wedding would go, my anxiety definitely wasn’t a part of it. I didn’t know that on the day of my wedding I would be standing at the altar trying to casually wipe the sweat off the back of my neck. I didn’t know I would feel like I was having an out-of-body experience, or that I wouldn’t remember the words I said in my vows even a moment after saying them. I didn’t know that while there is supposed to be a space between me and my groom as we stand there saying our vows, that I would be reaching across to grab his hand because I needed him to steady me and reassure me that everything is okay on what is supposed to be the happiest day of my life.

And even though none of this was what I had planned, it was still a beautiful wedding. There was so much love and support all around us. No one cared that I took a few extra minutes to compose myself before the wedding started. No one cared that there was sweat making my hair stick to my neck, or that there was snot dripping from my nose during prayers because I was crying.

Anxiety sucks. I wish I didn’t have to deal with it at all. I envy people who can do the things that make me anxious without panicking. But at the same time, anxiety is part of what makes me me. And my groom decided to marry me despite it. He married me even though I left him standing awkwardly at the altar alone. He married me even though I’m going to continue to struggle with my anxiety probably forever.

And that’s why I know we are right together. He had the chance to leave me when my anxiety got bad. There are a lot of people who would have. But he didn’t. He stayed. He made a choice to live with my anxiety, which is a choice I was never given. And every day we work through it together, hoping tomorrow will be easier, but we never really know. He has taken on my burdens as his own, and together we are fighting them bit by bit, hoping that one day we won’t need to fight anymore. Hoping we won’t need to be afraid.

People have told me he’s lucky to be with me. They have no idea how lucky I am to be with him.


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About janinerussell

The transition to adulthood; reflecting on the past to create a better future.

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