How to manage stress on your big day

How to manage stress on your big day
(Photo/ Leonid & Anna Dedukh via Adobe Stock)

By Kathryn Ziemer, Ph.D

So the big day is nearly here. Wedding invitations have been sent out. Venues have been booked. Preparations have been made.

At this point, you’ve nearly crossed the finish line and you’re finally ready to say “I do.” But what if it all doesn’t go smoothly? What if the wedding guests don’t get along? What if a vendor drops the ball, or worse … drops the cake? Your mind is spinning. Your pulse races. So many expectations, so much build-up. So much money invested, and all the eyes will be on you.

Everything you’re feeling is normal. Getting married is a huge life milestone, and it’s natural to be nervous when expectations are so high. But, as much as possible, you want to go into it feeling good and with a calm mind so you can enjoy the day, which requires a strategy.

Let’s break down stress management for the 24 hours leading up to your wedding, step by step.

The night before the wedding

Good sleep is the foundation for your successful wedding day for two reasons. First, it will recharge you physically so you can still be on your feet dancing at the end of the night. Good sleep also provides you with critical emotional regulation, so when something doesn’t go according to plan, you can take it in stride.

According to top sleep researchers, REM-sleep – or rapid eye movement – is like “overnight therapy” for our brain. We feel calmer and better able to regulate our emotions when we get enough sleep.

Here are a few tips to help you unlock a great night of sleep:

  • Avoid drinking alcohol the night before.
  • Limit screen-time at least two hours before bed. Screens can be mentally activating, and blue light inhibits natural melatonin release.
  • Keep your bedroom cool, ideally 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Keep your bedroom dark, light is the enemy of sleep.
  • Avoid using sleep aids which may disrupt REM cycles and leave you groggy the next day.
  • If you find you can’t sleep, don’t force it. Try getting up and reading a book until you feel sleepy again.

The morning of

You made it through the night and now it’s the big day!

It’s important to go into it with the right mindset. Start the day with some relaxation, whether it’s deep breathing, stretching or meditation. Some light exercise is another great way to manage stress and kick start those feel-good endorphins. This will help set a calm and positive tone that can carry you through.

Remind yourself of the purpose of the day: You’re celebrating your love and commitment to your partner surrounded by friends and family. Grounding yourself in this truth can help you let go of any hiccups or irritations that crop up throughout the day.

Before the ceremony

You may have jitters as you near the start of the ceremony. This is normal. Rather than catastrophizing or imagining worst case scenarios, try engaging in mindfulness instead, such as noticing what you’re feeling or thinking without judging yourself. Try to let go of any worries and focus instead on the present moment.

If thoughts are flooding your mind, try focusing on your breath instead as it moves in and out of your lungs. Doing this for even a minute can help you feel calmer.

After you’ve had a quiet moment to yourself, don’t forget to eat something. Grab a light, healthy snack so you don’t go into this on an empty stomach. Low blood sugar is a mood and energy killer, and the Internet is littered with tales of brides and grooms who didn’t have time to eat during their reception because they were graciously making the rounds across the room.

During the reception

The moment has finally arrived and now is the time to savor it. Accept that not everything will go according to plan; if something unexpected happens, remember that your wedding guests are probably none-the-wiser.

And don’t forget about gratitude! Reminding yourself of the things you’re thankful for can help you feel better in even the most stressful situations.

This is a special moment. Rarely will you ever find all these people from different aspects of your life in one place together. This is your time, so take it all in. You’ve earned it!

The writer is the founder and clinical director of Old Town Psychology, an award-winning psychology practice in Alexandria offering therapy and cognitive assessments for all ages.