Two days before my wedding, I had a massive panic attack. It was just after 10:00pm, and I was sitting on my bed in my parents’ house watching Season 3 of The Office on my computer when suddenly, and out of nowhere, my throat started to close up. I felt like I couldn’t take in air, so I stumbled to my parents’ bedroom asking for Benadryl, convinced I was having an allergic reaction to something I had eaten. Fortunately, my mother knew relatively quickly what was happening to me, and sat up with me as my body was seized with tension and terror for the next hour or so. The next morning, she took me to a doctor who prescribed an emergency dose of Xanax, which I took faithfully for the next few days — including on my wedding day.
Let’s back up. This story really begins years earlier. The college I went to was small and conservative, and therefore produced a large crop of young marriages between recently graduated students. Many of my friends were engaged towards the end of my college experience, and I’m not sure why exactly, but many of them gravitated towards me for wedding advice and assistance. I honestly had no idea what I was talking about, but before long I was regularly assembling DIY invitations, making timelines and researching photographers for friends. I enjoyed looking at wedding blogs on occasion, but I was young and single, and hadn’t given any of it much serious thought.
But then my sister got engaged to her now-husband. She was out of state and in law school at the time, so she really had no time or energy to dedicate to planning a wedding. So, a lot of wedding work fell to me, and I loved it. I loved getting to honor my relationship with my sister by planning a day that was just like her — classic, but whimsically fun. Long story short, the wedding was beautiful, and even ended up getting featured in the pages of Brides Chicago magazine. I was hooked.
My sister’s wedding – the first I ever planned. Photo by Emily Johnston .
By this time, I was dating the man who would become my husband, and although he didn’t know it, I had become slightly wedding-obsessed. By the time we got engaged, I was religiously following wedding blogs and had secretly been making phone calls to wedding venues to check on availability.
Something you should know about me (and something my husband could tell you all about), is that I am an internal processor — I process my thoughts and feelings in the privacy of my own mind, and it’s rare that I actively seek out the input of others on decisions that primarily effect only me. In short, I was already pre-disposed to not asking for help when it came to my wedding — not to mention that I was terrified of being labeled a wedding-obsessed (I hate this word) Bridezilla. Early on, I had decided that I would avoid talking about my wedding with my friends.
Not only was I committed to keeping my wedding planning private, but I had also put pressure on myself to “outdo” myself by once again creating a beautiful magazine-ready wedding like I had done for my sister. Talk about a recipe for disaster — I had convinced myself that I needed to impress everyone while burdening no one.
Fast forward to the night of the panic attack — everything was organized, everything was done and planned and ready to go, and there I was weeping on my bed for reasons I couldn’t understand.
It took some months before I was finally able to piece together what had happened to me in the days before my wedding. Looking back, I can clearly see that I crumbled under immense pressure I had put on myself. Planning a wedding hadn’t caused me to melt down, I caused me to melt down since I didn’t know how to ask for the help that I needed.
Oftentimes when strangers learn that I’m a wedding planner, their first question for me is something along the lines of “Have you had any Bridezillas yet?” or “Have you ever had someone go crazy over something little?” I know these are well-meaning, albeit ignorant, questions for the most part, but I think that our culture doesn’t fully understand the pressure that today’s brides are really under. Difficult and stressful moments in planning weddings don’t often happen because of place cards or hair styles — they happen because of larger stressors, like complicated family dynamics. Think about it — the average couple has to feed and entertain perhaps hundreds of people, make hundreds of tiny decisions about one day and manage not only their own expectations about how that day should go, but often also the expectations of their families and close friends. Is it any wonder that conflict and tension can easily arise when planning a wedding?
Now, consider the pop-culture portrayals of brides that are all around us. From the reality television show “Bridezillas” depicting demanding and bossy brides run amuck to the romantic comedy “Bride Wars” where two wedding-obsessed best friends nearly ruin their friendship in pursuit of their dream weddings, the message seems clear: weddings make women crazy and obsessive. It’s a small wonder that so many of my brides (like I did before them) express their fear of sharing their excitement about wedding details with their single friends, for fear of being labeled “wedding-obsessed.”
John + I on our wedding day. Photo by Evan Hunt .
Our wedding was special and sweet and everything that we wanted at the time, but I struggle to call to mind specific moments from the day. I honestly believe that this was because I was in charge of the wedding day and I was deeply invested in the success of the plans I had made. There was no one but me to make sure that our volunteer friend who MCed our wedding knew where the microphone was, no one but me to make sure that the guestbook was set where I wanted it set. I wonder how many precious, specific moments I missed with my friends and family while I was managing the schedule or running out early in the morning to buy more umbrellas when the weather forecast called for rain.
In short, I am the reason I got into wedding planning as a profession. I so desperately needed someone, anyone, whose job it was to care about my wedding with me. Someone who I could trust to never tire of talking to me about place cards or first dances, someone who would step in to help before I knew that I needed to ask. Someone who would tell me, “yes, Corinne, you need to have a DJ” and that it might help ease my mingling heart if we did a receiving line. Someone who could remind me that I didn’t need to impress anyone at all, and that it was OK to feel strongly about having pretty chairs.
So, in honor of that earnest girl who put her entire wedding on her shoulders, I make a living at sharing the load with brides who are just like me. In the end, I want to give my couples what I so desperately needed: the freedom to experience every moment of their wedding day and the reminder to go easy on themselves. I think it’s important.