COVID-19 has presented couples planning a wedding with new and unprecedented challenges. Routine decisions involving color scheme, catering, and entertainment are now giving way to more serious considerations such as health and safety regulations for gatherings, date postponements, change of venue, and guest list revisions. Modifying an original wedding vision in the face of a global pandemic is inevitably going to create anxiety and friction between two people.
Our thoughts are with everyone trying to navigate this uncharted territory. Now is a time for couples to look to those around them, both personal and professional, for advice and support. With this in mind, we reached out to AisleTalk, a boutique NYC-based therapy practice specializing in helping people cope with the stresses of wedding planning. Here, Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Therapist, Farzana Rahman, highlights four ways to manage wedding stress during COVID-19.
With COVID-19’s impact this year, we have lost a lot: our weekend brunches, vacations in other countries, birthday gatherings, and more. Most importantly, we’ve lost opportunities to create memories with our families and friends. One of these momentous opportunities are weddings, a day to celebrate lifetime commitment of love and union. COVID-19 has not made it easy to plan a wedding or manage the major adjustments of set plans. Whether you’ve had to alter parts of your wedding or have had to postpone it altogether, here are your therapist-approved stress management tools to cope through it.
Allow yourself the time and space to grieve the loss. During the wedding planning process, you’ve probably had to make various decisions from picking the flowers in your bouquet to the family traditions you want to incorporate. It is a time of high stress and excitement at once! With COVID-19, new stressors came along and more decisions needed to be made. You had to prioritize what is most important to you: changing the date, reducing the number of guests, a smaller ceremony, or a different venue. Some of us may not perceive this as a loss, since we usually associate grief and loss with losing people. However, dates are significant, venues are special, budgets are not small, and guests are people close to our hearts. In the midst of making all these changes, you may not have had a chance to breathe and grieve the loss of this huge life event as you planned it. Take that time now. You are allowed to cry, you are allowed to feel angry and devastated, you are allowed to take space from others. We are constantly battling against people telling us how we should feel versus how we truly feel. If you don’t feel all that sad or upset, that’s okay too, as long as you have given yourself the space to express those emotions.
Communication is key. If you have chosen to move forward with your wedding, it is important to be transparent with your guests regarding how it may look contrary to what was planned. Due to the pandemic, everyone’s level of comfort around safety can look different, so reflecting on your own comfort and your guests’ well-being can be helpful. It is crucial that loved ones are aware how you plan to maintain safety. Will you have sanitizers? Will everyone be required to wear masks? Will there be a designated area where masks may not be required? Should guests expect group photos? If you have chosen a smaller wedding or to postpone altogether, communicating this to your guests is helpful as well. There is no shortage of creative ways to do this. Martha Stewart Weddings and BRIDES often provide helpful suggestions on how to navigate the new times. Couples have sent out revised invites, made personal phone calls to guests they feel closer to, and/or used social media to make announcements. Although some guests may be unhappy, you can emphasize the valid reasons you have taken this route. Communicating your expectations will allow a smoother transition into your big day, which could be 12 days or 12 months away!
Use your support system. When you’re able to recognize that you are not alone during this time, it can feel empowering. Think about who you define as your support system. It can be your wedding crew, your wedding planner, your parents, grandparents, extended family, high school friends, college roommates, and your therapist. When I think of a support system, I think of the friend I can pick up the phone to call and cry to, I think of my sister whose loyalty cannot be matched, my partner whose words can be soothing, and the therapist who truly makes all the efforts to understand. Your supports can look similar or entirely different. You can have two outstanding people or ten great ones to talk to. Whoever they are, you matter to them, so take the chance to reach out.
Finally, take the time to care for yourself in other ways. Wedding stress alongside COVID stress can amplify existing feelings of anxiety, depression, or any mental health concerns. This can be an opportunity to take a deep breath and shift your focus while you’ve postponed things. What is something you’ve always wanted to try, but never found the time to do? Perhaps you finally want to reach out to a few therapists for consultations, want to pick up painting or pottery, decorate your apartment/house, watch that movie you have been putting off, treat yourself to a spa day, create a new exercise routine, buy those books you haven’t had a chance to read – the list can go on. It can help to write out your ideas to decide what you prefer to do now versus save some for post COVID-19.
As liberating as it is to engage in self-care, it is just as important to remember to connect with your partner. This is a good time to reflect on what the both of you would like to do. How are you spending time with each other outside of wedding planning? Whether you prefer the rooftop views, gardens, or the museums, planning a date night (or even an entire day) together can be something to look forward to!
With any of these tips, the biggest takeaway is don’t lose sight of yourself, your partnership, and your support system in the midst of the stress. Think you might need a little extra support in navigating these waters? AisleTalk therapists are here to help with exactly that. Don’t hesitate to reach out if there’s something unique you’d like support with.
Farzana Rahman is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in New York and an associate therapist at AisleTalk, a therapy and coaching practice devoted to supporting the emotional well-being of individuals and couples who are getting married. She received her Master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling from Fordham University and is a certified facilitator for PREPARE/ENRICH, the forefront approach to premarital and marital counseling. AisleTalk alongside Farzana have an understanding of how the time of wedding planning affects couples and relationships with loved ones. Farzana is able to recognize how expectations from family (and society) can cause exciting life changes to become stressful and daunting!
Click the link below to read an earlier interview that we did with Aisletalk Founder, Landis Bejar, for our Women Paving The Aisle Series.