How to Manage Wedding Planning Stress

Orchestrating your big day involves many exciting elements, but the experience can be a stressful one for many. According to a 2023 Zola survey of more than 4,000 engaged couples, 52 percent of the polled responders described wedding planning as “stressful,” while another 59 percent used the word “overwhelming” to summarize the process. Only six percent revealed that they weren’t stressed, meaning that about 94 percent of the population feels this emotion while executing the vision for their nuptials.

There are various sources of wedding planning stress that can affect couples, like creating a budget to cover the costs associated with the affair, figuring out who to invite (and who to put on the B-list), selecting the perfect attire to wear, and meeting family members’ expectations. Plus, finding the time and energy to actually make these decision, all while holding a job, paying the bills, nourishing your relationship, and taking care of yourself, can feel like an impossible feat at times. 

If you take a deeper look at the context, you’ll find that many individuals are coping with a big change in their lives, so grief and fear are also at the core of this process. “It’s a life transition for everyone involved, and with life transitions come identity shifts and a sense of loss of who you were before,” licensed marriage and family therapist Landis Bejar says. “Meanwhile, all this happens while everyone’s eyes are on you, you’re spending loads of money, and you’re expected to be the happiest you’ve ever been.” Stress is a normal (yet uncomfortable) byproduct.

Before you let the stress of wedding planning interfere with your wellbeing, relationships, and daily life, there are easy, effective ways to calm your nerves and make the experience more enjoyable. We asked the experts to share their advice, which we expand upon below.

Focus on Your Priorities

Instead of spending a lot of mental energy nitpicking every single detail, like the the shape of your bouquet or the color of your flatware, wedding planner Michelle Leo Cousins advises prioritizing your non-negotiable elements. Throughout the course of the planning process, make sure you continuously reference your “must” list, so you stay on track and avoid going down a rabbit hole of endless DIY projects and constant upgrades. “By putting a lot of those key pieces in place right at the very start of the planning process, you’re going to avoid a lot of stress down the road,” Leo Cousins mentions. “You’re going to avoid overspending on things you decided at the get-go weren’t that important.”

Establish an Open Line of Communication

Some of the most common stressors are relationships with family members, especially your parents and in-laws because they often pay for a portion (or all) of your wedding, giving them a say in the decision-making process. To prevent an argument from blowing up, sit down with them at the very start of your planning journey and have an open and honest conversation. Discuss your vision for the day using “I” statements to avoid causing a defensive reaction, and ask them to share their priorities. Listen attentively and without judgment. Then, find ways to compromise.

Getting both sides of the family on the same page right from the beginning is the best way to avoid butting heads when you’re in the thick of planning. “So many family arguments come down to lack of [communication] or miscommunication,” Bejar notes. “We assume people’s feelings and intentions, and we let them fester in our minds. Talking it through with that person almost always alleviates the stress [because] we’re often more aligned than we think, or things aren’t nearly as bad as our imagination would have us believe.”

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Break Down the Process

Experiencing wedding planning stress is expected if you’re spending hours on end curating a playlist, building your wedding website, or working on any other task without taking a break. Instead of running yourself into the ground, make the process more manageable. For instance, designate one day of the week to getting organized, or maybe, working for an hour at the end of the day is more feasible. Breaking up the operation into bite-sized pieces will make you feel less overwhelmed. Plus, giving your brain a rest will actually increase productivity.

Create a Plan B

No matter how much you plan, there will always be situations beyond your control, like inclement weather or a flight delay. To alleviate your anxiety about these unforeseen circumstances, Leo Cousins suggests preparing the best you can for any worst-case scenario, like creating a backup plan or designating a point person to communicate instructions if anything goes awry. If anticipating the future is only exacerbating your stress levels, letting go of meddling with the outcome and accepting whatever happens will give you peace of mind.

Choose the Right Support System

The people with whom you surround yourself has the potential to make the wedding planning experience a joy or a stressful situation. In particular, it’s so important to select uplifting, positive bridesmaids who will stand by your side during this journey and who will always have your best interest at heart. “You want a bridal party that is going to be there for you through thick and thin, a bridal party who will be supportive and listen to understand your feelings and concerns,” psychologist and relationship expert Dr. Sherrie Sims Allen says. Whenever the planning process starts to feel unbearable, you’ll feel safe and comfortable enough to turn to your crew, whether it’s to delegate tasks or just to vent.

Hire a Wedding Planner

Mapping out your big day is an enormous project to take on alone. Since there are so many ideas to execute, people to consult, and decisions to make, hiring a wedding planner will alleviate some of the wedding planning stress and free up your time. “They will guide you through all the planning, from beginning to end,” Allen remarks. “A wedding planner allows you the luxury of relaxing and enjoying your big day without stress.”

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Set Aside Time for Self Care

As you envision and execute your affair, make sure you set aside plenty of time for yourself. Find pockets throughout your week where you can do something you genuinely enjoy, whether it’s taking your favorite yoga class, booking a massage, or drawing a bath at the end of the day. Bonus points if your self-care activity is known to decrease stress, like meditation or exercise. To actually reap the therapeutic benefits, Bejar stresses the importance of being present while you engage in the task.

Then, make it a consistent practice. “Self-care is not a one-time thing,” Bejar points out. “It’s not just something you do when you’re stressed. It’s something you do regularly and preventatively to reduce your reactions to stressful situations when they arise.”

Continue to Date Your Partner

Without managing wedding planning stress, your relationship with your partner could suffer. Whenever you start to feel the tension and pressure escalate, recall the reason why you’re throwing this event in the first place: to marry your person. Then, prioritize spending quality time with your significant other, so you continue maintaining this connection. “I love the idea of regular date nights, but one thing I like even better is some structured, planned activity where you are both engaged in something outside of yourself,” Bejar says.

Some ideas? Her top suggestions include activities that are “bonding, exciting, and connective,” such as joining a kickball league, taking a pottery class, or joining a book club together.

Foster an Attitude of Acceptance

Accepting every chapter of wedding planning, from tedious and challenging to pleasant and exhilarating, will help you keep your stress levels intact and put everything into perspective. “Remember that you don’t have to like everything to enjoy the process in general,” Bejar shares. “It’s perfectly OK to acknowledge that some things suck and some things are kind of fun. An engagement and wedding planning is an inherently temporary state, so when things get hard, remember it’s not forever.”

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