Last week, I talked about wedding disappointment. More specifically, I talked about a few reasons why your wedding might not have lived up to your expectations. While this is an extremely valuable question to explore with yourself and your spouse(s), it doesn’t always give you the guidance you need to move forward. You can figure out why you’re feeling what you’re feeling, but you might not know how to process your feelings in a productive, healthy way.
It’s worth noting that everyone processes their negative emotions differently. Sure, some ways are healthier than others. Some ways work better for some people than others. What’s healthy for one person may not be healthy for another: Person A may be able to execute one coping mechanism effectively and positively, but Person B may not have the tools, personality, or way of thinking that would give them the same result as Person A.
What I’m saying is healing is subjective. You cannot expect your method to work exactly the same for someone else. You cannot expect every method to work the same for you. You cannot expect that no methods will work for you, just because all of the ones you have tried up until now haven’t done the job. Humans are wonderfully diverse, and everyone responds differently.
We usually don’t just instinctively know how to make ourselves feel better. We often need to be given the tools or resources to learn how. If you’re dealing with negative emotions surrounding your wedding, here are a few suggestions to help you process your feelings in your own way:
Acknowledge your feelings. This may seem like a given, but there are a lot of subtle, insidious ways that we refuse to accept our emotions. We deny them or try to paint them as something other than what they are. We minimize them. We ignore them. We tell ourselves that they have a weaker impact than they really do. We use the word “but”. One of the most important things that we can do (yes, every single one of us) is acknowledge our feelings and accept them for what they are without judgment. BEFORE you figure out why you’re feeling the feeling… BEFORE you figure out how to handle the feeling… BEFORE you mess yourself up with ideas of how you think you should be feeling… You need to acknowledge the feelings that are there, regardless of whether you want them or not. Acceptance is not just the final stage of grief… It is also the first.
Question why this is important to you. This is not an opportunity to minimize your feelings. This is an opportunity to explore them. A lot of people may respond to your emotions with, “it’s just one day,” “it’s just one person,” “it’s just one mistake,” etc. And upon examination, you may find that you agree with them. It’s just one day, right? It doesn’t matter to me as much as I thought it did. I was just having a knee-jerk reaction, and after thinking about it, I feel better. Or maybe you won’t agree. Maybe the thing that was upsetting you is still important to you, and is still hurting you. And that’s completely okay. People will often treat something as though it’s trivial because they don’t understand, or because they’re uncomfortable. Don’t fall into the “should” trap… There is no one way you “should” be feeling. You feel how you feel. The “why” may be hard to pinpoint, but finding it will help you understand how to process that feeling.
Lower your expectations. Granted, this is way harder to do retroactively. We feel disappointment when our expectations aren’t met. So lowering them (in a healthy way) is a great way to set ourselves up to feel better about our wedding. However, when your wedding has already passed, it puts you in a really awkward position. Lowering your expectations after the fact often looks like reframing:
- “My top three priorities for the wedding were X, Y, and Z. It may not have been exactly as I envisioned it, but all three of those priorities were executed.”
- “I wanted X for my wedding. I tried to accomplish it by doing Y. Y didn’t go according to plan, but X still happened… just not in the way I had anticipated it.”
- “Considering the budget we had, we actually accomplished a lot! It’s really impressive that we managed what we did for under X amount of money.”
- “Our wedding didn’t look like the weddings you see in magazines/blogs/movies. But those weddings are meant to be marketed. Expecting my wedding to look like those weddings is unrealistic.”
- “I’m disappointed that my loved one couldn’t be at the wedding. But the memorial/livestream/pre- or post-wedding visit was the next best thing. We did the very best we possibly could have, given the circumstances.”
- “We can’t expect ourselves to do better than our best. We can’t expect ourselves to try harder than our hardest.”
Focus on the positives. I’m going to be direct with you: I hesitated to put this one in here. I’m adamantly against Toxic Positivity, and SO many people tend to use this as a way to dismiss or diminish negative feelings (either in themselves, or in others). When you tell someone that you’re experiencing disappointment with your wedding, their response will likely be: “But it’s just one day, right? Your marriage matters more than your wedding.” or “The important thing is, you got to marry the person you love.” I absolutely detest this, and I’ll be writing about it next week. But this concept isn’t entirely without merit. Even though it can very easily be abused (VERY easily), it can be a very helpful tool for some people to examine, reframe, or come to more comfortable terms with their negative emotions. It doesn’t work for everyone, but if you find that this method works well for you, all the power to you!
Laugh it off. Again, this is one method that’s easy to use for the wrong reasons. A lot of people tend to mask their negative emotions with jokes or laughter. This is just another way to dismiss or diminish pain, which is unequivocally unhealthy… for everyone. However, humour works exceptionally well for some people. It’s often easier to process heavy emotions if you use humour to take some of the weight off and make them lighter. If the circumstances causing your negative emotions are amusing to you, that doesn’t negate the existence of the negative emotions. It is possible to feel amused and hurt at the same time… Believe it or not, the two feelings are not mutually exclusive. It’s also worth saying that time matters when it comes to laughing something off. Some people may be able to laugh right after the fact. Others may need weeks, months, or years to be able to laugh at something that caused them pain. If you don’t feel ready to look at your wedding through the lens of humour, that’s okay. Don’t force yourself.
Talk to someone. Once you’ve acknowledged your feelings, talk to someone you love or trust about them. Your spouse would be an excellent place to start… they experienced the wedding as well, and they might feel the same way you do. Communication is extremely important… not just with a marriage, but with the healing process. Of course, you always run the risk of someone letting you down or dismissing your feelings. People often get uncomfortable with their loved ones’ negative emotions. They can respond with “but” or “at least” or “look on the bright side”. If they were involved in the wedding planning process, they might take your feelings personally: “I put so much time/effort/money into your wedding, how could you say that? How could you be so ungrateful?”. This is not a reflection of you. This is a reflection of them. And this is why it’s so important to have a support network to lean on.
Find what you’re missing somewhere else. Didn’t get enough time with your loved ones? Have dinner or hold a party to celebrate your nuptials and thank them for supporting you! Did you want to elope, but decided to have a big wedding to please your families? Have an intimate night out, vacation, or photo shoot with your partner(s) to celebrate getting married! Did your family members sour the wedding with their views about your queerness, polyamory, spiritual views, or wedding choices? Have a party with your more accepting friend group- you’re all more free to be yourselves and talk about certain things than you were at the wedding, anyways! Wedding didn’t feel fancy, elegant, or formal enough? Have a classy, luxurious night out or trip with just you and your partner(s)! Sure, doing this won’t change how disappointing the original event was. But who says that your wedding only has to last one day? Who says that your wedding can’t also include celebrations that happen days, weeks, or months after they were intended to? It isn’t silly. It’s spectacular! Multi-event weddings are the best. Even- perhaps especially- if one or more of the events are impromptu!
When all else fails, plan your Vow Renewal. You’d be surprised how many people use vow renewals as the wedding they wanted, but never had. It’s a lot of people. Like, A LOT. And with COVID continuing to mess with weddings, I guarantee we’re going to see a lot more of this. If you choose to renew your vows in a “replacement wedding”, I can assure you: You’re in good company. Some people may feel squicky about this: It isn’t our REAL wedding. It feels cheap. It feels fake. While I understand the sentiment, I wholeheartedly disagree: your real wedding is whatever wedding you want it to be. If you want to look at your initial wedding as a first try or a practice round, then go for it! You are the only one who gets to define your wedding. No one else gets to do that for you, no matter how strongly they believe they can.