Anxiety seems like the biggest buzzword lately, and it’s not hard to see why. 2020, which is thankfully over, saw so many historic, world-changing events, both good and bad, that even people who hadn’t really struggled with their stress levels before found themselves craving more peace and calm.
For some people, though, anxiety is more than just a fleeting emotion felt when under extreme stress or faced with difficult circumstances. For some of us, it’s a constant in our lives that we must accept and then learn to overcome – to the best of our abilities – with lifestyle changes, therapy, and even medication.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of American (ADAA) states that in the U.S. alone, 40 million adults deal with anxiety. Nearly one-half of them also struggle with depression, something that often goes hand-in-hand with anxiety. Note that anxiety is a blanket term for many diagnoses people can receive. It includes Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), general stress, and specific phobias.
My Experiences with Anxiety and OCD
Looking back on my own life, I can see that my OCD began in early childhood. I had a genetic predisposition to it because it runs in my family’s maternal side. I also had childhood trauma that amplified it. My OCD, anxiety, and depression effectively took over my life when I was around 18. I remember daily panic attacks, scary thoughts, and feeling pretty hopeless and helpless. Like I couldn’t enjoy life anymore or find anything to laugh or smile about.
Thankfully, my parents got me the help that I needed.
Help Is Available
After being diagnosed with anxiety, they put me on the path of cognitive behavior therapy that truly changed my life. I had relapses, of course, and was put on medication to help with the depressive side of my anxiety when I was in my early 20s. I had postpartum anxiety and depression after both having both of my children. Still, for a long time now, I’ve been in a very good place with my anxiety.
I’ve learned so many coping skills and strategies. I’ve totally changed how I think about things and how I react and respond to circumstances out of my control. As a result, I live a happy life that I thoroughly enjoy. I even faced my longtime fear of flying two years ago by taking a cognitive-therapy based course and, afterward, getting into a small Cessna aircraft and even flying it myself for about ten minutes!
That’s not to say I don’t still struggle with obsessive thoughts, anxious episodes, or feelings of depression. The truth is, we all do, and people like me who are more sensitive to it are even more likely to deal with it, and brides are no different.
Taking Inspiration From Others
My heart was warmed, and I couldn’t stop smiling when, five years ago, I read an article about a beautiful bride named Valerie Parrot. Valerie has anxiety. She also has the cutest service dog I’ve ever seen to help her with it: Bella, a golden lab trained to notice when Valerie is nervous or in distress.
The gorgeous photos, taken by Mad Photo and Design, show Bella gently leaning her head against Valerie, who looks stunning in a strapless gown and timeless updo, and even walking with her down the aisle. The couple later posed with Bella and what I can only assume is Bella’s doggy brother – a tiny and terrific chihuahua, cradled in Valerie’s husband Andrew’s arms.
What struck me the most about the photos from Valerie and Andrew’s wedding was just how much joy was radiating from the photographs. Here was a bride who has been dealt a pretty tough hand in life – no one gets a service dog without really needing one. And yet Valerie didn’t let her anxiety stop her. Instead, she used the tools at her disposal and had a spectacular, stunning wedding, unlike anything I’ve seen before.
Not every bride will have a service dog, but almost every bride does have a wedding planner. While I’m certainly not comparing brilliant, hard-working, and creative wedding planners with support dogs, I do want to point out five brilliant ways that a wedding planner can help a bride with anxiety pull off the wedding of her dreams and feel like her best self the whole way through.
Related article: Eight Stress Management Techniques for Busy Event Planners
1. Educate yourself about anxiety.
If you’re one of the lucky ones who haven’t really experienced life-altering anxiety, count your blessings. And if you’re working with a bride (or groom!) who does, this is an incredible opportunity to grow your compassion and understanding. People with anxiety are usually highly creative and inspired, so you’ll have a wonderful time planning this wedding, with lots of creative influence from your bride.
Take some time to read up on anxiety, and please, don’t make the mistake of thinking that people who suffer with it are just too sensitive or not tough enough. People with anxiety are some of the toughest individuals in the world for facing what they do every single day.
2. Communicate, communicate, communicate.
Most people with anxiety are people pleasers (I speak as a recovering people pleaser extraordinaire!). We shudder at the idea of being assertive or “bossy.” Make the time to lay a foundation of positive communication with your bride, and be sure to involve her as much as she is comfortable with.
Don’t overload her schedule, give her plenty of downtime in between big tasks, and give her assurance that everything is under control and that she’s doing a great job. Anxious people are extremely hard on themselves and gloss over all the good things they have to offer to focus on their flaws, so be encouraging.
Related article: Client Indecision and How Event Planners Can Work Through It
3. Make sure the wedding – the decor, music, venue, etc. – is appropriate for a highly sensitive person (HSP).
Not all people with anxiety are highly sensitive, but most of them are. While some brides would adore a huge, loud, exciting party, brides with anxiety are more likely to gravitate towards something low-key, classic, and sentimental.
If your bride comes from a cultural background where colorful, big, loud weddings are the gold standard, don’t worry. Look for ways that you can instill as much peace and calm into the day as possible.
Instead of a night of drinking and dancing with her bridesmaids before the big day, your bride might prefer an intimate, candle-lit dinner with them. Or an afternoon at the spa. Between the ceremony and photographs, schedule time for your bride to decompress somewhere quiet with her groom by her side.
4. Run interference with any wedding guests that seem to be stressing your bride out.
At my wedding, my husband’s cousin wore the teensiest of micro-shorts. The photographer had to ask her to remain seated during the ceremony so her barely-covered backside wouldn’t ruin the photographs.
After the ceremony, her mother (my husband’s second cousin) stormed up to my husband and I to tell us how rude we were. This took me totally by surprise. I didn’t even know her daughter was there (her mother only had a +1 for her partner and ended up taking the whole family). I didn’t realize that the photographer had said anything to her.
Thankfully, my husband dealt with it, and we didn’t let it spoil our day. But the truth is, weddings bring out people’s true colors. And while most will be joyously celebrating with the newlyweds, some will want to stir the pot for no better reason than because they enjoy the drama. Find out who these people are likely to be – discreetly, of course – and keep an eye on them.
5. Send the bride and groom on their merry way with full assurance that you’ve got everything under control.
After the celebration has wound down at the end of the event, no bride wants to leave the venue worried about the clean-up or if their drunk great-uncle will try to drive his car home or do the responsible thing and call a cab.
It goes without saying that any good wedding planner has got all of this under control, but brides with anxiety will find it hard to let go of control of things like this. Be gentle, be firm. Let her know that it’s all taken care of and that it’s time for her to go and enjoy her wedding night. And the start of the rest of her life with her new spouse.
You Can Work With A Bride With Anxiety
The biggest takeaway I can offer is this: don’t hesitate to work with a bride with anxiety. If you nurture your compassion, your sensitivity, and your creativity, you’ll end up creating a wedding that will mean so much to her and that she won’t ever forget.
You’ll walk away with a delighted client who will likely gush about how wonderful you were to all her friends and family. You’ll feel good knowing that you were responsible for holding stress and anxiety at bay and giving a bride the day of her dreams. She can look back on the wonderful memories when anxiety comes to call.