For most women, getting engaged is like entering a bubble – it’s just you, your fiancé and a distant, dreamy notion of happily-ever-after. But once the fairy dust settles, the ring-selfie likes trickle to a halt and the date is set, reality kicks in.
The logistics of masterminding the wedding you’ve fantasised about since childhood can be overwhelming. Add to that emotional and financial pressures, and what should be the happiest time of your life can easily turn sour, pushing you to act out in ways you never imagined.
As psychotherapist Allison Moir-Smith, who’s worked with brides-to-be all over the world, puts it, ‘You have to go through a psychological transition to make this enormous identity change from single to married, daughter to wife – and it’s a trauma.’
The bad news is, when you’re dealing with such trauma alongside planning a wedding, a little bridezilla-ish behaviour is par for the course. The good news is that it doesn’t have to consume you. ‘If you’re not normally demanding and idiotic in real life, that bridezilla behaviour signifies something bigger and deeper going on,’ explains Allison. And if you can establish what’s behind those moments of pre-marital madness, you can stop them ruining your wedding.
So put down your Pinterest board, take a deep breath and read our foolproof guide to keeping bridezilla at bay.
Choose the three things that are most important to you at the wedding, and make peace with the remaining details.
MAKE A PLAN AND STICK TO IT
Whatever the scale of your wedding ambitions, having a plan is essential. ‘Decision-making is the most stressful part of any wedding, because there are so many options and it all boils down to one day,’ says top UK wedding planner Grant Morgan.
Self-confessed bridezilla Rachel remembers, ‘On my wedding day, I stomped off to the bridal suite in tears and refused to let anyone in. I’m usually very level-headed, but the stress of it all finally got to me, and the 20th question about sandwiches made me snap.’
Reassuringly, says Grant, all stresses can be reduced if the planning is managed correctly.’
The best advice I got when planning my wedding was simply to split my to-dos – big and small – by month, in a spreadsheet. In the beginning, breaking it down in this manner kept me from going into organisational overdrive and burning out, and made it easy for my husband to get involved. Later, looking at how much we’d achieved made all the last-minute stuff seem more manageable.
But a spreadsheet will only get you so far. ‘The real starting point is the budget,’ says Grant. One in three couples go into debt trying to create their dream wedding, which can put unnecessary pressure on a fledgling marriage. ‘Do whatever it takes to enjoy the day, but be realistic,’ he adds. Just because Kim and Kanye had a 20-foot wall of flowers, and Elizabeth Hurley needed 13 costume changes, doesn’t mean those things will make you happy.
‘Give yourself a buffer, say 5 per cent, and discuss your priorities,’ advises Grant. ‘Ask yourself, “What’s important to you?” If the answer is everything, consider enlisting the services of a wedding planner. They’ll steer you through the decision-making wilderness to ensure progress is made at an easy pace and avoid heaping too much at once on the bride-to-be.’
Also, once you’ve decided to work with a planner, trust them – that’s what you hired them for.
YOU’RE NOT ALONE
Whether or not you have a professional planner on your team, ‘don’t forget, your guests are rooting for you’, says Grant. The same goes for your bridal party and your suppliers. ‘They’re being paid to serve you, so if they do badly, it’s not good for them,’ adds Allison. Which means that if you find yourself going bridezilla at your florist or caterer, the problem might actually be you.
‘Brides always want things to be other people’s fault,’ explains Allison. ‘It’s easier if the supplier is a pain in the neck or your mother-in-law is difficult, but we’re all 50 per cent of every relationship, so we have to own our part.’
The first step is to ‘recognise that bridezilla behaviour is not about whatever it is you’re stressing over’, says Allison. ‘Are you feeling sad about the end of your single life, worried about how your relationship with your dad’s changing, lonely because your girlfriends aren’t in this with you, angry that the venue’s not calling you back? All these things are about loss of control, and that brings out the bridezilla.’
However, there will be times when other people really are the problem. ‘I had bridesmaidzillas,’ my friend, Lucy, recalls. ‘I had to do my make-up in the toilet on the day as one of them took the entire dressing table!’
Allison says in such situations, ‘you can either change the conversation you’re having with the difficult people, or get to a state of acceptance’.
Take your bridesmaids: just because you’ve known them forever doesn’t mean they’re psychic. If they’re not giving you what you need, tell them – this is your Big Day, and it’s OK to make yourself heard. Don’t take things too far though. Kate Moss famously insisted on seeing her friends’ outfits in advance to make sure they wouldn’t upstage her – probably not the best way to get them on her side.
‘The key is communication,’ says Grant. ‘That is, two-way communication. Think carefully about who you want around you on the day and try to create a calming space.’
Rachel adds: ‘Make sure you have someone on hand to field the details for you, because it’s just too much when you’re trying to enjoy your day.’ This could be the planner, the best man or maid of honour.
If you need more support, don’t be afraid to ask for help. ‘Most brides don’t want therapy,’ says Allison, ‘but every bride has something difficult happening and it’s hard to talk about with your own people. Sometimes, it’s nice to have an outsider.’
You can fret about the perfect wedding all you want, but people don’t recall the details later; they remember how they felt.
GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK
As someone who bought every wedding magazine on the shelf and didn’t go a day without trawling my favourite bridal blogs in the 16 months of being engaged, I know how easy it is to get sucked into the idea of the perfect wedding and how crazy it makes you. Actress Kate Walsh admitted to turning bridezilla during a dress fitting, later joking, ‘Who knew someone could get that hysterical about innerwear?’
‘It’s disturbing,’ agrees Allison. ‘There are just too many ideas, possibilities, and people doing it perfectly.’ Glossy photo shoots are great for inspiration, but they’re just snapshots, and won’t add up to a genuinely full picture.
‘Being a bride before the wedding is complete fantasy,’ says Allison. ‘People never remember the details later; they remember how they felt. So, as well as what you want your wedding to look like, think about how you want to feel. My goal is for brides to be emotionally present, whatever happens. That’s a wedding.
‘Choose three things that have to be perfect. You can micromanage those to death, and the rest you have to get to a place where it’s good enough.’
For me it was the dress, photography and tablecloths. Truth is, no one will notice if the petals scattered down the aisle aren’t the right shade of pink, or the cake came out wrong.
Also, once you’ve decided something, stop looking. You only need to watch one episode of Say Yes To The Dress to know it’s a bad idea to keep trying on gowns when you’ve already found the one.
Don’t forget why you’re doing all this. ‘Basically,’ says Grant, ‘your wedding day is about you and your husband-to-be.’ And a bridezilla does not make three.
Visit grantmorganweddings.com and thebridewhisperer.com for advice.