Circus

Last week was busy. How busy? Collin’s parents were in town. My aunt was in town. Five of Collin’s high school/college friends were in town and staying at our place on various evenings. My future brother-in-law graduated from law school. Bridal Hootenanny member Liz had a birthday. I had my first wedding dress fitting since I bought it back in October. We had to get the invitations for our wedding ready to mail. Collin ran in the Pittsburgh marathon. All that, and a circus. [That’s not a metaphor.]

I was tired all the time and hit my emotional limit at least once every day. I popped my anxiety pills like breath mints and got too drunk on Friday night. I had random crying jags. I snapped at Collin a bunch of times. I looked like shit. I developed an ugly rash on my arm (I think its the same kind of
atomic eczema I had after the bar exam). I slept fitfully even though I pretty much collapsed into bed each night.

I don’t want to feel that way the week of my wedding.

But it will be very much the same kind of week: many people in town, a full calendar chock-a-block with social obligations, a lengthy list of tasks to be accomplished, and emotional energy running high.

I need to develop a strategy to deal with these pressures with more aplomb than I did this week. And I’m too tired and worn down at this point to develop it properly. I know I need to get as much done ahead of time as possible. I know I need to get more comfortable delegating responsibilities and being assertive about my needs. And I know I need to schedule downtime during wedding week. But even with these strategies I feel less than confident I’ll have the wherewithal to withstand wedding week.

So, marrieds: how did you hold up during your wedding week and do you have any crucial tips for me? People I know in real life: Will you slap me in the face if I need to snap out of it during wedding week? (Without leaving a mark that might show in photos?) Everyone else: what strategies do you rely upon in stressful crunch times?

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43 responses to “Circus

  1. I think the big difference is that the week of the wedding, people will be coming out of the woodwork with offers to help doing this or that or the other. Say “yes please.”

  2. I’ll be honest – I did not fair well. What you described there with your emotional reaction to your crazy week? Yeah that was me the week of the wedding. I can recall precisely one stress-free afternoon/evening when I hung out with two of my best friends and other than that, it was stress-fest. So I’m no help at all – except to say the wedding was still lovely and I felt probably the most relaxed and happy I ever have immediately afterward and for the entire honeymoon. So I guess I’m saying if all else fails, it’ll still be fine.

    • fare well….yikes, too early

    • Me too. I was a mess the week of my wedding. The only thing that made it better was getting time with my real real friends and not just the “I like you” friends and family. The moment I stopped being gracious (9pm the Saturday before the wedding, at the welcome barbecue, after begin gracious all damn day) and sat to giggle and bitch with my best friends in the world… that was the first moment I really felt human. So I recommend making sure those best friends surround you as a buffer (because alone time or partner time was a myth). You need people with whom you can let it all out and not be “on.” And yes, take care of as much as possible ahead of time. If you can, get rid of projects and logistics crap at least two full days ahead of time.

      But if none of that works, I’m with Nina… everything leading up was hellish but the day of the wedding was the most relaxed and happy I’ve ever been. Trust in that, and maybe you can hold onto it like a beacon of hope.

  3. Last week was incredibly busy for me as well. Work through a ton of stuff at me, including early morning meetings (earlier than I normally get to work) and my mom was in town. I finally lost it last night when I hit my head on the freezer handle and started shouting.

    I’m typing this sitting at my desk at work half asleep and not sure how I’m going to get through this week when I wasn’t able to catch up on my sleep this weekend. Yesterday I had a thought that the wedding week was going to be just as tiring. I’m worried too.

    • My freezer handle moment was when Collin teased me for expressing disinterest in the restaurant we were going to (which is his sister who is about to move away’s favorite in the city, so of course I was willing to eat there anyway). I pretty much shouted at him, “Don’t be mean to me!” when he, of course, wasn’t. It was embarrassing!

  4. I have an anxiety disorder that is often flavored with a sleep disorder when stressed, which makes me tired, irritable, and anxious when times like these come around. Obviously, you need some alone time to do whatever it is you want/need to do for yourself (nap? take a bath? dance around your home naked? it’s your time, no one’s around to judge). But I think equally important to me is alone time with my partner. One night that we can either go out or stay in as we please with no interruption whatsoever. One night where we both say, “I’m sorry, I have plans,” and do not budge from that at all. You can do all the supportive checking-in bits you want at night as you’re both going to bed (or whenever it is that you do this… and seriously, do this), but there’s nothing like having one day all to yourselves to really recharge as a unit & feel secure in the support system that you are for each other.

    Beyond that, make sure you know your limits and listen to them. Ask your partner to help support you in this. He can be your reality check (“ok, yes. let’s go home now, they’ll understand,” or, “let’s take a breather outside/in a separate room real quick, and then we can push through 30 more minutes, OK? then we can leave, and we’ll see if we can get out of those evening plans”).

    Ultimately, when people are in town, be hospitable & gracious, but ultimately remember that they are grown ups and don’t need contact with you every single day. Set up clear expectations regarding days/times you have other things to do (they don’t need to know that the “other thing to do” might actually be dancing naked while home alone).

    • hmm… I did not intend to say ultimately twice in that last bit, sorry for the redundancy.

    • Also, this is the hardest for me, but don’t feel bad about having anxiety or needing alone time. It’s overwhelming and there’s no shame in that. You are OK, family & friends will still love you, and you will be able to enjoy & be more present in your time with them if you allow yourself to recharge without feeling guilty for doing so. (I promise to stop replying to myself now!) :o)

      • I have anxiety with terrible sleep side effects too! Mental health solidarity! WOO! And yes, one of the hardest things is giving myself permission to have these problems. At some point last week my mother-in-law was offering possible solutions to a problem with the invitations and I said, “I can’t deal with this right now” and she was 100% cool and understanding but I STILL felt bad about it. Feeling bad about feeling bad is just too much.

  5. Going to go with Kerry and that saying “YES!” is a huge help. At the same time saying “NO” is just as helpful.

    The week of my wedding I collected and re-read a bunch of fave posts from brides and wives. I hate being like ‘ here’s the link to my blog!’ all up on your blog. But really, these helped a lot. It got me into the right mood – even the scary ones that remind you not to forget your mascara or an extra tampon. Anyways, here it is: http://onecatperperson.blogspot.com/2010/08/2-days-thats-what-she-said.html

    The one that stands out to me right now (that totally saved my ass) is the one written by Margaret about her day of. Seriously, I took notes on her first set of recaps because like Margaret, I was doing it pretty much solo with the help of a trusted handful of lovelies. Anyways, about half an hour before her ceremony, Margaret and her sisters had to get ready (shower and all) in a public restroom at the park together. Sounds crappy on paper, but they laughed about it, helped each other out, and had a grand old time. Reading about how others hustled and made things happen while stressed, pressed for time and sweaty (HI! TOTALLY ME!) helped tons. Didn’t make me less stressed or sweaty, but I took it all with a grain of salt and by the time the wedding march started I was totally zen.

    My advice – don’t drink before the ceremony or during set up if you’re nervous. Keep a clear mind and get into the “holy shit it’s my freaking wedding day!” zone. Best decision I ever made.

    Lots of love to you both. You guys are going to be happy as clams!

    • Thanks for that link, seriously. I have a similar folder of bookmarks of posts to talk me down from the ledge, so to speak, but I can ALWAYS use more of that kind of reading material.

  6. Argh. This is hard to talk about because everyone’s experience is different. We didn’t have the crush of people until Thursday (two days) before the wedding, but we were still constantly on the move the entire week (and all the weeks before that) before the wedding. I do really wish I’d been more vocal and asked for more help. We didn’t want to ask anybody explicitly for help setting up at the venue in the morning, or to take over the task of loading the car with our shit after the wedding and driving it back to our house for us, or to help us clean up everything after the welcome BBQ. So we did all that ourselves. We did have people volunteer to pitch in in various areas — specifically, the flowers — but our main hangup was that we didn’t want people to have to bust their asses working for us. We wanted them to have FUN. And so we ended up taking on everything ourselves and feeling overloaded, overworked, and a tiny bit resentful in those final days.

    I don’t know if this is going to be helpful for you, because I’d have a hard time taking this advice even now, but the biggest tip I could give you is to sit down now and identify key areas in which you’ll need help. Even if it’s a relatively minor task — say, if someone can pick up something small from a store for you — that can help take massive weight off your shoulders. Consider your to-dos against the schedule of the wedding week, and start delegating. If you spread stuff out among many people, then each of those people are responsible for just a tiny fragment, and it won’t feel like you’re asking them to move mountains on your behalf. Then, in the absence of those tasks, you can build in extra time to handle things that will go awry, and (more importantly) extra downtime for yourself.

    And for what it’s worth — and it may not be much — I found I felt exactly the same way you felt last week around the weekend of my bridal shower last year. I was utterly physically and emotionally exhausted. The bridal shower weekend TOTALLY caught me off guard. But during the wedding week, the stress load seemed almost easier to bear because I’d known in advance it would be stressful, and I’d sort of mentally prepared myself for it. So maybe there’s hope for you there?

    • I know exactly what you mean about feeling guilty asking people to bust their ass, which is part of the reason we hired a wedding planner. I will let her bust her ass because I am paying her to. I’m so so glad we had room in our budget for professional help.

      Also, I think you’re on to something about how being mentally prepared for the crush of activity can help. That, and trying my hardest to get things done or delegated ahead of time, will hopefully make wedding week easier, or at least not any harder, than last week.

    • Something else to consider – people love to feel included, and having a job or task that’s delegated in the right way ( bite-sized, not too hard) can make some people feel like part of the insider’s club. Consider who you know that might actually like the job.

      Personally, getting asked to help at a wedding makes me feel trusted, talented and important. As long as I don’t have to do heavy manual labor or give up an entire day, I love helping with a friend’s special day. And I know I’m not alone because I’ve been to dozens of weddings where I’ve been elbow to elbow with people enjoying arranging flowers, ironing tablecloths and hanging decorations.

      Trust your friends. Relax and let them give you the best gift of all – support and help when you need it most. Do not plan on doing ANYTHING once your out of town guests start getting in – you’ll still get stuff done but if everything that *must* get done is delegated, you can decide which things you’re up for. It’s hard (I’m Type A, big time) but it made our day SO much more relaxed. Good luck!

  7. Let go and let people help. Seriously! I realized the week before the wedding that anything that wasn’t done wasn’t going to get done EXACTLY how I would like (we didn’t have ceremony chairs yet, srsly…I was awful at wedding planning). My now husband took care of ALL the logistics the week before (apparently grad school isn’t compatible with being a calm organized bride who whizzed through her to do list…) and family and friends helped with setup. My husband and I were SO TOUCHED with how everyone else hustled to make things happen that it didn’t once occur to me the week of that I had envisioned some of the details differently.

    For example, we had ipod reception and I have a folder of (not enough) songs. I had given no thought about order, mood etc. I was THRILLED when a cousin offered to take over music and be our ipod bouncer. Aside from the handful of songs we specified (1st dance, mother/son etc), he picked a few songs from my original folder. I have NO CLUE which specific songs were played because I was dancing too hard to notice. I just know that we had a bitchin’ dance party and my 92 year old granny out danced everyone.

    I’m normally a social introvert (I like people but need quiet time to recharge). My husband and I came away from the wedding weekend (we rented the house we got married at thur-sun) buoyed and humbled by the generosity, love and energy of our loved ones. It’s difficult to describe but the weekend was busy but not draining. Just realize that some things probably won’t go exactly as you envisioned. However, if you’re married at the end of the day then it’ll be even better. Cause it’ll be real and you’ll be married and everyone will be cheering you on.

  8. I asked three of my best women friends (who were not bridesmaids) to basically form a phalanx between me and stress in the days leading up to the wedding. It was the best decision I’ve ever made. Because all three of them are naturally inclined to be calm people (or at least take-charge-when-things-go-crazy people), they kept me calm and grounded and laughing. Two of my bridesmaids were also fairly calm-keeping people, but being in a wedding party can be stressful, so I was glad to have people who were outside of everything supporting me and reminding me about what mattered most. (Also, one of them was the type whose protective hackles go up at the drop of a hat – when my relatives started mobbing me at the rehearsal, she took one look at my face and went “Okay, we’re done here,” and took me off to a corner until I could recover.)

    Jason was great at taking on a ton of last-minute tasks and also in supporting me emotionally, but since we had separate bachelor/ette outings the Thursday before the wedding and then had to host our separate families, I ended up spending way more time with my girlfriends than with him in the lead up to the wedding. 😦

  9. I’m worried about this too! I’m a pretty classic introvert (love people but need regular breaks alone to recharge) and after the past weekend of bridal shower and bachelorette party, I will say that I was so filled with love and happiness that I didn’t get nearly as cranky or tired as I thought I would. Also I took a 30 minute nap in the middle and I think that really helped me.

    I’m planning to rely heavily on music playlists and movies the week of. Watching things that I know make me laugh, or listening to music that gets me pumped will definitely help me relax, I think, and you can do that stuff while you work on wedding things.

  10. Not sure why or why not, but I don’t remember being hellishly stressed. I remember being so effing excited I couldn’t stand it. I think I was so uber-organized that things were easy? Not sure. Most people sort of don’t expect much from you because they know you’re a freaked out and busy bride. Or maybe I was just lucky with my friends and family that way.
    I do know that I didn’t sleep much because I’m a freak that way and I got LOTS of stuff done between midnight and 3 am just about every day for 3 months up until the week of my wedding. So really, it was smooth sailing that week.
    This was probably not helpful at all.

  11. Elope. (Sorry! You asked for tips, and that’s my best one based on personal experience!)

    xoxo

  12. Ok, so here is some real advise. I have a tendency to go off the deep end sometimes, too. I know this sounds obvious and clichΓ©, but when you feel yourself getting there, stop. Take a deep breath. Put things into perspective. I mean if you HAVE to, sit down and make a motherfucking LIST of reasons why you have nothing to panic about. You’ve already acknowledged your privileged white girl status. EMBRACE IT. Use that shit when you need it most. You’re engaged! You have awesome friends! You have a lovely home! You aren’t going hungry! You have all your limbs! I mean seriously, the most basic shit. Sometimes you just have to start there. xoxo.

  13. *advice, not advise. Blurgh.

    • I agree with Addi! Sometimes when stress looms major, all I can do it litanize (yes, that’s not a word, but you know what I mean) all things terrible or things that can go wrong until I’m a mess. It never seems to help in the moment when people say “but look at this good stuff instead” but if you can make yourself do the mental flip and only litanize the positives, I think it leads to the place where you feel like you can breathe again. Does that make sense?

      Failing that, I promise to provide a perpetual performance of my shoe dance to cheer you up.

  14. i too had a nuts weekend with loads of people in town, and SHOCKINGLY it actually made me excited for my wedding! that is not to say that i will not be a stressball when it actually comes down to it. 😦 I started going to a bad place a couple of times, and what really helped was taking a moment to think about how i was acting and asking myself if i would feel better if i let things go/had fun, versus wallowing. Being honest/open helped to. Saying “Sorry, I’m exhausted, but I’m trying to rally” worked way better than shrugging it off and being “FINE.”

    and you? you got a wedding week dress rehearsal, you luck duck. πŸ™‚ so DO NOT get down on yourself if last week didn’t go perfectly, and if you’re too tired too even think about it right now. last week went exactly how it needed to go for you to get out of it what you need to get out of it. capisci?

  15. In addition to what I said before, I think you should take a look at your party-throwing track-record to help you out. You have thrown many, many, many an awesome-shindig in your salad days (and will in your days to come). There is photographic evidence to prove this fact! Maybe you could make yourself a little photo album, or bookmark some links, and look at pictures of your friends being happy and having a ball to remind yourself that you are already a success at this sort of thing. Also, I know for some of those parties you were super stressed beforehand, but they all went off well so maybe the photos can help you to focus on the fun part instead of worrying. Maybe?

    • This is a good idea, especially the photo album part. But remembering my stress about President’s Day in particular made me worry because the upped scale of the wedding could make my pre-party freakout all the more massive!

      But hopefully I’ll end up dancing on a table. And hopefully you won’t end up crying at all.

      • But think about how even with all the stress (and my buckets of whiskey tears) that party was still a SUCCESS.

        Also, for the record, I will totally cry at your wedding. The good cries.

  16. I don’t deal well with things like this either – I tend to freak out over little things more often than I’d like to admit, and I just KNEW that our wedding was going to be one of those things I flipped and cried and screamed over. I was insanely surprised when I didn’t freak out at all – SO unlike me to be a calm and carefree kind of girl. You hit the nail on the head when you said getting as much done as possible before hand. We only had a handful of things we still NEEDED to do, and I had help with those. Other people were bringing my dress and shoes and whatnot to our venue, so I really only had to get pedicures and spiked lemonade with my Grammie and get out of bed the morning of my wedding. I think all the anticipation of a freak-out kept me from having one. I wanted so badly to be a chill bride, and it happened without me even trying. I hope it’ll be the same for you!

    • My shrink said, “sometimes fun is still stressful” today, and that helped me realize why getting things done and delegating still doesn’t sound like a foolproof plan to me. But it will help and I will do it to the best of my ability.

  17. OK, so here’s my two cents. I was so happy to see in the comments that you have hired a day-of person, because, while you’ll still have shit to do in the days leading up to the wedding, you will eventually be handing that shit off to someone else. My wedding wasn’t intensely DIY, but I did have all the table numbers/escort-cards-that-were-also-favors/hotel bags/directions/airport pickups/etc. to deal with… which is plenty. I am one of those people who likes to make sure things get done right, so I did those things to the extent that I could and then I handed them over to our day-of person. She helped me deal with the little fires that sprang up here and there. I looked back at my blog posts from this time last year (week before the wedding) and it seems like I was busy, but not freaking out, which is as I remember it.

    I was also worried in the months leading up to my wedding that my anxiety would flare up and keep me from enjoying thigns, but much to my relief it did not. I was so excited to party with my friends and marry my husband and see all the family and people we hadn’t seen in ages that most of those feelings were content to hang out in the back of my mind and chill out for a while. I hope something similar is the case for you. Weddings are such bizarre emotional creatures, and I had no idea what to expect of myself at my own.

    For me, taking some days off of work before the wedding really helped. Just knowing I had that extra time and didn’t have to try and do wedding shit from my desk where I was being paid to do way less interesting shit was a huge relief. Also the fact that I put in a lot of work before that, which seems to be what you’re doing. Try to get the things done in advance that you can and be sure to leave time for a nap here and there. If you don’t want to delegate when the time comes, maybe take one of your friends who came in town for the wedding and has nothing better to do with you as you run around doing errands (as long as they won’t be dead weight) and it will seem like a fun weddingy activity rather than a chore, and you won’t have to worry about someone else messing it up πŸ˜‰

    Anyway, I hope some of that is useful. Use your day-of person, don’t save the most onerous tasks for last and at some point hand it off and give in to the tide of well-wishing friends and family.

  18. Clint and I won some kind of engaged couples contest that included a one night stay at a hotel. We were already planning on spending our wedding night at the hotel where our reception was being held (since it was included and we had already technically paid for it!) So I decided to use the gift certificate from the contest to stay at a hotel the night before the wedding. By myself. I loved just getting away from “everything wedding” for the night. Because I knew that when I left our rehearsal dinner if something wasn’t done for the next day, it wasn’t getting done! The next morning I enjoyed getting ready alone and having that time to sordof brace myself for the day before diving in head first.

    I also asked a close girlfriend of mine to be my “wedding day assistant.” Or, as we joked about it, the Bride’s bitch. This may sound selfish but it was great having someone who’s sole purpose was to cater to my every whim. πŸ˜‰ I hadn’t asked her to be a bridesmaid so I was worried she’d feel like this was just an attempt to make her feel included. But, she was more than willing to help. And I probably spent more quality time with her on the wedding day than I did with the girls in the wedding party. When bridesmaids are busy getting their own hair fixed and make up done, it’s a wedding day assistant that has the time to check your mascara, bring you breakfast, help you pick out your something borrowed from a pal’s jewelry collection, and hold your dress up while you pee. πŸ˜‰

  19. I really appreciate this post, and all of the comments. You’re lifesavers.

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