Happy doesn't always equal stress-free when it comes to events such as weddings.
"It's a misconception that happy events aren't stressful," says Diann Binns, MSW, LCSW. "It surprises people sometimes. Any major change in life, anything involving that much time and effort, is stressful."
Binns, who is in private practice in Valparaiso, says the stress can arise from conflicting wedding concepts and financial issues, as more couples are shouldering the burden of expenses. "Couples may not only deal with different cultures and family traditions, but within the couple, one might want a romantic getaway and the other a big elaborate family event -- this creates stress trying to blend those two," Binns says.
Jamie Monday, MA, LPC, cites expectations as another avenue to stress. She is a clinic therapist at Franciscan Alliance's Employee Assistance Program. "We don't always communicate what our expectations are, and make assumptions that others know what we want," Monday says. "Couples need to sit down together and get on the same page."
Feuding family members and existing drama can take stress to an even higher level. Binns says couples need to figure out how best to handle divided families -- from holding separate parties to establishing clear boundaries between the fighting members -- in order to preserve their special day.
"It has to be a deep discussion that they have when they start talking about getting married: these people don't get along and how to incorporate that," Binns says. "They need to protect what the day is supposed to mean: the starting of a life together."
Couples need to accept that these tensions exist, Monday adds. "Just because this is a special, wonderful day, it's not going to perform miracles," Monday says. "Couples need to learn to detach from their families in a healthy way. The goal is a new family unit."
Binns and Monday both recommend premarital counseling, especially if tensions are rising. "Dealing with the wedding shows you how you are going to be under stress together and how you work with family problems," Binns says.
Among any chaos, couples need to stay connected and spend time together. "You need some downtime. If the wedding starts to overtake your whole life -- that's not balance," Monday says. "If you neglect other areas of your life, including the relationship, that is not healthy."