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Ask Team Practical: The Loneliest Bride

It’s Friday, and you know what that means: Alyssa’s Ask Team Practical Friday. Today’s post is about feeling isolated and alone while wedding planning, and I’m going to go out on a limb and say this is more common than not. No matter how much you read about best girlfriends and bridal brigades, modern wedding planning is a long (longer than it should be, if you ask me, but that’s a different post) endeavor, and it’s an individual one. And for all the moments of joy – the amazing book shower, the crazy fantastic shooting range bachelorette, there are long slogs of loneliness. I fear that what we’ve gained in personalized wedding style, we’ve lost in a community of women, grandmas and moms and mothers in law and sisters and girlfriends, pulling us through. So thank God for the virtual sisterhood, right? And with that, I give you Alyssa:

Today’s post is not only a great title for a country song, but a very common issue. How can you be in the midst of planning an event that bonds you to someone for forever, but feel completely alone? Here’s Kim.

Planning your wedding is supposed to be such a happy time when you’re surrounded by friends and family who will do anything to help you and support you. I’ve felt theoretically supported by everyone but I’ve also felt terribly lonely. My fiance has a million friends who will, and have already, bend over backwards for him. I have my small group of best friends, 6-7 of them, but many aren’t local, can’t offer their time to me, and are busy with other things. Don’t get me wrong, they are great friends I just can’t expect a lot from them for various reasons.

I know I made the right choices with my bridal party. These are people who have known me basically my whole life. I want them there by my side on my wedding day. And I’ve made peace with the fact that this group will probably only do just that. I’m alright not asking them to go above and beyond, delineating between wedding party duties and helping me with the wedding duties. I know these tasks don’t have to be done by the same group of people.

My mom called me this past weekend to talk about my bridal shower and at the end of our conversation I just sat and cried. I wish she didn’t have to plan the whole thing, I wish I had the typical bridal party of like 6 best friends who still see each other every week and have girl’s nights, who were there for me to do wedding stuff whenever I needed them. But I don’t. I love my bridal party but they just aren’t typical in that way. The reality is that we’ve all grown up and moved apart and moved on. Maybe I’m mourning that. I worry that all of my acquaintances and lady-friends-through-my-fiance who I invite to the showers and bachelorette party won’t show up. That it will be lame, unattended, and it will make me feel awful.

I guess I’m feeling lonely because I have been, and am going to continue to do a lot of the bridey things by myself. I’m planning my own bachelorette, my own showers (in MA and NJ), and just pray that everyone I invite shows up. I’ve always been a person who does things by myself because then they are done correctly and by my own terms. But, to my own fault, it does make me feel alienated and alone a lot of the time. I’m ok with this in my everyday life and my work life, but I don’t want to be a bridal island. I need support and encouragement and enthusiasm. Don’t get me wrong, my fiance is my biggest cheerleader. He’s my best friend and best thing in my life. But I feel even lonelier when he says he’ll take care of everything. Like I’m even sadder and more pathetic for it somehow. That I’ll get married and only have him in my life, no friends left, and I would have done that to myself.

I know this is heavy. You and the whole APW community tackles issues that actually matter, like this one, so I hope to not burden you but just reach out for advice. Thanks for listening.

You know, Kim, what’s funny is that you’re definitely not alone in feeling like a lonely bride. Lauren mentioned this, and several readers made remarks about how being The Bride turned into a more sad and solitary role than they expected. I want to get to that, but first, do something for me. We’re gonna have to stop with these “supposed to’s.” They are examples of people’s experiences, but none of them are how it’s “supposed” to be. Do not let your expectation of your wedding experience ruin the actual experience, okay sweetie? Okay. Now. It may seem that other brides are surrounded by lovely friends who, like Snow White’s little woodland creatures, would help them string garlands and make favors as you all sing happy songs and get ready to celebrate your joyous day. This is NOT the case. In a realistic perfect world, you’d have friends and wedding party members who’d help you with every (or most…or ANY) aspect of your wedding and would be there for you when you needed them. But, unfortunately, that’s not the case for you. And I am really sorry it’s not, because I can tell it hurts.

But I can also tell you that those seemingly wonderful brides who have helpy-helperton friends who are there for them in every way, even those brides don’t have the perfect situation. With very present friends come very present problems. There are personality clashes, strong opinions on details that should be your decision, friends who fall down on the job even though they PROMISE it’ll be ready in time for your wedding… For every advantage these brides have, they also have problems that you don’t at the moment. This isn’t to make you feel bad or shame you about your feelings, it’s just to remind you to be careful romanticizing their experience – they wouldn’t mind being in your shoes sometimes, too.

I’m really proud of you because you are definitely looking on the bright side. You know you have great friends, a wonderful fiance and a fabulous mother who are all there for you in different ways. And you are right to mourn your loss of what you thought the wedding experience might be. It’s one of those little deaths that you are completely allowed to experience and to grieve. Feel it, but do not let it overtake any other happiness that you might feel right now. Yes, your bridesmaids should be the ones who are throwing you a bridal shower. But they are not. And you have a mom who loves you so much she’s doing it for you, and she will probably give you something even better than they may have done. Which is better, a shower thrown by people who are busy, far away and/or flighty, or a shower thrown by your mom who’s there, mentally present and wants to help?

And don’t think I didn’t notice this little gem. “I’ve always been a person who does things by myself because then they are done correctly and by my own terms.”

Oooo, busted.

If you don’t want to be a bridal island, then you have to not sit under the coconut tree and stare at the sand. You have to ASK for help, honey! Reach out to those people who are part of your bridal brigade. Ask them for support, encouragement and enthusiasm. Just because they are far away doesn’t mean that your bestie can’t squee over a cute pair of shoes for your honeymoon or that your sister won’t listen to you rant about the caterer. They are going to be the ones who can alleviate your fears about the bachelorette guest list and then plot ways to make the people who don’t show up pay for their insolence. Honestly, your friends probably know you very well and they know that you like to do things yourself, so they might not even think to offer help. They might be thinking, “Well, Kim has always been so put-together, I’m sure she’ll come to me if she needs help.” How are they going to know this is the one time that you need their assistance if you don’t TELL them? And don’t just reach out to your bridal party, talk to friends or family in the area who might be able to lend a hand or just some support with the planning process. You’d be amazed at the amount of people who’ll be there for you if you just ask.

And if they’re not? Well, then you’re back where you started.

But let’s talk about where you started. Being lonely doesn’t necessarily mean that you are ALONE. There are so many brides here on APW that feel the same thing. Hell, Meg’s response to your email was, “Can we talk about this asap? Because I think it’s so normal and so secret. I went through this….” That doesn’t help you when you’re planning your own bachelorette party, but knowing it’s normal and common can ease the pain overall.

And maybe it’s time to revel in this a little, shall we? Celebrate that your bachelorette party is being thrown by the person who knows you best…YOU. Enjoy not having to mediate fights between bridesmaids on who’s known you longest and therefore should be the one to throw you your shower. And bask in the knowledge that you are lonely right now because you are special. You’re the only one right now who is planning a wedding to this amazing partner you have. You’re not alone, you’re having an experience that – while other people can help you celebrate and commiserate (*AHEM* APW….) – you are the only one going through.

As much as you feel alone? I’m going to go out on a limb here and say you’re normal. As imperfect and crazyface as this wedding planning, life-building, marriage-making business makes us, try to enjoy it. Feel, mourn and move on from the bad parts, but really feel and enjoy the good ones. We only do this once, tears and laughter and joy and raging included.

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