The Truth About Engagement Anxiety in the Age of Social Media


Sometimes panicking doesn't mean anything’s wrong

Engagement Rings

Last December, on a beacon tower perched along The Great Wall of China, my boyfriend retrieved a velvet ring box from his daypack and proposed marriage. Delighted and crying, frigid mountain winds slicing across my ungloved left hand, I said “Yes” as a cluster of Vietnamese tourists behind us clapped excitedly and snapped iPhone photos.

Months before our Beijing trip I had half-joked to my now-fiancé about how epic it would be to get engaged on one of the architectural wonders of the world. Then he went and did it, and the moment was more stunning than I’d imagined. Better yet, being cut off from social media thanks to China’s digital censorship allowed us to celebrate privately, a few Skype messages exchanged only between close family and friends. For the next two weeks, we lost ourselves together meandering through the Tiananmen Square crowds, sailing through lush landscapes along the Yangtze River, and ending up dozens of stories high in the Shanghai air, drinking farewell martinis (me) and scotch (him) in a luxury hotel bar where a sequin gowned chanteuse sang at a grand piano. We toasted the pitch-perfect adventure for sparking a thrillingly foreign phase in our relationship, and flew home the following day.

Back in the States, the engagement news began spreading via word of mouth, texts, and Facebook relationship status updates—stopping short of Twitter and Instagram. But as the congratulations and love poured in, unease began bridal marching to the forefront of my mind. As someone with generalized anxiety disorder, tumbleweeds of worry and social angst were nothing new for me. What I never anticipated, however, was how the sensation of my private relationship suddenly put on public display could trigger a joy-sapping spiral of self-consciousness, fear, and panic. What if I can’t pull this whole wedding thing off? What if I’m not worthy of being the center of such sustained attention?

Every well-meaning question—“How’s wedding planning going? Have you gone dress shopping?”—sounded like a pop quiz evaluating my bridal fitness. “How big will it be?” and “Are you changing your last name?” translated to “How many friends do you have?” and “How much do you love him?” Anxiety has an uncanny way of not only reading between lines that aren’t there, but also engaging in imaginary debates: Will it be creative enough? Will guests get bored? Will they wonder why they received a wedding invitation in the first place? Will our DIY budget be too apparent? Will it look trashy, not classy? Which is more popular: cake or pie?

Quickly, my starring role switched from blushing bride to harried event manager, attempting to anticipate and manage everyone’s expectations but my own. Pinterest decor boards proved exhausting rather than inspirational. Ceremony discussions with my fiancé crumbled into chaos. Bridal magazines induced nervous nausea. How could I ever measure up to such blissful standards, I’d think, as the anxiety whirlpool whipped my mind into a frenzy. This was the proof, the inner critic would whisper, that my happiness is nothing more than a stopover to personal disaster.

In other words, no, this engagement hasn’t been the happiest time of my life. And what makes that even harder is how taboo it is to admit. I’m supposed to be over the moon and aching to talk about it always, much like we tend to treat pregnant women as jolly Buddhas whose bellies are ours for the petting. If instead I acknowledge the mental health war I’ve been waging, I run the risk of people assuming the problem lies with relationship flaws, not my brain wiring, past unresolved issues, or a backlog of career-related stress. Not to mention the conversational discomfort such talk can trigger. So for that reason, I’ve typically nodded and smiled as best I could.

It’s often reminded me of an episode of Sex & the City—where the main character, Carrie, goes shopping, and ends up in a bridal boutique trying on unflattering gowns for a laugh. Then upon seeing herself engulfed in white satin, a panic attack strikes, signaling to the viewers that Carrie’s future with her woodworker boyfriend is doomed.

Indeed, TV and film love portraying negative mental health episodes as shorthand for relationships hitting the skids. But in reality, depression doesn’t give a shit about our romantic milestones, or the authenticity of our commitment. Even true love can’t troubleshoot downward spirals and brief collapses that come along with recurrent anxiety. Counter to our preferred nuptial narratives, the two sometimes—and probably far more often that polite company will acknowledge—coexist.

And here’s the radical notion that’s offered immeasurable comfort: that’s okay. That I come with complications doesn’t mean I’m defective or broken inventory. That predisposed panic surfaced in correlation with a major life transition doesn’t cancel out my care and value to my forthcoming marriage. That it’s been an anxious engagement doesn’t suggest I should call the whole thing off.

In the past six months I’ve spent as much time (okay, more) in therapy unpacking the layers of this unwieldy mental load and learning how to better manage it and care for myself, as I have pouring over seating charts and centerpieces. And in the process, my sometimes weepy approach to wedding planning has shifted to envisioning a grand celebration of the earnest effort that’s gotten us this far, from the mountains of northeastern China and back. Or put another way, rather than drowning in the tidal wave, I’m learning to swim with the current for the very first time.

When I put on the custom confection I’ll wear on my wedding day, like Carrie Bradshaw, I fell short of breath. The pure joy that I felt on The Great Wall washed over me again after months of being muffled by my unhinged mind. And in that moment, I could see where all my concerted flailing and doggy-paddling was ultimately leading: not out to the depths alone, but toward my fiancé’s outstretched arms, ready to guide me safely to shore.

Cristen Conger

Cristen Conger is the creator and co-host of Stuff Mom Never Told You that educates and inspires about women and girls across digital media. A Refinery29 weekend contributor, her writing on gender and relationships has additionally appeared on Huffington Post Women, Jezebel, and Bitch Media

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  • Sosuli

    Thanks APW and Cristen for a really interesting essay. I really relate to the pressure that social media adds to wedding planning. FH and I have largely kept our engagement off social media – initially because we wanted to tell family in person, then because it was fun to keep surprising people whenever we ran into them, and as the months rolled on it didn’t feel like the right time to “announce” it to the world anymore. We’re getting engagement pictures taken next month (roughly a year after getting engaged) and are considering posting them to facebook, but I’m still not sure… Partially because of the social pressures Cristen describes, partially because it just feels private to me somehow, in a way that social media just isn’t.

    A couple months ago an old school friend of mine, who happens to be a minor celebrity back home (former beauty queen and current tabloid press darling), got engaged and not only was it all over facebook, but all over the trashy entertainment news websites I like to read while procrastinating. And I got an unexpected pang of jealousy, and the feeling of how I hadn’t had all that attention, and that if we announced our engagement on social media now it would just seem lesser somehow. An ugly reaction that I kept to myself. I wish I could say that I’ve resolved these issues and go to my happy “it’s about me and FH, not attention” place, but… somehow I still can’t help reading the interviews about my old friend’s plans for a 200+ person grand wedding in a secret location.

    • Sarah E

      Yeah, we didn’t do any kind of announcement either. There was no ring for ring picture or any of that. Plus, knowing that I have Facebook Friends who are not actual close friends to me (acquaintances through work, hobbies, lapsed friendships, family I talk to occasionally), it didn’t seem like anyone’s business– or, rather, it didn’t seem like *everyone’s* business. Our FB relationship status still reads “in a relationship” because, duh, that’s still true. And I didn’t need former coworkers or not-really-friends anymore commenting on a highly personal life event and truly, I didn’t want to hurt the feelings of a handful of lapsed friends who definitely were not invited to the wedding.

      Like you, I get pangs when I see people post an album full of wedding photos to FB, and when the photos show a frothy white dress. Even so, I can’t quite pull the trigger on posting tons of wedding photos. I put up five, none of the ceremony, as a gesture to my local friends who weren’t invited to the hometown affair (we had a local reception later). I’m happy to show close friends a full album later, but I really feel weird about making such a meaningful event so public.

      • Sosuli

        Exactly… and it’s just so nice to see people’s faces light up when you tell them face to face has been worth more than a hundred facebook likes or whatever. We might put some of the engagement pictures up as nice pictures, and not necessarily mention the engagement part… we’ll see. I’m torn between excitement about getting married wanting to share that, and the feeling of not wanting to share it with *everyone*.

  • Sarah

    I always say pie. Besides not being a cake person, I think the whole public of the cake-cutting thing is kinda weird. And if you’re looking to minimize the “hey look at us” moments of your wedding this is one way to do so.

    • Mary Jo TC

      Cheesecake beats both pie and cake.

      • raccooncity

        Cake of Cheese beats all of them.

        • Eenie

          I’m personally a fan of fruit that looks like cake.

          • Amy March

            Salad masquerading as cake fills me with sadness. Cake has butter and sugar and flour and joy!

          • Eenie

            I can’t eat wheat flour :( I plan on getting the gluten free cake from whole foods that is covered in sprinkles. (If anyone has tried this and can vouch for it, please let me know! They were out the past two times I tried to get one to “sample”.)

          • Stephanie B.

            We did cupcakes — I can’t eat wheat, and 2 other guests also have Celiac disease — so we ordered 6 gluten-free cupcakes and the rest made with wheat flour. We put dinosaurs on the GF cupcakes so that no one would take one by mistake.

          • msbehaving

            That’s such a great idea about the dinosaurs! We are putting the regular cake slices out on the buffet, and vegan and gf cupcakes will be personally served.

        • JDrives

          STOP. That is so great.

    • Abby

      We had mostly pies with a small cake for cutting (because I like cake, though my husband and pretty much everyone else prefers pie). And my 4-year-old niece straining towards the cake like Santa’s Little Helper gave us the perfect out from the “hey look at us” moment– feed the cake to the kids!

  • Mary Jo TC

    Great job Cristen! You are so right that contrary to media portrayals, mental health issues =/= relationship issues!
    If you haven’t already, check out Sheryl Paul’s website Conscious Transitions. It might be just the help you need for hard moments.
    And OMG did you nail this line: “I’m supposed to be over the moon and aching to talk about it always, much like we tend to treat pregnant women as jolly Buddhas whose bellies are ours for the petting.”

  • macrain

    I have re-watched those heartbreaking episodes that depict Carrie and Aidan’s demise, and I’ve had similar thoughts. There’s this other thing with them where she loves to go out and he prefers to stay in- again, a signal to viewers that they are all wrong for eachother! But like- really?! I can think of about a million things that are harder to navigate than that in a marriage.
    Also, it strikes me that Carrie’s anxiety about the whole thing is just NOT because Aidan is wrong for her. Given, there are trust issues, but so much of her anxiety around marriage is something many of us have experienced firsthand, and it wasn’t because our relationships were bad. Quite the opposite.
    But anyways, agree times a million that pop culture depicts engagement anxiety in all kinds of wrong ways. I loved this essay, Cristen!

  • Amanda

    my experience is the mirror image of this: my proposal lacked the pop culture default grand gesture, which people literally comment on ALL THE TIME, but the wedding planning itself is going so smoothly. my partner proposed after i had a miserable day at work and collapsed in bed still in my work dress and was anxious about all kinds of things, including the fact that we’d been talking about getting married for over a year & my PMS convinced me it would never actually happen. and so he just went into his top drawer, pulled out a ring box, handed it to me and said, “well, this should cheer you up.” inside were two rings i could choose from, plus an offer to use some stones to design my own ring–whatever i wanted. (i picked the vintage one from 1915, which is just my style). people come up to us and say, “wait, did he even get down on one knee??” “did he even ASK you to marry him??” and some people are nicer and say, “awe, the romance of introverts.” A bunch of my friends/coworkers have gotten engaged within the last few years, so they all sit around and tell their stories about these planned out events, the nerves of popping the question, the dinners, the families, the dates, the candles. and then i tell my story, and get super judged for it, as if that’s the mark of a good relationship? we’re having a really drama-free planning process, though. i enjoy the process, the decor ideas, the centerpieces, the vow writing, the clothes, the music–i get wrapped up in the beauty, everyone else be damned!

    • Sosuli

      I think that sounds beautiful – a proposal that demonstrates the support you have from your partner in the every day, and how he’s got your back even in the most stressful of times. Grand gestures can be amazing too, of course, but don’t let people take away from your experience because it doesn’t conform to their expectations.

    • JDrives

      I would very much like to tell these coworkers and so-called friends to take a hike. Frankly that sounds like a kick-ass proposal. Everyone else be damned, indeed!

      • Amanda

        it was perfect for us! if he did it in public in any way, i’d be mortified. if he got down on one knee, i’d respond, “what the hell are you doing?” intimate cuddling in the middle of life-feelz is very romantic to me! i also have a smaller hand-cut diamond which can get a little WIC-judgement. but what do i care? it’s beautiful, intricate, a hundred years old the year of our betrothal, has been in my partner’s family for 4 generations, and his grandmother gave it to him to give to me on her freaking deathbed. #sorrynotsorry that’s way better/more romantic for me than some full-carat white gold mounting that literally looks like everyone else’s because they bought it at the same chain store. if i were a different person, i’d care about the judgement more, but i really just feel like it’s good for those around me to see that the only way is not the WIC way. and i’m confident in doing what’s right for me. it is exhausting though…

        • joanna b.n.

          The non-WIC way takes SO much more energy. But is worth it. But is tiring.

        • JDrives

          I mean…if you had stopped after your first sentence, you’d be good! “It was perfect for us” – The End. That is truly all that matters. Rock on with your badass, #sorrynotsorry self! (FWIW though, the description of your ring gave me heart-flutters.)

        • Mooza

          I was going to comment that I also had a similar underwhelming, shall we say, proposal – It was morning, I was stressed as hell with tons of urgent errands, pajamas, no bra, teeth unbrushed etc, when he decided it was the perfect time to propose. Again, apparently the logic is that it will distract me from my troubles… also he was nervous as hell! The ring was burning a hole in his pocket… It took a while to reconcile between my proposal and my expectations, but I did eventually, and we talked about it. And we are getting married, and I love him with all my heart, which is what matters. So kudos to you! Forget everything else, and you’re not alone in this…
          However, on your last part about “WIC” rings…I agree with JDrives – you can just say the ring was perfect for you. Heck, I would’ve loved a vintage heirloom ring but alas, he didn’t have one, and I got a white gold, mounted chain store ring. Which is still beautiful… but wasn’t MY style. Just reminding, don’t do unto others etc. Judgement is judgement (whether it’s “WIC”-based or not).

          • Amanda

            speaking specifically about a lot of women i know personally, they feel a lot of pressure to have things exactly the way the magazines and tv ads show while also being “unique” and “so her” and “the most important day.” it’s hard for all of us to balance out the expectations: the quality of the husband is the largeness of the diamond. the best weddings are the most unique…as long as you follow these rules. just as i feel the sting of my inherited tiny-diamond side-eye (“what, he couldn’t afford to buy you your own ring?”–i kid you not), i’ve had more than one good friend whisper that she feels self-conscious because her ring–the most important special “her” thing, as she’s been told–looks just another friend’s on facebook. i feel such overwhelming sadness for these friends (which i brushed past in my initial post) who feel ashamed of something that they like just because it looks like someone else’s. or worse, as is true of other friends, are afraid to ask for what they really want for fear of not measuring up to the ads or the social media or the magazine articles. i don’t mean to criticize the rings themselves, just the associated messaging that we all have to have the same thing as long as it doesn’t look like anyone else’s. i strongly feel that we need a louder chorus of “is this true to you and your partner?” and leave it at that.

    • CMT

      I just can’t believe what people will actually say out loud sometimes.

    • Cristen Conger

      It’s always surprising to me how people think your relationship should somehow match up to their relationship goals and ideas as if they have some sort of stake in it. It sounds like a sweet, thoughtful proposal to me, and pishposh to anyone who suggests otherwise.

  • Eenie

    I related with this essay a lot. I think what’s helped me is that I’ve been very upfront with people that I don’t like wedding planning. Parts of it are exciting but I’m looking forward to it being done. I guess I’m ok with bursting everyone’s bubble that we’re trying to craft a perfect day. The better you know me the more you know how much I hate the wedding planning process. But that’s different than not wanting to get married.

    • MABie

      Same here. I am getting married in a month, and people (especially coworkers) ask me ALL THE TIME, “Aren’t you so excited for your wedding?!” And I just say, “No.” When they look crushed or confused, I inform them that wedding planning is awful. Almost invariably, they’re like, “Oh yeah, I HATED planning my wedding!” or “Yeah, that’s why we eloped.” The cultural narrative around weddings is so strong that even people who hated it and/or don’t care about it still ask you these questions and expect you to be excited.

      I am happier just being honest with people.

      • Eenie

        I try not to dwell on the unpleasantness too much. But it has been fun/stress relieving to bitch about the process with other couples who have survived to the other side.

      • Anon

        When we were planning, about 99.9% of married people that we talked to (who had a traditional-ish wedding) said some version of “we’d do it differently if we had to do it over again.” Some because they hated planning, some because of sheer amount of money, some because no matter how big the party and special the details, the event goes by so quickly. Kind of made me sad to hear them say it as I was struggling with being game for our traditional-ish own event.

    • Cristen Conger

      I wanted to hand a fellow engaged girlfriend of mine a medal the other week when someone asked her about wedding planning and she simply responded “honestly, that’s one of my least favorite topics to discuss.” And that’s OK! Personally, I just can’t imagine anyone being *that* interested in hearing the details of event spreadsheets and such.

  • jazzygingery

    Thank you for writing this Cristen! This is wonderfully timed for me. My fiancé and I got engaged almost 2 months ago and are in the early stages of our wedding planning. I am overjoyed to be marrying the man I love, but the idea of planning the wedding and the expectations that other people (and myself,) have are anxiety inducing. The idea of shopping for a wedding dress has me break into a cold sweat. It’s comforting to hear that others have these types of feelings surrounding their wedding planning and know that it’s not a defect to the relationship, but just a reminder of the social (media) pressures we can sometimes face.

    • MABie

      jazzygingery, if you can’t stand the thought of shopping for a wedding dress, there are a bunch of places that will send you dresses in the mail. That way, you can go through the try-on process in the comfort of your own home with a strong drink nearby! When I was having second thoughts about my dress, I ordered a bunch of dresses from BHLDN (had to put it on a credit card, but I didn’t care), J. Crew, and Borrowing Magnolia. Borrowing Magnolia was super easy; it’s like $30 a dress, and if you end up buying or renting the dress, they just credit it back to you.

      I ended up buying a dress from Borrowing Magnolia in the end. I now have to sell my first dress. I think that I bought my first dress just because I was so sick of shopping, and I wanted the process to be over with. I wish I would have done the online ordering thing the first time around. I wouldn’t have wasted the money.

    • Eenie

      Seconding MABie’s suggestion to see if you can’t get yourself to a BHLDN. I had a great experience there and I’m loving what they’re doing with separates these days. I truly felt like the respected my budget and personal taste.

    • Cristen Conger

      Yes! Engagement seems framed in two extremes: either overjoyed and consumed by it as a sign that you’re really, truly in love or nervous about it as a sign that you’re making a huge mistake. But in fact, all we’re so much more complex than that — which is such a relief, really.

      • Sarah E

        Or that being overjoyed and consumed by it is masking something or making up for a shitty relationship by trying to pretend how great everything is.

        Really, people can fit anything you do into their own narrative about you, so best to just leave them to it and do what you want regardless.

    • I literally stopped my David’s Bridal fitting because it was just too much.

      • Nora

        I tried on only one dress, a vintage one on sale that I ordered from Etsy, and am not looking back.

  • AJ

    This article hit me dead on. Wedding planning for me has sucked in general and I’m about 5 months in. I’ve spent a lot of my life (unashamedly) pinning to my wedding board without considering the fact that my FI and I may from very different backgrounds and different expectations for a wedding. This has caused major stress. We’ve worked through the bulk of it, but compromising can be very difficult. I hate talking about my wedding and avoid talking about it with my FI as much as possible – because it brings up bad memories about planning and coordinating the day that should be the ‘happiest day of my life.’

    I think it still will be though, because I am marrying the man I said yes to. And that’s more than any blessed woman could ask for. But yes, I tell everyone I know that wedding planning is the worst for me right now. I maintain that I’m marrying someone who I’m happy to be with every day of my life – regardless of our wedding planning woes!

    In response to the anxiety of “public” planning/engagement via social media. I have finally cleaned up my FB friend list. I was so surprised to see how many people I was friends with who I met once, only knew in high school as acquaintances, etc. Also, considering deleting FB/Insta as a whole. A friend – who I hadn’t seen/spoken to in 3+ years, asked to be invited to my wedding via FB! That was the last straw.

    • JDrives

      The SAME THING happened to me. Except it was more like 5+ years.

      • AJ

        Rude right? Like I would at least be more personal about it. Unfortunately, our wedding plans have changed 5+ times since then so I’m glad I didn’t tell her yes!

    • it’s a slippery slope, isn’t it? My friend told me a good rule of thumb for the guest list. If you wouldn’t take them out to dinner and pay $60 for their meal, don’t invite them to the wedding. lol
      Still hard, but sage advice.

      • AJ

        Yes, that’s the best advice out there for guest lists. I’m still lowering her list (without her knowing :)

  • Erin

    I was just listening to the newest Stuff Mom Never Told You episode while I was cycling to work this morning! I’m a big fan of the show.

    My fiancé also has a lot of anxiety about the wedding and being the focus of attention on that day. With our wedding less than three weeks out (eep!) I can tell that he’s more on edge than usual. I wish there was more I could do to help sooth him, but I’m getting nervous and stressed out too! When I get anxious I make lists and plans and mentally go through all of the tasks that need to be done. It helps me feel better and reduce my anxiety. The opposite is true of my fiancé. When I start rambling off a list of things to do or consider, his anxiety shoots up. Learning to balance his anxiety with mine has been a challenging (and ongoing) process.

    • Annie

      Our fiances sound like bros. We are also less than three weeks out, and it has just gotten progressively more intense. Neither of us have enjoyed planning a wedding and learning to manage our relationship when we are BOTH feeling anxious has been (1) an immense struggle, making wedding planning harder, and (2) a great learning opportunity and way to strengthen our partnership. That process is tough, and perhaps an unwanted part of the process – but I’m trying like hell to make it mean something, instead of just typical wedding crap BS.

      • Erin

        Yes! Being engaged has been TOUGH. I think it’s been this kind of intense period of relationship growth, and growth is always hard. We’ve had to hash out issues that might not have come up for quite some time otherwise, and both feeling stressed and anxious about navigating the maze of wedding planning has forced us to learn how to better cope with the other persons anxiety, as well as our own. It hasn’t been a walk in the park, but I think (hope!) we’ll have a stronger relationship as a result.

    • Daniella

      SAME SAME SAME! But I just went through it (4 months ago) so I have some advice!

      Leading up to the wedding:
      1. My husband is so uncomfortable being the center of attention, true anxiety.
      2. I don’t mind be the center of attention. But, I was stressed leading up to our wedding that he would HATE the day. I am a planner so for me, it was all about spreadsheets and timelines.

      Here is what worked:
      1. Limiting pictures! We only took 30-45 mins worth of pics. And then 30 mins before the wedding we stopped. I had a glass of wine with my Dad at the bar next door, and my groom went to another bar and had a beer with his cousin, just relaxed. [Yes, I didn’t get all the pics I wanted, but seeing my relaxed husband, amazing. having a special time to have a glass of wine with my Dad, amazing.]

      2. Maximizing breaks – just the two of you. We didn’t do a “first look” at least not with a photographer. We did it alone, and asked for 10 mins to just be alone. After the ceremony, we took a 15-25 min walk, no photographer, no one else, just us. To hold hands, kiss, and even just be silent in each other’s company. Those little breaks – were so great to reset.

      3. Ahead of time – just ensure him that you will be by his side, the whole time. And if he needs a break – that you are there for 5, 10, 15 mins of taking a walk, being alone together etc.

      4. Also – in the morning/early afternoon while I was getting ready and being around all my girlfriends (I love lots of people!!) he got a massage, went on a run, and had lunch with his brother. It was okay that we had different mornings, it was actually amazing.

      5. Also (ha! I have so many thoughts on this) – the morning of the wedding. I told everyone ahead of time that I would be completely unavailable until 1030am. My groom and I spent the morning alone together, eating bfast, playing with the dog etc.

      Good luck!!

  • I relate to this SO MUCH. (Which is why we ultimately decided to call off the “wedding” and elope, just the two of us — and a photographer — high up in the mountains.) I love how you bring up the effect of social media. My now-husband had told my family that he was planning to propose (and get their blessing beforehand), and apparently the night he proposed, my family kept watching social media to see when I would announce it. We kept it to ourselves for a day or two, just to soak it all in and enjoy the weekend together, and my family thought I said “no” because they hadn’t seen me post anything. So ridiculous how nothing’s official until it’s on Facebook…

    • Sosuli

      “nothing’s official until it’s on Facebook” – yep. After we’d told my family about our engagement the FMIL said “Now you can put a picture on facebook”, as though that’s what was going to make it “official”… errr…nope.

    • Cristen Conger

      eloping has definitely crossed our minds from time to time, and a mountain elopement like yours sounds dreamy! but I also know I want all my fam and friends there, and as I’ve been working through all of the wedding-triggered though non-marriage-related anxiety, it’s been getting actually fun to plan.

  • Seriously

    You got engaged on one one of the world’s largest tourist attractions (which you asked for) and you’re afraid of…the spotlight being on you?

    • Kelly

      1) The “spotlight” cast by a group of strangers at a tourist attraction is quite different from what comes to feel like The Spotlight cast by loved ones/the WIC/whatever on The Bride’s Very Special Day.

      2) Did you read the parts about how generalized anxiety messes with the rational brain, or….?

    • Sosuli

      The Great Wall of China is one of the world’s largest tourist attractions because of it’s history and the spectacular scenery and how beautiful it is. All of that makes it a pretty amazing place to share a special moment… somehow I think that’s what made it appealing to the writer and her fiancé, not the thought of attention from hoards of other tourists…

    • Cristen Conger

      methinks you’ve missed the point…

    • it’s not like she PICKED the place where she got engaged..

  • JenC

    Our engagement happened whilst we were away for the weekend, we had very little phone signal and the internet kept dropping out, so we were able to stay in our blissful engaged bubble. However, as we drove back home and reconnected with the world, we were inundated with Facebook notifications, calls and texts from family, friends and people we haven’t spoken to in years. It was all so overwhelming that when I went into work on the Monday I didn’t mention getting engaged at all. This then presented a few hurt feelings with my OH (understandably) but I just wanted to like something was still the same and that generally the vast majority of the world wasn’t interested in what I’m doing.

    A year later (and 5 months to the wedding) I still do not like planning a wedding. I see wedding planning as a necessary evil to be able to dance in my husbands arms but people see any indifference to wedding planning as a sign that we shouldn’t be getting married. Which, in turn, kicks other completely unnecessary anxieties into gear such as ‘his favourite food is mushrooms and I hate them so therefore we’re doomed’. I then need to have a logical discussion with myself that we have the same values, the same milestones and generally want the same life – with or without mushrooms! (Sorry complete tangent there).

    Truth be told, I don’t like being engaged, the word along with fiancé is just so… Temporary. I still haven’t been able to introduce the OH as my fiancé. Strangely, my pre-engaged self wanted a long engagement because I only planned on doing this the once and I wanted to make the most of the engaged feeling. Now all I want is to say my vows, dance with my husband and tell people he’s my husband and it’s permanent – even though our opinion on mushrooms massively differ.

    • RoseTyler

      Mine dislikes coconut. Do you know contains coconut? pina coladas! I mean, seriously :)

      • InTheBurbs

        My wife is in that camp…I figure if I can’t really bake with coconut anymore I get to eat an Almond Joy every time I see one…

    • AJ

      Ditto. Our engagement is also longer (16 months) and it’s hard to enjoy it!

      For the record, I’m allergic to tree nuts and he loves them! Somehow we make it work ;)

  • So, so happy to see a piece by the lovely Cristen Conger! Everything in this piece reverberates with me. I love my husband, I had a great time at our wedding, but I hated being engaged. She captures a perspective that I think is not as unique as we might think. Congratulations to the lovely CC, and thank you for sharing your experience!

    • Cristen Conger

      thanks so much, Juliah!

  • CMT

    Aidan was way too good for Carrie.

    • JDrives

      FINALLY SOMEBODY SAID IT #preach

  • This is the story of my life. My fiancé proposed in the Gardens of Versailles, and we had about 4-5 hours alone before I messaged the family to tell them it went down. Since then, it’s been a nightmare — the planning, the anxiety of people-pleasing and even trying on dresses.
    Needless to say, we’re bordering on elopement (read private ceremony with a few folks) and my anxiety has waned a lot. What was supposed to be one of the most happiest times of my life felt like a burden of too many damn decisions about too many damn things.

    • AJ

      THIS. Girl, wayyy too much.

      • yes. and the dreaded guest list.

        • AJ

          Guest list: the bane of my existence. My FMIL had 150 people on her list. HER. LIST. Please make it stop!

  • Heather

    Thank you Cristen for your honesty and eloquence on this topic.
    First, Congratulations!!! I wish you and your fiancé all the best as you enter
    this next phase of your journey together. I hope the joy of your union will
    allow all of the anxiety and stress to fade away.

    I identify so much with your experience because a. my fiancé and I are both introverts and b. because
    I did not expect to feel this way around wedding planning. I have done large
    scale event planning for previous jobs (and excelled at it) and enjoy making
    decisions on things like flowers and the ceremony. I have helped to soothe
    other friend’s anxieties as they were planning their own weddings. I thought I
    was ready and would knock out wedding planning with a breeze. NOT SO MUCH. It definitely has to do with all of the emotions tied into wedding planning.

    Managing so many expectations,not wanting to disrespect or hurt anyone’s feelings, while working full time
    and in graduate school. Also, dealing with the sadness of knowing that my mom
    is not alive to experience this important time in my life. System overload for
    sure. I woke up one morning to get ready for work and could barely open my jaw.
    Found out I had TMJ from stress and my doctor who has known me forever,
    reminded me that I may be fully aware of my stress but my body is experiencing
    it 10 times more. Yikes. Needless to say the wedding planning is almost over as
    we are getting married in two weeks! Yipee. And when I do feel stressed I curl
    up on the couch with my fiancé and drink a glass of wine and laugh about all
    the hurdles we have to jump through just so we can share one of the most
    awesome moments in our journey, with our family and friends.

    • joanna b.n.

      Oh, bless. So sorry you have so many things to manage as you go into it. Sounds like you’ve done all you can to handle it with grace, and now just hang in there until the wedding zen kicks in!! :)

      • Heather

        Thanks so much. I really appreciate the kind sentiment. And I should have mentioned this in my comment: the wedding zen i think has kicked in or started to at least. i am definitely more excited than anxious at this point!

  • JennDee

    Engagement announcements and how to handle them on social media was exactly the topic I asked about in Happy Hour last week!

    We ended up doing the public Facebook post (we simply changed our relationship status and added a photo of us on the hike from that day–thanks for all the great suggestions last week in HH!!) about three weeks after we got engaged and told our in-life people (parents, girl gang, his ride-or-die boys).

    As someone with social anxiety, it still scares me that our relationship has such a bright spotlight on it. I feel as if the entire interweb is now sitting around, waiting for me to share my every thought on wedding planning. It’s stressful and panic-inducing, and we’ve only just begun…

    • Amanda

      i feel this! we waited 3 weeks to tell anyone we’d gotten engaged, partly because it was around my brother’s birthday & we didn’t want to steal his bday thunder that weekend. so we decided to wait till the ring was sized, which took 3 weeks because of a snow storm that shut down new york. then we told people in person, send texts to close friends, made the phone calls. and only decided to post on facebook after another week because i didn’t want the engagement announcement to coincide with valentine’s day & our friend’s wedding. we’d have waited longer to post on social media if it hadn’t been for those events. having the “secret engagement” for three weeks was so wonderful, because we really got to be a united team once the questions starting pouring in!

  • joanna b.n.

    Yay, Cristen! Eyes on the prize! :) You got this. (says one formerly anxious bride-to-be to another)

    My experience was that the same feelings that I felt on my (similarly) intimate and golden engagement getaway with my fiance appeared in full effect at my wedding ceremony. And oh, the joy that brings.

    May your wedding day be joyful, but your marriage even more so. Having a partner to walk through the waves with makes all the difference.

  • Amanda Davis

    This article is SO timely for me right now. We got engaged a month or so ago, it wasn’t a grandiose display of love – it was outside a CVS, in his car, with the ring in our dogs travel water bowl (unfilled of course lol). We had been talking about marriage for two years and people were judging us based on the fact that it took two years and now we are probably going to have a long engagement of almost two years because he works overseas half of the year and his schedule is up in the air. People are just like, “omg another two years?????!!!” And it sucks that people judge our relationship like that because in total we have been together five years! It doesn’t mean anything about the strength of our relationship. And we are having it three hours away which people aren’t happy about. My FMIL threw us a surprise engagement party and while it was nice, it was so anxiety-inducing. And no one in my family showed up and it was a bunch of,people from his side that I don’t know…..so thank you for this!

  • JessR

    Our engagement was really hard – and this article resonated so much with me! So many people with so many (often opposing) expectations! I got to the point where I honestly didn’t even know what I wanted anymore because I felt so much pressure to give in to everyone around me. My wedding day was fine, but it wasn’t the most emotional day of my life, nor would I say it was the greatest. It wasn’t bad at all, but I felt a lot of pressure all day to live up to expectations placed on me. I thought I would treasure my wedding photos, and while I do like them, I don’t feel the need to hang them on my walls. We’ve been married six months now, and I’m glad the wedding is behind us. I feel bad it wasn’t this emotion packed day, but I also know I’m the kind of person who is never going to be able to let my wall down and be super vulnerable with that many people watching. I love my husband and I love our life and that’s all that matters. But hell no am I ever getting married again!

  • Rachel

    Yes yes yes, thank you for writing this; it’s everything I’ve been discussing with my boyfriend and more. I’m totally happy that one day we’ll be engaged, but I asked him if we could keep it to ourselves; the idea of posting a picture of my ring on Instagram or Facebook puts me at the center of attention, where I do NOT want to be. I also don’t think our engagement is anybody’s business except perhaps our families’; we should be celebrating TOGETHER. Some random person in Lancashire, UK doesn’t need to see my ring through a friend’s comment.

  • Devin Rae McBrayer

    Thank you so much for sharing your story, Cristen! I got engaged in December of last year and the wedding is planned for next spring. I recently graduated with my Masters degree and last month I moved to a new city with my fiancé. Everyone reacts to any anxiety I may have with, “But you’re engaged, you should be so happy!” With all the changes in my life and the anxiety I already live with everyday, I don’t feel like this is the happiest time of my life and lately I have been feeling really guilty about that. This article is exactly what I needed today and I am not surprised that it was written by my favorite podcaster in the whole wide world- SMNTY fan for life <3

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  • anon

    “depression doesn’t give a shit about our romantic milestones, or the authenticity of our commitment.”
    I’ve said that to myself so many times, but hearing it from someone else – so valuable. Thank you

  • EllaDulcie

    I have been married for a few months now, but I resonate with this so much! I felt so much anxiety that by the end of our engagement I could barely respond to coworkers who asked about my plans because there was too much emotion wrapped up in it. Lots of nodding and smiling and mentally screaming! I started seeing a therapist for the first time in my life… And the whole time had to remind myself that my my relationship wasn’t doomed, but that my brain made up some incredible (awful) stories.

    In the end we had a beautiful, beautiful wedding. Nothing went badly and we were overwhelmed by the love poured out to us by friends and family. I am just an internet stranger, but I wish the same for you. You’re doing all the right things.

  • Stephanie

    Wow. This. I can’t even tell you how many times that scene from Sex & The City has popped into my brain during wedding planning. I too, suffer from depression and GAD. At the bridal shop, when I went to try on dresses, I felt claustrophobic and super panicky. Instead of blaming my excitement, the tiny dressing room, and the “wearing a teeny corset for the first time ever” thing while I waited too long for the consultant to bring the dresses, I started questioning our whole relationship, and whether this was a sign in wouldn’t work! But no, just my anxiety rearing its head. Fortunately, I got it together enough to walk OUT of the dressing room so I could breathe (yes, in just my corset and slip), and chat with my mom and aunts–who totally know about my anxiety and were able to help me calm myself. Now we are 4 weeks away from the wedding day, and I still have these moments, but I’ve gotten a little better and managing (plus, better medication!). But the movies make it seem like anything going awry spells relationship DOOM. It sucks having to wrestle with, “Are these my true feelings, or is this just my anxiety talking??” It’s exhausting. I can totally relate, and you are NOT alone. Thanks for making me feel that way too. :)

  • Kait

    Clearly a little late to the party but, I just wanted to say thank you, I really needed this. My fiance and I basically proposed to each other – we started the same conversation we’ve had a handful of other times about getting married and instead of ending it with “We’ll see!”, we ended it with “Marry me, already!” He moved to California for a job two months ago (and I’m in Omaha, literally halfway across the country) so flying back after a visit with no ring and no pinterest board and no ideas and no more than the most perfect, sure feeling I’ve ever felt in my life to my very excited family, friends, and a lot of people not even sure we’re engaged has been wild. Trying to plan this without him here is haaaaaaard and trying to make it end up like *us* seems impossible.

    Very happy to have found this blog. Thank you, thank you. Still freaking out, but thank you anyway.