Two days before our wedding, I had my very first full-blown panic attack. Crying, hyperventilating, the works. Why? I’m an introvert, and a wedding means people. People who sometimes decide to come to town early so that they can spend more time with you. Introverts and wedding weeks are a bad combination.
I should probably start off by saying that I have been an extreme introvert my whole life. I knew as soon as we decided not to elope that the wedding would be rough on me, so I mainlined all the “advice for shy brides” articles I could find and tried valiantly to identify and make plans to deal with the things that would be problematic for me. I thought that if I could just prepare for every contingency, I could ignore my introverted nature for the wedding—it’s my “special day” after all, so of course I would magically get over thirty years of being an introvert just for the occasion.
The thing about all those articles, however, is that they focus almost exclusively on the ceremony. I’m not sure about other introverts, but I have no problem being the center of attention in a formal event. I don’t find it enjoyable, mind you, but after years of presentations for school and for work, I have figured out how to make myself stand in front of a crowd and deliver some pre-prepared (albeit incredibly important) words. The ceremony wasn’t the problem. The week leading up to the wedding was. Trying to hang out with friends, play tour guide, communicate last minute details with vendors, and, oh yeah, go to work in the days leading up to the wedding was simply too much interaction for me to handle without taking time to be alone and recharge my energy. Ignoring my nature couldn’t change that, and preparing for the day of, but not the week before, turned out to be my downfall.
So, I want to offer other introverts the wedding week advice that I wish I’d had. None of it is mind-blowing, but it is another reminder (and goodness knows we need as many as we can get) that caring for yourself, your partner, and your relationship is a vital part of planning a wedding.
- Aggressively remind people that being female doesn’t mean being in charge of the wedding. (Or any of the following, as applicable: being a groom doesn’t mean not caring about the wedding, being gay doesn’t mean being an expert in weddings, being one of two brides doesn’t mean wedding planning will be inherently easier/harder.) I’m pretty sure that all of us have had to deliver some variation of this reminder at least once, but I think introverts and their partners need to work even harder to make this clear so that when they’re trying to take a moment to themselves, they’re not constantly interrupted by people who think that they must have an opinion on the latest wedding detail (or, for those who aren’t “supposed” to care about weddings, so that they’re not ignored when they’re expending precious energy to communicate their opinions to people). The day before my panic attack, I spent my entire lunch break returning the incredible number of texts, emails, and calls I’d received asking last minute questions. My partner was home from work, carrying around an iPad with all of our planning documents. He didn’t receive a single call, email, or text. Every person who contacted me had his contact information too. Many of them knew I was at work and he wasn’t. One of them was even in the same building with him. They chose to contact me because they all believed that, as the bride, I would care more.
- Plan no-contact times into your schedule and protect them. The best days I had that week were ones where we were able to spend an hour or two quietly following our normal routine—checking websites, playing video games, and NOT ANSWERING THE PHONE. We didn’t explicitly plan these moments but began to carve them out when it became clear how badly I needed them. The key to these no-contact times is not to give in when loved ones want you to do something else instead. It’s hard to say no to something that sounds fun, especially when you’re feeling ok at the moment, but cutting out too much no-contact time eventually ends up hurting. Fortunately for me, while I thought I could ignore my introverted nature, my family knew better. My partner called his family and our friends to cancel plans when I overbooked myself, and my mom insisted that we spend Friday morning alone together.
- Connect your friends to one another. I felt enormous pressure to be a good hostess, especially since so many of our friends and family were visiting our town for the first time. I knew that they were adults and could entertain themselves, but I couldn’t get past the idea that they were my guests. The problem is, no one has a good time if you’re so stressed out by showing them around that you’re losing your ability to be nice. Your friends and family are all awesome people—introduce them to each other! The best decision I made was to tell a couple friends that I couldn’t make it to the activity we had planned and then give them each other’s contact information. They had a blast, and I got a chance to recharge.
- Remind your partner that you love them. My partner is an extreme extrovert. We have spent our entire relationship learning to understand each other’s different approaches to people. He has learned that I need an hour of alone time after I get home from work, and I try to remember how important it is to him that I listen while he tells me absolutely every minor detail about his day. We’ve learned to protect each other’s energy reserves, and we (usually) accept our differences gracefully. That’s under normal circumstances. During the week leading up to the wedding, we had to consciously remind ourselves of those lessons. In the midst of all the excitement and stress, he had to remember that my need for silence didn’t mean I was mad at him and I had to remember that his eagerness to go out and spend as much time with friends as possible wasn’t an attempt to avoid doing wedding chores. Constant reminders that we love each other was the only thing that kept us from repeating some of the nastier fights about personal space that we had in the beginning of our relationship.
It seems silly, looking back, that I ever thought that I could just float through the week leading up to our wedding blithely ignoring a fundamental part of my nature. The thing is that weddings come with a lot of pressure—pressure to be a charming hostess, pressure to make every moment count, pressure to bring together our community of friends and family. The picture we always see is of a smiling bride surrounded by the people she loves best. I love those pictures. I’ve got some great ones from my own wedding. What a picture like that doesn’t show, however, is all the times leading up to that wonderful photo when the bride locked everyone (especially people carrying cameras) out of the room to take a moment for herself.