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Sheryl Paul on Planning a Wedding
Counselor Sheryl Paul has worked with thousands of couples making the transition to from singletons to marrieds. Her bestselling book, The Conscious Bride: Women Unveil Their True Feelings About Getting Hitched, and it’s follow-up, The Conscious Bride’s Wedding Planner, are two of the very few resources available that help women navigate the emotional mayhem that comes with being engaged, planning a wedding and getting married. Paul lends her expertise on how to start on the right course for planning a wedding.
How should some couples expect to feel when they start planning a wedding?
We expect to be soaring from the moment we say “yes.” And that does happen for some women, but for many it doesn’t. You may feel ecstatic, but then you may crash and have the first panic attack of your life. It’s very confusing to go from ecstasy to terror in 24 hours. A typical reaction literally spans the extreme of the spectrum: joy, exhilaration, terror, ambivalence, doubt, confusion, fear, etc. It’s everything condensed into a very intense time. It doesn’t hit everyone in the first 30 days, but for a lot of people it does.
How can people work through these emotions without becoming too overwhelmed?
Recognize that it’s all normal—the grief, the fear, the anxiety, the questioning. The more you make room for all of your feelings, the more quickly your doubts and fears will pass and you’ll have more room for the joy. My best advice is to journal about how you’re feeling so you can get it out of your head. Talk about it with someone who understands that experiencing the whole spectrum of emotions is normal—that it doesn’t mean you’re not supposed to get married. When it stays in your mind, it becomes toxic. People hold it in because they’re scared that someone will say, “Maybe you’re making a mistake.” Find safe places to talk about what you’re feeling. There are a lot of web sites that are not safe places that only entrench the fear further, but there is also a lot of great information out there. Go where you feel comforted. Talk to people who have an awareness that this time can be confusing and that ambivalence is normal.
What is the most important things to do in the first month of planning a wedding?
It’s not about doing during this time, it’s about allowing yourself to slow down and be. Many brides start planning their weddings at breakneck speed. As a result, all uncomfortable feelings take a backseat to the planning. They start making lists from day one, so there’s no time or space to feel the immensity of the change that awaits them. I recommend you don’t plan at all for the first 30 days. Just let it sink in. Feel all the uncomfortable feelings and talk about them. The more you can do this, the better. It’s so much better to question and grieve now than the week before your wedding or on your honeymoon.
Why are the first 30 days of wedding planning such a vital time?
The first 30 days are a road map for the rest of the engagement—there will be times when everything is smoothly sailing along, and then a wave of fear or doubt or ambivalence will hit again. If you can change your expectations so you realize that these cycles are normal, you’ll be able to move through the hard times more gracefully. And if you learn how to ride those waves, you’ll have tools that will help you throughout the rest of the engagement.
How can people succeed during the first 30 days of planning a wedding, when most of the planning takes much longer?
Sometimes you realize right away that the moment you say “yes,” you say “no” to every other man [or woman] on the planet: Single life is over. Letting in all the ramifications of the change is the only way to get through with your sanity. When thoughts about your exes come up, don’t push them aside. Let go of the expectations that you’re supposed to be smiling all the time and, instead, expect that you’ll be thoughtful and introspective, maybe even scared and confused and grieving. To succeed, you need to change your expectations of how you think you should be feeling.
An entire phase of life is coming to a close. It’s difficult to grasp because we’re so focused on tangible things—the flowers, the dress, the guest list. If you lose someone you love, you cry and that grief is expected. But the grief of shedding an identity is much harder to grasp.
What can couples do to succeed beyond the first 30 days of wedding planning?
The whole process, with all of its ups and downs, helps you become better prepared for the transition into marriage. Continue to utilize your emotional coping tools, whether it’s journaling, seeking counseling, posting on message boards or talking to your most trusted friends or fiancé. What works best will be different for everyone. Remember that the more you work through the challenges consciously, the more easily you will shift back into the easy, joyful phases. Don’t use the planning as a distraction. When you’re feeling grief, that’s not the time to call the florist—that’s the time to let yourself cry. No matter how strong those feelings are, they won’t last. I have yet to work with a couple who didn’t experience total joy on their wedding day.
What is the belief you go to during times of change?
If change is approached consciously, it always brings you to a new level of awareness. We need change in order to have the next cycle. I always keep that in mind, even when change is scary or I’m dreading it or resisting it.
The best thing about change is…
It always helps you grow.
What is the best change you have ever made?
Becoming a mother. It’s definitely the hardest change I’ve ever lived through. It shakes you to the core of who you are. Although it requires the most immense sacrifices, it also offers the most incredible gains.
For more information about Sheryl Paul, visit www.Consciousweddings.com.