Wedding Wednesday: My Experience as a Bride with Social Anxiety Disorder

***Today's post is part of a week long series here at Kiss My Tulle to help y'all plan your wedding and accommodate any special needs that your wedding party or guests might have. Be sure to check out yesterday's post from Katie Farrin of Lovebird Productions on planning your wedding while working with the special medical needs of your guests and yesterday's post about wheelchairs and weddings.***

Yep. It’s true. I have Social Anxiety Disorder… and I was a bride who lived to tell about it. Planning and being the center of attention in a wedding while coping with SAD can be overwhelming, anxiety-inducing, and frustrating. But it can be done and, more importantly, you CAN enjoy the process and experience your wedding fully.

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Image Courtesy of: Miranda Laine Photography

I was officially diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder in 2004 but I’ve had symptoms almost my entire life. They became worse while I was doing college (for the first unsuccessful time), got very bad during a long-term and emotionally abusive relationship, and then became nearly crippling during 2004. Something was wrong with me but I didn’t know what it was. I just knew that I wasn't acting or feeling like “normal” people do and people thought I was weird. Finally, one day my best friend (and future matron-of-honor) held me in her arms and said, “What’s wrong? How can I help you handle living?” (She may or may not have also mentioned showering but whatever). And I didn’t know what to tell her. It was a terrible day.

Soon after, I started hearing the phrase Social Anxiety Disorder and something about using medication to help with it. I randomly looked up the symptoms and realized – it was me. I was the person they were trying to reach! I was that weirdo who was afraid to make eye contact with people in the elevator, I was the freak who couldn’t chat with the checkout person who was bagging my groceries, I was the loser who would rather stay in my room during a party so I could avoid making small talk with strangers. I had SAD.

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Image Courtesy of: Miranda Laine Photography

Long story short, once we figured out what was wrong with me I met with a doctor and was immediately put into a recognative therapy group who taught me how to make my misfiring brain straighten out a little and cope with my symptoms (Just a note, personally, I have never used any medication to cope with my SAD – only therapy. That being said, you should do whatever works for you.). I can manage life a lot better now but I still have Social Anxiety Disorder and will for the rest of my life – it’s a daily struggle.

Which brings me to my post topic for the day (you knew we’d get there eventually, right?) – the number one most difficult thing for me to deal with during the wedding planning process wasn’t budget or family or scheduling. It was working around and through my Social Anxiety Disorder. See, the very nature of being a bride is that everything is “all about you”. That mentality is so very deeply engrained in the wedding industry and society that people cannot grasp it when you DON’T want everything to be about you. When I was interviewing photographers, most couldn’t understand that I felt weird about having individual portrait shots and was anxious about even doing couple shots – I was the bride, I was SUPPOSED to want to have my time in the spotlight. And on and on. It was really tough to have to say over and over, “No, I don’t want that. That will not make me happy.” So here's what I did to make the whole bride and Social Anxiety Disorder work together:

  • Skipped toasts or special dances. I never did one, The Boy never did one, and other than the Best Man and Matron-of-Honor, no one else did one. And Billy and Amanda kept their’s short and sweet and we did them with little fanfare. And we just skipped the dancing altogether.
  • Skipped the bouquet toss. I didn’t want to stand up there and do it. No one I have ever known has wanted to participate in it. And I really liked my pretty bouquet. Suck it – it was gone.
  • No “Bride” branding. I never did the “Bride” bedazzled T-shirt or matching wedding party pre-ceremony outfits or anything else of that nature. It just wasn’t my thing (and I know my bridesmaids were thrilled NOT to have to wear that shit).
  • No bridal music/march. Traditionally, when the bride walks down the aisle, the music changes and everyone stands up. I did NOT want that. So we stuck with the same song (“Forever” by the Dropkick Murphys) and no one stood. Phew.
  • Kept the cake cutting ceremony short and simple. The one tradition that I would implore y’all to keep at the reception is the cake cutting ceremony. Why? Because it is the societal signal for the appropriate time for guests to be allowed to leave (and not appear rude). However, you can keep it fairly simply by not making a big deal out of it (and NOT smashing cake into each other’s faces, for fuck’s sake). Just cut the cake, do the feeding thing, and walk away. People will get the hint.

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Image Courtesy of: Miranda Laine Photography

Are any of you brides or grooms with Social Anxiety (or a similar disorder)? How are you coping with planning a wedding? What changes or alterations are you making? Please share your experience in the comments!