Wedding Details: Not Gulity

Joy. Stress. Exhilaration. Guilt. So much to do, so many people to please. For many engaged couples, wedding planning is a roller coaster that can take emotions on a wild ride from the highest highs to the lowest lows. But, according to local experts and recent brides and grooms, you can enjoy the thrill of the ride while keeping your emotions on track.

Megan Kline is a pro at planning weddings; it’s been her career for the past six years. With all her knowledge of the ins and outs, details and suppliers, planning her own nuptials last year should have been a breeze. It wasn’t.

“I didn’t expect to get this emotional about everything,” says the owner of the Horsham-based company that bears her name. Kline’s stress level during the process got so high that she had only one solution. The wedding planner went out and hired … a wedding planner.

Local marriage and family therapist Dr. Rita DeMaria, Ph.D., isn’t surprised by Kline’s reaction to the wedding-planning whirl. “With all of the details, pressures and emotions that are involved, feeling some stress is perfectly normal,” says DeMaria, who has offices in Spring House and Wynnewood and is senior staff member of the Council for Relationships.

Stressful Situations
Where there’s stress, can guilt be far behind? In the months before their wedding last June, Princeton-area bride-to-be Lori Xander and her fiance, Kevin Appelget, became concerned that their growing self-absorption, as they call it, might be causing hurt feelings among the other people they loved.

“Between planning our wedding-day itinerary, reviewing contracts and finalizing the logistics of our Central American honeymoon, we struggled to remain interested in the things that were happening in the lives of our family and friends,” says Xander-Appelget.

The death of a beloved grandmother made Philadelphia bride Lisa Palladino think about canceling the wedding that she and her fiance, Ari Indik, had planned for this coming October.

“Instead of having a small wedding and getting married sooner, we had elected to wait and save money so that we could afford to have the celebration we wanted,” says Palladino. “After my grandmother died, all of those plans felt so trivial and silly. Most of all, we were sorry that we had waited because now she wouldn’t be with us.”

There’s never anything trivial or silly about celebrating love. “Every couple has a vision of what they hope their wedding day will be like,” says relationships and psychotherapist Arlene Foreman, M.S., a relationship and couples counselor with offices in Ardmore and Center City Philadelphia. “If they can keep that vision focused on the love they feel for one another, then they are not only celebrating that one day, but building a memory that can help them get through tough times.”

A photo of her grandmother as a beautiful, happy bride convinced Palladino that the wedding should go on. “When I look at the photo it makes me smile, and I want to hand down that kind of memory to my grandchildren, too,” she says.

Keeping the Lines Open
For most couples, it’s words that are needed to work through family-related stress and guilt issues. Wedding consultant Sheryl Garman, owner of Perfect Weddings in Berwyn, often sees a bride’s stress build as well-intentioned loved ones add comments that complicate the process—the maid of honor doesn’t like her dress; another friend is insulted because she hasn’t been asked to be in the wedding party; the bride’s biological father and her stepdad both insist they deserve to walk her down the aisle.

“Sometimes the issues are about feelings, sometimes they’re about control, but when they pile up, it’s easy to get fed up,” says Garman. “That’s when it’s important to remember that every problem can be solved as long as there’s communication.” Sometimes it’s simply a matter of telling relatives and friends that, although you appreciate their suggestions, they don’t quite fit your style or budget.

Other times, a little flexibility can go a long way to resolve an issue. Kline had a client who sidestepped the biological father/stepfather battle by asking each one to walk her halfway down the aisle.

“You may want to allow family and friends to have their say, but planning a wedding is actually a good test of how you will be able to communicate and handle conflict during your marriage,” says DeMaria.

Asking for Help
Xander-Appelget points out that when couples “get sucked into the wedding vortex,” it’s easy to forget that the planning and organizing isn’t a one-man (or, in most cases, one-woman) show. Those overwhelming feelings of responsibility can lead to unnecessary spats if one partner doesn’t seem to share the interests and priorities of the other.

So instead of getting angry when her fiance wasn’t excited about choosing invitations, Xander-Appelget asked him to figure out a pre-nup niche of his own. An environmentalist, he enthusiastically took on the job of researching nonprofit organizations to which the couple would donate money instead of buying wedding favors.

Sometimes, despite the best of intentions and the most detailed planning, prewedding stress can get the better of any bride. “If you feel that you have spoken harshly to someone or hurt someone’s feelings, don’t just feel guilty about it—do something to make amends,” says Garman. “Write an apology note—never an e-mail, too impersonal—or, better yet, pick up the phone.”

Most important, keep in touch with your feelings. “While it’s true that a little stress and guilt may be normal, they shouldn’t be excessive or take over your life,” says -DeMaria. “Share your feelings with your mom, sister, a close friend, your fiance or a professional counselor.”

More than anything, remember what this time is really all about. “If you start to feel stressed or depressed, just stop and remind yourself, ‘Hello, I’m getting married!’” says Xander-Appelget. “That immediately puts things into perspective.”