We've all seen the photos; black rivers of mascara streaming down the bride's cheeks and grooms gulping for air like a fish out of water. It's not an elegant look. It is also one of the most common concerns that my wedding couples have about their ceremony; "how do I stop myself from crying uncontrollably?"
The good news is that there are steps that you can take to minimise the 'damage' and prevent those embarrassing snotty snorts into the microphone as you're trying to say your vows.
But first, a disclaimer; I've read about and heard of several approaches that, in my opinion, are pretty extreme. If you honestly believe that being sedated with medication or pinching yourself mercilessly throughout your ceremony is the way to go, then this will not be of interest to you. But if you are simply hoping to not drown in your own tears on your special day, then read on!
Vanessa and Andrew are a gorgeous and fun loving couple and the story of their relationship, which gradually grew from a naive friendship to an unwavering bond as husband and wife, is touching and sweet. Even for the most cynical observer, their ceremony was bound to be a bit of a tear jerker, but I remember during my first meeting with them, that Vanessa warned me upfront "I am a crier, Camille."
Identifying the way you react in everyday situations is a great first step. Are you a 'keep calm and get married' type of person or do you develop the sniffles when a baby lotion ad comes on TV?
Now, although realising that you're a serial bawler can be a good indicator of how you're likely to react during your wedding ceremony, it is not an absolute science. Sometimes it's the brides that warn me early during the planning process that they are criers, who end up being the calm ones when their fiancé's lose it as they walk down the aisle. You just never know how you're going to react on the day.
So, once you've assessed how emotional you're likely to be on the day, you can start to prepare your plan of attack:
- Waterproof mascara and extra setting powder etc. for touch ups. Have a frank discussion with your makeup person for their recommendations and professional advice on how to stay looking fresh throughout the day.
- Choose supportive and self-sacrificing bridesmaids/groomsmen who will rush to your side with tissues to mop up your tears before their own.
- Hire sensitive and experienced wedding vendors (in particular your makeup artist, hairdresser, photographer and celebrant) who can give you some space and time to gather yourself if needed, but also who you can have a laugh with during the day and feel comfortable being around.
- Consider a 'first look'. To help ease your feelings of anxiety, have a chat with your photographer about having photos taken in private before the ceremony. A first look can be an incredibly romantic and practical addition to your day too, as it will free up your time straight after the ceremony so you can enjoy it with your family and friends.
- Design a generous wedding schedule/timeline with your vendors which includes time factored in to be with your new husband/wife, reflect and breathe during the day, so your stress levels don't go through the roof.
- Have a thorough ceremony rehearsal with your celebrant, onsite if possible. It makes the 'real thing' so much less scary and uncertain when you've already done it before.
- Arrange ahead of time, or put someone else in charge of supplying fresh, healthy, slow energy release food to keep you sustained throughout the day. And water. Lots of it. All day long.
- Great music. Sure there's the music for the ceremony and your reception, but what are you going to be listening to as you're getting ready? In my opinion, you want a great playlist of upbeat, medium tempo happy music. It all depends on what relaxes you most. If Metallica tunes cranked up to 11 gives you a zen-like sense of calm, then that's what you need to be aurally investing in.
- Alcohol. While a glass of champagne or a beer can be a helpful leveler for some brides and grooms, there are others that will be swaying at the altar with that much alcohol in their system. Only you know your limits, but you also need to keep in mind the legal requirements of marriage in Australia (you don't want your wedding day to get this kind of publicity).
When it comes to the ceremony itself, there are a few tried and trusted ways to feel more in control;
- Have a safe/funny word. Most couples have a saying, phrase or funny word that makes them smile or laugh. If you can feel your emotions overwhelming you, just say the word!
- Distract yourself (a little). Pushing your tongue to the roof of your mouth can help to stop sobbing. Wriggling your toes is a smart way to fidget without making everyone else nervous around you and it also helps to pump blood back up to your poor little oxygen starved brain. Or just pick a point on the horizon, or your fiancé's earlobe, and concentrate.
- Yoga/meditative type breathing. It's calming and can help you to focus in the moment.
Please keep in mind, that your wedding ceremony will feel unlike anything else you have experienced in your life. It is a rollercoaster of joy, anxiety, surges of love, relief, anticipation and pride and it's completely normal for your face to reflect those emotions. It's also what makes great candid wedding photography (like Mel Boulden Photography) so genuine and touching.
So if all else fails, just let it go. Tears of happiness at your wedding are a natural and beautiful thing. I promise that you (like Vanessa and Andrew) will live to tell the tale. In Vanessa's own words; "I can't believe how much I was crying that day but would not change it in anyway."
Thank you to Vanessa and Andrew for sharing their wedding ceremony with the world. Vanessa said: "If there is anything we can do directly or indirectly to assist other couples to put them at ease [we want to help]".
Photos courtesy of Mel Boulden Photography.