Keep calm and marry on: How to manage wedding stress

Caitlin and John Terry were married November 6, 2016, at St. Paul's Ivy. Photo: Sebastian Orr Caitlin and John Terry were married November 6, 2016, at St. Paul’s Ivy. Photo: Sebastian Orr

A lot happens between the moment couples say “Yes!” and “I do!” There’s choosing a date, finding the perfect venue, crossing your fingers that the perfect venue is open on that chosen date, cake tastings, dress fittings, suit tailoring, picking a DJ (or do you want a band?). Even something seemingly inconsequential like choosing cloth napkins—ivory, off-white or cream?—can send a couple careening on the fast-track to Stress City.

So, how do couples chill the heck out? The key, it seems, is to think about love.

Elizabeth Derby and J.T. Newberry, who were married in May at Camp Holiday Trails, had many details to stress over—from a welcoming reception on Friday night through Sunday brunch—but together they planned an entire weekend of events for themselves and 80 guests.

“At some point, I just wasn’t relaxed” about the whole thing, says Derby, who suspects that the stress of putting together a wedding, big or small, can’t be helped, but hiring a planner would likely help, if you can afford to do so.

Derby’s steady wedding stress shifted into overdrive a few days before the event, when her volunteer day-of coordinator fell through at the last minute. “Fortunately, I had friends and family who dove in headfirst to help me accomplish everything,” Derby says, adding that one of their vendors, Shaun Jenkins, who runs SJ’s Events & Staffing, stepped in as day-of coordinator.

In the end, it worked out splendidly, and while couples might not be able to avoid stress entirely, Derby says that feelings of love far exceed any day-of anxiety. “The best antidote to wedding planning stress is the love and support you feel during the event,” she says. “Being enveloped in this bubble of love for a weekend is pretty remarkable.”

Caitlin and John Terry, who were married November 6, 2016, at St. Paul’s Ivy with a reception at The Local, had just eight months to plan, and they say that most of the details were easy to figure out—getting married at St. Paul’s was a no-brainer, as Caitlin had grown up in the congregation and, after meeting at UVA, both sang in the church’s choir. What wasn’t easy was planning a modest reception in Charlottesville, an uber-popular (and thus expensive) wedding location, says Caitlin.

“We weren’t very stressed beyond the cost of certain things,” says John. “How could we be, when we were so excited? But any time you organize with so many moving parts, you’ll have your moments.”

So, they prioritized, made a budget and stuck to it via a Google spreadsheet that helped them keep track of costs and other details, from the most important (great reception location with great food) to what they could do themselves (invitation calligraphy, seating charts) and what friends generously donated (reception flowers, music). They also baked and cooked in their Atlanta home to help alleviate some stress—nothing quite like kneading, chopping and mixing to let out some frustration, says Caitlin.

It helped that the Terrys planned everything together—“we are a team,” says Caitlin—and remained focused on the most important thing of all: that they were getting married. She adds, “A friend of ours who got married a few months earlier gave us some really good advice: Every time you stress about the dollar figure, remember that this might be the one chance to gather so many supportive friends and family in one place, at one time, and that’s priceless.”

Posted In:     Magazines,Weddings

Previous Post

They bought the farm: A new wedding venue in Waynesboro unfolded by happenstance

Next Post

Make it official: Two top choices for your marriage maestro

Our comments system is designed to foster a lively debate of ideas, offer a forum for the exchange of ad hoc information, and solicit honest, respectful feedback about the work we do. We’re glad you’re participating. Here are a few simple rules to follow, which should be relatively straightforward.

1) Don’t call people names or accuse them of things you cannot support.
2) Don’t direct foul language, racial slurs, or offensive terms at other commenters or our staff.
3) Don’t use the discussion on our site for commercial (or shameless personal) promotion.

We reserve the right to remove posts and ban commenters who violate any of the rules listed above, or the spirit of the discussion. We’re trying to create a safe space for a wide range of people to express themselves, and we believe that goal can only be achieved through thoughtful, sensitive editorial control.

If you have questions or comments about our policies or about a specific post, please send an e-mail to

Leave a Reply

Notify of