Cover Story: The Cure for Bridalitis

How to lose your mind in nine months

Feb 9, 2005 at 2:06 pm

There's a photo I store in the kitchen junk drawer. It was taken in the midst of a move from a college dorm to an apartment.

Overwhelmed and unbathed in my uniform of jeans and T-shirt, I'm wild-eyed, my nostrils flared and jaw clenched, lunging at the camera. The Post-it reads: "Note to self: Never make this face again."

I've been wearing that face a lot lately. And the poor guy behind the camera is marrying me.

We were thinking simple; what we're having has been anything but.

Only women know what a ginormous ordeal planning a relatively traditional wedding can be, and I've never taken kindly to stress, which is why I pity my groom more each day. (By the time you read this, we'll have 241 days to go.)

Several issues factor into our wedding and me not jibing: There's my lifelong fear of marriage, high anxiety, the aforementioned poor stress management and finances. I'm a prize, I know.

Then there are other aspects. Like my mother, married girlfriends and fellow brides-to-be.

A perpetual bridesmaid and wedding attendee, I knew there were jillions of details that go into the big day — as if taking the plunge isn't enough — but not until I fully immersed myself in the bedlam of planning did it occur to me how tedious they were.

White or ecru? Pouffy or bias cut? Day or night? Veil or tiara? Roses or lilies? Buffet or sit-down? DJ or band? Pink or pale pink, or pale pale pink?

A good place to get really overwhelmed is a bridal show; I'm hitting Bridal Rama this weekend. But even bridal shows pile on the questions, adding to the stress to find answers before the big day.

When's the date have you thought about a videographer like to register for a free honeymoon package who's going to do your hair have you seen our personalized confetti?

Note about the free honeymoon packages: Usually everyone gets called back, and you have to attend a 90-minute Amway-type demonstration. But, hey, Fiancé and I did it and didn't hate it. Just stay strong, or you could wind up shelling out $2,500 for cookware.

Most of these elements are left for the bride alone to tackle. Grooms, in their best interests, leave them alone. And it's sweet that my better half does want to be involved, but how cheap are brown tuxes and Birkenstocks for all the groomsmen?

The most important wedding aspects are those that can't be found in any expo or consultant — vows and the wedding song. Thus far I, uh, we have at least 50 songs to choose from.

Needless to say, it's easy to get caught up in the specifics. I'm trying not to focus more on the wedding than on our marriage, but even that's tricky.

Two Saturdays ago I was in a sea of white, beads and pearls. I don't know how it happened.

My mother and I spent the afternoon on bridal errands, and all of a sudden there we were in a dress shop and there I was swathed in ivory opposite a mirror. Clearly I'm not ready for this part, I say, taking note of the other brides all pageant-haired, bronzed and fully, well ... groomed. These were the little girls who started dreaming up their wedding day as soon as they could say "Barbie," or "body image disorder."

I was never one of those girls. Instead, I worried about the outcome of the marriage.

I'm not sure when I officially overcame this fear, but now that I have, I'm told I seriously have to find a dress. Extreme dieting hasn't yet kicked in, but if you see me lunching on a stalk of celery, consider that your indicator.

The dieting is just one symptom of Bridalitis or, as I call it, Wedding Anxiety Disorder. I didn't want a big to-do because I've seen firsthand what it does to women. At her own reception one of my best friends — highly organized, calm and cool throughout her entire engagement — snapped at another bridesmaid for not putting her flowers into the table vase exactly as instructed.

Even my sister, by far the most organized and mild-mannered person I know, broke down when she picked up her bulletins. I'm already coming down with Bridalitis symptoms.

Weeks ago, Fiancé thoughtfully threw in some of my clothes with his laundry. Because I didn't have time right then for folding, I exploded into a tirade on the terrible mother I'm fated to be.

When I'm not obsessing over my future self, I'm getting calls at work about the great deal my mom found on little mesh bags we can put mints in for favors. Or updates from a fellow fiancée who won't be wedded until 2006 on all the things she has done that I don't, and shouldn't I be hopping on this and that?

Such calls have recently been forbidden.

For the record, we do have the ceremony, reception site, caterer and florist. I'm not yet on meds, but I'm not yet throwing out that option. I'm smoking more, though.

However I remedy pre-marital stress, I'll probably be making the face. And I recommend staying away. ©