Not a bride anymore but I had terrible anxiety during our engagement.
Firstly, it’s fine to be anxious during engagement. It doesn’t mean you’re necessarily doubting your relationship. Reading between the lines of your post, I think you need to hear that having anxiety doesn’t mean you should call your wedding off or relationship is doomed. If you’re naturally an anxious person, then why would engagement be any different? Even if you aren’t naturally anxious, this is a period of a lot of change and it’s ok to be anxious. I can honestly say that since we got married 4 years ago I’ve not had any of the anxiety about our relationship and I’m very glad we got married.
What helped me was trying to follow the anxiety to its source and work out if it’s something that is genuinely cause for concern or just my brain taking something and spinning it off into something unreasonable. Also recognising what I had control over and what I didn’t. So one of my main anxieties was that we both met when we were very young (20) and how did I know we would continue to grow together. So some of that anxiety was realising that we both needed to make reconnecting regularly a priority to maximise our chances of growing together (genuine concern). Some of that was realising that there are a number of things that could change who we are and how compatible we are with each other, not all of those have to do with age. Finally, realising I can’t help when I met my husband but I can help how we stay connected.
I talked everything through with my husband. He knew all my feelings, was there for all my many freak outs. Fortunately I didn’t have to worry about my husband freaking out over my freak outs, he was quite used to my anxiety and panic attacks. I think there is always that risk though so if that is a risk, bribg it up when you are feeling calmer to rationally talk about it with your partner. Rather than waiting until the anxiety reaches a critical point, conversations never go well when you’ve reached that point.
You don’t have to include anything in the wedding you don’t want to. First dance giving you anxiety – get rid. If you want the first dance but can’t handle people staring at your for 3 minutes, dance for 30 seconds and then get the DJ to invite other people up. We did this, we continued dancing together and everyone danced around us. It’s one of my favourite photos. During the planning, I would recommend taking breaks from the planning and just being together. In the lead up to the wedding, prioritise. Imagine things in a pyramid, there are a few important things at the top (licence, officiant) then a lot of things less important things at the bottom (favours, centrepieces). If the things at the bottom, don’t get done it will not ruin your wedding and if things are too much, these are what you drop, or pass to someone else.
I would try to have some time in the few days before the wedding just to the two of you. We used the Thursday morning before we got married on the Saturday. We used the morning to write each other a letter for the morning of the wedding but then we left the house, went for a coffe and the ‘W word’ was banned until 11am when we picked the suits up. Fantastic for stopping the build up of anxiety. On the day, carve out time for yourself. I included 5 mins here and 10 minutes there. One this allows for overrunning but just allows you to step out by yourself and collect your thoughts. If you say you are running an errand (checking something, picking something up) people will likely offer to do this for you so don’t be afraid to say you just want 5 minutes by yourself outside. We’d also included a number of calming things for me. For example, DH didn’t want to see me before the ceremony and wanted to see me walk down the aisle but I knew if I was anxious I would want a hug. So we agreed that he would be at the back of the church and if I needed a hug, I’d hug him from behind, he’d close his eyes and turn around. I also included a book in my day of things so I could sneak out and read for 5 minutes, if needed. I wish we’d included a bit of alone time on day before in hindsight. We had a lot of people coming in, a lot of final details, lots of rushing around. I fluffed my husband’s name in the rehearsal (I merged his first and middle names together) because I was anxious. I also ended up having a panic attack the night before our wedding. DH didn’t want to see the dress so we went into my hotel room in the dark and then stood in the bathroom having a panic attack. I wish I’d managed to get away without the panic attack but on the day, surprisingly I was fine. Maybe I needed the panic attack the night before to let it all out.
TL:DR – You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. Reconnect with your partner frequently and take breaks from wedding planning. Take time for yourself, especially in the last few days and day of the wedding. Identify things that can minimise your anxiety and include them in your day (listening to music, reading, going for a walk). Having anxiety doesn’t mean you’re doubting your relationship or your relationship is doomed.
By the way – all the best people get married in February 😉