Introvert wedding survival guide for shy or socially anxious couples

Guest post by Julia Renee
Find a good spot to “hide” and other useful tips. (Photo by Angela Sevin)

I'm in love with love. I love reading about couples falling in love; I love watching movies about couples falling in love; and I love weddings where I can go and support a couple I love and celebrate with them as they begin on their journey together.

You'd think, then, that I would have been excited about the prospect of planning my wedding when I got engaged — but I wasn't.

You see, I'm an introvert, and I'm closer to the extreme end of the spectrum.

First, a short definition. Carl Jung defined introverts best, I think, when he stated that introverts are typically happy alone, have a rich imagination, and “prefer reflection to activity.”

Generally, parties wear me out. I go to them and I enjoy myself while I'm there, but I have to prepare myself ahead of time (which usually means I completely seclude myself for a couple days ahead of time to hoard as much energy as possible before the event).

Even then, parties drain me. I'm generally exhausted with conversation after a few hours and I sit in a corner by myself to try to recoup some energy before I finally give up and leave.

So, the idea of not only going to a party, but of planning a party in honor of my fiancé (who is also an introvert, albeit more social than I am) and me made us both want to run away screaming and hide under a rock.

After much reflection, however (see definition above), I came to a few conclusions that I thought I'd share in the hopes of helping fellow introverts deal with the idea of a wedding in their honor…

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Introvert wedding survival guide

Introvert wedding survival tip #1: Choose your venue carefully!

Choose a venue that has many alcoves, rooms, or outdoor spaces where you can disappear and hide for a bit to recoup some energy. This could be a quiet room, or you could create a large gap between the ceremony and reception so there is some time in the middle for you to rest and recharge. Or you could incorporate Yichud the way Ariel did at her wedding.

Introvert wedding survival tip #2: Remember you get to make choices!

This is Offbeat Bride so I'm sure you all know this, but I thought I'd remind you anyway: you have relative control over most decisions. This means you can plan the ceremony and reception so they are introvert-friendly.

You can ask a friend to be Emcee to divert attention away from you. You can hire fire spinners to divert attention away from you.

You can have your flower girl be an adult guy friend or your grandmother.

Thoughtfully choose everything you do and choose those things that will not tap you of your energy quickly (like avoid the receiving line — there are too many people all at once).

Introvert wedding survival tip #3: Know your limits, and time things carefully

I knew my party limit would be about eight hours total, and I am a morning person, not a night owl. Since we had to set up and clean up, I planned accordingly. The ceremony and reception lasted five hours total, and our coordinator had planned out things in five-to-ten minute increments. I had plenty of alone time in the morning (I did not help set up), and I had a couple hours of clean-up time before I was completely done. We planned our wedding for a Sunday, so no one wanted to party at a bar afterward. It worked out well for us. While we had a great time at our wedding, it was quite a relief to be back in our hotel room by 8:00 with leftovers to snack on.

Introvert wedding survival tip #4: Get help

Have someone you trust that can be the coordinator on the actual day of your wedding, and make sure they know and understand your introvert-related concerns. My brother is an event planner so he planned our reception. Everyone from the caterer to the photographer to the wedding party knew him and knew that they needed to go to him first if they had questions or issues. This meant I wasn't frantically dealing with all the last-minute details (spending precious energy), and it meant that I could enjoy myself and not have to worry about every little thing.

Introvert wedding survival tip #5: The wedding actually isn't all about you

Finally, just as a reminder, weddings are as much for the family and friends of the couple as for the couple itself. Weddings are one of the few social conventions where people can appropriately show their love for you. Your family and friends want to share in your joy and they want to support you. This creates an energy that is very different from the typical party. As much as I wanted my wedding to be on a beach in the middle of nowhere with just my partner and me, I was very aware of the fact that doing so would deny many of our family and friends the ability to share and celebrate with us.

It was this that kept me going throughout the wedding process so I didn't have a complete meltdown. For as stressed as I was about the idea of such a large party, I'm glad we did it and, despite your anxiety, you probably will be, too.

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Comments on Introvert wedding survival guide for shy or socially anxious couples

  1. I totally second the “leave a gap between the wedding and reception” part. That was so important for my sanity on our wedding day.

    Make sure that the people who are allowed into your room while you’re getting ready know who they are and that they’re the only ones allowed. I always swore that if I had a big wedding, I would hire a security guard to make sure only the people “on the list” had access to me before the ceremony.

    Don’t make plans with anyone for after the reception. It’s easy to get sucked into drinks in someone’s room, heading to the late-night karaoke bar, or whatever it is. You may even really like it. Don’t do it on your wedding night. Even better, schedule plans with your new spouse. “Hey, I’m sorry I can’t go to the bar with you. I’m, you know, going to be *busy* with my new husband/wife/partner.” If they don’t get it, take back their invitation (not really).

  2. THANK YOU for this! I’m also an introvert and hate being the center of attention. Even though I’m looking forward to dressing up and looking pretty and getting married soon, I am definitely not looking forward to people staring at me and trying to talk to me and (even worse) being photographed all day. I’m already planning to go running by myself the morning of the wedding, but I’ll definitely be taking the rest of your advice so that I can get gaps of time to myself during the event.

    • Thank you for your comment. Had not considered exercise by myself that morning. That is a GREAT idea! Time to re-center and get some good endorphins going. Great suggestion!

  3. “Your family and friends want to share in your joy and they want to support you.”

    This is pretty much why I’m not saying screw it and eloping right now. I’m ok for the reception, but the idea of the ceremony in front of everyone is making me feel kind of icky. Thanks for this!

    • Maybe consider doing a private ceremony with just a handful of people and then have everyone at the reception?

  4. THANK YOU FOR THIS! So many extroverts just don’t understand how very draining events like weddings can be for introverts. I’m lucky that I come from a family with a number of introverts (including my father). They know that when we have full-family gatherings (a lot of people, including some incredibly active kids), I will, at some point, disappear for at least a half hour to recharge. My college graduation, when I couldn’t escape for more than bathroom breaks–and I took one late in the day just to sit in a stall until my head stopped buzzing–left me so exhausted I literally cannot remember anything that happened after dinner. I don’t want a repeat of that at my wedding, so this is a very relevant article for me.

  5. Here is more ideas to make it introvert friendly –

    Schedule a series of smaller events with down time in between. We did a small wedding, break after for just us, (the guests had belllinis and snacks) then brunch, then took the afternoon off. Then had a less formal gathering for friends.
    The next morning we waved goodbye to everybody – sent all the family home and went for a mini-moon.

    In the in-between times, the extraverts took the kids to the pool and the introverts took some well earned down time. And the grandpas took a nap.

    Other things we did – we did private vows during our first look. This let us say what we wanted to each other. For the ceremony we did our “public” vows. This felt more like “us”, because as much as I love everyone who we invited, they really aren’t invited to the most important promises I have for my husband.

    Lots of the pre-wedding stuff was at our house – and we made our bedroom a no trespassing zone. That way if either of us needed an escape, we had that space we could go to.

    The day of coordinator was a huge help too – she took all the questions so I didn’t have too.
    and even kept people diverted so I could get ready in quiet.

    • Love the idea of smaller ‘chunks’. I’ve been hyperventilating for months at the thought of a seven-hour stretch of peoplepeoplepeople. Also love the private vows!

  6. I can always count on OBB to post things at the time when I need them the most. Our wedding is in a little over 2 weeks and I am freaking out about being the center of attention all night long. All the planning is done and almost everything is ready and now I’ve got lots of time to think about the actual wedding day and get myself all worked up. My therapist told me most of these same points and I’m hoping that on-the-day I’ll be able to go sit in a corner and decompress if things start to get overwhelming.

    “Your friends and family want to share in the joy” – this is what I’ve told myself through the whole process. I would have been happy to elope and just have it be us but FH wanted our family and friends to be a part of the celebration. In the end I’m sure I will thank him and be happy that everyone was there.

    • My husband felt the same way–he simply wanted his family there and no one else. As much as I hesitated about a large wedding (and ours was big–we invited over 200 people), I kept telling him that he’d understand once the day was over. And he did. In these last two weeks, spoil yourself and do your best to try to stay centered. Once the day comes, you’ll be surprised how the excitement over what is happening will take over.

  7. THANK YOU for sharing this. I too wanted just the two of us to escape or go to city hall and avoid the attention but here I am one year and three days before my wedding. I have allotted a couple hours between ceremony and reception – which will help a bit and I have kept the guest list limited to the people that I am most comfortable with and mean the most to me. I’m hoping all these little details come together to offer me a stress-free day!

  8. So much THIS. We are having a small, private ceremony with just family on a Friday. Sleep, eat, and brace ourselves for the large dinner and dancing reception with ALL the people on Saturday.

    – opted to do a receiving line at reception to get THAT over with as quickly as possible, versus trying to remember which tables we have/haven’t visited during the reception

    – hired dueling pianos to hold everyone’s attention during/after dinner/all the dancing

    – hired friendor photographer who is also an introvert (solidarity!)

    – patiently explained to future in-laws why we are making introvert-friendly choices

    I have even more tricks up my sleeve, but these were some of the big, early decisions that helped me embrace the idea of a huge reception, despite my initial misgivings. Happy planning, introverts!

  9. “Your family and friends want to share in your joy and they want to support you. This creates an energy that is very different from the typical party.”

    In the past my room-mate hosted gatherings by goodness did I need to recover in my room on occasion! So I totally get the feeling. For my wedding however, I had a space to retreat to all planned out. It turns out I didn’t end up needing it, because it was a different energy from the typical party. But gosh it was nice to know in advance that a retreat would be there.

  10. For me, the introversion and social anxiety all run together into a big fun mess, so not all of this will apply but some things we’ve done/will do are:
    – pick a private venue: it’s more expensive, but it’s important to me knowing that there won’t be any random onlookers (even if well intended).
    – have a quiet zone: our venue has a “bridal cottage” that we’re planning on turning into a quiet area for us and a couple of introverted family members.
    -absolutely for the day-of-coordinator: ours isn’t a fellow introvert, but the most outgoing and compassionate of our friends. I’m completely confidant that she’ll take care of what needs to be taken care of.
    – getting ready at home, planning to end the reception by 10, and scheduling the after-party within walking distance of our house: I feel so much more calm and secure in my house than I do anywhere else. I love the idea of late partying, but if I end up too drained, my bedroom will be right there.

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