Introvert wedding advice & weddings for shy people

Updated Sep 6 2021
Photo by Wild About You

My fiance and I have been putting off the entire wedding largely because we are both pretty shy, introverted people. We're both are very anxious about being the center of attention.

Besides cutting down the guest list, do you have any brilliant ideas for how we can pull this off without getting ulcers from stage fright?


If you're terrified about your ceremony, the key is going to be having a great officiant. Someone who can absorb all that stage-fright for you, and really take command over the space. Someone, maybe, who might even speak about zombies.

Also, keep your vows super short and sweet. Instead of memorizing them, have your officiant do "repeat after me" vows.

You may also want to do what we did and schedule some time just the two of you immediately after the ceremony. You can read more about this in my book.

Avoid having either of you make formalized speeches, and do what you can to keep the number of toasts low. Ask two friends or family members to do toasts and then stand up and say "Thank you!" and turn up the music so it's clear the time for toasts is dunzo.

Keep the tone of the wedding light and casual: less formal = less cause for freak-outs.

Also, make liberal use of what I call "The I Love You Break."

How "The I Love You Break" works…

Decide on a secret signal with your fiance: an ear tug, scratch of the nose, squeeze of the hand, whatever. Stick close to each other for the entire day, and whenever one of you starts get getting overwhelmed or anxious, give the signal.

Then, the other partner should politely step in and say "Excuse us for a moment" or gently place a hand on the other's cheek. Then just stare into each other's eyes and both whisper "I love you I love you I love you" for as long as it takes to calm down a bit.

Sure: what you really want to do is grab each other's hands and run screaming from the room. But while that might freak your guests out ("where are they going? and why are they screaming??") taking an "I love you" break will make your guests be all, "OMG look at them so madly in love, this is the most touching wedding evar, snorfle sniffle sob."

Meanwhile, the two of you get a quiet moment together to just stop and breathe and chill out and ignore for a second that your friends and family are all there to tell you how much they love you. And do remember: all eyes are on you because they're there to support you.

  1. thank you so much for this post – i'm not a fan of crowds, and my partner is super shy. we're having a small wedding, and microscopicly short ceremony, but can use all the help we can get for stress management on the 'big day.' one thing we focused on early on is to make sure each of us feels really good about what we're wearing so we're as comfortable as possible with all those eyes on us.

  2. We are both really uncomfortable with the big aisle and vow to do, so we're doing a private courthouse wedding a year before. We're planning on doing a reception with a short time in the beginning where we do our vows in front of our family. The officiant and our parents/best friends can say a few words about us and we'll all sit down to eat! So much less stressful.

    Yay for shy people!

  3. Oh lordy lordy, I am super-shy and so is my husband. Here's what I did to forestall the Crowd Of People Anxiety Attack:

    When the guests started arriving, I ran out and greeted them one-by-one with Hubby. Much easier than doing the receiving line afterward, or whatever people do nowadays.

    We walked down the aisle together so I didn't have that "OMG EVERYONE IS LOOKING AT MEEE" moment.

    We wrote our vows down and just read them. I don't think anyone cared, really.

    Definitely with the alone time afterward! Our photographer tagged along and we got some great pictures of just the two of us, grinning like crazy people.

    Basically, we thought of all the elements of a traditional wedding that freaked me out (the aisle! hiding the bride away until the last minute! memorized vows! a receiving line!) and decided not to do them. It'll be different for every person of course.

  4. Awesome post! And thanks for the additional tips, Sarah TX.

    My FH and I aren't shy, exactly, but we are certainly not center-of-attention lovers. I think this post is important because we read a lot about offbeat weddings that lean toward being big glorious products (musicals, bride and groom dance-offs, bride and groom performances, etc.) which is totally awesome but not something I could ever do myself.

    We are planning to have our officiant do most of the talking during the ceremony (we'll write what he says, because like many introverts, we have no problem writing what we're thinking) and then hold the reception like any other regular party, where we mingle with everyone and are not in a spotlight or special table or something.

    Oh, and I think Ariel's "p.s." was the most important part. When in doubt, drink champagne. Enough said.

  5. creating activities for your reception that dont center on the happy couple is important. some people have outdoor activities, some people have board games. DONT let people do the tapping-you-glass-means-you-have-to-kiss thing. make people who do that have to wear a goofy hat or something, like Lani and Jamie did!

  6. noooooo don't drink the champagne if you're nervous!!!
    I was a bundle of nerves when I was bridesmaid for my sister and was making a speech. I did a decent job on the speech but was way too drunk and went to bed early.
    I've vowed to stay off the bubbly for my own day no matter how nervous I am!
    Do you have Rescue Remedy in the U.S. ?
    Great for settling nerves!

  7. We aren't shy, but we hate the idea of being the center of attention.
    Here's what we're doing
    1. walking down the "aisle" together
    2. going straight into reception with our guests, no announcement
    3. no cake cutting
    4. no first dances
    5. having a mingling style reception, with no formal tables or plated dinner, so our guest's attention will be spent walking and talking.
    6. only one toast. i really, really want to have none. but my finance's father would never forgive us. i might throw up while he's talking though. or at least make a cringe face. i'll try not to, but there's no guarantee.

  8. i'd like to add, in addition to the "ps" that flower essences can be so great for shyness, or overwhelm. i wouldnt describe myself as shy per se, but i expect to be over being the center of attention and i plan to make myself a formula for the day. For shy people, i'd recommend: Larch, Mimulus, violet, water violet.

  9. I love the idea of the 'I Love You' break. I'm not shy, but I do get social anxiety sometimes and am just generally neurotic. This seems like a great way to combat that – and not just at weddings.

  10. My husband and I are not exactly extroverts either, so we did a JOP wedding and had the reception in the same room (it was a community theatre/art gallery). Right after the VERY short ceremony, we left for a couple of minutes and braced ourselves for lots of talking…good thing we did because we didn't get another moment of peace for the rest of the night. And, considering I am painfully shy, it went well. 🙂

  11. Ditto the extroverted officiant (ours, the friend who introduced us, is probably the biggest attention-whore I know) (and I say that with love). We wrote the ceremony, so it was our thoughts on marriage being delivered, but our speaking part was limited to "I do."

    Cut the guest list to the bone. 50 people you know and love is less scary than a throng that includes your parents' tax preparer.

    Also, no first dance. I didn't have a problem with walking down the aisle and generally being the center of attention all night, but the idea of doing the clutch-n-sway with 45 people staring at us gave me the major squicks. We skipped it, and if anyone noticed, they didn't mention it.

  12. Or elope! Or have a teensy wedding with just family. I know I'm stating the obvious a bit here, but I feel like there can be pressure to go bigger, so it might be worth saying.

    If the idea of a big wedding makes you feel sad and stressed, skip it. My family is enjoying my big-ish wedding now, since I'm the extrovert. My sister is a super introvert, so we figure if she gets married it will be just family and very close friends because anything else would stress her the heck out.

    I love the 'I Love You' break too. Love.

  13. Thanks so much for this! So much of wedding planning seems geared to the "Look at meeeeee!" side of things. I hate being the center of attention, and your wedding day seems to be the pinnacle of that! I like all the advice here, and I thought I'd add that we're also skipping the 'bridal table' we are just plonking ourselves on a table amongst our guests. Which means we get to spend more time with them as well.

  14. I know a couple who got married entirely in private on the beach — just them and the officiant. And then had a kick-ass reception with all their friends and family afterwards.

  15. I ditto the small ceremony bit. My FH and I having our ceremony with only our officiant (his grandmother) and our two best friends. Afterward, we're going to dinner including our parents and the following day we're having a ceremony with all of the people who would feel left out if they weren't involved (ie cousins, uncles, friends, grandparents…). Everyone gets included, but only to the extent that we're comfortable with.

  16. My fiance and I are also both not thrilled about being the center of attention. The most important part of keeping my sanity is remembering that this is not going to be a perfect day. Because for it to be a perfect day, I would have to be a perfect person, and I'm not up to that. Don't just tell yourself that you don't need to be perfect–make sure you take this attitude toward every part of your wedding planning. (I'm looking for a hotographer who will leave us with very nice pictures, not perfect pictures.)

    Also, try to identify the things that make you most uncomfortable when you witness them in other people's weddings, and avoid them at all costs. It's about priorities, right? So for us, that meant the photographer needs to remain at the very back of the church during the entire ceremony (we want to feel like we're participating in a sacred rite, not like we're on display), and there will be no DJ announcing us (or doing anything else, for that matter). We're willing to compromise on other elements if our families want, but these are (two examples of) the things that we're really firm about.

  17. Shy person here!

    The thought of walking down an aisle was an awful one. We eliminated that entirely…we had all of our guests wait for a signal and had all of THEM walk up the 'aisle' to us. Much better!

    And there were only 17 people. That helped.

    • Oh my gosh! Thank you for saying this! I was trying to figure out how to not walk down the aisle at all! I actually had the idea to have my guests walk down instead when I was brainstorming with a friend. I just hadn't seen anyone else do it, so I felt like it might be really weird. I'm definitely going to do it now! Thank you!

  18. You are my hero. Chris and I have been biting our nails, wondering how exactly we're going to handle this… and you're now Chris' hero, too! I think we'll be stealing that excellent little bit about zombies

    Thank you!!!!

  19. I'm definitely an introvert, and I really wasn't enjoying the thought of actually saying vows in front of people. But, y'know, once we were up there, I didn't think about anyone else at all. It wasn't nearly as bad as I expected.

  20. "The thought of walking down an aisle was an awful one. We eliminated that entirely…we had all of our guests wait for a signal and had all of THEM walk up the 'aisle' to us. Much better!"

    Sarah, this is seriously freaking cool!

  21. Hi! My fiance and I are having the same problem! We are introverts and hate parties, so we decided to create a very SMALL guest list of less than thirty people to share our special day with. We are having it not very formal, keeping a few traditional elements but avoiding anything excessive that makes us uncomfortable and doesn't really reflect who we are. We are not having a DJ or dancing because our wedding is small and we can't dance. OR, at least, anyone who's seen me "dance" knows it's for the best… Best of luck to you both! Hang in there and keep it true to yourselves. Remember that all you REALLY need is yourselves, an officiant, and two witnesses. You can have a reception if you feel the need on a different day entirely, or never at all.

  22. Wow, i am glad to see we are not the only introverted couple! I'm not having any 1st dance, any father-daughter dance,and no female bridesmaids. I'm having a DJ and though not a great dancer, I think having the DJ will be a great time to showcase our musical taste.

    I'm actually just throwing mainstream wedding songs in there to please the families.

    But, if I had it all our way, it would be our most favored taste of music throughout the whole wedding. I'm Trinidadian so I'm throwing some of my country's music in there as well.

    I'm having one "maid of honor" who is my brother and that's it.

    The groom is having his best man, alone. yes, the best man will walk down the aisle alone, and so will my bro. If anyone cares that's just too bad.

    And, the only reason our wedding is up to 80people is because the groom's family takes up like 50people.

    Don't feel like you have to do this, or you have to do that and certainly don't let people make you feel that way. Sure, they'll try but they can take the boot!

    • I have a male bridesmaide too, we decided that Bride's Squire' wa a great title for him, as he is there to assist me just like a squire helps a knight. Younger boys are paiges anyway, so it seemed like a natural evolution of the naming convention. Also means I get to be a knight and princess at the same time 🙂

  23. Thanks for this, it's given me some interesting ideas! Although I have the problem that it's my partner who hates being the centre of attention, rather than both of us (I can be pretty self concious, but mostly in situations involving strangers). I love the idea of it all being one big party with our friends & family, whereas he'd be happier if it was just the two of us on some island somewhere. I wouldn't want a tiny ceremony & a bigger separate party; to me that just defeats the whole point of it, and I know many friends & relatives would be disappointed!!
    I've managed to convince him with assurances that the whole thing will be very casual (we're definately doing it our own way rather than sticking to tradition; the aim is for a sort of "festival" vibe), and that he is fully in control of the music (which is his main passion in life… apart from me, of course!). It won't be a huge wedding – the venue we want has a capacity of 55 for the ceremony, and I prefer the idea of having all of the guests at the ceremony if possible. I've also told him that he is under no obligation to speak to anyone he doesn't want to – I'll handle all of the talking to random relatives!
    We're not getting married til next year, so there's still a lot of time to finalise the details, but this post has been very helpful!

    sent from: [FID5503617]

  24. As a Wedding Officiant, I have worked with numerous couples who tip the scale in the "shy category" and here is what I know for sure. Yes, find an Officiant who can work with you and "gets" you – the tone, structure and delivery of the ceremony will be packaged to insure that you are comfy and proud in your moment. For many wedding ceremonies, the Officiant does most of the work – remember this as you focus on your Sweetheart and let the Officiant drive/direct/celebrate the ceremony part of your day!

  25. We had officiant-read vows, so all we had to do was say "We do" after he said a few lines. But before that we had a moment just for us (while everyone watched) to whisper sweet nothings into each other's ears =)

  26. I wanted to skip the dances, the formal intro, the aisle. Mums wouldn't have it. I tried…. believe me.
    It just seems selfish to me to know that my parents have been waiting years to walk me down the aisle, and not giving them that.
    I think I am going to skip the intro. I REALLY hate that. We're having 125 guests. I think that I'll just tell my mom we're doing it, and then "forget" 🙂 Nice to know there are other shy people who would rather stand naked in the classroom.

  27. I am in the same boat as most of you. I have been planning my wedding for a couple of months and every time I thought about walking down the aisle with ~100 people looking at me, my heart would begin to pound.
    After this happening over and over I decided to have a family only wedding which will be less than 20 people. We are having a reception 1.5 hours afterwards for close friends and family which will be the ~100.
    Since I am not an introvert, I love to hang out with all my friends and family, just don't want them all staring at me at once. Doing it this way gives us time to get photos and all before the reception without people getting antsy waiting to eat.
    I love the idea of maybe us walking down the aisle together, so I will do more research on that. I also feel as if the garter/bouquet toss makes others feel uncomfortable so I'm unsure if I will do this or not. Any other ideas will be helpful! Good luck, all!

  28. So we're not alone after all!

    While my groom-to-be and I are thrilled to finally be engaged and have our super special day on the horizon, we are both major major introverts. He stutters, so the pressure of saying our vows out loud, or writing our own is out automatically. It's a complicated feeling because we want to finalize and confess our love in front of everyone, but we're terrified at the same time. We don't dance and we haven't quite figured that out yet, but I LOVE the little trick you mentioned! And I LOVE the idea of a talkative celebrant. Our minister is one of the funniest people I know, and a great friend, so that's perfect! Great post : )

    • My husband and I don't dance. So we didn't have dancing at our wedding. No dance floor. just music, good music, but not dancing music. No one said anything, AS if!
      I didn't miss it that's for sure!
      Our venue was small too, we had 80 guests and would have had to drop it to 65 to accommodate dancing. Smaller space = lower price/less "desireable"

      PS we also didn't do toasts, or garter, or boquet toss…and we read our vows from note cards and added an extra kiss mid-ceremony by mistake.

  29. He's an introvert and I'm his balance, but I still don't like the "on display" feel of more traditional weddings (like Laura's comment #20 says). We decided to have a more intimate wedding, outside on an island several hours from everyone. Just closest family and friends invited. Even limiting it to around 40 people (including us and the wedding party) it still seems like a lot. We're going to have a really good friend officiating. Our attendant friends(8 of them)in an arc to one side of us, with the officiate friend in the middle of them. Our guests will be in a two rowed arc on the other side of us. We'll walk in together. The ceremony requires verbal response from the group. This makes us both feel more comfortable about it. Everyone present will be part of our ceremony. I can't imagine a more special way to share our happy day with those we love most.

  30. I like the eloping idea myself. Elope, dont tell anyone. still do the wedding. but the real pressure is already off since deep down your already married.

    When I got married my fiance was dealing with severe agoraphobia and we really could have used this advise. The panic attacks were so bad, she couldn't even make it into the church. YES! All the guests had to go outside and we did the whole thing on the steps.

    i think perhaps having the wedding in a friends back yard also might have cut down on the fear factor a bit. Anything to keep it low key and pressure free.

  31. Due to shyness we got married at a registry office with only two guests and didn't add any vows to the ceremony. We then had a very informal party for our families, with no speeches, a bit later. Our families are super nice people and they were very understanding about it. They know how shy we are and they understood that a large formal wedding would have been a pretty gruesome experience for us.
    Good luck everyone with whatever you choose to do!

  32. my wedding is in one week an this whole time i haven't been nervous AT ALL, but just this week i am realizing this is going to SUCK! i am very shy, but will open up after a bit in small group situations. i hate large crowds and oh my god i dont know what i was thinking deciding to do this wedding crap! we have no wedding party so nobody is doing toasts, we arent doing a first dance (because honestly in 10 years, we have never ever danced!) we will be introduced but that will take up all of what, 5 minutes? what the hell are we supposed to be doing the rest of the time!? even the DJ was stumped! he will play music but hes like you arent doing the bouquet, garter, speaches, various dances… i said yeah either this is going to the best wedding ever or the worst!

    any ideas on time fillers? we will be eating and cutting a cake. we have an excellent dj so hopefully people will be drinking and dancing they wont notice that we're just hanging out.. right?

    Also, i usually dont take xanax but can get some, how much should i take the day of the wedding?
    when i start drinking i don't know when to stop until its too late and i dont want to do that!!

    • Your wedding must have happened by now – I hope it went well. I'd love to know what you did for the time fillers, as I've got exactly the same problem here!

  33. my concern is a little different. i'm not a bride, i'm only a bridesmaid, but the thought of walking down the aisle even like that makes me cringe. i blush so easily, and while i know everyone doesn't stand and stare at bridesmaids, i'm still worried i'll turn red and everyone will stare. i haven't been to a wedding in years. i'll be escorted by someone, which makes it a little better, but can someone tell me if anyone even pays attention to bridemaids? the one i barely remember, the guests just turned and glanced at the groomsmen/bridesmaids as they walked by. it's silly, i know but it's a huge wedding (like 400 people) and it's just so nerve-racking. thanks!!!

  34. There's a lot of wisdom on this page. I'm going to share it with my daughter and shy son-in-law to be.

  35. oh thank you! this is such a great post!!! im loving the i love you break idea. im sooo doing that. we arnt the best at being the center of attention and since noone can hear my fh because of his leaky trach anyway its easy to get overwhelmed by lots of people trying to talk to you at one time. i love you breaks rock!

  36. I was referred to this advice by another APW reader, and I have to say there are FANTASTIC ideas in the official advice post and in the advice given in the comments. I am a somewhat outgoing person, but I absolutely hate people staring at me and have anxiety problems. My fiance however is a huge extrovert and loves being the center of attention. One thing I am considering doing is getting bridal henna, so that people will be looking at my hands/arms (and even my feet) instead of my rosacea and crazy blushing that only makes the redness worse. And two of my friends just told me today that they are going to "smudge" me and my fiance at the start of the ceremony to cleanse us of any anxiety or stress. Just thinking about breathing in the sage and taking that moment makes me feel less anxious about 130 pairs of eyes watching me do one of the most important things in my life!

  37. I also wanted to put in my two cents (sorry if someone else has already sent this!). I'm more of an extrovert, but my fiancee is a complete introvert and often struggles with social anxiety. To make sure this doesn't become a problem at our wedding, we're tweaking all of the traditions and making it more guest-oriented.

    For example, we are not making a grand entrance. Instead, we're going to mingle with our guests during cocktail hour and then kick off the reception with a speech from our dads, at the end of which, they're going to invite EVERYONE to get on the floor and join us in our first dance.

    Stuff like that throughout the evening, just to take the pressure off. 🙂

  38. My centre-of-attention fear is huge. Thank you thank you thank you so much for this article. Even for the very simple realization that I'm not a freak, and I'm not the only one who doesn't want it to be MY day where all eyes are constantly on me, me, me.

    I am lucky in the fact that my fiance is more comfortable with the centre of attention, and he's a pro at knowing when I need a 'spotlight shield'.

    I LOVE your "I love you break" and e-mailed this article to him immediately. Although I must admit it made me tear up right here in my office. My first thought was it may save my life on our wedding day, or it might make me burst into tears again… Tough to say!

  39. I'm looking for some quick, simple sample vows. This is a second wedding for both of us and we really just want to get right to the party. No standard wedding crapola! Any suggestions?

  40. I think the "I love you" break is brilliant. Just a few more suggestions:

    have a chill-out room – depends on the venue if that's possible of course, but I think having a space where you can close the door and be alone for a few mins would be really helpful (even if it's just a broom cupboard!)

    have an exit strategy. This is why I'd never consider having a wedding at home even if it were possible. There needs to be a way that I could leave immediately – no waiting for a taxi/bus/train. Not that I think I will, but knowing I could will calm me down to no end.

  41. Oh my goodness…I'm about tearing up here. THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY SOUL FOR THIS ARTICLE!!! My fiance (we actually eloped already to cut down on pressure, and yes it helped for those who are considering doing it-so husband already) is both extremely shy (though more comfortable around people he knows well) AND suffers from pretty extreme social anxiety. This advice is really, truly, amazing. The "I love you" break and "chill out room" ideas are perfect, and just what we need. Our family friend is officiating, and I know she can handle bearing the brunt-I think if we just have to repeat or say "I do", we'll be cool. It's hard for me too because I am very extroverted and extremely comfortable in front of people talking even in GIANT crowds (I am a teacher…and a Speech &Debate coach to boot!). Thank you for helping me save my husband from a panic attack!

  42. This is all such good advice – But you'll need the "setting boundaries" tips as well! I think that most of us who are shy are also terrible at dealing with conflict. But you have to STICK TO YOUR GUNS. And do it early, so the drama is over long before the wedding.
    Even after a year and a half of marriage, just reading these posts makes me hyperventilate, my feet and hands are numb and I have an eggplant-sized lump in my chest.
    At our wedding, I did not want to walk down the aisle: first, I had an anxiety attack just thinking of it; second, at 48 years of age, I was not a goat to be given by my previous owner to my next owner. My mother kept harping on this, although I had explained my feelings over and over.
    At the wedding rehearsal, we had gathered at the front as planned, as the guests found their seats. The officiant started to talk. My mother piped up with "Wait! your father has to walk you down the aisle and give you away!!" I wanted to scream "NOOOOOO!!!!" But I couldn't make a scene in front of my FH's family. Instead, I went to the ladies' room and cried, then came back and walked down the aisle as directed.
    I hardly slept a wink, and in the morning decided on a compromise – my parents and FH's mother would all stand with us at the front as the guests assembled. My mother did not like this, but it's what we did.
    I let my mother hijack a lot of my wedding, and I still resent it. So make sure that you follow all the good advice on this site and don't end up a quivering wreck just because the well-meaning world thinks you'll enjoy being Barbie For A Day!

  43. We're not shy but I have social anxiety and we're both introverts, so we worked hard to manage my feelings around the look at me moments that can come with being a bride. One thing we did was try to make it about us not about me (this shouldn't be hard, but with the big white dress and all, it was). Our main things:
    -Spending the night together beforehand
    -A morning yoga practice
    -separating only to get ready
    -private first look photos that not even the wedding party or family members were there for
    -photos before the ceremony so we've spent the morning together and with our closest friends, which put us at ease for the ceremony
    -our officiant's standard vows. Luckily they were beautiful and oddly perfect for us, but it meant that neither of us were exposing the private part of our relationship publicly. I know this is a part of a wedding, but you can manage the extent of your emotional exposure this way.
    -No unplanned toasts and no slideshow. We broke this rule at the last minute and let a few people get up unplanned. We also didn't get up there ourselves and instead had the best man give our thank yous.

    It all worked out really well. I was very happy with it. Good luck!

  44. My now-husband and I are very shy people, and I HATE being the center of attention. So, we planned it like a family reunion (with friends, too). Kept the guest list short, chose a smaller venue for the "homey" feel. The biggest change? We walked down the aisle together and shared the stares! Also, the ceremony was super short (5 minutes!) and we did the "repeat after me" vows. At the reception, we didn't have our own table. We sat at a table with friends, so we didn't feel like people were staring at us. Plus, it went so quick that we didn't have too much time to feel nervous!

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