I thought I was friendless: how my wedding put social anxieties into perspective

October 2 2013 | Guest post by Vanda
Samantha (BM)
What happens when a total introvert has a big wedding? You might be surprised. (Photo by Lilja)

I've always thought of myself as pretty unsociable. My husband (can't get used to that!) is Mr. Sociable. He loves to go out and is never happier than when in a big crowd of friends. I, on the other hand, have never had a big group of mates in my life. I have usually had one, maybe two, close friends at a time. Then I move and lose touch with them and start again. I often have panic attacks about going to big parties and find my husband's friendly, enthusiastic, interested, and kind mates make me hyperventilate with anxiety.

So over the last few years I have constructed an identity for myself as basically friendless. I don't go out much. I lose touch with people easily. I'm a bad friend: I never call. I'm both lazy and afraid of boring people so don't contact them very often. And I've become more and more sure that I'm just not a social creature. I've tended to minimize the importance of all my relationships.

In fact, my initial vision for the wedding was a very small gathering — the two of us, our parents and brothers, a total of 11 people. Obviously this was never going to fit with my other half's plans and we ended up having about 100 people there. This was the cause of enormous and paralyzing anxiety to me in the run-up to the wedding day.

From the night of the un-hen party (a few cocktails with five close friends, both male and female) through the organization and rehearsing, through the wedding itself, the wedding was such an intense emotional experience. And from it, I had a surprising revelation.

The wedding made me fundamentally reassess that whole "friendless" narrative. Because it was all about people: being surrounded by love and affection and friendship, and realizing suddenly that I'm not an unsociable hermit after all.

I do have friends — I just don't have groups of friends. And I do enjoy socializing, just not quite as much as some people. And actually people are pleased to see me and don't think I'm boring. Surprise! Who knew?! Basically I'd allowed social anxiety to gradually chip away at me for a long time and the wedding really made me put it into perspective.

I wasn't expecting this realization at all — I thought that if anything, the wedding would make me reassess my relationship with my partner somehow. Instead it made me reassess how I feel about and interact with family and friends, and realize just how important certain people are to me. It was very liberating and kind of exciting.

It also adjusted my thinking about what mattered about the wedding itself: it wouldn't have been nearly as good, it wouldn't have been enough (for either of us), if we'd had the tiny intimate party I'd originally envisaged. Of course every couple is different but I realize now that, for us at least, the wedding was all about everybody else, not just us two.

  1. It's fascinating what our engagements and weddings can teach us about ourselves, isn't it?

    I've lived with a general anxiety disorder (and depression…and ocd …) for a number of years, but got engaged on a relative upswing. We planned an intimate wedding for introverts, but outdoors in a highly public place for a couple of theatre folk. Pretty quickly, I had to assess the state of my anxiety and the fact that I was slowly , but surely, relapsing to a state of scary mental health. To be honest, had it not been for the impending wedding, I doubt I would have been as honest with myself or sought help and treatment as quickly as I did (I'm already going to be a wreck on my wedding day, I don't want to be curled up in a ball, sobbing, and threatening to punch people).

    Thanks for sharing your story! It always good to be reminded that we're not alone. 🙂

  2. I need to bookmark this and read it again when it's closer to my wedding – frankly, just thinking about the day itself makes my skin crawl and stomach turn and brain turn to cotton.

    I'm glad that it turned into such a positive experience for you!

  3. This is exactly what I'm nervous of for my wedding – I'm not a very social person and tend to only have acquaintances. I'm such an introvert, along with social anxiety, that I just really don't want to meet up with people outside of school or work.

    In fact, I can't really name any actual friends besides my SO and family from the past 5 years. So I don't have anyone to invite to my wedding from college, and I'm terrified about inviting the few high school friends I still keep in occasional contact with because I'm scared they'd be really confused as to where all my other friends were – after all, they made friends in college and always had friends that were closer than we were, even in high school. So what the frick is messed up with you? I'd also like to invite my college freshman roommate – particularly as she was there when our relationship started and called that we were going to get married, but I've lost touch with her.

    I hope I can come to the same realization as you. That would be very nice. Because right now I'm a huge bundle of nerves.

  4. you are so the same as me!!

    am dredding the 'hen-do' just feel its so pointless as I have never really done a 'girls night'. and having all our families there, just feel I cant be bothered. Just let it be us two, will be reading this nearer the time!

  5. I had this same experience. My fear of being the center of attention led me to believe that i wanted to have a small intimate ceremony where it was just the two of us. We decided very early on to only invite the people that we really wanted to spend 5 hours with and we cut everyone else. The 60 people we ended up with were some of our dearest friends and everyone was so happy, supportive, and had a great time.

    I had a bit of a freak out before the ceremony started but once I got upstairs and saw everyone I was fine. It sounds so cliche but I could really feel the love from everyone and it just pushed any anxiety to the side. Looking back I am thrilled that we did things the way we did. I think I really needed that night to reinforce that I am awesome and that other people see it too 🙂

  6. Wow! I just read your article and I can SO relate! I'm in the panning stages, but initially, I wanted 20 people. My fiance has divorced parents and half of the side is German and his other half is Italian. Talk about what could have been big fat German Italian wedding. Now, our guest list is at about 50, and 10 of whom probably can't come. We are having a ceremony and reception with 40 people and plan to dance and drink with our closest, however, my FMIL is hosting a large party for her family a few months later to celebrate our wedding. This was our compromise. My fiance's cousin is getting married in 2 weeks, and it's about a 500 person wedding. I'm nervous to ATTEND that wedding, let alone be the bride in it! His family is large, and they do large celebrations frequently – definitely more frequently than my family. I'm a lot more introverted and he is a lot more extroverted, and I am definitely self diagnosed with social anxiety, hahaha! This article really reminded me about what's important and it gave me a fresh way to look at things! THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!

  7. Thank you for writing this post! This is so much like my Fiance and me it's crazy. He is so outgoing and popular and I feel like such a hermit sometimes. If it had been up to me we would have had maybe 50 people at our wedding. Right now we're at around 150. So there's that. I will be remembering this article when it gets closer to our wedding day. It's nice to be reminded I'm not the only one!

  8. Oh thank you for this. This could not have come for me at a better time. My fiance and I have been engaged for TWO AND A HALF YEARS!!! The reason being is because I am such a horribly socially incabable person in my eyes. I'm even afraid to tell my loud and very opinionated sisters any details about it. I am the shy one. I hate attention on me. I am so scared of having a panic attack at my wedding that I have a panic attack thinking about it. I certainly don't want to be doped up on anxiety meds for my big day but also don't want to leave guests waiting for hours while I get over a panic attack before the wedding….ok, I'm a mess could you tell? A week ago and a bottle of wine later I finally gave the go ahead to start planning this shindig…I wanted to just go to vegas, or go to the beach and be only few close family….but my fiance being the total opposite socially as me insists on it being in town and with his whole family (11 aunts and uncles on one side and 13 on the other…figure out how many cousins?????). So freaked out but so glad to hear that you got through it and gave new perspective to your life…I am going to try to have a positive outlook and hope for the best (or at the least no massive panic attack)

  9. I'm glad to know this resonated with some people! I had so much anxiety in the run up to the wedding that I was really surprised that I actually had fun at all. But I was so focused on the "us" bit as what was important – which of course it is – that I overlooked how important it is to situate yourselves as a couple within the wider world you live in. It is amazing how much, for the most part, people are happy for you because you're happy and happy to be there with you celebrating. Good luck, fellow anxious brides!

  10. It is so nice to know that I am not the only person with this issue. My fiance and I have been going back and forth. We are both artists with student loans and what not, so money is tight. Not to mention I have some mild issues with being the center of attention. We are planning to elope to NYC, so I thought a small wedding with only our closest friends and family would be good. Ideally I wanted 15 people, but that did not fly with the soon to be wife. It can get to the point to where we have a fight about out guest list, so we always skirt around the elephant in the room. Its crazy! In the end I think we will end up inviting around 30 people, I know less than that will go, so in the long run I may just end up getting my wish.

    Nerves are truly the devil! I will probably read and re-read this post over and over just to keep calm, haha.

  11. I feel so overwhelmed by this. I'm trying to plan my hen night and the people I thought would come are dropping out and I feel really embarrassed by how small it is. I have a small group of friends at my wedding but they are mainly old friends and I'm worried they're going to wonder where my newer friends are. At the same time I feel a bit guilty for worrying about numbers of people rather than whether the people I want are going.

    • I know how you feel, one of our guests keeps agreeing a 'suitable' date for her to attend the hen and stag party then changing her mind/not booking her tickets etc. We have set our last plans into action and if people don't sort out fees and fares (paintballing and minibus) then unfortunately my fiancĂ© and I will be doing something else. Hope this helps x

  12. I feel just the same. It is always helpful to know you are not on your own. I also consider myself friendless, have only 1 or 2 friends at any one time and lose touch easily. I have retained no friends from childhood. I have always avoided any sort of social gathering, especially if it centers on me and so the wedding terrifies me as all eyes will be on me. My partner though introverted like me does have lots of friends, albeit in a different country, and has almost all his childhood friends intact. I also have a rather estranged family and not very big, whereas he has an extended family. I am filled with anxiety about the wedding. I love looking at the beautiful extrovert weddings on Offbeat but do not think I could pull something like that off with my self-doubting.
    I love the fact you have come to a new understanding of what matters in life. I wish I felt I might come to the same but I doubt it. I think I have gone too far down the road to reconnect with people.
    I think a lot of people are like this than is recognized. I used to feel very sad about my lack of friends in the past. I think as a coping mechanism I just shut off and told myself I was a person who just didn't need them.
    Well enough of the therapy. Wish me luck in the wedding planning. I need it. x

  13. Sadly while it takes me a long time before I'll interact with new people I thought I was a somewhat social persons. But planning my wedding has made me realize that really I have aquentences not friends. I'm starting to panic and I've only been engaged 3 months. I don't have anyone I can put in my bridal party so I won't be able to have a bachelorette party and I really want one. There won't be anyone there when I'm getting ready to help calm my nerves. In the end I get to have the most wonderful man that ice ever met but we have just this one time to have a big party were it's all about us and our love Just thinking of my wedding now depresses me.

  14. I'm a bit on the other side of things– while I'm certainly not a raging extrovert, I have a pretty good handle on my mild anxiety these days. My fiance, though, has social anxiety paired with bipolar, both of which are under control but do make life exciting sometimes when stress or life changes are involved. Any advice out there for crafting a wedding least likely to cause problems on that front?

  15. It's like I was reading the thoughts (or, at least some of them) in my brain. Thanks for sharing, and for sharing the pleasant surprises that came with the social aspect of your wedding. Those are the best kind!

  16. I'm encountering a similar issue but in reverse – I have been with my highly unsociable boyfriend for 6 years now, we live together and plan to spend our lives together. I plan weddings for a living and love my friends, understanding the importance of having a support network around me. My boyfriend says he wants to marry me, but can't face a wedding because of his social anxiety. It breaks my heart as he refuses to even consider it.

  17. Omg! It's a relief to know I'm not alone about this. I don't speak to any of my family, my mother and father passed away when I was young and I'm THE worst friend as I just don't have to energy for socialising. My upcoming nuptials are causing a lot of stress about who to invite. I'll definitely need to read this again. I love offbeat bride. You guys alway post amazing and relevant stuff. Thank you!

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