5 step "WIC-whiplash" recovery: how to calm down when you feel pressured from all sides

Updated Jul 12 2017
arielmstallings
5 step "WIC-whiplash" recovery: how to calm down when you feel pressured from all sides
Under Pressure diamond earrings from WordsOfDelight

Raise your hand if you're familiar with the concept of the Wedding Industrial Complex. It's often abbreviated to WIC, and it's a phrase that gets tossed around a lot by Offbeat Brides who feel like they put a lot of energy into pushing against the pressure of the mainstream wedding industry telling them that you just GOTTA do chair covers, or you just GOTTA do programs, or you just GOTTA do any number of things that of course you don't GOTTA do at all.

Then there's the flip-side of the pressure you get from the wedding industry or more traditional family members… it's that niggling feeling that your wedding "isn't offbeat enough." It's that anxiety you feel when you think you've come up with a really sweet idea for your wedding only to realize, wait… it's totally been done before. It's that feeling when you start to fret, "Does this table cloth REALLY reflect the unique and special love that my partner share? Does everything have to MEAN something?!"

Basically, you're getting it from both sides: you've got pressure to be more traditional and materialistic on one side, and on the other side, you've got pressure to be uniquer, more special-er, authentically truly meaningfully YOU-er. Back! Forth! Back! Forth! I can resist tradition! I don't want to avoid something just because it's traditional! I like chair covers! But I can't like chair covers! Everything we picked is personal! Now it feels kind of embarrassing…like it's over the top and "me me me"!

THIS, my friends, is what one reader coined WIC-whiplash (WIC-lash?). Together, we're going to take a deep breath and try to get over it.

1. Your wedding is not your marriage

Repeat after me: you are not your wedding. YOU ARE NOT YOUR WEDDING. Yes, we encourage you to be thoughtful and intentional about your choices, but ultimately it's just one freaking day out of what will hopefully be a bazillion of them. Your wedding day won't be perfect, so release your expectations!

I am settling now. And even though the word "settling" has a negative connotation, it is most emphatically NOT a negative feeling. Maybe it'd be better to say that I have re-prioritized? But semantics are just that, and I am settling — happily settling — for less than everything I want.

Nine days to go, and I am just now getting it. I am just now letting go of "perfect."

It doesn't matter if this is The Perfect Wedding. It doesn't matter if we have more soda than beer. It doesn't matter if we ask our DJs to record their mixes for us so we can play them over the speakers on the boat and save the money on renting all the DJ equipment. It doesn't matter if I am the perfect Southern Hostess with impeccable etiquette. It doesn't matter if I get new earrings, or more props for the box, or a guestbook that I like better, or finish making the dinosaurs or not. It doesn't matter if the cake tips over on the way to the boat, because I'm not going to be there to hold it upright the whole way and stress about it.

What matters is that in nine days I will stand before everyone on this earth who matters most to me and promise to love this person forever and ever.

Read more: Letting go of perfect

2. Avoid creating pressure where there isn't

Over and over again, I read posts by Tribesmaids who say they feel pressured to have a wedding that's more offbeat, more unique, more specialy snowflakey. I always remind them that while they may have family literally saying, "You have to follow this tradition," here on Offbeat Bride we never EVER say "You have to be offbeat-er." We love and celebrate weddings all along the traditional/non-traditional spectrum, and fully encourage more traditional brides to stand up and feel proud of choosing to honor their cultural traditions:

The Wedding Industrial Complex websites are crazy and tyrannical, treat you like the scum under their shoes for not succumbing to their vapid ways. Your family, friends and vendors are pressuring you and making you feel twenty kinds of wrong. You don't want all that crap, so you find a home on the alternative websites like Offbeat Bride where you feel welcomed, but like an outsider.

Sometimes you feel like the loser who only gets to hang out with the cool kids because the head cool kid's mom is making them invite you to their birthday. You're tempted to feel lame over your choices because they aren't offbeat enough, and are afraid that everyone else is judging you. You're ashamed of your white dress, you get defensive when you see others discussing how the fresh flower trade sickens them when you just got off the phone with your florist, and are wracked with guilt because you have no idea how to figure out your carbon footprint (and secretly, you don't care).

Repeat after me, ladies: You belong here.

Read the full post: Battle cry of the Offbeat Lite

3. Take a "no wedding talk" vacation

Sometimes you have to know when to say when. You have to know when to stop looking at wedding porn. You have to know when your debates about your wedding programs have gone around the bend from "I'm being thoughtful about what I want vs what I'm told I should want" to "I've spent several hours obsessing over a tiny detail and am basically being neurotic and need to STOP THIS MADNESS."

That's when you need to take a wedding planning sabbatical:

…I felt like every single conversation I had with B. was about the wedding — guest this or guest that, food this or food that, schedule this, thing that, dingbat this, thank you card that, googaw this, lanterns that — we hadn't talked normally in weeks. There was no visible strain on our relationship, but I had noticed. I do think that the fact that we've gone through this period without one fight or disagreement or even annoyance is a sign of how strong our relationship is. (Okay, a few moments of annoyance but we've been planning this for a year, so that would have happened anyway.)

Who would have thought that planning a party, even one where you celebrate a momentous milestone, would suck so much out of you?So we grabbed our friends, rented a car, and drove up to the highest mountains…

Read more: My "no wedding talk" vacation, and why you need one too

4. Focus on proactive decisions, not reactionary responses

Yes, it's always easier to say what you DON'T want your wedding to be — construction is always harder that demolition. When you plan your wedding around being reactionary and rebellious, you're just as beholden to social pressure as if you're trying to appease your traditional family members. Plan your wedding proactively, and see if you can make it less about what other people say you should/shouldn't do, and more just about what feels right to you.

Focusing on proactiveness and creativity works wonders for communication with family members, too. Instead of just hollaring, "But, Mom: I don't want a receiving line!" (which is you rejecting her), you can try "Mom, I've looked for a more engaging, fun way to interact with my guests — that's why we're getting a bouncy castle!" (Which is you agreeing with the idea of engaging with guests, and providing your solution.) Then you can stop arguing about what you don't want, and start building support for what you do want.

It's easy to be reactionary. It's much more difficult to stop griping about what you don't want, and dare to make your own plans.

Read more: Construction is always more difficult than demolition

5. Do some reading

If you're feeling it, we've got the balm for it. Our tag archives are like a big neck brace to help you get over WIC-lash:

We'd love to hear from y'all about the methods you use to cope with the anxiety of WIC-lash. How do you find the balance between "victim of wedding industry pressure" and "special snowflake syndrome"?

  1. I feel like I'm doing okay with this myself, but I just really wanted to say that I love the term WIC-lash for that pressured-from-both-sides feeling. When I hit that point, I do step away (although, admittedly, FH has had to pull me away on occasion, but he's good at knowing when and how to do it. It's part of why we make such a great team), and it's done wonders for my (already lacking?) sanity.

  2. With regards to "settling," I think a good kind of thought is to consciously choose to settle IN, rather than settle FOR. Settling for has the negative connotation, the less-than – I can't have the venue I want, so I'm settling for the community center; I can't afford to go to Antigua so I'm settling for Miami. Settling IN, on the other hand, is good, warm and cozy and safe – I'm settling in to my new house, my new job, my new state, my new marriage. I am defining this as a place where I belong. I'm settled into my venue, my catering choice, my flowers; this is a wedding where I belong.

      • Eh, as someone with a mental-health disability, I'd just as soon not see this become the tagline. Now, "intentional, practical kindness to yourself, in the face of a lot of coercive meanness"? I could totally get behind that. 🙂

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