Interview with Sharon Naylor, Author of The Bride's Gratitude Journal

Deb Ng

Wedding planning can be stressful for any bride, and staying calm is imperative. Sharon Naylor, author of 29 wedding books, took time to chat with LoveToKnow Weddings about alleviating the stress caused by wedding planning.

Journaling as Therapeutic Release

LoveToKnow (LTK): In your latest book, The Bride's Gratitude Journal, you suggest brides take time each day to jot down the things that went right. Have many brides found journaling to be a therapeutic release?

Sharon Naylor (SH): Yes, hundreds of thousands of brides report journaling is a top way to relieve their wedding stress. Brides are gravitating to journaling because they feel the need to express themselves. The act of journaling allows you to express yourself in a short amount of time and in full honesty of what you're feeling.

The key to my gratitude journal is that it gets you to focus on the GOOD THINGS, which becomes an automatic habit, keeping your perspective where it should be. You're looking out each day for the great moments to record and feel much better as a result. In contrast, brides who journal only their complaints and worries actually feel MORE stressed-out, according to a journaling study done by the University of California-Davis. Couples who keep a gratitude journal together actually nourish their relationship.

Handling Stressful Wedding Planning

LTK: What aspects of wedding planning do you find are most stressful?

SH: It's a combination of time, money and other people. It takes a LOT of money and effort to plan even a small, modest wedding, so the entire process can become overwhelming. Your to-do list is enormous at the start, all of the decisions are very important to you and to your families, and there's a big emotional effect when you stop to think about the marriage and the future. Add in all the different types of personalities you have to deal with - demanding relatives, slow-to-respond bridesmaids, quirky wedding professionals, and your normally calm and loving parents getting very intense and bossy. I think most brides and grooms 'catch' the intensity from others, and it builds into a giant mess of stress and confusion. Taking a moment to step away from the momentum, to journal what's going well, keeps YOUR emotions in check so that you don't snap at a parent or friend.

LTK: In your article Ten Tips for Relieving Stress, you extol the virtue of the word "no." Who needs "no" said to them most often?

SH: For most couples, it's the parents. Even though we've moved into a time when parents might not be paying for the whole wedding, Mom and Dad sure have a lot to say about the wedding. They can become consumed with doing things 'properly' according to their idea of etiquette, and according to a family standard or tradition. While some parents can be truly outrageous with their demands and threats, the more common variety is the parent who has good intentions, or truly isn't aware of the fact that they're pushing for what THEY want, rather than what you want.

The importance of "No" also applies to wedding vendors as a close second to parents. Brides and grooms, particularly younger couples, sometimes get intimidated by their wedding vendors and they become anxious about saying "No." Remember, you are the client and have every right to voice your opinion. It's always best to use a diplomatic approach, though. A simple "No, that style is not doing it for me," or "No, that's not quite what we had in mind," or "No, that's a little out of our budget," with no explanation beyond that works well. Use those phrases with grace, and you'll establish a much better, more trusting relationship and partnership with your wedding experts.

LTK: Who handles the stress better, the bride to be or the groom?

SH: That's purely about each individual's natural abilities to handle stress in general. Some people are calm in any situation, and others stress out under mild pressure. In the best of circumstances, both partners understand each other's coping styles and stress levels, and can work together to relax each other when needed. The gratitude journal can then be a shared activity for both to remind the other of how much they're grateful for…with the wedding and with each other.

Involving Grooms in Wedding Planning

LTK: More grooms appear to be getting involved in the planning process. What do you think of this trend?

SH: I absolutely love it that grooms are getting involved in the wedding plans. It's not only a reflection of the day as the COUPLE'S day, it's also a great opportunity for the couple to partner on something big, to get to know each other even better in a new situation. The wedding planning process brings up countless opportunities for communication, sharing responsibilities, allowing each other their opinions, compromise, financial partnership, presenting a united front to families and friends, and more. Working together on a wedding is not only fun when there are tasks to share - such as designing the invitations online or registering for gifts - it's a great way to shine a light on the future issues you may need to address for a happy marriage.

LTK: Does it cause more stress or arguments to have both parties making the decisions?

SH: That depends on the couple's partnering style, how they work together. I do hear more often from brides who are upset, stressed and arguing with grooms who aren't helping enough with the wedding plans. To avoid stress and arguments while partnering on the wedding plans, I suggest that you each choose one or two top priority items and discuss them. For instance, the bride might feel very strongly about the music and entertainment, and the groom feels strongly about the location. You'll agree to fulfill each person's highest priority items, and compromise in other areas. If the entertainment costs more than you expected, the wise groom won't argue about it but will pull the extra money from a category that's not too highly valued, like the ceremony décor.

Planning Tips

LTK: What is the first thing a couple should do upon becoming engaged?

SH: Think of people first, not money. Make a list of everyone you want to share your day and then plan your wedding around this most important factor. Too many people look at their wallets first and plan around the dollar sign. We know, weddings are incredibly expensive and the money fear can cloud your happiness at the outset. So start with a more important factor: your loved ones. If your guest list is huge, then you'll create your plan by deciding if you'll have both sets of parents help to pay for the wedding, moderately priced locations, or an afternoon celebration rather than a formal evening celebration. I suggest hiring a wedding coordinator for all or part of the wedding plans. So many great coordinators offer full- or partial-planning help, and they absorb the stresses of contract negotiations with vendors, keeping track of so many little things, even playing mediator in conflict with parents or experts.

LTK: What are some common mistakes made by couples planning a wedding?

SH: Anything that can be regretted afterward, including losing control of the budget and getting deep into debt, handing control of the wedding over to bossy parents,, worrying about what other people will think, not following good etiquette and hurting relationships with those around you, losing perspective and focusing too much on the small details while forgetting about the larger meaning of the wedding. What other tips would you like to offer engaged couples to help alleviate some of the wedding stress?

Get away from the wedding plans! Plan nights out, weekend day trips, watch funny movies, spend time with positive-minded friends, make great meals together, go for walks and exercise - all with a strict rule that there will be NO wedding talk allowed. Plan these wedding-free moments 3-4 times a week so that you remember who you are as people, and as a couple. You need to step off the wedding rollercoaster to relax, enjoy each other, regain your perspective, and fill your life with positive things other than wedding topics.

Books by Sharon Naylor

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Interview with Sharon Naylor, Author of The Bride's Gratitude Journal