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Behind The Veil: Brides Get Real About The Hidden Cost Of Wedding Planning

As more attention and concern has been given to mental health over the past few years, the trend seems to have taken its time when it comes to wedding planning. Though one of the most joyous times of a woman’s life, becoming a bride also includes a lot of stress—and most social media content glosses over it.

“I scrubbed TikTok for the better part of a year, and 90% of the content is just about saving money, what not to do and trends,” one bride recalled. “But there was really nothing about how to take care of yourself.”


Extensive research has been done on the state of the modern wedding, and the financial findings alone are enough to cause strain. According to research from The Wedding Report, U.S. wedding costs rose by 3% in 2023 to over $30,000, which is nearly half the country’s average salary. In a study of almost 10,000 couples conducted by The Knot, wedding costs in large cities like New York and Los Angeles peaked at $63,000 and $48,000, respectively.

“I feel like they're taking advantage of a happy moment,” another bride admits. “We hire photographers on the daily, we hire videographers on the daily. We know what a normal day rate is. But just because you put the term 'wedding' on it, the prices are doubled.”

The Knot’s study also includes stats that put interpersonal stress into perspective. With the average wedding including 115 guests, most couples also had at least eight bridesmaids and groomsmen. The study also confirmed that 75% of couples’ foremost concern was whether or not their “guests are well taken care of and have a good time.” All of this can put inordinate pressure on relationships—so much so that couples seek therapy.

“I don't think people really talk about things like, ‘Hey, perhaps you should be in therapy while you're doing this,’” yet another bride confesses. “Of course, some people are in premarital therapy, but I had to be in individual therapy right around the time of the wedding planning as well because it was just a burnout situation.”

In an effort to share more authentic stories about the wedding planning process, we asked four brides to anonymously share their experiences. From destination weddings to a pandemic micro wedding, here is the real tea on just how much a wedding can affect one’s mental health.

beach wedding

raisazwart/ Getty Images

BRIDE #1

There’s a lie that they tell you, that destination weddings are cheaper—they're not. The amount of money that was due upfront for things was definitely a stressor. Even with my fiancé and I collectively grossing over $200,000, I knew I was going to have to get a second job if I wanted things the way that I wanted them.

For my bachelorette, I was met with a lot of resistance from my bridesmaids out the gate. There were just too many opinions for me; it got to the point where I was so fed up with my bridal party that I had other friends outside of my wedding party helping me with things. There were even bridesmaids who were actually cool with each other at first, and now don't deal with each other at all. I also just look at certain friendships differently now.

Then there’s just way too much pressure on brides to look perfect—to be skinny, to have flawless skin, to have the whitest teeth, to have the best hair. I really feel like that was a stressor. I was trying to stay consistent in the gym; I was doing it as much as possible. I spent so much money on skincare, new body scrubs, lotions, and oils, trying to make sure that I was perfect. I also made sure I got my teeth whitened every three months. It got to the point where I was dreading getting my dress fitted because I wasn't the weight or the shape that I felt like I needed to be in order to be ‘perfect.’

"Then there’s just way too much pressure on brides to look perfect—to be skinny, to have flawless skin, to have the whitest teeth, to have the best hair. I really feel like that was a stressor."

My partner and I were in couples counseling at the same time that we were wedding planning. And I think, for the most part, he was involved as much as he was going to be. But then, he lost his mom, and the entire weight of the wedding fell on me. A couple of months before the wedding, I had a breakdown. It was too much to carry. I definitely took on this superwoman armor, and it stressed me the fuck out.

Days before we left, we had our last counseling session. My fiancé and I had a really, really long conversation about what we weren't going to allow to ruin the weekend for us. I just let it go—all the shit that upset me, all the things that pissed me off, even the things that were happening while I was there, I let it go.

A destination wedding was one of the things that we agreed on long ago. We knew that we always wanted to do that. And honestly, we had a fucking blast. For the entire process to be as hellish as it was, the weekend was great. Thank God.

BRIDE #2

Planning a wedding—especially one during the pandemic—was so stressful. My wedding was supposed to be in May 2020, and I canceled the wedding because of the pandemic. But then August 2020 rolled around, and I was like, ‘You know what? Let's just do something small.’ So, I planned my micro wedding in two weeks.

Initially, I had about 250 people that were invited to the wedding. So scaling down to just 30 people was honestly the hardest thing, and I actually lost friends because of it. Honestly, it shocked me, the entitlement that people had, and it just made me look at them differently. I was like, ‘You know what? I'm actually grateful that this happened because maybe I don't need you in my life.’

But to be honest, I think that the pandemic helped me out. With my original wedding plan, I was adding so many things onto the bill because I wanted it to look good for social media, so much so that I was racking up almost $100,000 for my bill. I had to keep reminding myself that it was one day, and spending that much money on a one-day event was actually ridiculous. I only spent $10,000 on my micro wedding, and I feel like that's pretty good. I learned throughout the process that I was being charged more for having a wedding. So, I rented out a Peerspace and I told her it was just a nice dinner for friends and family, that we were already married and were just celebrating. She had no clue that I was walking down the aisle on her rooftop.

As a social media influencer, I knew that tons of photos would be taken, and I would have to post them. I had a crossbite on my two front teeth, and I was so stressed out about how I would look in photos. So, I got Invisalign before the wedding. I also found a hair stylist quickly for my microwedding and she did my wig—but she did such a bad job. I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is so embarrassing. People are gonna see me in my photos on my wedding day with this horrible, horrendous wig.’ I had to pluck it so much more. When I got the photos from the photographer, I told him that he could not post them until I edited them.

If I could give advice to other brides, I would say make sure you do it for you and your partner, nobody else. In the beginning, there were too many people in my ear. Once I started to realize that it was mine and my fiancé’s big day, and it was just us who mattered, that's what shifted everything for me. So don't lean into the pressures of pleasing other people and social media, just do what you think is right and what you truly, truly want.

Wedding rings

Serhii Sobolevskyi/ Getty Images

BRIDE #3

The day you get engaged, there’s the attention and the immediate questions: ‘Do you have a date in mind?’ ‘Where are you gonna do it?’ And it was like, ‘I literally just got engaged, can I have one day?’ I got engaged on New Year's Eve and I didn't announce it until April—and that's because I was pressured.

I also didn't want a wedding. I didn't plan my wedding; my mom and family did that because that's what they wanted. So the venue, the flowers, the cake, they did all that because I didn't care. Back when things were going my way, I said I just wanted to do something small in a garden. The only thing I cared about was my dress because I knew my dress was going to be the main thing that was photographed. I always wanted a pink dress; I knew when I chose pink that it was going to be like, ‘Hmm, that's interesting.’

Matopeda Bride was making my dress in Nigeria. Do you understand how stressful it is doing something with somebody that lives in Nigeria? We had to find that sweet spot of time to talk because everything was done over WhatsApp. I didn't get my dress until the week before my wedding, and when I got the dress, it didn't fit. We were panicking a little bit, so much so that I forgot to buy wedding shoes. But when it all came together, that was probably what I was most proud of, because everybody said no to that pink dress and I was like ‘I don't care.’

I also had a zillion workarounds because I was not playing with these people taking advantage of brides. They rip brides off so bad. It's unfair because if you go to a makeup artist and just say you want soft glam, that's $80. But for a wedding? I was being quoted around $1,500 to $2,000 for that same $80 face. So I brought my homegirl, and she did my makeup for free. Wedding cakes were priced around the same, like $1,000 to $1,500. I ordered a white cake from Publix, it might have been like 100 bucks. My mom is a florist, so she put the flowers on the cake and then we ended up doing a cupcake tower around the side.

"They rip brides off so bad. It's unfair because if you go to a makeup artist and just say you want soft glam, that's $80. But for a wedding? I was being quoted around $1,500 to $2,000 for that same $80 face."

I also had no idea—and I'm grateful that they did not tell me—that there was tension between my bridesmaids. Once the wedding was over, I saw the text thread, and it really put a lot of things in perspective for me, because I saw who was willing, who was not responsive, and who wouldn't do things they were supposed to do. Initially, with the garden wedding, it was just going to be me and my fiancé. I didn't want a bridal party.

On the day of, I was so tired of being at a wedding that I left my reception, and I went to the back to talk to a friend. I was like, ‘This is too much.’ I really don't believe half the brides that have these big, obnoxious weddings even want to be there! I've been seeing a lot of content with brides saying, ‘Okay, this is too much. I'm gonna go somewhere and decompress.’

A bride should make sure that she is centered and has a full awareness of who she is and what she would like, and stand firm in that. Just be authentic, be you, and I think you'll be able to deal with it all a little bit better. Every time I hear that somebody bent just a little bit to accommodate people, there were always regrets.

BRIDE #4

I knew I wanted to have a destination wedding before I even had a boyfriend. I've been to destination weddings, and I had so much fun. But mine was a battle with me and my mom, because she was like, ‘Oh, your grandmothers won't be able to come and certain family members won't be able to fly.’ And I was okay with that. I was just like, ‘Well, in this instance it's about me and what I want.’

We had two ceremonies: an American one and a Nigerian one. How we saved money with two weddings was that for the Nigerian one, we didn't feed people. We were like, ‘We're not paying for two receptions.’ Normally, when you go to a traditional Nigerian wedding, they feed people at both, and it gets really, really expensive. But we did it at an all-inclusive resort, so we were like, ‘We'll do the ceremony, and then y'all can go on the resort and go get some food.’

I'm not Nigerian, my husband is, so I let his family handle all that. I ended up having to step in and be the middle man between our wedding party and his family because they wanted us to wear a certain fabric. We got all the fabric from Nigeria, so we had to get everyone's measurements and all that tedious stuff. That's what was complicated. We had to wear the geles, the headwraps, and we didn't know how to tie the geles. So I had to figure out how to get the geles pre-made for the girls because I wanted to do that. That was a big thing for me because this was my only time to have a cultural wedding.

With relationships, it's like people don't know how to not make it about themselves. People also weren't realizing that when they kept asking me for stuff, they were making my life harder. I'm in the middle of planning a wedding, and you're asking me for answers that I've already sent, which is just inconsiderate at the end of the day. I think that's the most frustrating part, and that's why you lose friends, because people wait until the last minute to do things, and they make it harder on you.

People were coming up to me like, ‘Are you having something borrowed? Something blue?’ No. Why am I stressing myself out over that? Because that's a tradition? We need to normalize people being different. Historically, if you're different, you're outcasted, but if that's what I want, I want what I want. I didn't want a garter. I didn't want to do a garter toss. I didn't do the bouquet thing or none of that. When it came to the reception outfit, people were like, ‘Why aren't you getting a dress?’ I didn't want a dress; I wore a white suit. I wore a white suit with a sexy lingerie bodysuit underneath because that's me. With some Jordans, because I'm a sneaker person.

Managing my mental health was about creating boundaries. I think I did a great job of creating boundaries throughout the whole process—I was very stern on what I wanted and what I didn't want.

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Featured image by Adriana Duduleanu/Getty Images

 

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