You’re planning a wedding and you’re so excited to bring so many of your friends and family into one place to celebrate with one hell of a party. It should be fun, right? Yet somehow you find yourself constantly stressed out. To make matters worse, everyone around you is acting weird. Once you start considering your friends’ and family’s opinions, things can quickly get even more stressful and complicated.
The problem actually isn’t you. The problem is what marriage represents. Not just to you and your friends and family, but also to the world.
Jesse Kahn, founder and director of the Gender & Sexuality Therapy Collective in New York City, is a therapist who likes to get to the root of things. “Marriage and wedding planning both have long legacies of what they’re supposed to look like,” Jesse says. “Ask yourself what are the stories you have about relationships, long term relationships, weddings and marriage.”
In this interview, Leah and Jesse discuss how you can determine where your feelings are coming from, how you can communicate your wants and needs, and how to make sure your wedding day is more about what you want and less about what everyone else wants.
Figure out why you’re feeling what you’re feeling.
There’s always subtext to the issues you’re dealing with when you’re planning a wedding. Jesse says the solution is to “get curious and ask yourself those questions.” It’s hard to communicate in a calm and loving way when you haven’t gotten to the root of what’s causing your emotions.
To really ask yourself why you’re feeling a certain way, Jesse recommends taking a few minutes to ground yourself and write it out. Here’s his process:
Take 5-10 minutes to ground yourself. Do a short meditation or a few minutes of a breathing exercise.
Sit down with a pen and paper and write out what you’re feeling. Write down everything that comes to mind. Give yourself enough time to get to the root of why you’re feeling these emotions.
Once you’ve figured out what’s actually causing your emotions, you can communicate better with the people around you.
Bonus: set a code word with your partner so you can ground each other when emotions start going haywire. A sweet and light code word can help take you out of the moment and remind you to consider the actual reason you’re upset.
Talk to a therapist… even if you don’t think you need it.
Jesse highly recommends pre-marital counseling and therapy, and he emphasizes that relationship counseling shouldn’t be a last-ditch effort. Therapy isn’t just for couples who are struggling. A good therapist can teach communication skills and help facilitate listening to each other and really hearing what your partner is saying.
Therapy often uncovers insecurities or narratives that we’ve told ourselves about us or our partners or families. Find a good therapist before you’re struggling so you can avoid getting too deep in your emotional narratives.
“Our culture doesn’t teach people how to listen and be heard and have long-lasting relationships and intimacy. A lot of people don’t have examples of what it looks like, but they’re expected to know how to do that.”
Remember that there is no “normal.”
Wedding planning can seem like such a huge undertaking, and the stress that comes from various parts of the process can feel insurmountable. There’s often stress too about what’s “normal” and what you “should” be doing with your wedding.
Jesse reminds us that there is no such thing as normal. “I can almost guarantee that there’s someone else who’s experienced what you’ve experienced,” he says. The desire to be “normal” often leads to people feeling lonely or isolated for no good reason.
“Ask yourself what the feeling of not being normal is saying to you. What purpose is it serving? What is it saying about what you think about yourself?”
Set boundaries and stick to them.
The wedding industry can feel overwhelmingly binary and catered to white, cisgender, heterosexual couples. Navigating this adds an extra challenge for folks in the LGBTQIA+ community. Add in family issues and it’s a recipe for disaster.
A good way to address this is to determine what your boundaries are and plan around them. There’s no one-size-fits-all tip for what your boundaries should be, but thinking through what’s worth it to you and what isn’t is a good place to start. To keep your wedding planning process as smooth as possible, Jesse recommends these tips.
If you’ve changed your name or pronoun in your life, carefully consider who you’d like to give toasts and play a big role in your wedding. Make sure you have people there that will really support you on your wedding day.
Activate your imagination. You might need to create something that has never been done in a wedding before. It’s your wedding, and you get to make it yours. Be as creative as you want! And don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.
When looking for vendors, look for inclusive language on their websites. Especially consider this when looking at wedding planners who oversee the whole process.
Where to find Jesse
Learn more about Jesse and his work with The Gender & Sexuality Therapy Collective connecting members of the LGBTQIA+ community with qualified therapists in New York City.
We love The Gender & Sexuality Collective’s affirmations on Instagram. “My boundaries deserve respect,” and “My pronouns are not too complicated,” are two of our current favorites.