Ask Erin: I Need Help With My Post-Wedding Shame

How to cope with a less-than-perfect wedding day.

She’s made all the mistakes, so you don’t have to… Ask Erin is a weekly advice column, in which Erin answers your burning questions about anything at all. 



Q.

Dear Erin,

My partner and I recently got married after ten years together. We decided on a smaller wedding for budget reasons (and sanity). We did have a wonderful day with close friends and family, despite some rain and other mishaps. I was never one to obsess over weddings, and our planning was not extensive; however I am one to obsess over the past. I felt great the day of, but the "hangover" (not just alcohol related) was pretty awful.

This wedding happened months ago, but I still feel absolute shame over the event. A handful of people could not come at the last minute due to family emergencies, weather, etc., and a lot of folks left early in the night which left an embarrassingly small dance crowd. I was also so absolutely horrified to be the center of such attention, so I hardly remember our ceremony as my mind was a blur (which makes me really regretful).

I slouched in all the photos. Nobody sat in the front rows at all, so the photos show a bunch of empty plastic chairs, which looks awkward. There were no sunsets, a good friend was missing, two people no-showed entirely, and my bra strap is showing in one photo. These were just some of the things that felt very "less than." 

I know people experience some type of letdown after weddings, but mine was not because there was no more planning (I was thrilled that was over!). Mine was all related to thinking it was just inadequate (despite having a wonderful time in the thick of the day). How weird.

Now, all of these complaints sound minor, and honestly petty (to myself included). Even worrying about this stuff makes me feel slightly weird or guilty, especially months later! 

I think (one of) the real issues here is that my partner and I were the centers of an event (about us!) and it just wasn't "good enough.” I think weddings are the type of event that is so "built up" with societal expectations (even if we are aware and think we are immune to it).

But any suggestions on how to work on this very real shame (beyond guilt) that I am experiencing? 

Telling myself this is "stupid" or insignificant and to just "get over it" (my self-talk) is not helpful at all. I also realize this may go deeper than "just the wedding," however this is my current "shame event" if you will.

Thank you.

A.

I believe many folks can relate to feeling disappointed with how the details of their wedding played out. Even when people plan for low-stress weddings, there is an inevitable build-up and letdown. 

When my husband and I got married, it went by so fast. And there were minor things that we wish had gone differently, including having been able to take it all in, rather than rushing through the whirlwind of it all. 

What concerns me is the shame you feel over what was a beautiful event, mishaps and all. 

Let’s take a look at what’s really bothering you. If you dig a little deeper, I believe you’ll find that there’s something at the heart of what’s bugging you, and it has nothing to do with bad photos. 

It’s such a pivotal moment, deciding to partner up with someone, romantically and legally. Being the center of attention, it’s hard, at these type of events, to stop, breathe, and experience it. That could be what you are mourning, that you didn’t get to feel the love and joy as the day/night unfolded. 

So, how do you move past it? 

Make a list of ten things you LOVED about your wedding day. I bet you can come up with even more than that. 

Make a list of why you are happy to be married now, and another list of what you are grateful for regarding your partner and your marriage. 

I would also take the time to get honest with yourself and see if there’s something deeper. Did a family member say something about your big day that triggered this? Is it the wedding that you have second thoughts about or your relationship? I know these are tough questions, and they may be unnecessary, but with you feeling this much unhappiness, they are worth looking at. 

Lastly, is there a pattern you have with dwelling on past events and feeling shame about them? You mentioned at the end of your email that this is your "current shame event."

Patterns like this can be hardwired, like playing an old tape of lies, over and over. As bad as the shame feels, it may be familiar.

If this resonates, I encourage you to seek the guidance of a therapist, because I imagine it is affecting other parts of your life, too. Don't be so hard on yourself for what you're feeling. Rather, take the time and space to get clear on what it is that's actually upsetting you. 


If you have a question for me about relationships, boundaries, friendship, sex, letting go, Cerussite, reproductive issues, or anything at all, use the contact form below or email me at rarelywrongerin@gmail.com. As always, your anonymity is golden. xoxo

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