When our wedding day was over, my new husband and I were bummed to say goodbye to everyone, but we were also looking forward to our honeymoon. I thought I knew exactly how I would feel on our trip: 1) relieved to have survived the wedding process 2) thrilled to have a ton of spare time and 3) in a constant state of marital bliss. It never even occurred to me that I might be a little depressed after “the big day.” If other brides before me had experienced this phenomenon they may have been too embarrassed to tell me for fear of sounding ungrateful, unladylike, or just downright nuts. In the interest of saving you some heartache, I’m going to give it to you straight.
They say that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Being very gentle with yourself at the end of this monumental wedding experience should help you enjoy your post-wedding time to the fullest. Even if your wedding goes 110% perfectly – which is sadly unlikely on planet earth – the dirty little secret is that even intense positive emotions mixed with seismic life changes can still result in extreme physiological stress. For example, you might experience withdrawal from the intense joy of seeing all of the people you love at the same time. It is sadly a once-in-a-lifetime experience that is all too quickly over. You also might not be ready to retire your wedding fantasies; the event you had eagerly anticipated for years is now somehow behind you.
As a result of traveling you might additionally be coping with jet lag, poor sleep, a new environment, hormonal reactions due to unusual wedding diet and/or exercise patterns, plus a loss of your daily routine. After the many months of sky-high expectations, rigorous planning, and enormous financial expense, even the little wedding disappointments can feel like a tremendous letdown. The sadness that deceased loved ones missed this important milestone might also linger.
Oh, and did I mention that at this exact juncture you may also be feeling pressure to appear ecstatic and make your honeymoon the best vacation ever? I think it’s fair to say that if a mad scientist were trying to create a nervous breakdown in a test tube… this would be a really good recipe.
Here are a few common sense considerations that might help you as you’re coming down from your wedding:
1. Be conscious about your alcohol intake. It’s easy to mindlessly order a drink with almost every meal, after all “you’re on your honeymoon!” Alcohol, being a depressant, can really aggravate the post-wedding blues. If you’re feeling anxious, minimizing caffeine also helps.
2. Get as much exercise as possible. I was glad we had pre-planned active outdoor outings into our honeymoon itinerary. General healthy habits can help mitigate the blues: lots of water, fruits, veggies, good sleep… I don’t need to go on. You’re smart people, you know the drill.
3. Pack stand-up comedy recordings and/or funny movies. Some of our favorite honeymoon memories are – ironically – from our drives between activities listening to “Greg Behrendt is Uncool” and Seinfeld’s “I’m Telling You for the Last Time.” It’s hard to ruminate on a wedding decor mishap when you’re laughing so hard that you’re snorting.
4. Call friends and family. I worried that if I called anyone they would yell back at me “Why are you calling me??! You’re on your HONEYMOON!!” Even though my husband is my best buddy, I probably would have felt less isolated if I had reached out to my other loved ones more while we were away.
5. Perhaps the most important thing is to allow yourself to just “be.” It’s ok to be really sad that it is all over. It’s ok to be disappointed about about anything that didn’t go as you had hoped, big or small, and to be frustrated with anyone who let you down. Honestly, it is totally normal to to feel like the whole wedding emotional rollercoaster somehow still hasn’t come to a halt. Be patient with yourself. Validating and relaxing into those unfavorable feelings is the most efficient way to move through the waves of any post-wedding grieving process you might experience. (I, on the other hand, spent a great deal of time banging my head against the wall sniffling “what’s wrong with me?!?!” which was not that helpful.)
6. When you get home, re-read your guestbook and all of the various notes you received from your engagement onwards. You might start to get the inkling that the love, joy and generosity of spirit you felt in the room that day hasn’t spontaneously evaporated; it really will always be with you.
So here’s the great news: this pesky post-wedding blues does pass, making it exponentially easier to focus on the vast majority that went miraculously, beautifully, thankfully RIGHT at your wedding! In the end, I am sure you will have phenomenal memories from the whole journey, as we did. Not necessarily because every single moment was magazine-worthy, but because in between the good parts – even in the midst of the parts that were really, really yucky – your partner was there for you every step of the way, reminding you why you wanted to say “I do” in the first place.