Post-Wedding Blues Are More Common—and Potentially Serious—Than We May Think
Some people spend months or even more than a year planning their wedding. And that’s after they actually get engaged. Plenty of people start fantasizing about a future wedding when they’re kids, the anticipation building over the course of their lives until they meet someone they decide to marry. The emotional (and not to mention financial!) investment that spouses-to-be put into their weddings can be tremendous. Then the event comes and goes, which can sometimes lead to unfortunate post-wedding sadness and, in some cases, even depression.
The post-wedding blues haven’t been studied much, but available data gives some potential insight. For one, it’s most commonly experienced by women. In a 2015 survey of 28 recently married women, nearly half self-reported feeling “let down or depressed” following their weddings. A small number also reported experiencing clinical depression.
“The post-wedding blues are normal and expected and common,” Dr. Jocelyn Charnas, a psychologist in Manhattan, tells Brit + Co. “The idea of being disappointed after we have a big, wonderful life experience is also totally normal.” Sadness after an event such as a wedding, vacation, or other significant occasion is to be expected, she says, so there’s no need to feel bad if a sense of disappointment sets in after it ends.
However, these feelings of sadness can become problematic when they reach clinical levels and begin interfering with one’s ability to function on a daily basis — or cause problems in the new marriage.
A larger, 2018 survey of 152 women from their engagements until after their weddings found that close to 12 percent experienced symptoms consistent with clinical depression. In these rarer cases, seeking professional help to treat the underlying depression is recommended.
The more common experience for those who feel less-than-great after their weddings is a sense of feeling let down or sad once there are no wedding-related activities left. But feelings about the marriage, itself, can also contribute to a feeling of emotional hangover post-“I Do”. In the 2015 study, some of the newly married women who reported feelings of sadness after their weddings also reported that most of their wedding planning had been self-focused, which distracted from underlying feelings of uncertainty about the relationship.
Charnas says that, as with non-clinical post-wedding blues, true depression that follows a wedding “can [often] be tied to too much focus on the wedding as opposed to the marriage — particularly if combined with other factors like an underlying predisposition to depression or anxiety. A wedding is supposed to be the beginning of the marriage, Charnas explains, so when the wedding is thought of as the be-all and end-all of the relationship, the absence of the wedding bustle may surface normal feelings of sadness that can eventually become disruptive.
Though anyone can experience the post-wedding blues, regardless of gender, Charnas says that society puts particular pressure on women to make their wedding “the best day of their lives,” which sets up unrealistic expectations. The idea that a wedding should be the happiest day of a woman’s life also implies that they should “spend accordingly” on their weddings, Charnas says. In this way, weddings, which can and should be a joyous event, can amount to a painful financial blow for women who invest tremendously in The Big Day.
According to the Brides 2018 American Wedding Study, the average amount spent on a wedding in the US last year was $44,000. That’s significantly higher than the 2017 average, which was still a hefty $27,000. For comparison: The average tuition and fees for a year of private college during the 2017-2018 school year was $34,700, and the average rent for an entire year for a one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan runs about $37,200. The wedding industry in the US generates billions of dollars in revenue each year, which means the pressure surrounding weddings is incredibly lucrative for the business players involved.
All of these things considered, an over-focus on a wedding can be unhealthy, and for some people, results in a more pronounced case of the post-wedding blues. By contrast, focusing on the relationship and preparing for marriage tends to make for happier couples post-nuptials, Charnas says.
Research on post-wedding blues echoes these conclusions. The recent brides surveyed in 2018 who reported feeling good after their weddings also reported confidence in their relationships. These women tended to focus less on themselves, and more on their relationships while planning their weddings. Happier brides also reportedly “framed their wedding in terms of new beginnings and unexpected positive emotions.” While this doesn’t mean that post-wedding blues and depression are entirely avoidable or a person’s fault — if only mental wellbeing were that simple! — it does suggest that there are patterns that new brides and brides-to-be can be aware of.
When working with clients who are experiencing anxiety around their upcoming weddings, Charnas says she encourages them to mitigate the stress by focusing on the relationship as much as the wedding. “The marriage and the relationship are more important than the wedding, and everything stems from that,” Charnas tells us. She says that she encourages couples to take a day or two each week to totally disengage from wedding planning, and instead talk about their lives outside of the wedding and do fun things together that aren’t related to the ceremony and reception.
Charnas also adds that it can be helpful to make plans for after the wedding. For example, she sometimes encourages her clients to take their honeymoon further out from the wedding so there’s something else to look forward to and enjoy together.
While it’s normal and expected to feel sad after a huge life event is over, there’s no requirement to make a wedding As Charnas reiterates, a wedding is supposed to be about the relationship and the marriage, and not just the ceremony, party, and adjacent activities. Perhaps the best way to beat the post-wedding blues is to treat the wedding like the marker of something new, rather than a single event that defines your life.
(Photos via Getty Images)