Wedding aftermath: the four stages of post-nuptial bliss

Guest post by Jessie
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Feeling pretty damn classy as we enter Stage One!

There's something very “happily ever after” about a wedding. The preparation process reads a lot like a basic story outline — the proposal kicks things off, each major decision mirrors a plot point with its minor conflicts and resolutions, and the few weeks just before the wedding are so jam-packed with bumps in the road and heightened anticipation that it can be easy to view the day itself as the obvious climax and denouement.

And yet clearly life goes on the next day, and the next day, and (one hopes) for years and years of happy married life down the line. But aside from the requisite reminders to write your thank you cards, share your photos, and review your vendors, what's a new spousal pair to think after a wedding?

How does one go from the harried existence of a party planner to the husband or wife on the other side? I've been married for a little over three weeks now, and so far I have experienced four stages of post-wedding existence…

Stage One: Relief

Even though we had months to get everything together, I still managed to wait until the morning of our wedding to write my vows. Pulling that off was such an emotion-laden experience that this stage began as soon as we walked away from the officiant and shared champagne with the rest of our wedding party. It's tough to express the range of emotions I felt in the 20 minutes between starting the ceremony and watching our sisters sign our marriage license, although the whole experience is burned into my brain in a way that very few memories are. That shaking, somersaulting-stomach feeling of completing the most important task of the day was definitely a mixed bag.

Stage Two: Euphoria

As soon as the adrenaline began to fade and I was ready to go interact with all of the guests who had come to see us, everything was god-damn pixie dust and Christmas morning! From the beginning of the reception until the end of the night I have to insist that colors were brighter, people were more beautiful, music was sweeter, and food was more fucking delicious than it has ever been in my life. After all the worries and all the effort to calibrate my expectations appropriately, I'm so thankful to have been able to forget everything that had led up to that point and just feel blissful in the moment!

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Stage Three: Exhaustion

We got a pretty solid ten hours of sleep on our wedding night, but the next 72 hours were basically lived in a daze. Aside from packing the car, driving home, eating our leftovers, and sleeping, we had barely enough energy to unpack the car, pack for our honeymoon, and go out just once to go shopping before we flew to Barcelona. Writing a lot of final checks and looking at the damage on our bank and credit card statements did little to help us feel energized. Fortunately we had planned on an additional three weeks off of work after the wedding and I highly recommend taking some time to live through this stage, even if you aren't planning to take a honeymoon right away (or at all). While being exhausted wasn't productive, and I have a pretty huge pile of wedding stuff staring at me from the dining room even now, it gave me a chance to process the huge thing that had just happened without feeling rushed into something new.

Stage Four: Acceptance

So I may have cheated and stolen this one from the end of the Five Stages of Grief, but it makes sense! After the exhaustion wore off, we would get into these “holy-shit-we're-married” giggle fits. We'd been living together for two years and dating (at least off and on) for almost four years before we got married, but we definitely felt like we had entered a strange new stage of adulthood that was still kind of hard to wrap our heads around. I'm in this stage now as I write this, an hour or so after I got the courage to look at some Offbeat Bride articles (which would have been unthinkable during Stage Three). From this vantage I can look at the things we managed to pull off that we can be proud of, as well as take a glance at some of the things that didn't go perfectly and that we can improve upon in our lives more generally (such as my propensity for procrastination).

Which reminds me, I have some Thank You cards to write…

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Comments on Wedding aftermath: the four stages of post-nuptial bliss

  1. This is essentially EXACTLY what I just went through the last almost 3 weeks! Thank you for sharing!

  2. I was hoping when I read the title this was going to be an essay on the four stages of marriage, the stages couples often go through in the first five years. From the honeymoon stage through to the independent (angry stage), to the interdependence stage to the ecstasy stage.

  3. I love this :3 I can safely say that my husband and I went through all of these stages after our wedding in June (in fact we still have post- wedding giggle fits <3). I can especially agree with the 'colors were brighter' statement… I have never seen more beautiful bubbles in my friggin life than the ones our guests showered us with post ceremony 🙂

  4. How very wise that you noted the pairing of the exhaustion stage with a honeymoon trip – or not! My couple’s wedding was last May and they’ll be leaving for their honeymoon next month, and I can attest to the exhaustion along with all the other phases. I think it’s awesome that they’ll be able to more thoroughly enjoy their honeymoon without the exhaustion and recovering from a wedding factor, yet they’re still in that post-wedding state of utter bliss. High recommendation!

  5. I opened this story wondering if the author would have experienced an adrenaline drop like I did. I would include in this ‘stages of post-nuptial bliss’ another stage, and maybe it isn’t something everyone goes through, but I would be surprised of OBB’s weren’t in this category. You see, I spent almost a year envisioning, talking, brainstorming, drawing, revising, crafting, organizing, and writing writing writing so that the words would be just right. We wrote our vows, I wrote poems for each of my step-kids, I wrote a speech that referenced Aristotle for my dear husband, accompanied by a bust of the Greek dude I found on eBay in Bulgaria. My friends prepared a dance flash mob for us; we sang until the early hours of the morning to a guitar and the complaints of security in our hotel. My husband had to drag me to bed when the party was moving outside at 3am. I just didn’t want it to be over. And my point is this: after the Sunday brunch, after some sleep, after making it to the plane for our honeymoon, there was a *crash*. It’s emotional, it’s physical, and it’s a big deal. I wish someone told me ahead of time that all the juice I was running on for months would stop. I’m pretty sure it’s from Clark Griswolding the wedding (everything’s going to be AMAZING AND MEMORABLE!), and the fact that it really, really was – but I think more women should acknowledge this for their sister-friends who have yet to walk down the aisle. Moral of the story: sleep; allow for the quiet; be still; be okay with things feeling slow. And your new marriage will comfortably unfold as you come back to life… 🙂

  6. I have had much of the same feelings, but for my part there’s one stage missing too, which actually wasn’t quite so cheery. I got to a – nothing is ever going to be this big again – stage. In this time I actually felt kind of sad, because love and emotion had run so high on the big day, that the next days almost seemed empty. My sweet husband, who isn’t the feely feely guy, cried because of this almost void that followed the euforia. We were and are so happy to be married, but we both needed a good (almost) sadness cry on the second day after the wedding 🙂

  7. I got married a little under two weeks ago and am definitely experiencing this! It’s amazing the range of emotions after actually tying the knot. 🙂

  8. We got married almost 3 weeks ago and I agree with this post so much! I had no idea it would be such a rush of energy and then CRASH! i couldnt get off the couch after the honeymoon, and its not all sunk in yet for sure! I looked at pictures, and I couldnt remember posing for some, or that a TV was on at one point! (got married in a pub)

  9. I’m sure it depends upon your experience. One thing that is really nice here is that you point out the “pixie dust and Christmas morning.” I really, really, really enjoyed my wedding day (as did our guests). I feel like sometimes there’s this idea that brides don’t or even shouldn’t really enjoy the day (not so much on OBB, though). Part of that, for me, is that we kept things super simple and casual, so there was nothing “high stakes” that could go wrong. But actually enjoying the day is so nice!

    Also … I don’t think there’s necessarily a let-down, although I don’t think it’s uncommon, either. Neither of us felt let-down. Of course, we were only engaged and planning for 3 months before the wedding. And it wasn’t elaborate. But I was pretty determined from the start that I wanted to BE married, not to HAVE a wedding, so we pretty much just had those giggle fits you mention 🙂

  10. Yup, sounds about right! I’m in between depression and acceptance– mostly I’m super excited to be married but every once in a while I think “how come no one wants to take pictures with me or hang out 24/7?” 🙂 it’s a weird place to be!

  11. The article is spot on. I went through all of those stages! However, I went through another stage: Denial.

    The next morning I woke up feeling like I was in a dream. Did we really get married last night? No way. We had spent two years plotting, planning, and crafting that I felt like there was still things we had to prepare. Things we had to do. We were crafting right up to the morning of the wedding. Which I imagine did not help this feeling. It was surreal. Even though I was ecstatic to finally be married I was also feeling sad.

    I spent so much time on the wedding that I felt lost. All that planning and energy spent on a 4 hour party…that’s it? It can’t be!

    What helped moved me through this stage was getting back into the swing of things. Getting rid of excess wedding decorations, putting our apartment back together again, planning for the upcoming school year… (I teach K-5 Theatre)

    This part of the journey was the weirdest emotional roller coaster I’ve been on. An orchestra of happy feels peppered with sad low notes. However, I wouldn’t trade any of our experiences for anything! 🙂

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