How to fight post-wedding blues: set some goals

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How to fight post-wedding blues: set some goals
Sad Drake Stud Earrings
My wedding was a weekend-long celebration with my wife's and my closest friends, and it went beyond our expectations. We had a limited budget, tons of DIY, and were planning from out of state. It was perfect.

Now, two months after we returned from our honeymoon, I struggle to fill my evenings. I do a lot of puzzles: they have a knack for making me feel orderly and in control. I've finally caught up on many of the books I've been wanting to read. But what do I want to be doing after work? Writing envelopes, emailing the photographer, putting together favors. Oh, and getting pregnant. Wedding planning had taken my mind off the extreme desire to have a baby, but it's back in full force.

My wife and I are relatively new to our city, and haven't made many friends yet (I think two?). I hate exercising, but am going to try to find a class. I should clean the house, but that's no fun. And I'm not a very crafty person; my wife's the one with the Etsy store.

This really has thrown me for a loop. So I'm asking any other Offbeat Brides who've stuck around the site after the big event — am I crazy? Am I pathetic? Help? -Jacqueline

You are not crazy or pathetic. You're a recovering organization-under-pressure accomplishment junkie, and as hard as the wedding was, you totally got a rush from that intoxicating combination of preparing, celebrating, designing, and social engineering. Wedding planning can create a temporary autonomous zone of other-worldly emotional and logistical highs and lows. It's creative in a way that many of us don't really allow ourselves to recognize (I'm not a very crafty person, you say — but your beautiful wedding looks like a creative expression to me). For those of us who are right-brained, the spreadsheets and budgets and ticky-box checklists can be sickly satisfying. For months (or years, for some folks) you work through all these little challenges and then! At the end! THIS HUGE THING HAPPENS. Fuck yeah, accomplishment.

Of course I'm speaking from personal experience here. I love organizing (little things in boxes, relationships in my life, time management) and so for me, wedding planning was fun. I'm a planner! I like planning! When all the planning was done, and I'd gotten an A+ on my science fair poster — er, had my wedding, I took a deep breath, pulled out a blank piece of paper and was like WHAT'S NEXT? LET'S PLAN THE FUCK OUT OF SOMETHING.

For me immediately post-wedding, it was my career. I wrote my book in late 2005/early 2006, while also working a full-time editorial job for a movie website owned by Disney. I managed my time down to the 15-minute-increments sometimes… and enjoyed it. That's just how I am. I like being busy. I like getting excited about stuff.

And, if you miss your wedding planning, it sounds like you miss being that excited about something. You miss working toward this one, rather large, rather important goal. You could focus that energy into planning other events/parties. Certainly, many people who work in the wedding industry are former lovers of wedding planning. If you literally just want to keep doing weddings, then maybe it's time to look into establishing yourself as a wedding planner.

Alternately, some folks get into entertaining, in the home-making sense. My friend Helen Jane continues to throw the most amazing special parties in the years after her wedding — it's just what she does. She likes hostessing and entertaining. If you liked throwing a wedding, you might too. When it comes to home-making, decor and entertaining and designing can definitely give you a hit of some of the same wedding-planning highs. (Hence…, another one of my many busy projects.)

And of course exploring family, in its many shapes and sizes, becomes a priority for many. For me, obviously, it becomes publishing websites about the other things people do. (HA!) For lots of us it's career or school. For some of us it's a combination of several of these combined.

Sad bride doll from Etsy seller MaidInTheDark
Sad bride doll from Etsy seller MaidInTheDark

For those who AREN'T busy-body Must Always Have A Project people, sometimes it's just chilling the fuck out and coasting for a while. That's cool too, if it feels good. I worry when people coast unhappily (“Don't really like what I'm doing, don't have the energy to change it, but have just enough energy to complain about it…”) but as someone who has trouble relaxing, there's a measure of envy for those who can happily find a groove and ride it.

But! For those of us who get restless, whether it's at-times misguided ambitions, a near-puritanical craving for accomplishment (I! DID SOMETHING TODAY! I CAN SLEEP WELL! I think of this as so exhaustively American), I think it's critical to address the post-wedding blues with a big fat dose of being quantifiably busy.

That quantification is key — part of the delicious high of wedding planning is that you're working with some very hard numbers. A date. A budget. A number of people on your guest list. The structure that framework is part of what makes it satisfying. You're not just “doing puzzles,” you're setting up an epic self-challenge to master X puzzles in a month, combined with some sort of daily documentation. Maybe it's writing that book, or managing the organization of some big charity function/fundraising event where you're wrangling a volunteer staff of 20, or maybe it's collecting some odd obscure thing and dorking out about it online with other obscurity-fans and then going to a convention to further dork out over your obscure things.

New projects and goals need to be very specific and completely achievable. Like a wedding, you need some clear numbers to work with. “I will BLA this WHATEVER using only my teeth and wit by THIS DATE.” Weddings make you do that. When picking projects or new activities or goals, it's easy to be too general about it.

“Now I'm getting in shape,” you mutter to yourself on New Year's Day. What does that mean to you? By when? Doing what? What tools will you use? What's your ultimate motivation? When will you know when you're done?

With post-wedding goal setting, you have to be as specific about your goals as you were about your wedding plans. Have a spreadsheet. Get your friends involved. Give yourself clear goals and measurable, quantifiable accomplishments in sight. Create a structure that allows you to again tap into the sick high of wedding planning.

There's my Rx: if you're feeling post-wedding blues, start to quantify your goals and get very, very busy.

Also, come on over and join us over at Offbeat Home & Life. It's like Offbeat Bride for the rest of life… and might help with the post-wedding blues.

So — what goals are YOU working toward?

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Comments on How to fight post-wedding blues: set some goals

  1. Where was this post 3 weeks ago? 🙂 I’m glad to see I’m not the only one struggling with the post wedding depression (exacerbated by my regular depression and guilt related issues). It’s been hard…but I’m trying to refocus on my photography – business or not. I’m not quite back to the spreadsheet stage, but I’m giving myself a break and trying to chill, which is tough for a total type A organizer type. Can’t wait to see what everyone is up to!

    • This sounds so totally like me – hence the late-night rambling I sent Ariel, above. The depression, guilt, and type A – good luck!

  2. Not sure what you do for a living (so this might not be the best idea), but when I get antsy, stressed, or bored, take a walk- even if it is only a block or two, with your new wife too. It helps add connection, gives you time to think, reflect, relax, and connect while doing something you don’t pay attention to. While outside, thinking or talking, something will come to you and in the meantime, you don’t have to stress about it not being there yet.

  3. Before I took on Offbeat Bride full time, I started a Maui wedding planning blog. I just had all this information and insight into planning a Maui wedding, using local products, that I started a blog in which to dump said info and to help others. It was fun to satiate my planning urges by creating inspiration boards based on different wedding themes and finding new products to feature. Pretty soon I was getting emails from brides all over the world who were planning their own Maui weddings. I got to help them out and made a few new friends in the process, while also still getting to “play party planner.”

    Now, I work here and I have yet another place to offer up all my wedding knowledge. I just feel bad for Aaron — he so hoped to be done with all things “wedding” once the party was over. Boy was he wrong. 😉

  4. One option is to make the most of your free time getting to know your new city! I lived in DC for two years (I’m still about 45 min away) and there’s a ton of awesome, cheap stuff to do! I planned a bucket list before I moved, and only did a fraction of them. If you’re having a baby soon (btw yay!), now would be the best time to explore.
    Examples: Woolly Mammoth- pay what you can shows before every run; Grey DC-underground foodie farmer’s market; Kennedy Center- free shows every day. You’re a planner, I’m sure you can find more.
    On top/instead of a class, you can also join groups to meet new people, like Ecowomen or whatever else floats your boat.

    • I wish I was in the DC area – that’s just where the wedding was (and where I grew up); we’re living in Cincinnati now. Still lots of stuff to do, once I find it!
      And the baby isn’t planned yet – thank God I can’t accidentally skip birth control. 😉

  5. One of my post-wedding goals is to run a half-marathon (which for me is a BIG deal…). Also finishing Grad School is a major goal. 😉

  6. I am waiting for this to happen to me next year. I spent May 2009 – June 2010 planning my daughter’s Sweet 15 (Quinceanera). Got engaged in Nov 2010 so started planning my May 2012 wedding. It was one big event right after the other. 3 weeks after my wedding my daughter will graduate high school, no longer be dancing on 2 competition teams and I will be in the same boat. Wondering what the heck to do with all this time I never had before. Always running around or planning something for the past several years. I may need a padded room when all is said and done, lol…

  7. Is it weird I’m actually hoping this will happen to me? Maybe it’ll give me the motivation to write that novel that won’t leave me alone. The idea keeps going round and round in my head, I think it’s called a plot bunny although I have no idea why, but I never seem to get around to actually writing it.

  8. Ariel, thanks so much for posting my…whatever that is. I’ve lately been debating going to grad school, almost just to fill time. Looks like I need to try to write a book instead! :p

  9. If you’re still in DC I’ll be your friend! I LOVE friends. Rowany is right, though, there’s tons to do for free and cheap around here. Volunteering is always great, though not quantifiable. I know at least 826DC and WACDTF are always looking for help.

    • Aww! DC is where we got married, since silly Ohio is behind the times. I wish we could (afford to) live there. If we ever do, I will gladly be your friend. 🙂

  10. OMG… I don’t even knwo how I managed to have TIME to do all of the DIY components of my wedding. Even know that it is over, I’m wondering how I’ll have time to just go on with my life (I have three jobs and Etsy shops). As much as loved working on my wedding and the wedding itself, it is such a huge RELIEF that it is over! Now just to get to those thank you cards and posting the web pics on our web site…. *grumble, grumble*

  11. “I did something today, I can sleep well” is not a totally American trait. I’d go so far as to say that that’s entirely false – living in Asia and watching how hard people work here (“it’s 9pm but I can’t go home until I finish all of this stuff on my desk”) has made me see that yes, we tend to be more fiercely competitive than some cultures, but the exhausting need to accomplish something every day is in no way uniquely “American”. If anything I feel that in parts of east Asia it’s even worse.

    (Neither is materialism or valuing money over character, two other things I’ve recently seen labeled as “American” on the Internet and had the same rant about.)

  12. today i made a pie chart with the amount of time i spend working, amount of time i spend with my wife (awake), and amount of time i spend with my wife (sleeping). they’re about equal, which is the kind of neat proof to something i already knew – this is the most balanced, least working person i have ever been. even when i’m focusing on writing, if i’m at home and my wife is somewhere in the house, i feel happier and more content than i really thought possible. even if at night she has to remind me that the fact that i feel tired and need to sleep isn’t a personal failure. which, because she’s a great wife, she reminds me over and over.

  13. Plan romantic vacations and your vow renewal. Not even kidding–much as I love nesting and home projects, nothing combines romance with organization quite like a wedding. So, I’ve decided we’ll renew our vows when we hit 5 years (just had our second anniversary, yay!). The VR will be the no-stress destination elopement we would’ve done had we not had families and friends who wanted a wedding! 🙂 (we did love our wedding, but…yeah, it got bigger than expected). Just the two of us, no stress, on a beach. We love to travel and I need a beach fix as often as possible, so we do romantic second-honeymoon type trips whenever we can afford them (thrice thus far) and I scout VR sites while we’re there because it brings me joy. I have a folder of bookmarked sites and can daydream/plan whenever I like. I have ideas about how to alter my wedding gown to be more beachy so I can wear it for the VR. Am I nuts? Who cares! It’s romantic and fun. I’d do it every year like Heidi Klum and Seal if I could, but without guests so no one feels like they have to give presents, etc. Wedding junkie for life, yo!

  14. <>

    Finally, someone has put into words what I feel every single time something I have planned is over. We haven’t even set a date yet and I’m getting stressed about the post-wedding blues!

  15. I wish this post had come about 11 months ago! I don’t really have any suggestions, but no, you’re not crazy at all. I was hit hard with post-wedding depression and didn’t start to feel myself until about 2 months afterwards. I ended up working with a counselor and just felt so stupid for being depressed after getting married. (Because it’s supposed to be a happy time!) With the wedding over, I had no big project and my job wasn’t doing it either, so I’m back in school now, which is certainly a big project to dive into. I certainly am not suggesting going back to school (unless you want to)–just don’t feel crazy or alone! I wish more people were forthright about post-wedding blues!

  16. I’m getting married in four weeks but I’ve already lined up my post wedding projects; wrtie the rest of my book and a green-space art installation for Post-Quake Christchurch. It’s been a good break from wedding planning to realise there are other communities out there that can benefit from my planning and creative skills.

  17. I got married May 21st. We got back from our honeymoon on the 24th. Right when we got back there were immediate things to do. We left with wrapping paper from opened gifts all over the floor. It was a mess. So we cleaned up the immediate things. John was off for the next two days, but now he’s back at work. I am currently unemployed, but will start working in June part time. There’s so much I can do in the apartment (mostly cleaning related) but I haven’t been doing anything. I don’t want to do anything. It’s just so hard. I feel like the three weeks before the wedding all I was doing was planning and cleaning the apartment. I’ve had a break, but I just can’t get back into the groove. I think it’s something that will come in time for me. I just have to start a routine again or my routine will be relaxing on the couch. Today I’m going to pick a room to clean and cook a great dinner. Then we’re going to the movies. Staying inside in the same place all day does not help.

    • This is exactly how I feel! I just don’t want to do…well anything. I know I should be getting everything back on track after a year of planning a wedding at the same time as we bought a house and were working on it almost constantly, but I can barely get up the energy to fix dinner. I had started up with some counseling about 6 months before the wedding to prevent myself from coming unhinged, and while before the wedding I only felt adrenaline at the plan coming together so perfectly, now I feel spent. My therapist refers to it as post-wedding apathy, and thats about right. I’m not sad, or really depressed, I just can’t imbue the things that are now on my plate with enough meaning to make them worth doing. Just past the 3-week mark since the wedding, I’m hoping this won’t last much past the 1 month to 2 month mark! Great article, and so timely for me, I came to OBB to look for advice on this exact topic!

      • Oh I am so glad I found your posts Monica and Sara. It has been a little over 2 months since our wedding and I’ve been feeling blah ever since the honeymoon. I haven’t had the motivation to do anything yet I’m not unhappy or unable to laugh and have fun as someone with general depression would have. I can’t even bring myself to decorate for Christmas. The tree is up, no ornaments! I’ll be calling a doctor tomorrow. I don’t know what it will take to get out of this funk but I hope it doesn’t last very long.

        • Laura, I wanted this to be encouraging rather than depressing.

          The week after posting the above my family received news that my uncle had been murdered. He’d been at the wedding with all of us only three weeks before. We were devastated and it made it very hard to be apathetic anymore. It took me several months to recover from that news, and different from the apathy I had been feeling I sought out joy, anything to make me feel the beauty of this world again. I went camping several times over the summer and being out in nature was balm for my soul. While I can’t remember the exact moment I began to feel better, I just want to let you know that it will pass, as all things do, and that you’ll feel like yourself again when you’re ready.

  18. I felt this way, but I was also sick of using goals to make my life feel worthwhile (in that “puritanical” “exhaustingly American” way). I think it can be a dangerous situation to try to combat an effect (blues, or more seriously depression) with the very cause it came from (an unhealthy mindset about what makes life worthwhile, aka accomplishment). I think a healthy alternative to a “big dose of busy” is making your goal be yourself. For me, this means taking the time to make healthy meals, and actually do the dishes after, to walk, and to go to yoga (investing deeply and thoughtfully in basic needs/health). I always ignored my needs in order to ACCOMPLISH and feel “good” by feeling busy. But now I feel holistically good, when I take care of myself, and it takes a lot of the same planning and time management skills (for example, meal planning for the week so that I have the right food in the house and am not tempted to eat crap). And with my well-being as my “project,” I am surprised at how much time it takes up. So, I agree, we can’t just sit on the couch all day moping. That’s no good. But I would recommend proceeding with great caution if you are selecting the next big thing to make life feel worthwhile. And if you can’t get out of your rut or do any of these things, I recommend to force yourself to just MOVE a little bit. Such as simply stretching, or walking to the mailbox. Or even just smile. These things help change the chemistry going down in your body and will help you feel more able to do something.

    • I so relate to your post.Just coming off a busy intense wedding which came together in four weeks! Cried yesterday ,such a roller coaster of emotions!

  19. i’m finishing grad school at the end of this year, then furiously planning for wedding in June – i’m really hoping i still have some part-time work after that as well otherwise i’mn totally going to be in this position. might bookmark this post for later!

  20. Since I have gotten pregnant I have discovered a dozen different things I want to have done before the baby gets here. And I don’t have nearly enough time to do them all. Since you’re not only jonesing for a project, but also for an offspring, start thinking about what things you might have on a to do list that you won’t have as much time for once the baby finally is in the schedule. If what you’re doing is “preparing for baby” then it might also help take the edge of that desire as you can feel like you are actively working towards being ready for his or her arrival.

    Here are some of the things I have found myself with the sudden motivation to accomplish:

    * my wedding album (I put my own together on blurb and it’s taken me over two years to get it done)
    * a family cookbook with my extended family (maybe your family by choice would appreciate an equivalent – especially if you do group meals:
    * Age appropriate children’s books about my child’s namesake (since Jews traditionally only name after the deceased, him actually knowing his namesakes is impossible – but I still want him to understand who those people were)
    * Organizing the house! (Offbeat Home is a great inspiration for this. I don’t know about you, but two years after moving in, we still had tons of stuff that was either still in boxes or had no real place of it’s own. Children come with a giant influx of stuff. If what you already have is unorganized, adding even more can seem overwhelming!)

  21. I am feeling very lucky that I have so many things lined up to deal with after the honeymoon. That, and part of me is panicking because I just want to do nothing for a while.

    OBT Mod. Like Megan, my dude thinks the wedding stuff is over. Hah.
    My PhD dissertation. *cringe* It’s been neglected and I have a ton of work left to do.
    Dude wants to get back to his art studio and comics which means I’ll be busy because I write and craft so I could actually put things into that. We may get a table at a craft festival next summer so I need to be helping make things.
    Jewelry class for a month, learning how to enamel.
    Hopefully a new job soon.
    Getting the dude settled in the house, possibly some painting, getting the backyard set up.

    Yeah, I don’t see me lacking for things to do. Apparently I’m like Ariel. lol.

  22. A friend sent me this page after I told her I was experiencing the post wedding blues. Thank you. Good stuff to read here.

  23. i’m happy to see this post. all of the other articles online about post wedding blues talk about the woman having unrealistic expectations of marriage, and for me, that is NOT the case!

    this blog hits the nail on the head. i’m a week and a few days post wedding, and i have SO MUCH extra energy. not even roller derby practice is enough of an outlet for it, so i’m losing my cool, losing my temper, and i just need something to do! ha.

    great blog. 🙂

  24. I didn’t take the time to read all of the comments, but I just wanted to put it out there that maybe some of that energy could be channeled towards charity work. Sorry if that has already been mentioned. With a passion for tackling hard projects on limited funds you may be able to contribute in a very meaningful way to a charity 🙂 There are so many super important charities and causes out there that could use another pair of helping hands…

  25. Well um hrm. After having a really unkind reaction to one of my friends blog posts, I realized that yeah, this is depression. I’m grumpy, I sleep a lot, I’m having issue with my self confidence, I’m grumpy, The Field in which I grow my fucks is barren. I did set goals after the wedding. Well I was going to take time off and do a bunch of behind the scenes things on my business. I’ve come to realize that I haven’t done some of those things because the goals weren’t specific enough. The one goal I set has already happened and then some. I had backed off the effort on my business then took 2 months off to do my wedding stuff. My one solid goal was to get the traffic back to my online presence back. One month and GOAL! So I think I need to sit and decide some stuff I need to do and how to work toward it. I have a reading list a mile long, but because it’s a mile long it’s overwhelming. Perhaps a better daily schedule is in order. I’m glad I came here to see if others felt this way. Perhaps a journal article is in order. The more stuff people can see about this the less alone they may feel.

  26. I struggle with the “What next?” constantly – and I haven’t even gotten married yet! Life goals, big or small, are things I focus on, things I aspire to do and have, because the hum drum in between is rather dull and so-so. I plan out things months and years in advance – birthday parties, weddings, holidays, trips to theme parks or friends interstate. When there is “nothing to look forward to”, I become extremely restless. I desire the planning stages and the satisfaction of a job well done. My fiance has begun asking me, as our wedding date looms near, what will I do with my time? How will I spend my evenings, if not perfecting the ceremony or redesigning the invitations?
    Thankfully, I learnt this about myself years ago. I have “plans” in place until we begin a family, knowing full well how stir-crazy I get when I find myself with nothing to do, to plan, or to look forward to.

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