We've all seen the photos: black rivers of mascara streaming down the bride's cheeks while her groom is gulping for air like a fish out of water. It's not the most elegant look.
It's also one of the most common concerns that my couples have about their wedding ceremony: "How do I stop myself from ugly crying?"
The good news is that there are steps you can take to 'minimize the damage' (and embarrassing snotty snorts) as you're reciting your heartfelt vows in front of your nearest and dearest.
But first, a disclaimer: I've heard of several approaches that, in my humble opinion, are pretty extreme. If you honestly believe that being sedated with medication or pinching yourself mercilessly is the way to go, then the following will not be of interest to you.
But, if you are just a little anxious and would prefer not to drown in your own tears of joy on your big day, then please read on!
Step 1: Assess past performance
Are you a 'keep calm and get married' type of person or are you reaching for the tissues when a baby lotion ad comes on TV?
Identifying how you react everyday in stressful situations is a virtual litmus test for your wedding day.
That said, it is not an absolute science.
Sometimes it's the bride who is the most concerned that ends up being the cool and calm one in the heat of the moment; while her fiancé dissolves into uncontrollable sobbing.
And that's the kicker, people; you just never know how you're going to react to the pressure on the big day. So once you've assessed how sensitive you're likely to be, you can start to prepare your meltdown mitigation strategy.
Step 2: Prepare
Hire sensitive and experienced wedding vendors (in particular your makeup artist, hairdresser, photographer and celebrant/officiant) who can give you some time and space to gather yourself, if needed. Look for suppliers who you can relate to and can have a laugh with and that you truly feel comfortable around. This helps to keep the mood light and manageable, rather than testing and pressured.
Consider a 'first look'. Chat with your photographer about having your photos taken in private before the ceremony. First look photography can be an incredibly romantic and practical addition to your day too, as it will free up your schedule to spend more time with your guests after the ceremony.
Design a well-padded wedding schedule/timeline with your vendors which includes extra time factored in to be with your new husband/wife, to reflect and absorb what's going on around you.
Have a thorough ceremony rehearsal with your celebrant/officiant, on-site if possible. It makes the real thing much less scary when it's the second time around.
Arrange ahead of time or put someone else in charge of supplying fresh, healthy low G.I. food to keep you sustained. Think fruit and nuts, crudités and dips. And water. Lots of it. All day long.
Great music. Sure there's the music for the ceremony and your reception, but what are you going to be listening to as you're getting ready? I love the idea of an awesome playlist of upbeat, medium tempo, singable songs, but it all depends on what relaxes you most. If Metallica tunes cranked up to 11 gives you a Zen-like sense of calm, then that's what you need to be aurally investing in.
Alcohol. While a glass of champagne or a beer can be a helpful leveller for some brides and grooms, there are others who will be swaying at the altar with that much alcohol in their system. Only you know your limits, but you also need to keep in mind the legal requirements of marriage in your state and country (you don't want your wedding to get this kind of publicity).
Should these tips not stop the deluge of happy tears, then you want to be sure that you are wearing the best waterproof mascara and setting powder that money can buy.
Have an open and frank discussion with your makeup artist at your trial and ask for their professional advice on what products they would recommend to help keep you looking fresh.
Step 3: Do this on the wedding day
When it comes to the ceremony itself, there are a few tried and trusted ways to feel more in control;
Use your safe/funny word. Most couples have a saying, 'in joke' or funny word that makes them smile or laugh. If you can feel your emotions overwhelming you, just say the word!
Distract yourself (a little). Pushing your tongue to the roof of your mouth can help to stop uncontrollable sobbing. Wriggling your toes is a sneaky way to fidget without making everyone else nervous around you and it also helps to pump blood back up to your poor little oxygen starved brain. Or just pick a point on the horizon, or your fiancé's earlobe, and concentrate.
Yogic/meditative type breathing. It's calming and can help you to focus in the moment.
Keep in mind, that your wedding will feel unlike anything else you have experienced in your life. It is a roller coaster of anticipation, joy, then relief, mixed with surges of love and pride. It's also what makes great candid wedding photography so compelling and heartfelt.
So if all else fails, just let it go.
Tears of happiness at your wedding are a natural and beautiful thing. And after 520+ weddings worth of experience, I can guarantee that you will live to tell the tale.
Thank you to Vanessa and Andrew Nguyen for inspiring this article.
Photos courtesy of Mel Boulden Photography.
Are you a crier? How are you going to control your emotions on the day? Let us know in the comments.