If there’s one thing that all couples know — even before becoming engaged — it’s that wedding planning and stress are a package deal. Whether you’re engaged to be engaged or in the home stretch after multiple years of planning, all of the work that goes into organizing your nuptials doesn’t just have an impact on your savings accounts — it can also hit you in the bedroom.
That’s because the time before a wedding can be one of the most stress-filled times in your life and each person deals with pressure differently. While some completely shut down, both mentally and physically, some go the complete opposite and struggle with shutting down their minds at all, especially at night. Whether it’s being driven insane by in-laws’ seating chart requests, different shades of ivory linens, or from pre-wedding jitters, many engaged couples find themselves too tense to sleep let alone release their tension elsewhere if you catch our drift.
So we chatted with several couples, both newly engaged and recently married, about how wedding planning impacted their sex lives. These couples got real with their intimate experiences, what they did that worked or didn’t, and what advice they have for others. Not everyone immediately realized their struggles, knew what was causing the decreasing spark at night, or went through difficulties at the same stage but looking back, each one could pinpoint a serious factor.
Don’t be afraid to seek help from a relationship counselor.
Unfortunately due to COVID-19, Andrew C. and his wife-to-be have been dealing with the added stress of canceling their original wedding plans and it has taken some time to recover from this added layer of stress. “We both agree that since our wedding had to be cancelled, things have not been the same inside of the bedroom … the recent events have introduced a lot of turmoil into our sex life,” he says. He admits that as it felt like every roadblock was being thrown in to keep them from making it to the altar, they started to worry maybe it was a sign? It was hard not to question if they were even meant to be together “as the world somehow prevented us from what was meant to be the happiest day of our lives so far,” he says.
Looking back, Andrew now believes the slight financial burden they’ve experienced during planning may also be influencing their current “situation”. “But our minds are set to do whatever it takes to pull ourselves out of this rut, and are currently meeting with a relationship counselor every two weeks to assist,” he says. “While the sexual nature of our relationship has been affected, everything else is going perfect … so we really hope to figure this all out soon.”
Have a frank conversation about wedding-planning responsibilities.
The stress of wedding planning can get to anyone, so Sandra Larson wasn’t surprised that worrying over the meticulous details started to get to her. “Even with my sister handling everything for me, I found it hard to relax—thoughts of everything that could go wrong kept me awake for months,” she says. “Surprisingly, my husband wasn't as worried about the day—everything was 'going to be fine,' he always said.”
The only problem? “Of course, by everything, he forgot about our sex life at the time,” she says.
It took a while before Sandra noticed how the wedding planning process was directly affecting her sex life. It wasn’t until the topic came up over lunch with a friend when her pal brought up how their wedding planning had affected her sex that Sandra had a moment of pause and self reflection. “My groom didn't bring it up before then and we only talked about it when I asked what he thought about our sex life,” she says.
This chat was a solid two months into planning because Sandra explains that for them, it wasn’t a major drop off in sex. Instead, it was a slow decline which is why she thinks they didn’t immediately notice. “The first month wasn't as bad because we did have sex, but the spark was slowly fading away,” she says. “I wasn't mentally present most of the time, and sex wasn't as satisfying as before. During the second month, things got worse, and we barely had sex at all.”
Luckily, they had “the conversation” before things could get any worse and they could face it head on. “We agreed to be as equitable with our responsibilities and trust that the day would turn out great,” she says. “Of course, the worries didn't varnish all of a sudden, but the discussion got us back on track.”
The pair was also “committed to throwing in a few new sex positions and using sex toys more during sex,” she says. “For sure, these changes brought back the spark and got me to relax more.”
Looking back, Sandra is thankful for her friend who brought it up— and she later found out that she did it on purpose because she knew from experience what Sandra might not have even realized could be happening. “It's very easy to lose track of the wedge that comes with wedding planning stress,” she says. “I was too worried about the wedding, and the stress affected the quality of the sex.”
Don’t put your favorite activities on the back burner in favor of wedding planning
Jay Shifman says that he and his wife didn’t realize at the time just how much their sex life was being impacted during wedding planning because it wasn’t what they were focused on during such a stressful time. As they were planning their nuptials for up to 250 guests, it became overwhelming and they decided to hire a wedding planner. Although Jay says she was wonderful, they didn’t hire her full service and instead mostly just worked with her in the final stretch as well as weighing in along the way. “So we did a lot ourselves and a few of our vendors were incredibly difficult,” he says. “Add in families weighing in from all over the country.... Anyway, it adds up to a lot of stress. Add to that the regular life stressors and to say it’s a mood killer is an understatement!”
But it’s this stress and “distraction” that kept them from starting off their life together connected both in and out of the bedroom. “The thing is, looking back, I wish we had spent more time on the passions of our relationship,” he says. “Our first year was a bit tough. Year One can be hard for some couples and we fell into that camp.”
Thankfully, they were finding Year Two to be way much better as they got “the joys” of their relationship back — until COVID-19 hit, that is. “If the surveys are to be believed, which I think they should be, we are not alone in seeing our, let’s say interest, in sex diminish,” he says. “It’s totally unfair for anyone to ask EVERYTHING of their partner. And during COVID-19, our partners have often been forced to be everything.”
That’s because there’s no going out with the guys (or girls) to watch a game, to go shopping with, or to hang out with. “Our partners have been our lifelines, which sort of prioritizes things,” he says. “Sex has been pushed down on that list.”
And looking back, that’s exactly what he wishes they had known during wedding planning. “I wish someone told us, ‘Hey, take a weekend off. Get out of town just the two of you. No focusing on the wedding,’” he says. “Go explore a new city and get back in touch with yourselves and each other. Also, don’t rush it and enjoy your engagement time. And enjoy the remaining newness of each other.”
Don’t overlook the importance of the engagement period and share what you’re feeling.
Jay’s wife, Lauren, agrees with their husband that their problem wasn’t a lack of dividing up responsibilities or anything like that — it was not realizing that their sex life was actively being effected. “We had designated ‘phases’ in which we focused on planning for a period of time and then took planning-free breaks to decompress a bit,” she says. “Even still, I don't think we realized what a toll it took on our relationship.”
That being said, she has two main pieces of advice for currently engaged couples: “relax and don't rush it” as well as “pay attention to what comes up during the engagement period.” She cautions brides- and grooms-to be to be aware of what you’re feeling instead of pushing it aside or letting everything else drown it out. “In all the excitement, it's easy to sweep things under the rug or assume you'll deal with them later. Don't,” she says. “I have a significant history of sexual assault, and while we were engaged we started to notice some of the ways it was impacting our sex life. I, and we, didn't give ourselves enough time and space to address it before the wedding, and we paid for it in the first year.”
Lauren admits that because of this, they are still dealing with it now instead of enjoying wedded bliss. “This is the same story with some of our communication breakdowns: We noticed them during our engagement, chalked it up to stress, and didn't really deal with it like we should have,” she says. “By neglecting the hard relationship work, we set ourselves up for a really difficult first year of marriage.”
Have an open conversation about your sex life.
Both Michelle G. and her fiance have been married before so they tried to use their previous experiences to their advantage. “This time, we are more aware of what to expect, what not to let occur, and how to still enjoy time together,” she says.
So when talking to her groom about the topic of wedding planning stress and sex, they were open and honest with each other. “We both shared that it definitely was a factor in our previous marriages. But we didn't know it was happening at the time,” she says. “We both just thought at the time that we didn't have very active sex lives to begin with.”
At the time of her first wedding, planning had become an active part of her schedule. The problem was that she was “more focused on the planning of the day than focusing on the relationship, so I had a huge part to play in the lack of sex during this time,” she says.
This time around, they are both focused on building and creating a strong bond that doesn't carry the weight from previous relationships. Having this in mind, they are opting for a very small, intimate wedding with a luxury honeymoon. This will be a first for both of them as neither were able to enjoy a honeymoon following their previous weddings. “The honeymoon will be a few days in a destination close to home where we can splurge on beautiful accommodations, delicious meals, and just have time to enjoy each other,” she says.
All of this was planned intentionally as they are “more focused on their partnership and less on the day” this time around. “We acknowledge there is a joke around sex with marriage that once you get married, the sex stops and we're both well aware — but openly discuss our sex life to ensure we won't become a statistic,” she says. “We know what's important, and we acknowledge what we both need to ensure we continue the relationship to be in a strong, healthy place.”
Share wedding-planning-related tasks.
Addys Guerra doesn’t regret marrying the love of her life in 2018. However, she does have one sincere regret: the wedding planning process. “I naively thought that I could plan my wedding with the help of just MY mother,” she says. “She had a friend who provided party supplies. I thought that was all we needed, ‘What could go wrong?’”
But unfortunately, Addys admits that wedding planning ended up taking a huge toll on her and therefore, her relationship with her significant other. “I was constantly stressed out, constantly working on wedding invitation designs at work on my work computer, constantly going to party supply meetings, tastings and MUCH, much more...let alone the invitation list,” she says. “My sex life was basically nonexistent at this point due to all the stressing so I feel like I really WAS a virgin on our wedding night!”
It all compounded to the point where by the time she was in the home stretch of wedding planning, she started having doubts about whether she should even get married or not. “I was very stressed out and I thought it was due to the relationship and not the situation,” she says. “My partner agreed to not stress me out at all during the last four weeks before the wedding.”
So instead of tackling final accommodations together, Addys explains that her groom would just plain avoid her whenever he saw her in the weeks prior to the wedding. “Fortunately, I was wrong because after the wedding happened, everything went back to normal,” she says. “Our sex life resurrected from the dead a few days after the wedding, after we both had some rest.”After looking after everything with fresh eyes — away from planning chaos she realized the most important thing: “I was married to the love of my life and the perfect person for me,” she says. “I'm not sure anyone else could have understood me during this time.”