Bridezillas aside, a bridal meltdown can happen to anyone. It will undoubtedly be over something worthy of emotion or either a tantrum over nothing. (Though please know that being a bride or groom does not give you the right to have one or be a bridezilla.) Meltdowns can come in all shapes, sizes and reactions. Regardless, as a best lady, mother of the bride, fiancé, wedding planner or consultant, it’s best to brace yourself for the storm. Like any hurricane, no one can predict with accuracy what class it will be and how much it will huff and puff until it tries to take everyone down. As a bridesmaid (Best Lady) or whomever though, contrary to popular belief, there’s no reason to go down with the ship.
The beauty of puffy bridesmaid dresses and ill-fitted rental tuxedos is that they can easily hide protective wear like sports cups and Mylar. This is perfect if you believe that there’s this unspoken belief that a wedding party and entourage are there to absorb wedding diatribes. I disagree however; no one should ever be anyone’s punching bag. That said, meltdowns still happen and you could inadvertently be facing the storm. (If that happens just know it’s not you, and accept that you might never get the recognition of your innocence or apology you think you deserve.) Before the wedding reaches Defcon 1, here are a few ideas on how to prevent meltdowns before they happen.
- Back to The Future: When the skies are clear, but the wedding Doppler looks formidable pull a Back to The Future move. Have that person write a letter of reason to him or herself and hand it to them in the future when it’s become clear that they’ve started to veer towards the dark side. It’s really hard for someone to invalidate something they wrote during their clearest and calmest moment. It’s also much harder for anyone to argue with himself or herself.
- Quick and Easy Wins. When the shit hits the fan, nothing exacerbates a problem like dwelling on it. Depending on the person at hand, identifying an easy problem to solve or a positive element to interact with will do wonders for the nerves. It also gives that person a much-needed sense of control, which a perceived lack of control is probably what contributed to the meltdown in the first place.
- Check Yourself, Before You Wreck Yourself: Moments of clarity are hard to come by for anyone who is feeling a little heated. Straight out correcting that someone can add fuel to their fire, but if there’s an understanding and permission for a friend to give a sign to cool off it might be a much-needed chill-pill moment. Learning how to be a “cooler” without anyone knowing you’re working your diffusing magic is important.
- Find Perspective. Make your Chernobyl-level friend count their blessings. Nothing counters negative thoughts like looking to the positive (or some like to point out how much worse it could all be as a way to gain perspective).
- Isolate the problem. Sometimes letting the meltdown run its course on its own is necessary. Letting the tension settle overnight, with a nap, a serious sweat-inducing workout, during a candle-lit soak in the tub or via a binge of terrible TV can be exactly what the doctor ordered. (Beware treating the situation with a night of drinking though; alcohol is more likely to distract from or acerbate the problem unlike the other methods that help build up strength and one’s ability to cope.) The idea is to blow off some steam, relax and recuperate. Nurturing the situation is really important, such as already having the TV set to their favorite show, a blanket on the couch and a cup of chamomile on the coffee table waiting for them.
- Talk It Out. While setting up a hall for the wedding reception, the bride was looking a little dazed and confused. Everyone was hustling and bustling, demanding set up directions from the bride and it was becoming painfully obvious that this, plus the significance of the day ahead, was getting to be a little bit too much. Seeing this, I asked a few people to take charge, assured the bride that everything would work out and we went outside to calmly talk. Getting her away from the noise and out of her head by letting her talk it out was the cathartic moment she needed.
- On A Need to Know Basis: Unnecessary worrying is a bitch and unproductive for everyone. It’s important to exercise caution on this method, not all emergencies should be kept on the hush-hush. But small ones that could easily go from molehills to mountains might be on the chopping block. Preventing a meltdown is about picking and choosing the right battles. At a recent wedding, the caterer was an hour late and needed to set up a station for the ceremony, which was about to start. With zero cell reception in Amish country, we all agreed to NOT tell the bride. The caterer showed up in the nick of time and the bride never knew her wedding toast during the ceremony almost never happened.