Social Anxiety and Walking Down the Aisle

How to Walk Down the Aisle When You Have SAD

Bride standing in a church.
Walking down the aisle can be anxiety-provoking for some individuals. Getty / Mark Edward Atkinson

If you suffer with social anxiety disorder (SAD), being the center of attention during your wedding ceremony may be difficult. In particular, walking down the aisle with all eyes upon you is sure to trigger symptoms of anxiety—even those who naturally enjoy the spotlight are likely to feel a little nervous on the big day.

However, with a little advance planning and careful anxiety management, you should be able to enjoy this aspect of the ceremony instead of just surviving it.

Tips such as those below are best used to complement traditional therapy for social anxiety such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or medication.

Practice Self-Care

It's generally important to take care of yourself, but even more so when you have a wedding approaching. Be sure to pay attention to yourself in the months and weeks leading up to the wedding.

Get regular exercise. In the weeks leading up to your wedding, it can be difficult to fit in exercise. It is important, however, to stick to a regular exercise schedule to keep stress and anxiety at a minimum. If at all possible, make sure to fit a session in the day before your wedding.
 

Get a good night's rest. Plan for a restful sleep the night before your wedding. Make sure to unwind before bed with a bath, an herbal tea, or a good book.
 

Don't forget to eat. With all the rushing around on the day of your wedding it can be easy to skip meals.

However, it is important to eat healthy foods containing proteins and complex carbohydrates, and to drink water. Avoid anything with sugar or caffeine—these are likely to make anxiety worse.

Have a Tailored Wedding

If walking down the aisle is causing you significant anxiety, you may wish to consider making accommodations to soothe your nerves.

Make it small. If a large audience is what bothers you most, choose to have a small wedding. You could even have a ceremony with just the two of you. Remember, it's not the size of the wedding that matters, it is the meaning of the occasion.

Change tradition. Guess what? It is not written in stone anywhere that you have to walk down the aisle at a wedding. While this may be expected in traditional ceremonies, if you and your family are flexible, you can arrange any sort of order of events that pleases you.

Plan Ahead

Starting early with your arrangements will prevent anxiety related to feeling rushed.

Make the most of practice ceremonies. The purpose of the wedding rehearsal is to ensure that everything runs smoothly during the actual ceremony. Use this time to your advantage to become comfortable with the venue and gain confidence.

Use Coping Strategies

Breathe. In the time leading up to the start of the ceremony, take the time to practice deep breathing. Breathing in this manner encourages relaxation and reduces anxiety.

Practice mindfulness meditation. Develop a meditation practice that will carry you through the ceremony. Learn how to be aware of your thoughts and feelings without letting them take over.

Practice visualization. Imagine yourself confidently walking down the aisle. Do this enough times, and your body will remember what your brain has envisioned. It works for athletes, and can work for you too.
 

Focus Outward

While many people focus on the bride at a wedding, it is also a time for everyone to socialize and chat. Encourage feelings of community rather than "showmanship" with the following tips.

Focus on your partner. As you walk down the aisle, focus your gaze on your partner instead of the guests. If your partner is aware of your anxiety, arrange a signal beforehand that can be done to relax you, such as a wink or gesture.

Use eye contact. Instead of avoiding the eyes of others, show others that you appreciate their presence through kind attention. You don't have to say anything; smile and your eyes will convey the message.

Move beyond yourself. Above all else, realize that your friends and family are there to celebrate with you, not judge you. If despite all your best efforts, anxiety overcomes you at the last minute, go easy on yourself. Chances are that your symptoms are not as noticeable as you think.

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