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How to Cope With Unexpected Wedding Changes + Printables

Let’s acknowledge it: wedding planning is usually an emotional process. Some of those emotions are great: excitement for the ceremony, joy at being able to celebrate, and happy butterflies before the big day itself. 


But wedding planning can also be stressful and even frustrating. That’s especially true when sudden changes occur during the planning process. Sometimes small changes can rankle you because you had a perfect image in mind and feel like you won’t see it in reality. At other times, even larger changes can unexpectedly affect your wedding. Stormy weather and cancellations can really throw you off guard. 


Adjusting to sudden changes is more necessary this year than ever before. All across the world, couples who were planning their 2020 weddings now have to cope with not just wedding-day choices and complex scheduling and organizing, but also a pandemic! It’s completely normal to feel disappointed or nervous during this time, as new requirements and decisions relate to the new changes in the world.


The good news? Millions of couples have gone through unexpected changes in their wedding planning process and come out just fine on the other side. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the uncertainty in wedding planning this year, know that you are absolutely not alone. It is definitely possible to cope with planning changes and still ultimately enjoy a celebration that you wouldn’t have changed a second of. 


Our friends at Zola have pulled together their best advice about dealing with unforeseen changes to the wedding planning process. They’re familiar with a lot of different challenges and emotions that couples planning their weddings right now might face. And they’ve got a ton of great strategies for coping when new changes bring up difficult emotions and hard choices. From reducing stress to accepting your emotions and giving yourself time to process, the folks at Zola have brought together a really great collection of tips, one that is especially useful in 2020, a year of nothing if not uncertainty! Dive in below.

Most couples expect little hiccups during wedding planning but when unexpected changes come it can be difficult to accept. Use these tips and printables to help process your emotions and proceed during challenging times.

woman writing in journal with a cup of coffee.
Photo by Zola

If you have spent longer than one week planning your wedding, you know that plans change. Colors, themes, food options, and songs are never concrete until the big day. Even though most couples expect these little variations, when unexpected changes come, like illness, bad weather, or even a global pandemic, it can be difficult to accept.

Whether you were forced to postpone your wedding for social distancing purposes or may have to celebrate without a close family member, changes on your wedding day might feel like a nightmare. You might be confused, sad, or even angry, making it hard to cope. If you found yourself in this position, use these tips and printables to help process your emotions and proceed during challenging times.

1. Try to STOP.


When stressful situations like changing wedding dates arise, it is important to pause before you make any big decisions. The S.T.O.P. method uses four steps: stop, take a breath, observe, and proceed, to help you process your situation and move forward with a sense of direction.

Step #1: Stop Take at least five minutes to physically and mentally take a break. During this time, it is helpful to put down your phone and try to clear your mind. Though it can be difficult to quiet your thoughts during hard times, the mental break is necessary for moving forward.

Step #2: Take a Breath Once you clear your head, take time to breathe. This step brings your heart rate down and helps you ground yourself. Try breathing exercises like the 4-7-8 method to maximize your effort. To practice the 4-7-8 method, take a deep breath for four seconds, hold for seven seconds, and exhale for eight seconds. Repeat as many times as you would like.

Step #3: Observe Now that your mind is clear and your heart rate is lower, let yourself think. Observe how you are feeling and thinking. Are you sad or angry? What thoughts keep racing through your head? Acknowledge every thought and feeling by writing it down.

Step #4: Proceed Finally, look at your thoughts and emotions and start writing down things that you need that can help you move forward. These can be physical needs like sleep, emotional needs like time with your love, or mental needs like meditation. No need is too big or small to write down.

Once you work through the S.T.O.P. method, meet some of the needs you listed, and proceed with your day.

download stop method

2. Don’t fight your emotions.

One of the most damaging things you can do during stressful times is to ignore your feelings. While numbing yourself to sadness and anger may feel like it helps, you may have a tough time dealing with them down the road. Instead, validate your emotions and own them as part of your love story. Your wedding may look different than you dreamed or might even be canceled, which can be hard to accept. Let yourself be sad, frustrated, or even angry. The quicker you accept them, the faster you will be able to move forward.

3. Practice gratitude daily.


Once you have given yourself time to process your emotions, reflect on things in your life that you are grateful for. These things could be related to your wedding, such as the love between you and your partner, or could be unrelated like your furry friend. Practicing gratitude has proven to scientifically increase your well-being, so using gratitude mapping or journaling can be a helpful coping mechanism for difficult times. Try to make time at least once per week to sit down and reflect on things for which you are grateful.

download gratitude mapping

4. Lean on your support crew.

Support is crucial during tough times. If you are facing unexpected wedding changes, don’t be afraid to lean on family or friends. Planning a wedding is hard without the pressures of changing wedding dates or locations. If you have a professional team such as a wedding planner or photographer, it may be helpful to reach out to them as well. Asking for help is sometimes the strongest thing you can do.

5. Give your brain a break.


According to a recent study, doodling and drawing can help with relaxation and focus. If the stresses of wedding planning and coping with changes are getting to you, carve out some time this weekend and do some coloring. This time for yourself can help you feel refreshed and reenergized for any tough decisions you may need to make. To increase your doodling practice, draw a thoughtful phrase or mantra. While you color, think over the phrase, what it means to you, and how you can apply it to your life.

download coloring pages

6. Make a new plan.

Once you give yourself a break and process the changes that are happening around you, sit down with your partner or support crew, and come up with a plan to proceed. Rethinking your wedding day can be painful and disappointing, but with your new coping mechanisms, it might be a little easier. To keep track of all the changes, use a change the date checklist or planning tracker. Once you have a new plan, getting ready for your new wedding just might restore your excitement for your big day.

7. Practice positive or neutral self-talk.


Whether you realize it or not, words are impactful. Whether they come from your parents, your partner, or even from yourself, messages spoken to you can deeply affect your feelings. During times of crisis, you can put this fact to use with positive or neutral self-talk. Self-talk is the words that you say to yourself whether positive, negative, or neutral. If you are feeling down during this season of unprecedented changes, practice self-talk that is positive and encouraging.

Positive phrases like “This is temporary.” or “I am loved.” can make your problems seem a little smaller. If looking at the bright side is too hard in your current situation, start with neutral self-talk. These phrases are informative but are neither positive nor negative and can help you stabilize during trying times.

download neutral self talk mantras

Wedding changes can come in all shapes and sizes. The weather might be less than desirable or the COVID-19 pandemic can force you to change your date. These changes can be hard to plan for and even harder to accept. When unexpected changes are thrown at you, use these skills to cope and learn to accept these changes as a part of your beautiful love story.