Depending on your personality style, planning a wedding can be fun and exciting, daunting and stressful, or like most things, somewhere in between. There are certain aspects you're bound to like (who doesn't want to participate in the complimentary cake tasting?). And there are parts that are less thrilling (making a budget and actually following through with it). When you start the process, and lots of the larger decisions are being made you probably feel ok (maybe even excited?), but what about towards the end, when all the little details start piling up?
Some couples start to feel tired, distant, maybe one or both of you "just don't care" anymore. This seems strange... everything is pretty much done and NOW I'm to the point where I couldn't care less? What you're experiencing is most likely decision fatigue. This more modern psychological condition stems from making a multitude of choices over a period of time and depletes the brains executive functioning resources (Vohs, et. al). This means that our ability to reason, think critically, and make future decisions becomes impaired.
You may be thinking..."wait, I make decisions everyday. This is not new to me." The difference between the everyday decisions you make, and the crazy number of decisions and tasks that have to be completed before the wedding is that they are in ADDITION to the normal, everyday choices, as well as they often feel like they carry an added sense of pressure. Another interesting notation about decision fatigue, is that it becomes more prevalent the more choices you have. For example, if you have to choose between three flavors of cake, two fillings, and two icings for your wedding cake, it will be a lot easier to make the decision than if you have to consider seven cake flavors, 10 fillings, and five icings. It's pretty simple to see here that the brain just has to work harder to make the decision using the second set of options.
"So what actually happens to my brain?" When decision fatigue sets in, your brain starts taking short cuts when you see them. According to New York Times author John Tierney, short cuts might include being reckless (you eliminate thinking about the consequences) or you decide to take no action (ignore the decision entirely). Our brains only have so much energy. Thinking requires energy, and when we make decision after complicated decision, we end up empty, used up, depleted. This could result in irrational decisions that don't make sense, or leaving things unfinished. In relation to weddings, this could mean you end up registering for unnecessary gifts, skipping the rain plan, or forgetting to make your own hotel arrangements!
Certainly some decisions matter more than others, so how can you make sure to avoid decision fatigue, or at least make sure that the most important decisions are made when your brain is functioning at its peak? See the quick tips below:
1. Make the biggest/most important decisions first, and if you can, in the morning! Decision fatigue happens when we make decision after decision, so it's the later ones that suffer. Make the decisions that are the most demanding first, that way they don't get ignored when your brain says "I'm done."
2. Spread your decisions out. You do not need to book your photographer, DJ, caterer, and flowers on the same day that you register for gifts. Take your time and make a schedule that spreads these wedding planning aspects out so that you can give each one the attention it needs.
3. Limit your options. Do not go into a store to register for gifts with no idea what you want. It's hard enough to decide between five brands of blenders, let alone wander through the store wondering what you need (there are seemingly unlimited options!). Knowing that you even NEED a blender to begin with will help cut down on fatigue.
4. Leave it until tomorrow. Is today the last day you can order your invites and get them in time to send? Unless it is, don't stay up until 1am finishing the design after a long day; wait until tomorrow morning to work on them. It will most likely save you time, energy, and keep you from ordering something you end up unhappy with.
5. Go minimalist. This means eliminate the decisions during the day that you don't even realize you're making to save energy for the wedding decisions. Start using a work uniform so you don't have to think about what to wear in the morning. Pack your lunch the night before so you're not 1. deliberating about where to get your lunch the next day and 2. what to order! If you go minimalist with other decisions during key planning times you'll help save precious mental energy.
6. Have someone help you. Whether you hire a planner, or use your mom or best friend to help confirm your thoughts/opinions, having someone else around you is helpful. As planners, we can take care of limiting the options to ones that include your style and budget, as well as schedule and spread out when you have to make the decisions. Your friend/mom/partner can be there to make sure you're thinking through decisions, and may be able to point out things that are beyond your fatigued mind. Pick this person carefully though; make sure they have your best interest at heart and are good at thinking through decisions logically.
Best wishes to a mentally healthy and happy wedding planning process!
All the best,
Tierney, John. (2011). Do You Suffer from Decision Fatigue? Retrieved April 2016 from: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/21/magazine/do-you-suffer-from-decision-fatigue.html?_r=0
Vohs, K., Baumeister, R., Twenge, J., Schmeichel, B., Tice, D., Crocker, J. Retrieved April 2016 from: http://www.chicagobooth.edu/research/workshops/marketing/archive/WorkshopPapers/vohs.pdf