While the term Bridezilla may be outdated and sexist trope, there’s no avoiding the fact that planning a wedding is an inherently stressful process. Whether it’s awkward table plans, the pressure of Instagram, or budget issues, preparing to tie the knot can cause serious tension between engaged couples. Especially when you take into account that the average UK wedding now costs a whopping £27,161.
Enlisting a wedding planner may remove some of the logistical stresses but a growing number of couples are hiring wedding doulas to provide emotional support as they organise their big day.
Much like birth doulas supply support to mothers and their partners through pregnancy, labour and the beginning of parenting, wedding doulas are there for couples in the run up to the wedding. Although pre-marriage counselling has long been a service provided by faith institutions, with 53% of the UK no longer identifying as religious, couples are looking for alternative guidance during this testing period.
Growing in popularity in the US, Anne Gill is now offering the service this side of the pond.
When I call Anne at home in Dublin I'm expecting a softly spoken spiritual type but instead I get a straight-talking New Yorker at the end of the line. Originally an actress, producer and stand-up comedian, Anne came to her new job almost by accident.
“I saw countless friends struggling to navigate the endless pitfalls of planning a wedding and spotted a gap in the market to provide a service that offered both practical and emotional support,” Anne told Grazia.
After working on a number of friends' weddings in this way, Anne teamed up with her psychotherapist friend Charlotte to form a business. They now offer 90 minute consultations via Skype to newly engaged couples followed by a bespoke workbook offering tailored advice to use throughout their engagement . Costing £250, the couple can purchase additional Skype sessions if they need extra help along the way (6 sessions costs £1200).
Anne provides the outsider viewpoint and a voice of reason for the engaged couple. The advice isn't wishy washy but structured and systematic with action points throughout. I get the feeling Anne doesn't take much BS.
“We sit down with the couple once the hype of the engagement has settled to discuss a plan,” Anne explained. “Often the couple are not on the same page, and they're facing issues when it comes to the budget or their families.”
“Women and men have very different expectations about what is a ‘normal’ amount to spend on a wedding. Money is emotional and uncomfortable and we force couples to assess what expensive means to them. Unless you’ve bought already house together, you won’t have ever spent money like this together before.”
Similarly, Anne will offer a system for dealing with tricky family members. “Bringing two families and their opposing expectations together can be very problematic. I’ve helped a couple with family in two different countries make everyone feel involved, another deal with a sick parent, and others manage the dreaded topic of parents financial contributions and the assumptions that come with that.”
In our digital age it may be easy to be swayed by Pinterest boards and Instagram but Anne wants to help couples think about why they are getting married, and ensuring their day reflects them as a couple, not what other people expect of them.
“I encourage couples to consider what they want to say about their new family to their community via their wedding day. Couples often get caught up in details and logistics - the food, flowers and music - but it’s the heartfelt speech or touching vows that guests will remember.”
Considering 42% of UK marriages end in divorce maybe getting the advice before, not after, the wedding might be a beneficial thing.