Cold Feet? How to Cope With Anxiety Before the Wedding

Pre wedding jitters are the “cold feet” you’ll learn how to deal with – those nagging doubts you feel about getting married. You’ll also want to know about a research study I found; it explored the long-term effects of ignoring cold feet before getting married.

cold feet before the wedding“We’re getting married in 2 weeks and I have cold feet,” says Miriam on Premarital Questions – What You Need to Ask Before the Wedding. “He’s a good man and I love him but we’ve only been together 6 mos and what if that’s not long enough? My mom says we should wait but we already told everyone we’re getting married. Is it normal to feel anxious about marrying? We talked about most of the premarital questions in your list but I still have cold feet. What do I do? I haven’t told him yet.”

I’m glad Miriam had the courage to share her doubts about getting married, because it’s one of the biggest life decisions she’ll ever make. Here’s what the research shows about ignoring cold feet before you get married, plus how I handled my fears, doubts, and pre wedding jitters before I said “I do.”

I’ve been married for 11 years, and have not regretted my decision for one minute. Not even when we went through an infertility diagnosis and fertility treatments, not even when my husband goes to the field for endless weeks every summer (he’s a geologist), and not even when he flatly refused to quit his job and wander the globe with me like the gypsy I was born to be.

In How to Know if You Should Marry Him, I told the story of how I coped with cold feet before getting married. A few weeks before our wedding, I got scared and uncertain. I never doubted my then-fiancé and now-husband – he was the last person I had doubts about! I doubted myself. I was scared that I didn’t know how to be married, that I wouldn’t be a good wife, and that I was committing to something bigger than I could handle.

In hindsight, I see that my cold feet about getting married was normal for me – and even healthy. Why? Because I grew up with a single mom who is schizophrenic, and I was in and out of foster homes as a kid.

Sometimes pre wedding jitters and doubts are normal; sometimes it’s a red flag that the “for worse” in your vows is actually going to come true. How do you know? First, here’s what the research says about cold feet before getting married. Then, I’ll give you a few ideas about what to do when you have doubts about the marriage.

What the Research Says About Cold Feet

Do doubts about getting married lead to unhappy marriages and divorce? Yes. Yes, they do. Here are the results of the first scientific study to research the effects of cold feet on marriage:

UCLA psychologists found that when women have doubts before their wedding, their misgivings are often a warning sign of trouble if they get married.

“People think everybody has premarital doubts and you don’t have to worry about them,” study lead Justin Lavner, a UCLA doctoral student in psychology. “We found they are common but not benign. Newlywed wives who had doubts about getting married before their wedding were two-and-a-half times more likely to divorce four years later than wives without these doubts. Among couples still married after four years, husbands and wives with doubts were significantly less satisfied with their marriage than those without doubts.”

Cold feet are connected to unhappy marriages

This research study found that there was a correlation between pre wedding doubts and divorce. The more doubts the bride had, the more likely she was to experience an unhappy marriage after the wedding.

One thing the study didn’t address was the reason for cold feet before getting married. For example, were the brides doubtful about their grooms or about their own ability to be married? My cold feet about getting married were caused by my own ignorance, insecurity, and fear. I’ve worked through my issues through counseling, and I married an amazing man who is loving, kind, compassionate, responsible, caring, and loyal.

Read 10 Warning Signs of a Bad Relationship if you’re not sure if it’s you, him, or the relationship.

Psychologists encourage couples to explore pre wedding doubts

To figure out what to do when you have cold feet about getting married, you need to explore your reasons. The UCLA researcher said that you know yourself, your fiance and your relationship better than anybody else does. If you’re feeling nervous about getting married, pay attention to it. Explore what you’re nervous about.

Here’s another way to look at it:

“If you see something unusual on your skin, should you ignore it and go to the beach, or see a doctor?” asked researcher Thomas Bradbury, who co-directs the Relationship Institute at UCLA. “Be smart and don’t ignore it — and don’t ignore your doubts either,. Have a conversation and see how it goes. Do you think your doubts [about getting married] will go away when you have a mortgage and two kids? Don’t count on that.”

To read the details of this study, go to Should I Marry Him? on UCLA’s website.

5 Ways to Cope With Cold Feet Before the Wedding

Ok, back to Miriam’s question: “We talked about most of the premarital questions in your list but I still have cold feet. What do I do? I haven’t told him yet.”

1. Take time to identify the reasons for your doubts

Maybe you have cold feet because you’ve only been dating for a few months, and you don’t feel like you know him well enough to marry him. Maybe he has a pile of financial debt and emotional baggage from a previous marriage or divorce. Maybe he has four kids living next door, or halfway around the world.

Why do you have cold feet about getting married? I know you’re super busy planning the wedding and honeymoon, but it’s crucial to stop and think! Pay attention to your cold feet! Trust me – I get dozens of comments every week from women in bad relationships, loveless marriages, unhappy homes. Many times, they rushed into the wedding and ignored their pre wedding jitters. They shrugged off their cold feet as normal, and they regret it deeply. The worst part is that their kids pay the price.

2. Get it all out of you

Often we don’t know what we really think or feel until we write it down.

What to Do Cold Feet Getting MarriedOur thoughts are a jumble in our heads, we’re searching for help coping with cold feet before getting married and there are a million pop up advertisements for wedding supplies and decorations, and our emotions are all over the place.

Take a deep breath. Sit down with a notebook and use a pen to write down everything that’s in your head. If you don’t know where to start, here’s a list of questions…

Questions about your cold feet:

  • How long have I felt doubt about this wedding?
  • What would it feel like to be honest with my fiance about how I feel?
  • Who can I talk to about my fears and anxieties about getting married?
  • What do I know about unhappy marriages and divorces?
  • When did I first start getting cold feet?

Write for as long as you can. Go beyond my questions; answer questions of your own. Just empty your head onto that paper. Get it all out; better out than in, is what I always say! Set your notebook aside – in a private place – and come back to it later. Before you read what you wrote, write some more.

3. Be honest with your fiance

Sit down with him. Have a glass of wine (but drink it slowly). Take a deep breath (yes, another one).

Say, “I love you and I’m excited about getting married, but I have cold feet. Can we talk about it?” Ask him to be honest about how he feels about the wedding. Encourage him to be honest. Tell him you won’t be mad. Promise him that you won’t allow any pain you feel about anything he says destroy this conversation. Ask him to do the same.

4. Invest in premarital counseling

When I say “invest”, I don’t necessarily mean financial. You can talk to a pastor, rabbi, or even a trusted married couple. Before we got married, we had to take a premarriage series of courses through the Catholic Church (I’m not Catholic, but I agreed to get married in my husband’s family church). We also met with a couple from our church for a few nights of informal premarital counseling.

Ignoring or suppressing your feelings is the worst thing you can do when you have cold feet about getting married. Read through the comments of 13 Ways to Get Money to Leave Your Husband – you’ll see firsthand how difficult and heartbreaking a bad marriage can be.

5. Trust the still small voice inside of you

You are smarter than you know; God filled you with intuition and instincts that serve you well. You are more lovable than you realize; you have the power not to end up sad and alone for the rest of your life if you choose not to go through with this wedding.

You are stronger than you realize. God loves you and will walk you through whatever you’re facing. And you are more courageous than you give yourself credit for! You are powerful, and you have choices in your life.

Take a deep breath. Trust, believe, have faith. Connect with He who created you and loves you more than you could ever imagine.

What to Do Next

prewedding jitters cold feet getting marriedRead Premarital Counseling DIY Handbook: The Do-It-Yourself Guide on How to Have a Happy Marriage, and What Questions to Ask Before Getting Married by Judith Roberts, especially if you don’t like the thought of seeing a premarital counselor or taking a premarriage course. Don’t let your (or your fiance’s) reluctance to do premarriage counseling dissuade you from having those really important conversations.

By the way – it’s a huge red flag if your fiance flatly refuses to go to premarital counseling or couples therapy.

Read 6 Ways to Survive Your First Year of Marriage if you know you’re going through with the wedding.

Give Miriam – the reader who has cold feet about getting married – advice. Should she go through with the wedding? Pretend you’re a therapist. While you’re at it, tell me what you think you should’ve found in my tips for getting married when you have cold feet. What did you expect; what did I miss?

Did you feel better or worse after reading the results of the UCLA study about prewedding jitters and unhappy marriages?

While I can’t offer advice, I do read every comment. I encourage you to respond to other readers’ comments if you feel led, and to share your thoughts on what to do when you have cold feet about getting married.

Here comes the bride…?


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2 thoughts on “Cold Feet? How to Cope With Anxiety Before the Wedding”

  1. My fiancé was out of town for a few weeks for work. When she came back, she said she wanted to call the whole thing off. And no, I don’t believe for a second that any “funny business” when she was out of town.
    When she came back, she told me yhat she “never got butterflies” when she was with me (which I don’t completely believe, but that beside the point). To her credit, she has been as kind, caring and as loving as one can be while still standing firm on this. That is actually the quality I fell in love with her for in the first place. I think it’s “the jitters,” but she does not. She also thinks that I love her more than she loves me. She has been verbally abused in a few of her past relationships, and also used to read A LOT of romance novels. I have told her that life isn’t like a romance novel or a movie. Right now, I’m trying to give her space, and make sure she still knows that I love her, am willing to fight for her, and want to find a way to work through things.
    It breaks my heart and scares the heck out of me. With the month three month away (and invites need to go out soon), what can I do? I am terrified.

    1. Thank you for sharing here, Matthew – I can tell you love your fiancee deeply, and you want to marry her will all your heart! It sounds like she loves you, too, but she does have cold feel about getting married.

      I did, too. I spent a whole weekend wrestling with the idea of marrying my husband – this was the weekend before we got married! I really didn’t know if I should go through with the wedding, because I didn’t know if I could handle marriage. I didn’t know if I was ready. But, I found peace by the end of Sunday night…and we’ve now been married for almost 11 years. Happily! I love him dearly, and am so glad we’re together.

      Take a deep breath, Matthew. Don’t allow your fear or anxiety to control you. Remember that the best thing you can do is allow your life and relationships to unfold naturally, without trying to control them. You don’t actually know the best thing for you and your fiancee. You want to marry her, you feel like getting married is the best thing…but the truth is you don’t actually know if it’s a good idea until after all is said and done.

      So, allow your fiancee to take all the time she needs. Put the wedding invitations – and all the other wedding plans – on hold. Or, consider rescheduling the wedding for the fall…or next summer. I know it’s disappointing, heartbreaking, depressing. But getting married before she’s ready is far worse.

      How do you feel about calling off the wedding plans for now, until your fiancee feels more comfortable and secure about getting married?