5/11 Ceremony Stage Fright

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I’m an odd chick.  For many, many reasons that I won’t get into… but there’s something about me that always surprises people when I tell them… so here it is: I have terrible social anxiety and stage fright, yet my favorite thing in the world is the feeling I get from (successfully) performing in front of a crowd of people.

I am horribly afraid of speaking in public, and cannot stand being put on the spot, and for the most part I loathe being the center of attention.  I get nervous just speaking in social situations, and expressing my opinion when asked, so you could imagine how scared I get when I have to make a speech, or act onstage in a sketch or a play, or sing in front of people. My heart beats out of my chest, and I get the nervous sweats and the oh-my-god I’m going to pee my pants and vomit at the same time feeling… yet I still do it because in the end, despite the initial fear… I would hate myself for ignoring something I was so passionate about. I love to entertain people, make them laugh and express my creativity through performance. But the lead-up to the performance is unbearably difficult for me.  It’s no secret that public speaking is the #1 fear of Americans… so I’m not alone there.  And ultimately that fact brings me comfort, but it doesn’t stop the anxiety. And it certainly doesn’t stop the physical effect the anxiety has on my body.

Tensed shoulders, tightly clasped hands: Wedding day nerves. Image: Jeff Speigner Photography

I’ve known since the day we got engaged that we would have a big wedding… and a big ceremony filled with personal details, and a script written by us, and we would for sure say personal vows.  I couldn’t imagine our ceremony any other way.  Yet the prospect of actually performing this kind of ceremony–one where I put myself and my emotions on display–scares the pants off me.  And this fact really started to sink in over this past weekend. We basically have 2.5 months left before I walk down the aisle in front 150 people, and express myself in the most deeply personal way possible. And holy balls… just the thought of that is giving me panic attacks already.  But there is no effing way I’m going to chicken out. I will regret it for the rest of our married lives if we don’t perform the intensely personal ceremony we have dreamed of doing for the 20 months we have been engaged.  Even if it means having to consume a xanax-horse tranquilizer-tequila-champagne cocktail to get me through, it WILL be done.

I’m sure everyone experiences some sort of nerves before walking down the aisle. But when you have terrible stage fright like I do, the nerves are 10 times more intense. And the thought of messing up, or shaking, or stumbling over my words, or awkward pauses, or something going wrong with the music makes me want to throw up and throw out all the bells ‘n whistles, and personalized what-have-you, and just say “I do.”  But I know myself. And I know my FH Mike.  And we are crowd pleasers. Nervous-as-hell crowd pleasers. But crowd pleasers all the same. And as a result, we’ve committed ourselves to having a personalized ceremony complete with us being the center of attention for at least 45 minutes (yowza). No matter how nervous that makes us, we are going to do it, and I know we will feel amazing that we were brave enough to do it in the end.  It’s the lead-up that’s going to give me an ulcer.  So that got me thinking… what can I do to help ease my nerves?

So for those of you who may be in my same boat–nervous as hell, but still want a let-it-all-hang-out kinda ceremony–here’s a few tips for ceremony stage-fright:

  • Remember that everyone is the audience LOVES YOU. Like really, really loves you. And wants you to succeed. And wants to share in the joy of your union. So never lose sight of that.
  • Don’t be ashamed to have a cocktail before you go on. Even just a little relaxer makes a huge difference. I don’t recommend getting loaded. But a drink or two won’t hurt.
  • In fact… You know what I’m going to do to cut nerves? Honest-to-balls I am going to wear a garter flask and take a few pulls off it *right* before we go out.

There WILL be tequila in my garter flask. And I WILL be taking a few rips before I walk down the aisle. Photo by Piknik Studios

  • Before you go on, surround yourself with people that make you calm.  Usually this task lies in the hands of your wedding party… but sometimes that’s not enough. If the only person that calms you down is the partner you are about to marry, then stay together until the last second you are supposed to go on. You don’t have to walk down the aisle hand in hand necessarily, but you can hold each other’s hand backstage until it’s time.
  • OR… just go ahead and walk down the aisle WITH your partner. The person that calms me down the most isn’t my dad, or my mom. It’s my partner. Mike is the only one who knows how to successfully calm me down. Sorry, Mom & Dad. But if I’m too nervous to the point where I’m shaking, I’m going to need Mike there every step of the way–even if those steps include the ones we take to get down the aisle.

    A bride and groom who chose to walk down the aisle TOGETHER. Via Offbeat Bride

  • Don’t get married on a stage. Instead, make the altar area as intimate as possible. There may be 150 pairs of eyes on you, but it won’t feel as intimidating if you create a space that feels like it’s just you, the one you love, and the person who’s marrying you.

    Our intimate ceremony setting at BOXeight Studios.

    Our intimate ceremony setting at BOXeight Studios

The STAGE at BOXeight that we *could* have chosen to get married on. But we decided in the end, that we wanted a more intimate setting. So we went with the garden setting pictured above.

  • Choose your officiant wisely. Someone who can run a show, and ease tension if shiz hits the fan. Someone you have a connection with. Someone who knows you and your partner as a couple. Someone you trust.
  • Remember to breathe. In through your nose and out through your mouth. Big deep breaths. Meditate if you have to. Just force yourself to concentrate on your breathing, and your nerves will at the very least be put slightly to ease.
  • Don’t concentrate on trying NOT to cry during the ceremony. Just let it rip. This is a big moment in your life. And I can’t think of any big moment in my life where I didn’t shed some sort of tear.
  • Pick songs leading up to your processional that calm you.  The song I always listen to that cools my nervous groove is “Dear Prudence” by The Beatles.  Something about that song just makes me breathe easy.  Choose the song that does that for you and listen to it on an iPod, or go ahead and play it for the audience before you come out.

Oh, and picturing everyone in the audience naked NEVER works. Sorry, Grandpa, but picturing you butt-ass naked on my wedding day would make me ralph faster than rabbits f*ck. Just sayin’.

For those about to wed… are you nervous for the ceremony? And have those nerves forced you to create a certain type of ceremony? For those who are wedded already… Were you nervous for the ceremony? What did you do to calm yourself?