Why do so many brides suffer from post-wedding blues?


Kasey Edwards

One third of Australian marriages end in divorce, and there are plenty of other miserable unions that are not included ...

One third of Australian marriages end in divorce, and there are plenty of other miserable unions that are not included in these unhappy statistics.

One third of Australian marriages end in divorce, and there are plenty of other miserable unions that are not included in these unhappy statistics.

I'd always thought that marital discord built up over years, but new research shows that things start turning sour soon after the bride tosses her bouquet.

A paper published last week in the Journal of Family Issues found that just shy of fifty per cent of brides suffer from postnuptial blues. This can range from temporary sadness and discontent to full-blown depression.

While the study, conducted by Laura Stafford and Allison M. Scott, was small — it only included 28 newly married women — bridal blues is the dirty little secret discussed anonymously on bridal forums. And some psychologists and counsellors report that it is on the increase.


Stafford and Scott investigated the circumstances that surround bridal blues and found three distinct differences between the happy brides and ones who discovered wedded bliss is anything but.


Firstly, they found that many blue brides reported being uncertain about whether they had married the right man. Some blue brides said they felt unloved and even contemplated divorce on their honeymoon, while others had to readjust their expectations after the ring was on.

As one bride told the researchers, '[T]hings…pop up where you think, "I kind of wish I had known that prior to committing to this person. Not because I would have chosen not to commit to them, but just because I would have had a more complete picture of what I was signing up for"'.

By contrast, happier brides described feelings of satisfaction and security in their post-wedding relationships.

'I didn't anticipate that nice feeling of the security of that commitment,' said one of the happy brides.  

A second factor in postnuptial blues was the bride's view that the wedding was all about her and fulfilling her childhood fantasy. The researchers found that blue brides focused on themselves during the wedding planning process whereas the happier brides were more inclusive of their partner and family's wishes.

As one blue bride told the researchers, '[Y]ou want to make every decision. You want everything the way you want it, and you want to stomp your feet, and you want to say, "This is my day and, you know, bugger off, because I want it the way I want it."'

Thirdly, the bluest brides framed their wedding day in terms of loss and grief. The biggest day of their life is over and they're not special or in charge anymore.

'You…think, it's…this fairytale, and the wedding is the climax, and then you come home and you have to go to work the next day. And nothing is different. Nothing is different at work, nothing's different with your friends, nothing's, nothing's different,' said one bride suffering from post-wedding depression.

Another told researchers: 'It's like life was punctuated by these really exciting, big events. Then it was like, Well, this one's [the wedding] over, so now what am I gonna do? It's over, and we have nothing to look forward to.'

Unlike the blue brides, the happiest brides viewed their wedding as a beginning of a new chapter in their life and looked forward to all the new 'firsts' they would experience as a married couple.

Some happy brides considered the wedding as just something they had to get through, rather than their one day to shine.

One happy bride told the researchers, 'As far as being married, you know, the marriage itself was really good… once we kinda got passed the wedding part.'

It's tempting to write off unhappy brides as narcissistic, attention seeking and superficial. But these women do not exist in a vacuum. We live in a culture that teaches many girls and young women to believe that their wedding day is the pinnacle of their achievement as a woman.

From childhood storybooks, movies, reality TV shows, and royal weddings, girls are seduced by the fantasy of weddings. And the bridal industrial complex continues where the storybooks leave off, honing expectations that a wedding must be Hollywood perfect.

For many women, 'I do' is seen as the end point in a lifelong romantic narrative. It's therefore not surprising that so many brides wake up the next morning with a sense of grief and fear that nothing in their life will ever compare.

Such feelings of loss may not be entirely unfounded. For some women, their wedding is one of the few times in their lives in which they have real power and control. People listen to them and their needs and wants come first — even if it is only for one day. If their married life is more traditional, where their husband is the breadwinner and they have children early, then their needs may never be a priority again.

For such women, can you blame them for feeling blue?

There is no single recipe for 'happily ever after', but the research suggests that it's helpful to lower your expectations about the wedding and the marriage, and to put more effort into choosing your life partner than planning your perfect day.

Kasey Edwards is a writer and best-selling author.