Kazzie Emrich's wedding was perfect from start to finish, and she was thrilled to begin a new chapter of her life with her husband, Bill. "But once we got home from our honeymoon, I began to feel an overwhelming sadness that this amazing event I'd spent almost a year planning was over," says the Chicago resident. "It was especially hard for me to attend weddings, showers and bachelorette parties, which I did a lot during my first year of marriage. Just seeing the giddiness of the brides made me feel sad — and envious. I even thought about my own mortality. As a girl, I had dreamed about my wedding and seen that day as a major life event that would happen way in the future. But now that it was over, it felt like an ending. The worst of the sadness lasted six months, but even now, three years later, I still haven't thrown away my unused invitations, and my bouquet is still hanging in the kitchen, where I had placed it to dry out."
These feelings — you can call them the "bridal blues" — are common among newlywed women, and they can last anywhere from several days to many months, says Alison Moir-Smith, MA, a bridal counselor in Brookline, Massachusetts. What's going on? "A wedding is physically and mentally all-consuming," she explains. "It's the focus of your life for a year or more and then it's over in one night. After such a huge buildup, there's bound to be a vacuum in your life."
While it's normal to feel sad that your big day is over, say experts, wouldn't you rather be excited about what lies ahead? Use these blues-busting strategies to ease the pain:
Create a buffer zone
Jetting off to Hawai'i the morning after your wedding sounds romantic. But a better plan is to schedule your departure for a day or two later. After the whirlwind of the big day, this will give you time to get some rest and accept the fact that the wedding you spent so many months planning is actually over. "We left for our honeymoon early on the morning after our wedding," says Megan McDonnell, from New Fairfield, Connecticut, regretfully. "We went from this amazing feeling of having so many people around us the night before to being alone. If we'd stayed an extra day, we could have enjoyed being with our family and friends a little longer and relived the fun of the wedding with them. The finality of it would have felt less abrupt and harsh."
Pad your trip on the tail end, too
Similarly, don't rush right back to work the second you return. "It's hard to go from this once-in-a-lifetime event where you were the center of attention, followed by your exciting trip as a newlywed couple, back to the routine of everyday life where you're just part of the pack," says Moir-Smith. A few extra days at home will ease the transition.
Talk to your husband
When you feel sad, open up to your spouse. It's possible he may have similar feelings, says Moir-Smith, and the sharing will bring you closer. "Today I actually see my case of the blues as a positive thing because my husband was incredibly supportive the whole time," says Megan.
"One reason a bride may feel down is that for so long she has something to look forward to and then suddenly she doesn't," explains Barbara Becker-Holstein, Ed.D., a psychologist in Long Branch, New Jersey. "This can leave her feeling empty and lost." Your calendar won't seem so bleak if you schedule things for after your wedding, like a mother-daughter spa day or an apple-picking excursion with friends. Even better: During the wedding planning, keep a running list of things you want to do but don't have time for amid all the meetings with florists and caterers—a book you want to read, a new restaurant you want to try, a weekend trip you'd like to take with your husband. That way, you won't feel you're filling up your time with distractions later on.
Do some creative writing
Instead of viewing thank-you notes as a chore, and quickly scribbling any old message, put some care into what you write. Including personal details — like referring to a funny moment you shared with the gift giver at one time — will make you feel good because you'll be reminded of your connections to the people who attended your wedding.
Throw away the vendor information you didn't use, delete the contact list from your computer and toss all those magazine tear sheets that gave you ideas for your day. Then, attack those important post-wedding tasks you may have been avoiding because they're too emotionally painful, like storing your gown and changing your name on official documents. "These projects are tied to your big day, and yet taking care of them will help you process the feelings of it being over," says Moir-Smith.
Join a group
"While planning her wedding, a bride is part of a tight community that consists of her vendors, bridal party, family and guests," says Becker-Holstein. "When the wedding's over and this group naturally disbands, it's a letdown because as women we thrive on that sense of community." So, do things that will give you a sense of belonging. Join a book or running club, or even an online group for newlyweds. That's what Katie Hook of San Diego, California, did after her big day. "Almost daily, I chat with other newlywed women on a wedding site," she says. "I've bonded with them because they're in the same place I am. Many have become good friends."
Use your newfound skills for good
As a former bride, you're in a unique position to share your wisdom and experience with others. Did you love all the planning? Help organize a charity event or volunteer to head up your office holiday party, suggests Becker-Holstein. Know someone getting married? Share your great wedding ideas — the contents of those welcome baskets for your out-of-town guests, a clever money-saving tip — with other brides-to-be.
Get some perspective
Your wedding was amazing, and luckily, you have all those photographs and a video to help you relive it once in a while. But remember that marriage isn't about the dress, the flowers and all those other details — it's about the person you married, the life you'll build together, the children you may have, the love you share.