06/27/2013 12:20 pm ET Updated Aug 27, 2013

What Do Cold Feet Feel Like?


Recently, I was asked by The Knot to give 10 "Must Haves" for every bride. The first thing I wrote on my list was a Partner to Marry (obviously), but after I moved on to number two, I went back and added "Not just a partner to marry, but a partner she finds fun, interesting, loving and loves. A wedding, no matter how lovely, can actually be dreadful if you walk in knowing you may have settled for less! "

After I hit send on my "tips" I thought, inevitably, of my own wedding nearly eight years ago and my own divorce two years after that. It occurred to me that while in hindsight I realize I had some serious cold feet, I hadn't a clue at the time of how to recognize the symptoms. Not everyone has panic attacks and overwhelming feelings of dread -- and sometimes, when in the midst of planning a wedding, it's hard to distinguish anxieties about wedding planning with anxieties about marriage.

"Cold Feet", when undiagnosed and untreated is not a condition that cures itself, it merely manifests as a more serious case of "Unhappily Married," necessitating the highly dramatic (and sometimes costly) remedy of "The Divorce."

Since it's not like you can go on Web MD and search for "Cold Feet Symptoms," I thought I'd run through some questions to ask yourself in hopes that I may help you self-diagnose. Remember, I am not a doctor, just a wedding expert and former bride and wife.

1. Do you find yourself seeking validation of your engagement from everyone? When I got engaged, some people were happy, but many, many others were not. I was tortured by the lack of approval. Of course, no one likes to announce joyous news and be met with skepticism, but I took it to another level. Rather than squeeze my fiancé's hand tighter and affirm our commitment to one another, I spent a lot of energy pleading my case against our detractors, seeking validation and excitement from people I didn't know nearly as well and, of course, vowing to "show them how little they know" by having the greatest wedding ever. I don't often want to emulate a Kardashian, but I wonder if I had fewer doubts myself, if I mightn't have met with their criticism in a similar vein as Khloe Kardashian when she got engaged to Lamar -- by not giving a hoot.

2. Do you find yourself wondering if wedding mishaps are "signs" or omens about your marriage? Do you find yourself fretting every detail because if your wedding isn't perfect how can your marriage stand a chance? That might be a sign of cold feet. When my wedding venue was closed not once, but twice, forcing us to re-locate and reprint our invitations, I definitely was majorly concerned that it was a portent omen about our future. Perhaps it was, perhaps it wasn't, but in hindsight, the simple fact that I wondered about it was probably a sign that I had some doubts.

3. Do you find yourself obsessing over inconsequential details about your wedding? This, I will say, was NOT something that I personally did, but after seeing hundreds of brides down the aisle, I must say that I've observed a high corollary rate between those who were insanely fixated on, say, the font of the menu card or the style of bow atop a favor box and changes in FB status from married to single. I'm not judging. I am just saying that sometimes a favor box is not about the favor box at all, and just a vessel for doubts.

4. Do you find yourself thinking, "What does having cold feet feel like?" If you're really excited about starting your married life together, I don't think you wonder that to yourself. You might fret about your in-laws a bit, or worry about your financial futures and when you might have kids. But if you wonder what it feels like to have second thoughts... well, wondering about it is actually a form of having it.

Engagements are exciting. Getting married is special (especially now that so many more of us can legally do it!!!) Wedding planning is hectic. Bringing together two sets of family and friends can be stressful. In all of the noise, it's sometimes most challenging to stop, breath and see how you really feel. For most, how you really feel is awesome, if perhaps mildly overwhelmed. But for some, it's a bit more than that. It takes courage to look at your fears, and there is nothing wrong with having cold feet, or even simply changing your mind. Remember, diagnosis is the first step towards a cure!