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Is There a Difference Between Pre-Wedding Jitters and Cold Feet? The Experts Weigh In

Yes, and which you experience can tell you a great deal about your relationship.

Contributing Writer
kelly pete wedding groom placing ring on brides finger
Photography by: D'Arcy Benincosa Photography

You're about to marry the love of your life in front of dozens of family members, friend, and maybe even a few complete strangers—it's no wonder you're feeling a little anxious. It's entirely normal for brides- and grooms-to-be to experience anxiety about the wedding and the idea of making such a permanent commitment. "Getting married is a major life event that includes being the center of attention while you make a public commitment to another person. There's also the expense, asking friends and relatives from near and far to travel for your day, and the usual drama that comes with any major celebration," says Jodi Smith, etiquette expert and owner of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting. "If the wedding couple were not experiencing at least a hint of wedding jitters, it wouldn't be normal!"

 

However, experts point out that there's a clear difference between pre-wedding jitters and the concept of "having cold feet." "Cold feet signifies an urge to run and bail completely, not only on the wedding but, on your partner, while having wedding jitters is merely a case of nerves," explains Paulette Sherman, Psy.D., psychologist, relationship expert and author of Dating from the Inside Out. She explains that signs of cold feet are far more severe, including crying, panic attacks, and having serious doubts about your significant other and this lifelong choice. Symptoms of wedding jitters are more likely to be shown through nervousness, restlessness, irritability, having a hard time sleeping or concentrating, and obsessing over wedding details. "Most people experience these jitters leading up to the wedding, however having cold feet is often a sign that someone is making the wrong decision."

 

Related: Things to Know About Pre-Wedding Jitters

 

To find out if your jitters are normal, Isadora Martin-Dye, a wedding planner and owner of owner of Rixey Manor, urges couples to identify a root cause. "One of the major root causes is the fear of bringing all of your friends and family together for one day," she explains. "It's enough stress to get one family together for a holiday or reunion, but when everyone you hold dear in your life is meeting for the first time there are nerves in whether or not they will get along." 

 

If you have fears that you're settling with this marriage, cold feet might be the culprit. "You should still feel a spark when this person looks you in the eyes or holds your hand," explains Smith. "Lust will fade, but caring and loving gestures make a marriage last."

 

A good way to judge if your nerves are chocked up to nothing more than wedding jitters is to consider whether you're able to talk to your partner about your feelings. "This indicates that you have a solid ability to turn towards each other in times of need and have the confidence that your spouse will be there for you," explains Julienne Derichs, a licensed clinical professional counselor. If you feel as though you can't discuss your feelings with your partner for fear of the repercussions, she recommends trying couple's counseling. "There is no shame in seeking out some relationship education and skills in a few sessions of pre-commitment counseling, in fact, research supports that with as little as eight hours of counseling couples can reduce the risk of divorce significantly!" adds Derichs.