Science has proven our suspicions: Weddings can bring out the worst in people

As our sons and daughters get married, many of us will witness the ugly side of wedding planning. Whether it’s
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As our sons and daughters get married, many of us will witness the ugly side of wedding planning. Whether it’s seating arrangements, distant family members, or the bridal budget – there are many wedding details which can easily result in an argument.

If you’ve ever wondered whether matrimonial pressures can bring out the worst in people, you’re not alone. Now a surprising wedding day experiment has revealed the heightened range of emotions that anyone in the family may experience. The hormone levels of an entire wedding party were measured on this particular big day – not just the bride and groom’s!

Stress is a word often synonymous with weddings, but these figures were off the charts. When British bride Linda Geddes was married recently, scientists measured her stress hormones ACTH and cortisol. Linda’s ACTH levels were 65% higher than average on her wedding day. Astoundingly though, her cortisol levels were a whopping 80% above normal.

“I’d heard about brides being strung out, but it wasn’t till it happened to me that I realised just how full-on it can be. And the whole time you just have to smile. I definitely think there is a hormonal factor involved and if I knew what to expect beforehand, I probably would have actually been a bit more relaxed”, Linda said.

Linda’s mother and father experienced increased ACTH levels too. Although a major hormonal change for the father-of-the-bride had nothing to do with stress. Traditionally associated with aggression, testosterone seems to dissipate around weddings. Linda’s father demonstrated a dip in testosterone levels, as did the groom’s brother and the couple’s male friends. Lower testosterone ostensibly helps the men in a wedding party feel more relaxed, and open to heartfelt displays of emotion.

Now what about that green-eyed monster sometimes spotted at weddings – otherwise known as jealousy? You may be surprised to read that whilst Linda’s bridesmaids didn’t exhibit the ‘jealousy hormone’ vasopressin, the men at her wedding did. In fact, two of the Linda’s male friends exhibited levels of vasopressin 25% above average.

Explaining feelings of jealousy at a wedding, one groomsman said: “Often, I’d see a woman who I thought I knew walking down the aisle and, although they always looked beautiful, it was as if I saw them as having ‘happily ever after’ potential for the first time. For several minutes, it was almost as if I wanted to challenge the groom for her. As if I was the man she should have been marrying.”

If you’re wondering how the mother-of-the-bride is feeling amidst these swirling emotions, don’t worry. We’ve saved the best till last. Oxytocin is described as the ‘cuddle’ hormone, because it promotes love, bonding and joy. Released by the pituitary gland, oxytoxin fosters the relationship between mother and child, with wedding days being no exception.

Linda’s mother showed massive levels of oxytocin, as did the wider family. As Professor Paul Zak noted, “maybe the reason we have weddings is not just because of the emotional contagion – the empathy, the love – but because these emotions are linked to helping the human race.” At a chemical level, everyone at a wedding knows they are celebrating life. Just don’t let those pesky hormones get in your way!

Did you feel overly emotional at your son or daughter’s wedding? Do you remember how you felt on your own wedding day? Are hormones to blame?

 

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