Science has proven our suspicions: Weddings can bring out the worst in people 31



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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?


Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. My husband and i had just been joined in holy matrimony and we walked out the front of the church with the minister and were having photos taken when his ex girlfriend launched herself at my husband screaming no John.We turned to stone but my father-in-law grabbed her before she laid hands on my husband and dragged her away and got rid of her, i don’t know how but i am glad he did.She really tried to ruin our wedding and i found out later that my mother-in-law told her where to come and what time. Well we are still happily married and will celebrate our 48th wedding anniversary in March. I can laugh about it now but back then i was not happy one bit.

    2 REPLY
    • ” dragged her away and got rid of her” is she in the church cemetery, lol that’s so funny. I guess it wasn’t on the day.

    • I wish.Naughty.It wasn’t funny then but now it is.My husband was so embarrassed,it wasn’t his fault.My mum-in-law didn’t like me she liked the other one.Her loss,i tried.

  2. When my daughter got married we did have different ideas on a few things (1 thing in particular that hurt me a lot – but she stuck to her guns). I accepted it was her special day, so everything else was just window dressing. The Big Day came, she was gorgeous (of course), everything going well until …. as she was walking down the isle the music went haywire! Some people would be mortified, Melissa laughed! She was marrying the man she loved (& 15 yrs later still totally loves). Best wedding moment – life goes wrong, work with it. My “hurt” was reception seating; but again Melissa insisting on her way proved better than I could have planned. From my vantage point directly in front of wedding table, I was able to see the tears & the laughter – & the love – while her father was making his speech. Never to be forgotten emotion. I loved the fact that neither of us let (for too long) the pressure take away our joy. Son’s wedding completely different; he kept me at further than arms length (even though Trish tried to include me); felt like an observer up to & including the day.

    2 REPLY
    • no Kerry – when my daughter got married, the mother-in-law-to-be was there every step of the way. We all viewed marriage as a coming together of both families. It was a great bonding time for in-laws & out-laws. My daughter-in-laws family lives 5 hrs away, so the kids did much of it themselves. I like her parents a lot (& when we are together we have a good time), but distance hasn’t helped the “bonding”

  3. Do I remember how I felt on my own wedding days? Yes

    Are hormones to blame? Some sort of moans are. B|

  4. We were married in Brunswick. I wore a 2 piece suit in a mellow yellow colour, with pointy toed shoes, and a tiny hat with a half veil! Vic wore a dark green suit. So much for 1962 fashion. I didn’t want a white wedding We had a party at home with friends and family before heading to Mansfield to begin our married life! No honeymoon! Just a new beginning! There was little fuss and less bother. My mother prepared all the finger food and people wandered from the house to the backyard and back. It was a lovely day and cost next to nothing! And, all these years later, we are still together!

    3 REPLY
  5. With my first marriage, it was like a fairytale, the whole thing was great. The only thing my husband to be had to arrange was the venue for the honeymoon. So off we went, in a hired Mini Cooper S, leaving the reception at around 5.00 pm. So I ask d where we were going and he said he thought we might go to Cornwall. (8 hours drive away). Had t booked anything.
    Got lost in the fog on Dartmoor. Somehow ended up at midnight in Bath…..begged a hotel to take us in. I phoned mum and dad, and could hear a riotous party going on in the background. How I wished I was back there…….

    3 REPLY
    • Lol even though we divorced ten years later, we are still friends, and I kid him on about it😈

    • Sounds like Peter lol. …will spend hours preparing details for a paragliding holiday and then ask me where and what we’re doing on our holiday together!

  6. I’ve conducted over 600 weddings and have see it all EXCEPT no-one was ever jilted and no-one ever objected. Grooms faint way more than brides. Cars break down on the way. Phones ring. Quit a number laugh when they get nervous and so laugh all the way through the vows. etc etc

  7. A wonderful day can be ruined by people that think they are more important than the intended recipients. Is there such thing as a perfect wedding?

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