Illegal or prescribed, brides are turning to wedding day drugs like never before...
The inside of the wedding tepee was glowing red, thousands of fairy lights wound around its wooden beams. Guests were spilling out on to the grass, cake and champagne in hand, ready to watch the Welsh sun set over what had been an undeniably gorgeous wedding. But two people were missing: the bride and groom.
They hadn’t snuck off for some sacred ‘quiet time’ away from their 150 guests, as recommended so very earnestly by every wedding magazine. No, they were gearing up for what they always referred to in their planning as ‘Phase Two’.
‘When the speeches were done, we headed to the big country house that was behind our reception,’ explains 36-yearold Jess*. ‘We first got together at the Secret Garden Party and big, wild nights out have always been our thing. We wanted the same vibe at our wedding party. Me even more so – I wanted a release from all the hype and tension that had been building up to the day.’
So Jess and Dan* drank champagne laced with MDMA, which Dan then passed on to his best man and ushers to share with the bridesmaids.
The effects started to kick in just in time for their (admittedly clichéd) first dance – You Got The Love – and by 10pm, Jess admits to feeling as high as a kite.
‘I have one bridesmaid who doesn’t drink or do drugs and so I gave her the job of keeping an eye on me – I didn’t want to go too far,’ says Jess. ‘She kept handing me water and, at one point, she took me off to the toilets to freshen up. I’d been dancing so much I was covered in sweat.
‘We had the night of our lives, but I do regret not saying goodbye to some of our guests – in the morning, I felt bad about that. And I couldn’t exactly explain why I’d been so rude.’
‘Ending your wedding day on a chemical high’ is definitely not a chapter to be found in any bridal etiquette guide, but for Jess, it’s simply the way she likes to party and her wedding wouldn’t have felt right without it. But for many, all the chilled prosecco in the world isn’t enough to take the edge off the months of wedmin and dogged attention to detail that is now de rigueur for so many couples. These nervous brides want to pull the cord on months, sometimes years, of pent-up anxiety, and drugs are helping them let go.
In some parts of America, a whole industry has sprung up dedicated to soothing the angst of the wedding party – via marijuana. Bec Koop founded Irie Weddings & Events in Colorado, where cannabis was legalised in 2014. At Irie, they supply ‘budtenders’ who attend weddings with a full menu of different cannabis strains to complement the different parts of the day.
‘This movement is simply making it more acceptable to enjoy cannabis as part of a group in a social setting. We carry several different products in our line that can help ease anxiety. Any time that my cannabis couples start to get anxious, I say, “Here, let’s take a puff and unwind.” They are much easier to keep relaxed,’ says Bec, who can supply buttonholes studded with smokable buds and even bongs made of ice.
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But there’s another side to brides dosing up on the big day. With anxiety levels among women at an all-time high, creating a wedding fit for Instagram is pushing many to the edge. A recent survey showed that 42% of brides-to-be say that looking at others’ social media wedding posts makes them feel anxious ahead of their own event. And that’s before you factor in family politics, timings and the often disarming feeling of being centre stage for 12 hours or more.
Wedding planner Aimee Dunne has been planning weddings for 10 years and says she’s seen a rise in anxious brides over that time. Aimee says, ‘It’s definitely more apparent as a planner. Couples’ – that includes grooms’ – expectations are higher and that leads to people feeling overwhelmed and having higher anxiety levels. I do think it’s got worse.’
For women already living with anxiety disorders, a wedding can be a huge obstacle to navigate, but blogger Sophie Mei Lan (mamamei.co.uk) is proof it can be done – and on a grand scale, too. Sophie got married in June 2016 in carnival style, complete with samba dancers and 350 guests. Perhaps not what you’d expect from someone who has been living with severe anxiety since she was 10 years old.
‘Pressurised events with lots of family can really spike my anxiety, so I didn’t help myself,’ says Sophie, 29, ‘But I know what to do to keep myself on a level.’
Sophie, who uses exercise and two types of anti-anxiety and anti-depression medication, made sure she spoke to her mental-health nurse about how she was feeling in the run-up to her wedding.
I think it’s important to be open about it – wedding days are stressful. Some people can deal with that, but if you have anxiety, it can create a crippling feeling. It’s like any physical health problem. If you were going to go to your wedding with a broken arm, you wouldn’t go without a sling – you wouldn’t damage yourself like that. This was the same.’
On her wedding day, Sophie skipped her evening medication so that she could have some drinks and really enjoy herself. ‘I’d pleased everyone all day, but the evening was my time. I just went crazy and danced with my friends. I remember wanting to go to a nightclub afterwards. Having got rid of the shackles of the wedding day, I just wanted to party.’
The one thing not to do (though a cursory browse of any online wedding forum shows many brides are planning on it) is to calm yourself on the day with an impromptu tranquilliser, especially if you’ve never taken them before.
One forum user writes, 'Don’t do it! I wish I had thought twice about it when my cousin handed me an anti-anxiety pill on the day of the wedding. I didn’t feel like myself and it blocked the good emotions as much as it blocked the bad. The following day, I said to my fiancé I don’t remember what happened. I keep hearing, “No one remembers their wedding day because it goes so fast”, but I’m fearful that I don’t remember it because of the medication. I would rather have drunk too much and forgotten the events of my wedding knowing I had a good time.’