It is often spoken to the nervous bride or groom from well-meaning friends or relatives. The fiancé wonders why he’s been procrastinating setting a wedding date and his best friend says it, the bride is crying in the bathroom before the ceremony while her maid of honor says it. “You just have cold feet! Everyone does before they get hitched! This is normal. You’re about to make a life-changing decision and it’s bound to give you the jitters!”
No, no, no. Those “cold feet” are your instincts kicking in, trying to stop you from making a mistake that you may or may not be consciously aware will be a mistake.
Some people will mistakenly attribute cold feet to simply being nervous about being in the spotlight in front of a hundred people, and hoping it all goes smoothly. No, when you’re only nervous about the wedding ceremony, and not who you’re marrying or about getting married at all, it will be happy nervousness, the kind of fidgeting and mild freaking out that still makes it evident to everyone this is one the happiest days of your life. And in this case no one feels the need to reassure you that you just have “cold feet”.
Cold feet behaviors are the ones that make it clear you’re having second thoughts. Your mind is telling you “I don’t think you should be doing this!” Hence the procrastination/tears/fighting/irritability/etc.
When I married my husband, there was not a moment of doubt. Not a shred of anything that resembles cold feet. When you’re ready for marriage, and you know this person you’re committing to is right for you, there are no alarm bells. Nothing that makes you want to run for the hills or wonder if you should call it off.
Unfortunately, people have a tendency to ignore reality in favor of blind optimism. Friends are expected to say words of encouragement, even in the face of what’s plain as day to everyone. There’s a cultural expectation that a good friend will help you feel better, so they tell you what you want to hear instead of the truth. It’s also because friends don’t want to appear envious or malicious by telling the truth. Too often, in the case where a friend doesn’t mince words (“I think you don’t really want to marry him. He’s been abusive and your heart is telling you he’s never going to change”), the bride might lash out with accusations that the friend is “just jealous” or “being judgmental” and doesn’t “know him like I do”.
Don’t ignore those cold feet. That’s simply a dismissive term for a useful aid in determining right from wrong, safe from dangerous, healthy from unhealthy: your instincts.