So I canceled my wedding…

Guest post by Cailleach an Airgid
So I canceled my wedding…

I was nearly there, you know. I'd bought a second hand dress and Irregular Choice shoes. I had booked my venue and I was organizing my independent honeymoon to India. I had invited just eight people to my little ceremony. I had made 500 paper cranes for my Senbazuru decoration. I had chosen music and a menu and started to stockpile little bits and pieces for my small but no less special day.

Why I canceled my wedding

The simplest way to say it is that my relationship ceased to make sense. I choose not to divulge these reasons here as it is a story for two people to tell. Suffice it to say I am satisfied now (nearly a year later) that it was exactly the right decision for us. It was an extremely challenging time, and I mourned my relationship, my home (as I moved from the house I shared with my ex) and my identity. And I mourned my wedding — the hours on Offbeat Wed, on Etsy, on Pinterest and on crafting and planning and dreaming my wee dreams.

It was a very hard, very sad time. And I really remember feeling very alone when it all happened. Plenty of people talk about divorce, about second marriages, about partner breakups… I couldn't find other people who had cancelled their wedding — even on the Tribe, my bible for all things wedding, there was little to be found on how to break up gracefully.

I struggled through and here I am, nearly a year later and I am sane and happy and whole.

Here is my guide to canceling your offbeat wedding

These are some of the things I wish I'd heard last year.

1. Be a grown-up

If you were old enough to make the decision to get married, then act like it when the relationship ends. I remain very grateful that my breakup was calm (as much it could be) and dignified. We split the money down the middle, he gave me space to move out, I left my engagement ring and we parted in an adult fashion.

It can be hard if the other party is behaving badly, but hold your head high and think of dignity and class. You will be proud that you did.

2. A marriage trumps a wedding

Do not stay in an unhealthy, unhappy relationship because you want a wedding. I stayed longer than I should have, even though I knew long before then that I needed to leave. A wedding is a wonderful thing, but it is not as important as long-term happiness.

3. You are not alone

You might feel that you're the only gobshite who made the grave mistake of getting engaged and spending a load of money only to call it all off with a few short months to go. Over time, SO MANY people have told me stories of this happening to them.

I would like to consider myself a sane, level-headed, logical person and it happened to me. Feeling less alone helped me immensely (but it does seem to be something that's not discussed as broadly as other breakups, so be patient as people share their stories with you).

4. Your loved ones care far more about your happiness than they do about a wedding

I was so anxious I was letting my parents down. I HOWLED over my mother's outfit she had bought for the wedding. Mum is not into clothes and would never spend money on frivolous dresses for herself. She did for my wedding and was so excited that she didn't want to take it off when she showed me. I felt wretched that I was letting her down. She on the other hand roared laughing and told me “it's only a shagging dress, you are way more important.” So, um, that told me then.

5. Feel your feelings and let go

Man, I grieved for that wedding — like a person. I really went through the stages of grief as I dealt with the loss of my relationship and wedding. I think that by openly expressing these emotions (painful as it was) I moved past them and things got easier.

And some time, you have to let go. I gave my wedding stuff to charity, I spent my savings for my honeymoon on an iPad, and a holiday to Italy with Mum, and I let my sister take care of selling my dress. I sobbed, and raged, and drank (a lot of) wine. And then, in time and, without even realizing it had happened, I let go.

6. Offbeat weddings are ENDLESSLY creative

I (rather foolishly) worried I'd used all my good ideas up on my canceled wedding. And you know what, there's like a MILLION different weddings and they're all unique and wonderful and there are NEW IDEAS all the time. And look, I am seeing someone, and it's VERY early days, and I'm saying nothing, but like, if I had to start thinking all over again…

Sunflowers and a seating chart on a ladder. And a ceili band. And a tea-length dress… In other words, I might be seeing you all again in a few years, keep an eye out.

In the meantime be brave and be honest. You are strong and you deserve to be happy. Trust your heart and you will come through the hardship. Being offbeat is about being authentic in your entire life, and not just your wedding.

Meet our fave wedding vendors

Comments on So I canceled my wedding…

  1. I love this.
    And felt many of the same feelings when I postponed my wedding a few years ago, only to break up with my ex-fiance a while later. Your happiness is the most important thing in all of it and allowing yourself to feel whatever it is you feel and moving forward from there.

    • I’m going through this now, though my fiancé doesn’t realize it yet. This is the second wedding to both of us and I know I should listen to myself – knowing doesn’t make it easier. I want to postpone the wedding. I’m not even sure I want a wedding. Thanks for your advice.

  2. I hadn’t made it that far in the planning process, but I too cancelled my wedding and my relationship. I mourned my offbeat wedding for a long time! Parts of me still wish fondly for the event that never was. You are seriously NOT alone!
    But I’ve learned to appreciate what that gave me. For one, I’ve already wrestled with a lot of the choices that offbeat brides face, so I know where I stand–and my family knows about a lot of those choices, so it shouldn’t be a surprise when I finally do wed!
    For another, I’ve learned that the world will not cave in if I change my mind. I thought ending my relationship would ruin my life forever. But it didn’t. It’s given me the confidence to realize that I could change my career, move across country or decide to have a baby and that I would make it work, that I would find happiness no matter what.
    Finally, I learned that my wedding dreams were filling a lot of holes in my life that I hadn’t even realized were there. I wanted to host a big party because there wasn’t enough fun in my life. I wanted to gussy up, I wanted to dance, I wanted to laugh and I wanted a hobby. I started focusing that energy on myself and I found that I had been ignoring some deep needs for a long time.

    • I’m right there with all of you. The only money that had been spent on my wedding was my ring and his. Thankfully, we were on different continents the entire time and so being adult (ish) was fairly easy. I didn’t write about it because it was so hard and I had to distance myself from everything that reminded me of the wedding, and him.

      Well done on getting past it! I know I’m so much happier now that I’m marrying the right man.

  3. I did not cancel a wedding but I did end an engagement previously. I just wanted to say I’m glad you shared this. I really, really agree with you, especially about the acting like an adult part. It can be really hard at the time but in the long run, it makes it all so much easier. My dude and I had each previously called off engagements but in totally different ways. I’m a lot less bitter than he was and got to wish my ex-fiance congratulations on his recent marriage with which he is very happy. That felt good, knowing we are both happy now.

    I’ve seen mentions of this here and there, but if you have to call it off, sometimes throwing a party is a fantastic way to end things. Maybe only one of you holds the party, depending on how you each feel, but I honestly think that endings are worth celebrating as much as beginnings. 🙂

    So thanks for sharing your lessons learned about how to cope with calling off a wedding.

  4. This, all of this! Especially the end: “Be brave and be honest. You are strong and you deserve to be happy.”

    And on a less positive but no less important note, I suggest making peace with the fact that one of the reservations you are canceling is your family-to-be. Yes, there are stories of the people who still have wonderful support systems in their ex-in-laws. Think of them as the exceptions rather than the rule. More often than not, your ex’s family is loyal to her/him, and if you have decided to walk away, be prepared to say goodbye to not one, but a whole bunch of people. This isn’t necessarily a negative thing and it’s sure as hell not a reason to stay. It Is What It Is. You won’t suffer by preparing for the worst even while you hope they want happiness for you.

  5. Oh, boy. I’m also one of those canceled-the-wedding/broke-up-with-the-fiance brides, even though we hadn’t yet put down a deposit on one of the places we were looking at. It was so the right thing to do – he simply was not husband material (or even boyfriend), and at times it verged on serious emotional abuse.

    But even knowing that as clearly as I did, man, it was so hard. Weddings are such a key happiness/success marker in our social narrative, that canceling one sometimes feels tantamount to announcing in neon letters, “I was unable to complete the circle!” Which we KNOW isn’t true, but even so often as we tell ourselves that, sometimes it just stings so hard anyway. (Plus, I never got to buy that adorable peacock fascinator, or those gorgeous bridesmaid necklaces, and oh the wasted venue spaces took on lives of their own…)

    Obviously weddings are important, or Offbeat Bride wouldn’t be so popular, let alone the more mainstream sites. (For a while after, I felt like a lurker on here, and would tab out faster than if I’d been looking at porn if someone came up behind me.) Eventually, though, I started to “butterfly phase,” as you well put it. I stopped feeling like I’d been cheated of something important and started being grateful I hadn’t spent any more time or energy on that ex. I dated some more, and eventually I found someone who I visualized a marriage with, rather than a wedding.

    Kudos for posting this, and living your life genuinely. And hugs. And I’m quite sure you’ll get your sunflowers someday, and I’ll get my peacock fascinator. Even if it’s not for a wedding. 😉

    • ” Weddings are such a key happiness/success marker in our social narrative, that canceling one sometimes feels tantamount to announcing in neon letters, “I was unable to complete the circle!” ”

      This. For a long time I felt like a complete failure because my partner didn’t want to get married. The longer he went without proposing the more I felt like I’d failed.

      Now all of our friends are married, and our relationship has changed: I’m no longer sure I want to marry him. But like you say, our social narrative makes it such a big deal…. The advice in this article I find helpful for this situation.

  6. I’m glad you wrote this!! We’ve had 3 friends who were getting married this year all break it off and I’m sure they’ll be glad to know they’re not alone.

    Also, one of these friends had a hard time letting all that planning go to waste so in her new home she’s decided to throw small monthly dinner parties and use some of the fun ideas she came across during planning. I thought that was a pretty brilliant idea AND it’s helped me realize that, for my own wedding, I don’t have to try to cram everything in. There will be lots of occasions to use the stuff you see on your pinterest boards. A wedding isn’t the only time you can celebrate and be crafty.

  7. +1 on the “you’re not alone” part. I cancelled mine pretty early in the process – it was initially postponed so we could work on our issues, but eventually cancelled as we went our separate ways. There was definitely a mourning process; in fact the day that the wedding was supposed to take place was one of the most painful, wretched days of my life. Looking back, I am very grateful for that experience because it snapped me out of a passive, formulaic idea of relationships and how they are supposed to progress. I was young, and a little naive, following a default trajectory without much thought. Meet -> Date -> Move in -> Get engaged -> Get married -> Have babies. I never really examined my feelings about the whole thing. When my perfectly structured little life fell apart, it was such a rude awakening, I ceaselessly thought, wrote about, and examined every facet of the relationship process. It was a period of intense personal growth, and my opinions about everything really shifted as a result. I have much more solid positions on everything from engagement rings to joining finances to keeping my name, to deciding I don’t want children. Now it frightens me to think that I could have gone through with it, and probably lived for years in a state of inertia. The shock to the system was, for me, a painful but necessary jolt to grow my self-awareness.

    • And much, much better that you went through that growing process BEFORE you got married rather than after your husband filed for divorce, the way I did.

  8. I cancelled what would have been my first wedding a month before it occurred after planning for two years. It was one of the hardest things that I ever had to do, but I was surprised how much support I received. Since that time nine years ago I have had so many women tell me that they wish they had had the courage to do what I did. Many women went through with the wedding despite having strong feelings that it was the wrong decision. Kudos to you for knowing yourself and having the courage to cancel the wedding.

  9. Thank you for writing this.

    I have an extra perspective to add. One of my greatest friends had to cancel her wedding under awful circumstances last year, and she is coping with the pain with sheer grace and elegance and being angrily drunk in my kitchen and the rest.

    Now, I’m getting married myself this year, and she tried very hard to be part of it – the parties, the celebrations – but finally had to say ‘No, this hurts too much right now, I can’t’. And THAT IS OK.

    For every person who’s cancelled a wedding and can’t quite bring themselves to celebrate anybody else’s for a while: that’s absolutely fine, and shouldn’t make you feel guilty. Sometimes it’s the wisest and sanest thing to opt graciously out of celebrations, even though you send the couple the best wishes in the world. If it’s going to hinder your healing and make you gut-miserable, opt out. Take care of you.

    This doesn’t mean saying no to every wedding invitation for the next five years out of misery that everybody’s happy and you aren’t – but a hiatus, a breathe-out period of no weddings, doesn’t make you a bad person.

    And don’t bottle up your pain if you feel like you ABSOLUTELY MUST take part in the wedding. Tell somebody – if not the bride, then a therapist, or members of the bridal party, or somebody who will take care of you and make sure you’re OK on the day. Seriously.

    This seems like a niche sort of issue, but it’s come up so many times in conversation with no-longer-expectant-brides that I feel somebody has to say SOMETHING.

    • Thanks for this!

      I’m a wedding photographer, but I took the last year off because it was too painful since my fiance ran out on me. I’ll probably get back to it this fall, though. My cousin is next.

      I do have to thank my church, though, for making the day itself bearable. They took over my reception venue and turned it into a completely non-wedding-related party, and we had a great time! Community is the best way to fight the loneliness that comes after a cancelled wedding.

  10. My first wedding was about as non-offbeat as it gets, and I still mourned it when it was cancelled. I was much younger, much less wise and much less happy. I too stayed in a relationship for far longer than I should have because it seemed silly to be spending all that money on a wedding only to have things blow up in my face, and (while I tried to end things as smoothly as possible), things went rather badly for us after a long “postponement” phase. It’s lovely to see that there are other people out there who have had the same feels, because I honestly haven’t come across any in my travels. I’m lucky enough now to be able to say that I’ve found the mysterious “it” in my current relationship and am insanely happy (which only makes me more aware of how miserable I was before). As a bonus, I get to have the ultimate, non-boring wedding I always wanted.

  11. Beautiful article.

    As a wedding photographer who’s had couples call off the wedding a few months beforehand after booking all their vendors, I can reassure all of you that this happens more times than people like to admit.

    As a young bride who spent five years married to someone she shouldn’t have married because she wanted the wedding more than the marriage, I can tell you I wish I’d had the courage to do what the author of this article did.

  12. I was a tribe member and ended up canceling my wedding too. I believe I posted about it and then never really came back. I felt like I didn’t belong here anymore, which was foolish. I can’t think of a better online community to turn to in such a time. While I was absolutely doing the right thing by ending the relationship, I forced myself to act like I didn’t care even though I was hurting tremendously. Thank you so much for writing this!!!

  13. Lady, thank you for writing this. And for having the courage to know when to step away, the grace to deal with your emotions and the levelheadedness to know that it isn’t The End. I’ve mourned my wedding, as well, but after it happened. I got sucked into the whole “I’ve already spent too much and people will be too disappointed and I don’t want to be a failure and … and … and … ” and that sucked. Almost as much as all the legal wrangling now sucks. But whether we mourn The Things, The Wedding or What Could Have Been, comfort comes in knowing that the decision was the right one.

    And uber kudos for being not-single again, because that is really scary. But the buterflies aren’t scary. The butterflies are the best.

  14. I just want to thank you for this. A few months ago I was the one who was broken up with, and all my very fledgling plans were canceled, and while the circumstances weren’t the same, this article helps me sort out a lot of the lingering questions. You’re a brave woman, and I’m happy this was shared/posted.

    (I am also not-single again, but my butterflies are overtaken by being scared shitless, haha)

  15. Both my husband and I had the same wedding idea since we were kids (Christmastime, with trees and Christmas colors and snow all around), and when he told me his dream wedding, I almost peed myself because it matched my dream so much!

    But, in having the dream that we both had, it also meant that I gave up my more offbeat dream of getting married barefoot by my favorite waterall. While not the same as mourning a marriage and relationship and awesome-sounding wedding (I hope you at least got to still go to India?!), I feel this waft of sadness about the what-ifness of that OTHER wedding I had also thought about having.

    • I’ve also had to give up my dream wedding, but for different reasons.

      I dreamed of having what I had envisioned as a Celtic and Fairies inspired outdoor wedding, with dances around a bonfire and a wildflower bouquet. And I had my heart set on having an elaborate celtic knot style circlet.

      But due to a variety of reasons (including making sure his brother can make it, as he plays college football, and the fact that he himself is allergic to life) we are having our wedding in the middle of January. And then the color scheme I wanted so badly to use wasn’t going to end up working. I was crushed.

      But it was temporary.

      Now we’re having a “comfy wood cabin/ski lodge” shindig, getting married in front of a roaring fireplace, and I’m still able to focus on the big thing that I really wanted to accomplish: making every aspect of the event a tribute to how we make each other feel.

      Now if only I could get the honeymoon figured out… /cry

  16. Where was this post last year when I cancelled my wedding? The only thing I have found harder than the cancelled wedding, was my decision to stay with the guy. It has been seven months, and as long as I don’t think of the what ifs, life is better than it ever was.

    • I thought I was the only one… I hadn’t got far in planning a wedding but I did realize after being engaged for a year and a half that I have some serious issues about marriage, and we went through a rough spot. We ended up canceling the wedding but stayed together. Luckily we were able to work out the majority of our issues and things are looking good. I’m still not sure if I want to get legally married but I know I’ve made the right choice in a life partner regardless.

      I wish you the best of luck and happiness 🙂

  17. I agree wholeheartedly with this post. I called my wedding off in 2010 just six weeks before the day. My fiance lived several states away because I had moved home to finish planning everything, though we had a condo together back where he was living. It was when I moved home that I was able to step outside my day to day life with him and say “this is not what I want” and this is not WHO I want. Because I called it off so late, I had already received numerous presents, bought my dress, paid for a photographer, the wedding site, and was pretty much finished. But when I admitted to my mother late one night how scared out of my mind I was, she looked me dead in the eye and asked me “Victoria…do you want to get married?” and I burst into tears and said “not to him!!” and bawled my eyes out. I drove four states with my best friend to move myself out of my condo while my fiance was at work, waited for him to come home and gave him my ring back and told him I loved him, but not enough to be his wife. I walked out of our condo and felt the greatest sense of relief, but then…the grief hit, just like the author said. I mourned the end of the relationship, the wedding, all the work, all the money, all the time that went into the wedding. thankfully, while I laid in bed for days depressed over everything, my Mother and Father made all the difficult phone calls for me, letting people know that there would not be a wedding happening, but that they would receive their gifts back. I am now marrying someone who I can’t wait to walk down the aisle and I do not have a hint of the impending dread that I felt with my last wedding to my ex. I can’t thank my family and friends enough for being so wonderful. I tell people that calling off my wedding and my three year relationship to my ex was the HARDEST, RIGHTEST thing I’ve ever done. Just because you do the ‘calling off’ doesn’t make it really any less sad. I dealt with so much guilt over breaking my fiance’s heart, especially because he swears he had no clue it was coming, and he tried so hard to win me back for months. But, I knew in my heart it was not meant to be, but try telling that to someone who truly believes in their heart that you are their one and only. The guilt from that is hard to deal with. thank you for writing this post. I understand pretty well how you felt.

  18. Unfortunately this is my story too. In 2010 my relationship with my partner ended very abruptly and traumatically. The experience was truly horrific and extremely isolating.

    I’ve known a number of women who have gone through the same experience. One of my clients was diagnosed with cancer and six weeks before the wedding, the groom took off. Awful story, but bullet dodged. And the bride has happily moved on and married someone else. The right person, who actually loves her unconditionally.

    We are not alone in this. There are many others.

    Being a grown up is key. I see some nasty fights and temper tantrums sometimes and it makes it hard to help when that happens. Walk away with respect, as best you can, for yourself and each other and just leave it there. Work on your grief on your own, with friends, with a counselor, not by lashing out at everyone around you whose trying to help. Because that’s the one thing that WONT help.

    • I also have a friend who was diagnosed with cancer and then entered a relationship that eventually turned into a now-broken engagement. She also went through a nasty divorce before her diagnosis. Nowadays, she seems to be somewhat happy to be single again, but I can tell that she’s still trying to heal from all the heartbreak and pain she’s been through for the past few years. But she remains one of my role models because she is so strong and determined to overcome her struggles, especially her ongoing battle with cancer.

  19. Somehow this is something that rarely is spoken about, as you wrote in your article.
    I am one of those, too. I broke up with my fiance only 2 weks before the wedding. And I never regretted it! It was one of the best decisions I made. I had been unhapoy and not sure about that relationship since we started dating. But I convinced myself that this is right, He is right.

    Fortunately I had someone in my life who shared my doubts. And finally being able to open up helped sooo much to take that step of cancelling the engagement.
    And fortunately ours would have been a very low-key wedding, so there was not much to cancel. We divided up who did what and that was it.
    Now, 7 years later, he is engaged to a girl who fits much better with him than I ever did. And I am still, happily, Single 🙂

    I just could not see myself marrying him and being with him for the rest of my life. So I decided it is best to break up with him before the wedding than having a divorce later, or a very unhappy marriage.

    I am glad you shared your experiences and I wish more people would read it. It helps to see you are not alone. And gives you strength if you are in a similar situation.

  20. Love seeing ‘gobshite’ on OBB 🙂 Maith thú agus go n’éirí an t-ádh leat le do chaidreamh nua.

  21. i had a similar experience. i cancelled my wedding a few days before. and it would have been everything i had ever wanted. it was really hard, but my friends and family were so supportive. someone else told me at the time that he went through his marriage because he already sent out the invitations. they divorced a year later. i didn’t want the same experience. i spent a lot of money but it all seemed better than divorce later. now i’m getting married to the man of my dreams. it’s not going to be the dream wedding i planned before, but the most important part is being with my love forever!

  22. It’s taken me since this was posted to read it, as I’ve been working up the courage to see it all written down. I cancelled my wedding three days before the event, nearly four years ago, and it still feels like a punch to the gut to remember it. I felt like I’d let everyone down, especially my Mum, who had postponed her chemotherapy so she wouldn’t feel ill on the day. I cried over her dress too. My parents, who lost thousands of pounds due to the last-minute cancellation, were very supportive, and my fiance’s mother sent me a note saying she thought I was “courageous”, which shocked me but made me realise how right I’d been to do it. All of your points ring true and it’s comforting to know I’m not the only one who’s been through this, reading all the comments. I realise now that instead of failing, I chose the hard option – it would have been easier to go through with it, and now I feel capable of anything – I’ve completely lost my fear that I’ll get hurt because the worst has already happened and it just showed me how strong I can be.

  23. I, too, am someone who canceled their wedding. Like a regular break-up it was a time to mourn the lost of a serious relationship. However, unlike a regular break-up, many were confused and not very supportive. I found that some of my friends were living their wedding fantasies through my wedding and it was hurtful to hear some of the reasons they believed I was breaking up with the SO.

    To this day, I know that I made the right choice. It was hard and difficult, but well worth it. Your advice was spot on, good job!

  24. You are definitely not alone! I cancelled my wedding and recieved so much support from most people. It is very hard, and I found myself get upset over the stupidest things – like the dress I wanted but won’t have.

  25. A friend cancelled her wedding under fairly awful circumstances five days before. We all grieved with her. I went with my mother and the minister to the church on the day to send people away, and then gathered with other friends, with whom I bawled. Because it was like going to a funeral. Something had died. It wasn’t a person, but it was something we all cherished and wanted the best for. And it died. So we held a wake whilst the broken hearted bride went on her honey moon with girlfriends instead of her new husband.

    Perhaps it is easier when it is cancelled earlier. I share this because no matter how much we were all hurt and saddened, it must be so much harder to bear if you are the couple. Your friends grieve with you. They can’t understand exactly how you feel, but they are hurt too. And they hurt because you are hurt.

  26. Hi : Thanks for having the bravery and determination to share your story. It’s true the marriage, IF it is meant to be IS what matters. Watch the show : Say Yes to the Dress and a person can see other INSANE side of weddings. Your name translates to The Hag with the Money. (I love to research things I am curious about!!) Can I ask, is that your “given” name or for writing and blog purposes?? Have a great new Spring!!!

  27. I *SO* would have loved to see this post… well, honestly just a little sooner than you were going through it yourself.

    I went through a self-destructive planning phase with my theoretical Offbeat Wedding for my first engagement; I wasn’t as far into planning as you were, but I used that wedding as a life-raft. Planning it was the only thing bringing me joy in my sinking relationship for a long time, and when it reached the point where I decided I had to abandon ship, the dread set in. Everyone that we knew was aware that we were engaged. I’d introduced him to family that I almost never see as my fiance. He was a part of family pictures. I lazily referred to him as ‘the hubby’ because I hated the word fiance too much to use it. And then suddenly I’m undoing all of that? I was so worried about the backlash from my family for going back on it that I almost went through with the wedding for that reason alone, and, as you said, a marriage trumps a wedding!

    Now, I, too, find myself back to plotting (we’re not planning, we’re plotting, muahahaha) a wedding and you’re right about the ideas, too! They’re not going to dry up. I’m happier with the ones I’m coming up with now because I’m not just throwing myself head-first into wedding porn to escape my life, so the ideas we’re building from? They’re OURS. Did Google point me back here when I went looking for the polyhedral dice mold? Yeah, but that’s okay; I have no delusions that the stuff we’re doing’s never been done, but I’m finding ideas that match mine, rather than just using someone else’s wholesale.

    I’m glad that canceling your OBW turned out for the best, and thank you so much for sharing this experience. Even though I wasn’t as deep into the planning, and even though the article comes as I get back on the wedding horse, so to speak, it’s so nice not to feel alone in second-planning.

  28. I know a couple who need to read this article, but I could never send it to them because I would be shunned for bringing dark clouds over their “happy” day. The bride to be is only concerned with the wedding. The groom knows their relationship is doomed but feels like they’ve been dating too long to officially break up. In his mind, the only way to end it is to marry and divorce. In her mind, marriage will make their relationship better. All of us on the outside have heard their awful stories about the other and they truly seem unhappy. They are both miserable with the planning, and even moving in together has been traumatic. They have been together over 5 years and have broken up more than a dozen times (for a dat, a week, a month, what have you). They have both likened themselves to failures if they break up before marriage. It is so silly to watch. I wish I could tell them that this stuff happens everyday and if you are not happy, get out! There are so many others who have done the same thing and found happiness.

  29. I was so frustrated right after my broken engagement; the only other person I knew who had broken off an engagement was my sister’s husband, and his was more of a mutual, long-time-coming thing, whereas mine was a bizarre, out-of-the-blue, over-the-phone, never-saw-him-again thing. And the only advice I could find on the internet was the proper etiquette for returning the ring and/or the wedding gifts.

    Well, fortunately, we hadn’t progressed far enough into the engagement for there to be gifts, and I knew I was going to do whatever the hell I wanted with that ring, etiquette be damned (I wound up leaving it with a mutual friend).

    So, no thanks to the internet, I’m getting through it, like any other serious breakup, with time and lots of talking it out. But oh, the triggers. They are bitches.

    I’ve been in two weddings since. My youngest sister (by six years) had her wedding just a few months later. I kept it together most of that week, but I had to slip away during the toasts and find a quiet bathroom and cry my guts out. It was probably too soon for me, but how do you say no to your sister, you know?

    The other wedding was just last weekend, and it was far and away the most emotional wedding I’ve ever been to. The couple are both dear friends of mine; in fact, I introduced them, and was the biggest cheerleader for them getting together. So I was incredibly happy, but also incredibly pained; their relationship had parelleled ours (we started dating and got engaged around the same time), and their wedding had *so many* of the elements I’d wanted in mine, and thusly, it was a pretty harsh reminder of what I thought I’d have, but don’t.

    While running errands with the groom the day before, he casually inquired into my (currently non-existent) love life, then tried (in a well-intentioned but somewhat clumsy way) to be reassuring. God love him, it just felt like platitudes, and it almost made me cry. But (perhaps mercifully) the rest of that weekend was so busy, I didn’t have much time to think about myself, and so it was easy to be happy.

    I crashed hard after the wedding, though. And it wasn’t a cathartic release, it was a slump. Just a total collapse, and it wasn’t until I got a message from a fellow attendee and old friend that I had any form of emotional liberation. The message, simply stated, said, “Are you ok?”

    And as I formulated an honest answer (the summation of which was “no”), I was overwhelmed, not only with the pain I’d been trying to keep at bay (surprise! It didn’t work!), but also with gratitude that someone would just ask. That someone else would acknowledge, with one simple question, that what I had gone through was agonizing and horrible and had the potential to color my experiences of that day. Two of my closest friends had checked in with me before the wedding, but I think it took the wedding itself to draw a lot of that stuff out.

    Point being, I guess, is that while I was mopey about not having anyone around who’d been in my shoes, it meant so damn much that, when I really needed it, people inquired about, listened to and acknowledged my pain. Even if they haven’t “been there” themselves. It’s important. It’s what makes community beautiful.

  30. Oh wow, this resonated with me so much. My last relationship was a real heartbreaker. We were together three years and planning a wedding, and then we broke up (another woman). Then, after a year of therapy and crazy drama, we got back together, and got engaged again, and started planning a new wedding. My friends were terrified for me, but they celebrated with me, champagne and offers of help and hours spent planning. Five months later he left me again for the same woman. It was insane. I didn’t know how to cope. I was ashamed and embarrassed and felt like such an asshole.

    But I survived. My friends were amazing and I learned SO SO SO much about myself and what I need and want from a relationship. My life on the other side is eight thousand times better, and I’m in a relationship now with an amazing man who is over the moon at the thought of building a life with me. It’s early days, but we know where we’re headed. That nightmare feels like just that…a nightmare, and it’s over.

  31. I hope this posts gets out to A LOT of people. I have had 4 friends get married and within one year get a divorce. When asked, they all said they knew before they got married, could not imagine canceling the wedding. One of them actually said “how can you cancel a wedding once it is planned?” My response was, you just do.
    I still ended up getting married, but we canceled our HUGE fancy wedding our parents wanted for us because I started questioning marriage, when really it was the stupid wedding stress. We had a tiny offbeat inspired wedding instead that we planned ourselves under 2 months. Some people were mean and disappointed, but those that cared about us were happy for us.

  32. So maybe I’m still bitter, or maybe I’ve had a true revelation about marriage… But I think it’s a sham (now at least). I just canceled my wedding in May because my fiancé ended up being a daranged sociopath – and I had known him for a long time – we’d been together for 6 years and it turns out I never really knew him because he had lied about everything. Long story short, the way I feel now, personally, is that I want to be independent forever. I’m sure I’ll love again but at this point in my life I don’t see myself ever wanting to commit to one person for a lifetime ever again. To clarify I’m not saying that marriage is irrelevant or not meaningful for other people, but it isn’t for me anymore. I want to be totally independent and not ever be bound to someone, especially since they could turn out to be a maniac one day (though this is obviously not the case for most couples). Long story short (and this may seem immature to some people but I’m aware of that – but sorry im not sorry I want to do it anyway), I still want a wedding but not a marriage. Before I continue, in my defense – I just read a post on offbeat bride where a woman was talking about how a lavish wedding weekend put a 70 year old woman in the hospital because the celebration was so overwhelming. I want a big day for me and about me, that I would pay for myself (that is to say I wouldn’t burden my parents with a costly expense for the sake of a patriarchal-era influenced, religious tradition), where I could wear a huge beautiful dress and cut into a huge cake and be surrounded by all of my friends and family having a wonderful time (*bonus for guests – no need to spend money on gifts). I hope some of you feel similarly, I can’t be the only one.
    A less attainable goal (obviously because I can’t control the government), we could push for domestic partnerships (or some other terminology) to replace legal “marriage”. Honestly when you get down to it there really is a distinction between a marriage, which is really a religious ceremony, and a legal “marriage” that is held in public record and benefits your spouse in a time of crisis. This would take care of the prohibition of gay marriage and take us modern women out of the 50’s stigma of women being inferior to their male counterparts in one fell swoop.
    If anyone is on board with this mentality could we start making it socially acceptable to host a party as a celebration of being free and independent in lieu of a marriage for those of us who don’t ever want to get married? I feel like we should give it a title…

    Again, full disclosure, I am more than happy for those couples who do support the idea of marriage and am more than happy for them. All I’m saying is that there must be a segment of the population that does not want to be married ever and I think it’s time we accommodate that section of the population as well 🙂

  33. I’m planning the wedding after my canceled wedding, and I STILL have triggers and uncertainties. Not to mention the awkwardness when vendors remember me at wedding shows, or when sending inquiry emails. BUT, it was the best thing I ever did.

    My fiance left me (for a bridesmaid, I’m clearly a cliche), but in the end, it taught me more about myself than anything else could have. And I’ve gotten so much better at communicating my needs and emotions, that I’ve become a decent person to be in a relationship with. Which makes it a lot easier to build a strong one.

    I find there’s a lot of shell shock and disbelief now that I’m engaged again, but people are coming around. I’ve been dating my fiance a year and a few months now, and we’ve pretty much known from the start this is where we were headed, but since he was divorced and I was left before a wedding, we waited a whole year till we couldn’t anymore.

    I find myself feeling defensive and cagey about the whole thing with family and friends who naysay, but I check in with myself and him and we talk through it and make this happy and fun rather than some sort of challenge to prove we’re ready for the long haul.

  34. I completely understand. I had been with my ex for 4 years, started off “promised”, then engaged (twice!), even bought the wedding bands…but never managed to make the wedding thing happen. We looked at a house in the country that needed ALOT of work, him talking about building a workshop to make armor (he did reenactments), about having a small farm and “our” kids running around the dogs we’d get. I’m a suburban girl, to get that out there first, and I’d get kinda squeamish at the idea of all this country-ish stuff, but I always tucked it away. I figured feelings like this happen because of the nervousness of making big decisions, no biggie right? (Mistake number one) It took my now hubby coming into the picture to have some true strength to make our last break up the final one. We’re going on 2 years this month of being married and through all of everything we’ve been through, including deciding together we don’t want kids (yeah, that took alot to bring myself to admit to), there’s absolutely no way I’d want anyone else by my side to battle through all of the shitty stuff with.

  35. Oi. Yeah. I was engaged before, and getting dumped by my fiance was terrible- beyond terrible, actually, because that relationship was an abusive one and the dumping the nearly-final act of abuse (counter-intuitive, that, and took me years of therapy to face into). It was, in some ways, not a “real” engagement, because they weren’t too keen on actual wedding planning the way I was, and kept control in the relationship partly by refusing to be definite about things. Going to other people’s weddings was hard, for awhile. Lots of things were hard, because even though the relationship was abusive I still mourned those dreams of marriage and kids and wedding and all the rest. Well, and heck- it took me a couple of years to even acknowledge that that relationship had been abusive. We don’t talk a lot about abuse in same sex relationships, even though it’s a HUGE problem in the lesbian community. Our worry about our image keeps a lot of people in dangerous and toxic relationships.

    My soon-to-be spouse and I got fairly serious fairly quickly- but I wasn’t ready to commit for awhile. I had a bit more healing to do, and my partner gave me the space to do it. And when I knew I was ready I knew I wanted to get married to this person the way I was never sure the first time around. My head and my heart and my intuition are all on the same page on this one. And wedding planning this time around? Totally awesome.

  36. I too canceled my wedding, one month before it was supposed to happen. Thank you for posting your story. I am planning my wedding to another wonderful man, now, and I can relate to other commenters’ fears around that. The embarrassment and anxiety around friends and family maybe not taking me so seriously because I’ve ‘flaked out’ before. Hard to celebrate when I’m feeling ashamed, I guess. Anyway, my family was so lovely when I canceled (you and your happiness matter most!) and I can’t say enough times how right the decision was. Kudos to us all for braving the headwinds of the WIC and our deposits. Xo.

  37. Thank you for starting this dialogue. I feel very fortunate not to have gone through this experience, but as a pragmatist with still more than a year to go until my own wedding I am trying not to count my chickens. I prefer to go in with my eyes wide open, and with a community like this I know that if we start running into warning signs we will recognize them and will be able to approach them with the knowledge that cancellation is a sensible recourse, that it really will not be the end of the world or our personal happiness, and that we have a huge support group among our family and friends (and, for me, the Tribe!) to help us get through it. Your solidarity and reassurances make the unthinkable, well, thinkable, and that makes it enough less scary that I can be sure that I am making my choices leading up to the wedding for the right reasons.

  38. I’ve been there, but on the receiving end. I should have been the one to call it off, I’d admitted to myself we didn’t love each other but it took him to put the final nail in the coffin. I was so insecure and anxious about the idea of re-entering the dating game that I was actually willing to marry him as long as he was still willing to marry me, and he went back and forth on this for a solid 6 months while I buried my head in the sand and planned away.

    The wedding was supposed to be in August and it ended in December (he sat me down the day after Christmas to tell me he didn’t love me any more).

    My family really came through for me, they held my hand while I cried and made all the tough phone calls. I think one of the hardest parts was how many friends I lost in all of it, I didn’t realize how many of my friends were really his, I was so grateful to realize that I had great friends in my whole family. I was able to remain civil about the whole thing until I came to find out that he was already staying with another girl within a week of the split.

    I felt awful for the money others had spent. My Grandmother had purchased my dress for me, it was beautiful and it meant the world to me. I considered wearing it when I got married a few years later but besides the fact that it didn’t fit any more it felt wrong for a billion reasons. Deposits had been paid, flights had been booked, various wedding outfits had been bought. It sucked.

    That was a little more than 4 years ago now. I had a brief (and really quite stupid) engagement shortly after, I guess as a reaction to being ignored for 5 years, suddenly being paid attention to was amazing and I got caught up in it. Luckily that ended quickly and no money ended up being spent.

    The biggest lesson I think I took away from all of it is that I needed to think more about the marriage, less about the wedding and I wasn’t doing that before, I was thinking “I’m going to be a bride” not “I’m going to be a wife”. I got married this last summer and I had a ton of anxiety leading up to the wedding because of my past experiences, I was afraid he’d wake up and realize he didn’t want to be with me since it’d happened before, but he was nothing but loving and understanding. I’m so happy that I’ve found someone that I’m happy to spend the rest of my life with and that I’m proud to say I’m his wife.
    the end 🙂

    • Did you find that with this being your third engagement, people took you less seriously?? I am now in my second (and FINAL) engagement, and although I can point out the billion ways this is different this time around, I’m not so sure the rest of my family can.. I feel like, in a small way (and bless my mom for really trying to get on board) they don’t believe I’ll go through with this one either. I called off my wedding one year before… December is 18 months to wedding day (yes, I am a firm believer in long engagements!) I’m going that by next summer people start seeing that I’m serious about this one.. Just in time to jump in the fun!!!

  39. I didn’t cancel a wedding, but I did end an engagement with my first college boyfriend. It was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made. I loved him and his family so much, but we had irreconcilable religious differences. I’m an aspiring cosmologist, so I not only believe in the Big Bang, but I will be writing my dissertation on it, whereas my former fiance is an evangelical Christian, who interprets the Bible literally. I just couldn’t marry someone who thought I was going to hell. And even though I never let him buy me a ring and we hadn’t booked a venue yet, we had chosen a date: June 11th, 2011. I dreaded spending that day alone, so I chose to schedule my college graduation party then (even though it was a month after commencement), when I would be surrounded by family and friends, a different gown, a different cake, a different guy.

  40. I wish I found this article sooner, maybe my life might be different now. I felt a fleeting panic in the days leading up to my wedding only 6 months ago, everything was running smoothly except our relationship…….I think a culmination of spending my entire savings, being together for 8 years and having 2 children together as well as not having the balls to call it off in conjunction with exceptional circumstances holding our life to ransom from the previous year snowballed the sheer panic I felt. Unfortunately I went through with the wedding, yes I had an amazing day……but when alone with my husband that night everything fell apart he was wasted told me he wanted a divorce and I felt like such a fool for marrying this man that I once loved with my whole heart……I found myself in the shower at 2am crying my eyes out for 3 hours, not the wedding night I imagined. In the months after the wedding things got much worse to the point we didn’t talk for 2 weeks and I slept on the couch for over a month , we keep going round and round in circles and I truly am at a loss as to how to fix how desperately unhappy I am, I know I deserve better and im setting a bad example for my children I dont want this for them as adults. I wish I had of called it off but i didnt want to be the one responsible for all the feelings that everyone would have expressed at me then…… hindsight i sure as hell wouldnt feel the way i do now, like a complete fool who married a man thats broken me to the point i cant trust anything he says anymore, he broke my spirit and my heart and for the foreseeable future im stuck in a broken marriage with no way out.

  41. While my first wedding that I planned wasn’t all that offbeat, it was incredibly hard to let go of. It was perfect. Traditional, fairytale wedding in the most perfect venue. I felt the more “perfect” my wedding was, the less I would feel how “unperfect” my relationship was. Finally, exactly one year before, after I had just put my deposit down on the venue, and had purchased THE dress, I called it off. I did my best to be as adult as I could about the whole thing, though my ex fiance didn’t seem to do the same. It didn’t matter. I had hurt him, and to him it seemed to come out of nowhere. To this day, I still mourn my venue, and my dress…. Because, they were BEAUTIFUL. But this time around, I’m enjoying including my fiance in the plans…. It’s OUR day, not mine. This wedding may not be “perfect” but it will be unique, so “us”, and it will be FUN! Most importantly, I’m not hiding behind it. I get so excited about our “happily ever after”. I can’t wait to be his Mrs. I want the life and the marriage that comes after that one day.

  42. I’m so happy to have read this. I also read a few of the comments and feel relieved I’m not alone. We didn’t cancel our wedding but we did postpone it indefinitely for the moment. I always acknowledge that feelings are valid but I was feeling a bit odd for mourning my wedding. The day I took down my wedding website, I felt so sick and cried all morning. I told my fiance that I was still so happy to be with him and that I knew we were still engaged and going to wed one day, but I couldn’t pretend I wasn’t also very very sad.
    Thanks for sharing this. It helped me to see I am not alone in my feelings.

  43. I love how you worded your number 2. Marriage is so much more important than that wedding! I too had held on to a relationship past it’s expiration date but the dawning day came when I realized the wedding held more meaning to me than the groom! Alarm bells rang, we talked it though, went our separate ways and now I am happily married to the RIGHT groom, where the wedding process meant less than the man I was marrying. I was able to easily shrug off problems because all that mattered was that at the end of the day I was married to Mr. Right-for-Me.

    My only warning is that you might have moments when the time comes around again where you might do what I did and bemoan “that wedding”. I fretted over decisions because I wanted to make the event between me and Mr. Right-for-Me special and unique… and when the plans paralleled too close to the plans I’d made for “that wedding” I would panic. Don’t panic! Luckily my groom was super patient with me and helped me realize if I was paralleling, it was probably because it was a FANTASTIC idea and we need to do it! I almost stuck to the dress I’d wanted originally and ended up with something the same cut and style but much better suited for the NEW wedding. Same but different. And the wedding came out beautiful and personalized for us and the past only mattered so much in that it gave me a stepping stone to what I needed for the now.

    Great article and thanks for sharing!

  44. Thanks so much for sharing this. You are definitely not alone. We postponed our offbeat wedding a couple of years ago, then broke up, but not really. 2 years later we’re still in this weird undefined space. I think there’s a lot of unnecessary shame around cancelling a wedding. I know that – even as an offbeat bride – I felt immense unspoken judgement from family and friends. There was an attitude of ‘you almost HAD him! What happened?!?!’ Well… reality happened. Our love for one another was never in question, but our ability to handle the challenges of daily life was. We ignored mounting issues during a year long engagement, and paid the price for doing so. I don’t know what our future holds, but I’m glad we didn’t succomb to pressure and rush into something we weren’t ready for.
    The reality is that no matter the circumstances, I think women are particularly vulnerable to the opinion that we somehow failed. It doesn’t make sense. It isn’t right. But it’s the reality of social expectations right now.
    Sorry to go on a rant. This just really resonated with me in a way that I don’t get to express to my loved ones, cause even though they meant well, they were part of the problem.

  45. This is wonderful and much needed advice! I’ve come to believe that it is possible that some people just want to have the party so badly that they are willing to get married to have it. And it is so easy to get caught up in the feel-good-iness that is thrown your way when you announce your engagement, that you begin to feel like it really IS a good idea (even though that voice inside your head is saying “not so fast……”).

    I love the idea several of you have mentioned about having the party anyway. When I am working with my clients, who have such great ideas, I begin to break out in party-envy-itis. To cure me of this, I have created occasions to celebrate in a big way: a medieval themed vow renewal, a Edwardian/Downton Abbey dinner party to celebrate my retirement from my “day job”, and a Christmas dinner where everyone wore their old wedding dresses or other formal attire. There is really no reason why you have to get married to have a kick ass party. Life is a pageant to be celebrated!

Comments are closed.