After a year of long-distance, he surprised me and decided to move to Memphis, my hometown, to be with me. Two years after we met, we moved in together and were doing great. So great, that we got engaged and started planning the wedding for the next year.
I poured my heart and soul into the wedding plans to try and make it the best day it could be. It was going to be a celebration of our love and commitment to each other, so I wanted it to be absolutely amazing. A few weeks before the wedding I had everything planned out to a T and was so excited for our big day.
Five days before the wedding the unexpected happened. My fiancé and I sat down and he told me that he was not in love with me, and did not want to marry me, or spend the rest of his life with me.
I was in complete shock and had no idea what to think or do. I was numb. The next couple days were a blur of calling guests, canceling services, and figuring out our living arrangements. Fortunately, my friends and family surrounded me and showed me endless love and support.
As the day that was supposed to be my wedding day approached, none of us knew what to do, think, or feel. I knew that a pity party was the farthest thing from what I wanted or needed. A few people brought up the idea of trashing the dress, and at first it sounded crazy…
My mother had spent so much money on the dress and alterations, so I was nervous to even think about destroying it, let alone try and pitch the idea to her. But after thinking about it, I knew that doing something to mark the occasion was the perfect thing for me. I was not going to let my ex-fiancé's mistake of letting me go take away my happiness.
My bridesmaids and parents supported the idea 100% and even joined me in their own dresses and suit. My friend Carolyn didn't even wait for my photographer Elizabeth to say “go” — she just kind of threw the paint on me.
The moment the paint hit my dress… I was free. All the disappointment, all the hurt… I just felt it leave me. I can't even describe how liberating and cathartic the experience was for me. I let go of all the hurt and became myself again.
I am a strong woman who believes that everything happens for a reason. We all face adversity in our lives, but what really defines us is how we decide to overcome that adversity. I decided that I will not let this tragedy and heartbreak consume me, and bring me down in life.
Afterwards, my dress was proudly displayed at The Barefoot Bride in Memphis.
Through the beginning of 2015, a portion of each wedding dress purchased while my dress is displayed will go to a Memphis non-profit that helps other women learn how to find their inner strength.
Ultimately, I have come out of this experience a stronger and better person, and I am excited for the future knowing that God has a plan for me. Always remember to remain true to yourself and believe in your own strength and you can overcome anything life throws at you.
UPDATED TO ADD
Three years later, Shelby went on to get the wedding she deserved with a wonderful new partner. Photos courtesy of Elizabeth Hoard Photography.