Why did a bunch of my guests break up right after our wedding?

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Are they breaking up next week? (Thanks to christinalikesbirds for submitting this photo to our Flickr pool!)
Are they breaking up next week? (Thanks to christinalikesbirds for submitting this photo to our Flickr pool!)
I just got married last year, and I noticed something really strange:

After our wedding, several guests who'd attended went through significant break-ups.

What the heck?

I mentioned it to a married friend, and she said the same thing had happened after her wedding a couple years ago.

Is this a common thing?

Why does it happen?


It could have been! When you say, “I do,” you encourage your guests to muse upon their own relationships. By standing up and declaring your commitment, you encouraged others to consider their own commitments … which can mean a guest looking at the person sitting next to them and realizing, “Oh, hell no. I DON'T.”

Let me be clear: This isn't about your wedding being SOOOOOOO AMAZING that everyone else's love just pales by comparison. I'm not saying weddings blow the feeble minds of your friends and family who are like “How could my piddly relationship ever compare to the awesome power of this amazing couple!” My point is just that weddings are a celebration and observation of commitment, and if a guest is in a relationship that they're not quiiiiite sure about, there's nothing like thinking about commitment and love non-stop for several hours to bring in some perspective and clarity.

Furthermore, Big Life Events (weddings, graduations, funerals, births) just tend to shake up communities. Sometimes relationships can be the casualties of these enormous life shifts. Perspectives can change quickly, and stress (even the good YAY WORLD kind!) has a way of pulling things into focus.

Possibly, couples who are already a bit iffy put on a good face for your wedding because they don't want to make things awkward at your celebration. “Oh, why am I here without your Uncle Bob? Well, Bob and I separated last month and uh, I moved into a studio apartment downtown and, sniffle, well, he's keeping the dog and … [starts crying].”

There's also the chance that your wedding had nothing to do with it: people break up all the time, and it happening after your wedding may just be a coincidence. Or you may just notice with a little bit sharper acuity because you just made a big commitment.

It's a weird phenomenon, the post-wedding guest break-ups. It totally happened at my wedding too, something I wrote about in my book. I'd love to know if readers have any of their own theories about why break ups tend to come in clusters after weddings.

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Comments on Why did a bunch of my guests break up right after our wedding?

  1. This happened at my own wedding. Two couples broke up in the parking lot. One because he realized that he didn’t love her “like that” and the other because she realized that she was in love with someone else!

    Neither were bitter toward us and thankfully didn’t clue us in until we got back from our honeymoon.

  2. This totally happened after my wedding too. Some broke up just before our wedding and played it cool and then told us after, obviously to not interfere with our celebration. And I am just awestruck by that kindness. Some broke up after our wedding.

    I think Ariel has hit all the right reasons, and I would add what a friend of mine told me as evidence, “You looked so happy and in love, and I realized I wasn’t happy at all.” Another friend told me seeing her friends getting married, like me, made her feel pressured to get married, and she realized the person she was with wasn’t her “One” and that time was getting short, blah blah blah, and she needed to be free to fall in love with her “One.”

    I think the thing to keep in mind is to try and be supportive of people who are exiting relationships just as you’ve made a huge commitment to yours, and be grateful for what you’ve got. Just don’t rub it in 😉

  3. Yes. 3 couples broke up the following week, including one person in the wedding party and her long-term boyfriend. Also – one of my bridesmaids was/is in an unhealthy marriage, and after my wedding day I never heard from this couple again, so I lost a Godchild in the process. Weddings are emotionally-loaded for other people, no matter what you do to make it fun/easy for them.

  4. I had this happen too. My maid of honor went right home and moved out of the house she’d been sharing with her boyfriend of 5+ years. I had another bestie though who was on the rocks with her sig. other on the way to the wedding (and had been for about a year), and ended up recommitting herself to the relationship afterward. Weddings are emotional events centered around relationships and I think it can either wake people up to their unhappiness or remind them of how great their partner is!

  5. On the other hand, there was a couple who met at my wedding – two friends from different parts of the country – who are now getting married this October! I agree that it’s a time when lots of people put thought into their relationships.

    • Yup – not any new relationships, but lots of engagements followed ours. I think it’s the same thing, but opposite. With a touch of “hey, if they can do it and I’m leaning towards commitment too, then it can’t be that hard.”

      • Yes! Two sides of the same coin, I think. My new sister-in-law got engaged to her SO the weekend after our wedding. It was in the works for a long time (they had already bought a condo together) but I think our wedding was a little nudge for them. We also had an already-married couple who had a small ceremony sans-family decide that they might do a re-commitment thing and invite their families this time around. No post-wedding break-ups on our end (yet) but it could have just as easily gone that way!

  6. I think all of Ariel’s reasons sound good: nothing like a few hours of hearing about commitment and love to and seeing it first-hand to make you look at your date and say: “Hunh. Is this us? Urrrrg…”

    I wonder if also the reverse is true, and some couples become closer?

    • Yeah, I always get really turned on at a wedding. My FH commented on it at the last wedding we were at, and at first I was a bit upset by it, thinking he’s making it sound dirty, but then I realised that no, I’m thinking about ourselves and imagining it’s me getting married to him, so I’m quite happy with it now. I think that every wedding we’ve been to has strengthened our own relationship, to the point where we know that this is what we want for ourselves.

    • Definitely true, my fiance and I went to three weddings the first year we were together and by the third one we were openly talking about how we were so totally going to get married someday and what an awesome life we would build together. I don’t know if we would have talked about it so openly early on if we hadn’t had that catalyst!

  7. I think maybe it’s kinda like when one person/couple in a social group gets pregnant or drops a sprog and then a few others seem to follow suit; seeing friends or family go through major changes like marriage or becoming parents can make you look at your own lives and reassess where you’re headed with your own life.

    On a happy note, after my wedding last year, my sister and her long time boyfriend decided to get wed too and my bestie got engaged shortly afterward! 🙂

  8. ours has been an interesting relationship cos we’ve probably been together longest amongst our siblings (a blessing we’re grateful for). the break-ups, make-ups and mash-ups that have ‘whirlwinded’ around us are more than anyone would care to know or hear about

    a wedding is a stressful time for everyone involved and i think that the relationships that go through change were the ones that were teetering on the edge of getting even stronger or of breaking down.

    its also part of our self-conscious culture to observe and dissect every inch of our lives and compare ourselves with others (friends, colleagues, skinny models, supposedly happy celebs etc) so if someone was feeling at all insecure, then in the glow of a (capital ‘w’:)*Wedding* the cracks and imperfections would make them feel all the more unhappy with themselves and wanting for some change

  9. This didn’t happen with any of our friends/family, but it DID happen with two couples my cousin is friends with, for exactly that reason.

    I broke up w/ my ex less than a week after a friend of mine said to me, “Oh, I heard you got engaged!” (We had NOT.) Thing is, we had talked about it quite a bit, but hearing it from someone ELSE put it in a different perspective for me.

  10. I think it also happens sometimes that couples have already been on the verge of a breakup for some time but – consciously or not, and for a variety of reasons – wait until after an upcoming big event to go through with it.

    • That happened to me once. We’d never really been right for each other, the relationship had been on the way out for several months at least but it wasn’t until we did the rounds of my family and his family at Christmas that it really hit home that this was never going to work.

  11. I broke off my 6 year relationship with my boyfriend the night of our friends’ wedding. I’d been thinking about it before. I was their photographer and was a bit stressed about the event. My boyfriend was being unsupportive and rude all day (in a nutshell). Once the wedding was over we had a few drinks with friends nearby. I had one too many and was catching a cab with his sister and friend. Our other friend offered us a ride but was pulled over driving the three of us home. My boyfriend told me that it was all my fault our friend was pulled over. With that statement, I told him we were done. I wish my friends didn’t have that associated with their happy day. Weddings do bring out the stress and emotions in us.

  12. We had a friend break off an engagement the day after our wedding. I felt terrible when I found out. She told me that when she heard my husband read his vows (we wrote our own), she cried because it was all the things she wanted her fiance to tell her. But in that moment she knew he never expressed those things because he didn’t feel that way. He was marrying her because they had a child together. In the long run, it was the right choice for her and she found out later he was cheating. My aunt and uncle started divorce proceedings about a month afterwards. You can see the tension between them in our wedding photos. I think both relationships had a lot of issues long before our wedding day, but seeing others truely happy may be the “straw that breaks the camel’s back” in making them reflect on their own situations.

  13. This happened the night after we got engaged,we havent even had our wedding yet! My fiances best friend/best man broke up with his long time Girlfriend after he heard my fiance propose because he wanted to get married but she didnt. Hope nothing more happens after we get married,.

    • I had exactly the same thing! Seemingly immediately after asking each of my bridesmaids to be my bridesmaids they ALL went through major break-ups! All four of them 🙁 Majorly bummed the bridesmaid/girly-giddiness of planning my wedding but they’re all thankfully coming out the other side of it now there are just three months to go…I really hope we’ve had our share of friend break-ups now and that nothing more happens after the wedding

  14. My boyfriend of 4 years broke up with me a couple weeks before my best friend’s out-of-town wedding. I decided a few days later that I would move to my best friend’s city (a few other friends lived there too). I spent most of the rehearsal dinner fighting back tears in the restroom and calling my Mom. But it all worked out – I ended up meeting my current boyfriend at the wedding!

  15. Whoa. I just thought about this and I left my ex shortly after his best girlfriend from high school got married. I’d say less than a month after the wedding. I remember thinking at the wedding that it might not work out and I think the wedding did give me a bit of a push in the right direction.

    I say it was right because 3 years later and now I’m married to a wonderful man!

  16. Yup, happened with us too:( Chris’ favorite aunt and uncle, who had served hugely as our role models for life and happy monogamy, shocked everyone with divorce proceedings two months after the wedding. Now that I look back on it without Wedding glow brain, it should have been totally obvious on the day of:/

  17. Great post! I didn’t notice anything like this after our wedding, but I have seen the pattern before.

    We say and do little things every day to affect one another and make us reflect on our own world. It just happens that a wedding is a “big loud” thing we do and it affects lots of people all at once.

    I said something to a co-worker once that she later told me was the catalyst to her divorce. I simply mentioned how excited I was to have children with my husband. It got her thinking that she wanted children but not necessarily with her husband. I know I’m not responsible for her divorce, I just said the thing she needed to hear at the right time.

    That’s life. 🙂

    • “We say and do little things every day to affect one another and make us reflect on our own world. It just happens that a wedding is a “big loud” thing we do and it affects lots of people all at once.”

      Nailed it. Well said.

  18. We only had one break up. Our friend broke up with his on and off again girlfriend shortly after our wedding. I think had more do with the fact that she was crazy and immature than how awesome our wedding was.

  19. My husbands best man and his gf broke up right the day of our wedding. It was kinda brewing for a while, then she said something and he refused to pick her up for the wedding. In turn, he ended up being there solo. Which I don’t think he minded in the end.

  20. I did this, actually. Things had been really, really bad – like desperately bad – with my partner for literally years, and it had pretty much destroyed my life, more or less; I had no self-esteem, I was crisis-level depressed, I had chronic insomnia, etc. I’d been at rock bottom for about six months by the point he and I flew back to our hometown to attend a friend’s wedding, and it was during their first dance, watching them so happy and in love that I was suddenly struck by the horrifying realisation that I didn’t want that with him, that I didn’t want to be with him forever, that I didn’t even want to be with him next week. The concept of actually breaking up had never occurred to me as a possibility before, but suddenly the inevitable, and immediate, necessity of it hit me like a tonne of bricks. The realisation was so sudden, and so painful, that it came accompanied by a wave of nausea, and I had to run to the bathroom. The next few weeks (there were various reasons why it would have been evil to leave him right then) were absolutely Hell, because I knew what I was going to do, and I just couldn’t look him in the eye.
    But, yeah, I am definitely one of the people who saw good friends say “I do,” and then looked at their own current relationship and suddenly went, “Oh, hell no, I DON’T.”

  21. A friend broke up with her partner after my wedding. It was kind of funny, because I hadn’t originally invited the partner and she’d made a special request to bring him. But I think it was kind of a “make or break” deal for her–I think she knew that seeing him with all her old friends would convince her one way or the other about whether the relationship was right.

  22. Hmmm. I was almost one of these post wedding break ups (and I think we did in fact break up…for a couple of hours) but we decided to give it another shot and now I’m marrying him. Go figure?

    • Hey, Malkavian, I’m a Cam nerd, too.
      Just saw the name, and thought I should wave. 🙂

    • My boyfriend and I are struggling with this right now! We have had to good couple friends get engaged. We have had mixed feelings about this for a variety of reasons. We used to never fight and now only fight about getting married. We both want to marry each other be together forever, its just time. We don’t know when. Sorry to pour this out on you I just know where you are coming from! It was a releif that you had the same experience and from the other side could say “totally cool now.” It makes me feel less stressed that this isn’t just my reaction to induced stress from the marriage industrial complex!

  23. I got back together with my boyfriend at his mom’s wedding. We’d been talking as friends for a while before and he invited me as a friend of the family. All I could think the whole time was how much I just wanted to be his date. We didn’t even get pictures taken together because it was too awkward. It worked out okay in the end, though :). We both admitted we were crazy about each other and didn’t want to be apart anymore. It’s been amazing ever since.

  24. Huh. My ex broke up with me about two weeks after the wedding of one of our really good friends and even now, 1 1/2 years later I’m still not sure why. But this kinda makes sense.

  25. A few years back I went to 3 weddings in one month with a guy I’d been dating. We weren’t very serious, but the experience of going to all those weddings with him definitely factored into our breakup at the end of the month – as others have said, it made me realize that I didn’t care about him enough to ever get to the point of marriage. But equally important – he had a hard time relaxing and chatting with my friends and I ended up wishing I’d gone alone. THAT was what really settled it. My fiance is capable of entertaining himself at weddings and social gatherings, and it makes such a difference!

  26. I broke up with my last boyfriend during wedding season ’09. At one friends wedding that my boyfriend wasn’t able to attend, I realized I was happy to be attending alone. I stayed with him after that in order not to take the attention away from another friends wedding, which was a few weeks later. We broke up after the second friends wedding.

    10 months later, I met my fiance. We get married in December.

  27. I MUST add to this post.
    I was 21 when I attended my college roomate’s wedding, excited bc thats what weddings do to me and in love because I was there with my boyfriend of a litte over a year. Alex and I were young, and the whirlwind we were in was definitely love- we had fun and I could easily say It was a great relationship. Not a sign anywhere in the horizon for trouble ahead. Well it started at cocktail hour. The questioning and reflecting on relationships and love.. and IT ended by the finishing of the main course. On the dance floor he turned to me and asked me if we could go back to our room to talk.
    After some crying… we decided to drive back home.. heartbroken. That was 5 years ago. We quite abruptly cut it off, bc I knew that if there was any uncertainty he had to figure it out. There wasn’t any fighting, or animosity it just ended and I was in shock. As the years passed I never forgot about him and missed him desperately. We would run into eachother randomly or coincidently get back in touch. In June ’10 Alex got back in touch with me. Last month he proposed!! This ofcourse is the abridged version of where the last 6 years brought us to. But I had to share my story because it was all because a wedding (A beautiful one I might add) evoked emotions and caused someone to evaluated really hard and suddenly a place they were in their life.

  28. My ex-husband’s parents broke up a week after our wedding. He was so upset by this he moved back with his mum to support her and then realised he wasn’t ready to be married… but I am now engaged to my two daughters’ father and so happy!

  29. I broke up with my boyfriend after my cousins wedding. It was a beautiful wedding, a lot of people, lots of food, everyone in colourful dresses… i realised what a lot of bullshit the whole thing is, everyone making a fuss and getting emotional about an economic contract being signed, and since my boyfriend seemed to find it “nice”, I realised we had too different ways on believing in relationships. I believe in love, not on state contracts.

  30. Coming to this post WAY late…but I did this. I broke up with my ex-boyfriend because of my sister’s wedding. Oh, there was much more to it than that, and the breakup didn’t even occur until about a year later, but it was the instigating spark. I saw the look on their faces when my sister and her groom looked at each other, and knew that he and I didn’t have that. “Hell no, I don’t” indeed.

    I tried to work it out. I talked it over with him–how could we get to where they were? He insisted that it was just new relationship energy and not really real. Never mind they’d been together about five years before marrying.

    Sis and her husband are still doing fantastically well together, and I found someone who made me feel as goo-goo as they looked.

  31. Had this happen to me. Went to one of my best friends with my partner of nearly 6 years back then and he broke up with me a week later because of it. Said he couldn’t give me all the things my friends now husband said to her and promised her and said he could never give me that life. Then we were broken up for about a year before we decided to try again and then we moved in together and just a few weeks later he dumped me again and for similar reasons. Screw that. I can’t wait to find someone new who isn’t going to give up on us.

  32. We had both sides of this happen to people around us when we got married… My maid of honour broke up with her boyfriend of ~4 years very shortly before my wedding. As in, I had addressed the invitation to the two of them, but she informed me about a month before the wedding that her boyfriend would not be attending with her because they had broken up. Also, she and our best man (never met beforehand) ended up dating for a short time after our wedding.

    On the other hand, we found out when we came back from our week-long honeymoon that my brother-in-law had proposed to his girlfriend about two days after our wedding!! They have been married for 1.5 years now.

  33. I was once a terrible person who broke up with my then-boyfriend AT a wedding (oh, the horrors!)

    It was the second wedding we were attending together in 2 weeks time, and I had already been having doubts about our nearly-4-year relationship. I was trying to put on a brave face and survive the events before breaking up so as not to make things uncomfortable and awkward at the weddings… I suppose I didn’t really think that through very well.

    We were sitting at the table with his loving, welcoming parents and sisters, and it struck me that this would be my last big event as a part of their family. (I’m tearing up as I type this.) I was holding back tears, and he took me outside to catch my breath, and I couldn’t get away with NOT telling him. I broke his heart on a stone bench in a beautiful garden. I felt like a monster.

    But… the break-up only lasted about 6 months. Fast-forward 5 years, we own a home together, have 2 cats, and are currently planning OUR wedding. So there’s that.

  34. I love the breakup but get back together happy ending! Brings hope that love isn’t a perfect story. There’s ups and downs.

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