The Wedding Dropout: or how I never became a Wedding Graduate


When Sara (of the Meanest Look) wrote me to ask if I’d be interested in her writing about how she dealt with calling off  her wedding, I said, “YES!!” in such an enthusiastic way that I think she was a little shocked. Because on one hand, yes, people don’t like to think of unhappy endings in the middle of wedding planning. But on the other hand, I think there is power for all of us in discussing the taboo parts of weddings and marriages. BIG power. Because goodness knows, if you call off your wedding, you’re at least supposed to be quiet about it. And f*ck being quiet about it. I know for a fact that Sara is not the only Team Practical member who has dealt with this, and none of you deserve to feel alone and isolated. Plus, well, I know this story (don’t we all know this story?) mine didn’t involve a ring, but it did involve a lot of painful wising up. And I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I hadn’t had to pick up those bazillion pieces. So, wedding graduate or no wedding graduate, I’m on Sara’s team.  With that, I give you Sara, the Wedding Dropout (Yup. I said it):

Three or so weeks before my romantic, perfect, practical wedding was set to take place the whole shebang that I had spent countless hours coordinating, planning, etc. was called off.

By me.

You know cold feet? Well it was something more. It was a gut feeling that something just wasn’t right. It was more than a fleeting moment of doubt.

It just wasn’t  right.

At the end of December,  I called off my wedding and shit hit the fan. Having just gone through this a few months ago and looking back, what sort of advice can I offer to other wedding dropouts?

  1. First, slow everything down. Wedding planning is hectic and fast and harried and full of pressure from all kinds of places. Make sure you’re actually interested in the getting married bit of the wedding planning -that you want your relationship to have a forever home. Maybe you do. Maybe things are just moving too fast. That’s all fine. Just take the time to be sure.
  2. Do your own dirty work. Even though friends and family may offer to call guest, caterers, hotels, etc for you, just do it yourself. You may cry through every one of those phone calls like I did, but owning the situation makes it so much easier.
  3. If you don’t make those calls yourself and deal with it, then be ready for some seriously awkward situations. I chose to stick my head in the sand and tell only a few people. Word did not get around, so I had co-workers, acquaintances, friends, and family constantly asking if I “was getting excited for the big day” leading up to the date. I had about a million breakdowns every time that happened. It would have been much easier to just get it over with at once.
  4. Return gifts and money immediately.  Include a thank you card and a personal note. Don’t be rude just because your plans have changed.
  5. The people who loved you before you were a bride-to-be will still love you once you are a Wedding Dropout. (thanks, Dad!) And feel free to have that frank conversation with them. I was surprised when my dad told me he doesn’t care if I ever get married. As long as I’m happy.
  6. Ask for your money back from vendors. You may be surprised at the compassion some people will have toward your situation.
  7. Live gratitude. Thank everyone around you for their support, their kindness, and time. You cannot thank them enough.
  8. Try therapy first. Pre-marital counseling, individual therapy. Whatever helps you sort your head out.  We tried too little, too late and then it just imploded on our efforts. It takes a lot of hard work to make a marriage work and therapy will help you know if you and your partner are on the same page or if dropping out is the right path.
  9. Feel free to fall apart. It’s okay, really. I waited too long to get in touch with what I was really feeling and it led to some dark days. Mourn, make peace with your decision and begin to move on.  And cry all you want, girlfriend.
  10. You will be okay. The “was to be wedding day” was really hard. My stubborn ass went to the place we were going to have the reception and had a party with my besties. I had a “confirmed bachelorette” party a few weeks before. Those are memories I’ll always have with my friends. And I laughed at myself, which helped. Immeasurably. It’s more than okay to laugh while crying.

Life goes on. It’s hard but you can make it through if I did. It will feel like your entire world has fallen in. Cause it sort of has, but the thing is, you can rebuild. And you’ll know how to make a stronger foundation next time. And there will be a next time. I promise.

And now the very personal part. Did I love my Fiancée? Yes, without a doubt. Did he love me? Absolutely. Do I still love him? Yes, and will for a very long time. Did I want to work things out at first? No. Did he? Yes. After a little time went by did I want things to work out? Yes. Did he? No.  So I cried some more.  What made all this practical, sane and creative? I followed my heart. Into the engagement and out.

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  • http://anhonorableestate.blogspot.com A-L

    The bravery it took to write this piece and then have it published is astounding. Thank you.

  • http://LeahAndMark.com Mark

    Wow. Seriously? This is why APW is one of THE BEST wedding sites out there. Just pure honesty all over this site.

  • http://www.jfrac.tumblr.com Jessica

    I called off an engagement because of that same deep gut feeling that it was just not the right thing for me. Now that I’m planning a wedding to the man who is the love of my life, whenever I get cold feet, I know it’s just a temporary hiccup. Its a very brave and very sad thing to end an engagement, thank you, Sara, for sharing your story.

  • Cat

    What an amazing post. The guts it must to have taken to admit to yourself that it wasn’t right AND deal with that in the face of all the expectation that comes with an approaching wedding.

    THIS is the reason I love this blog so much. There are so many huge, complicated, painful and confusing moments that come up throughout planning a marriage. I love that there is a place that doesn’t pretend that weddings are nothing but fairy tale and romance. There shouldn’t be any shame in recognising that what you’re doing isn’t right and taking steps to deal with it before making a huge (and often legally binding) commitment.

  • AussieAndy

    Props to you Sara. For following your heart (and your gut) in the most difficult of circumstances. So touched by your story. Particularly impressed by your compassion not only for your former fiancee (not many women could call off a wedding and still describe that person so warmly – very classy), your family, your vendors and your friends. Bride or no bride, you really are what Team Practical is all about. God Bless.

  • Stephanie

    This was such a graceful piece for such a tough topic. Thank you so much for sharing!

  • Priscilla

    And that is why I love Practical Wedding.

  • Vanessa B.

    Wow. Thank you for writing this and having the courage to share.

  • Mary B.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. I called off my first engagement after about six months, and in many ways it was the most difficult thing I have ever done-but it was also one of the smartest decisions of my life. I felt like a fool, but the people in my life that really matter were supportive no matter what. My first engagement taught me the importance of talking, really talking, about marriage with my amazning partner and fiance, and not just focusing on all those lovely pretty wedding details. Merci.

  • http://sarahesther.com sarah esther

    wow. thank you for showing us your heart! this is sooo brave, and probably still hard! thanks so much for this!

  • http://www.msawesome.com ms. awesome

    Thank you. I too called off an engagement and got out of an outwardly “successful” relationship b/c I had that exact same gut feeling. I couldn’t breathe some days from the stress, the “wrongness” of it. And so I decided I didn’t want to live my whole life gasping for breath. I returned the ring. I walked away. And damn, it was one of the hardest and the best things I’ve ever done. And now I’m planning a wedding to an amazing woman that couldn’t feel more right. Seriously the amount of air in the universe is amazing this time around.

  • Mary

    Thank you! Amazing bravery, as stated above.

  • http://www.loveatthelodge.blogspot.com Erica

    This post moved me. My younger sister called off her engagement recently. For her, the hardest part was the time leading up to calling off the engagement (and ending the relationship). Once the decision was made it was easier for her to deal with the situation. And by easier, I mean still really difficult but just not as heartbreakingly difficult as before.

    I’ll say to you just as I said to her: the courage and strength it took to call off the wedding it a true testament to your character.

  • http://perusals.wordpress.com Abby

    Thank you so much for sharing this story Sara! A friend sent me this link just today, so it’s my first time visiting this site and I can say I’m hooked. I called off my engagement four months ago for many of the same reasons. Things just were not “right.” There was a stone in my gut that I had been ignoring for far too long. Thank you for your candor, honesty and courage. As someone who’s made the phone calls (and yes, cried through most of them) and is considering how best to sell the dress, I empathize and respect the deep soul work it takes to come to this decision.

    What gets me crying these days is the continued love and support from my friends, family and colleagues. This crisis brought out the best in so many people … and allowed me to discover my best as well. Any tears shed now are tears of gratitude and love. Wishing you the same, Sara.

    In gratitude and respect,
    Abby

  • http://sparklefishmarriespistolfish.blogspot.com/ Mandy

    This is one of those posts that makes me want to reach across the internet and give the writer a great big hug.

    It’s incredibly hard to call off an engagement, no matter what stage of the process. I was “unofficially” engaged to a guy a few years ago; there was no ring, but we had already gone so far as to pick a future wedding date and told several friends and a couple family members. One of the hardest parts about calling the whole relationship off was that I felt trapped; it sounds silly now, but then, it really felt like we were so far in, there was no pointing in backing out. I can’t even imagine how hard that would have been if there was already a ring on my finger and concrete wedding plans underway.

    One of the most courageous things anyway can do is go with their gut, because it’s so damn HARD to do. It took me more than six months of that not-quite-right feeling to finally realize the relationship needed to end; we stayed together another month after that because we had a big trip planned with a lot of friends, but a week after the trip, we ended up breaking things off amicably and we’re still dear friends (he’s coming to my wedding in the fall, actually). The fact that I did love him made it even harder to recognize that we were NOT right for each other. He’s a terrific guy, he’s fun to be around, there was absolutely nothing wrong with our relationship except for the fact that it just wasn’t RIGHT.

    We’re led to believe that in life, we only have one soul mate. Our friend Andy likes to say, “It’s not SOLE mate, it’s SOUL mate.” Meaning there can be more than one. Meaning they can appear in all forms, not just romantically. Do I believe my first fiance was one of my soul mates? Yes, I do. At that point in time, we really connected in a wonderful way, on a level I’d never connected with anyone else. Do I believe he was exactly the person I needed to be with at the time? Of course. Did I ever really believe he was the person I was going to spend the rest of my life with?

    No. Not really. Not fully. Because to be honest, I had already met the man I knew I would spend my life with; I just didn’t think he would ever fall in love with a girl like me. One of “our songs” is “God Bless the Broken Road”, and I truly believe the sentiment; every hard time, every seemingly wrong path, every apparent mistake, every misguided relationship either of us had…those are exactly the things that led us to each other.

    So Sara, it’s probably been said to you before, it may be something you already realize, but this bump in the road of your life could end up leading to something wonderful you never expected. I sincerely hope it does.

    • http://sparklefishmarriespistolfish.blogspot.com/ Mandy

      …wow, that comment was a mini-novella. Sorry about that.

      • Bonya

        But it was beautiful :)

  • http://lilapuppy.blogspot.com Meghan

    Sara, You are one strong woman. May rebuilding be the best part.

    Meghan

  • http://buhdoop.blogspot.com buhdoop

    Goodness me, thank you for this. I have heard of people calling off their weddings, but it wasn’t my place to ask why, or what to do after it is done. This is an eye opener, a good one.

  • Meghyn

    Reading experiences like this are profoundly helpful for those of us who are un-married, and at the time un-engaged (but in a long term relationship). It’s so easy to get swept up in the pretty pictures, fun parties, and fall in love with being in love. I appreciate the reality check that I get from APW that talks about the RELATIONSHIP first, marriage second. It really puts things in perspective. I’m a reflective girl, and moving forward with my significant other, while reading APW, helps me critically think about what I want and what is best for me/us long term.

    Thanks for writing this, it was really brave.

    • Ceebee

      Relationship first, marriage second, wedding third or further down the line after things needed to be done for setting up a life.

  • JM + MJ

    While I hope not to be a wedding dropout, I appreciate this post. It is incredibly courageous to make the best decisions for oneself despite all kinds of pressure to do otherwise. And, sharing the lessons publicy is even more brazen and brave. Love it.

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  • http://anaturalblonde.blogspot.com Jenny

    Sara,
    Thank you so much for sharing such a huge and deeply emotional part of your life. Posts like this remind me every day how much I love APW and why it is such an amazing site for so many people. I wish you the very best.

  • Crystal

    …and this is why I will still be reading APW long after my wedding day.

    Sara, your honesty and bravery in publishing this letter is a thing of beauty.
    Meg, thank you for being willing to go to these places for us, and with us.

    I wish that someone had said these things to me before my first wedding.
    I wish that I had had the strength of will, presence of mind, and self-knowledge to do what Sara did. Instead, I wrangled through a nasty divorce that took longer to complete than the marriage lived.

    I think it’s critically important that at some point in the planning and celebrating and gushing, someone says to the woman who is taking this step “it’s okay if you don’t”.
    Kudos to you both for this post.

  • Alyssa

    Oh Sara. I just want to hug you. Not just for going through it, but for being honest and brave and going, “Hey, look. It happened, it will be alright.” Judging from the responses, SO many can connect to your story and that is just wonderful. Helping even one person for a few minutes makes it totally worth it.

    I just love Team Practical. It really is an awesome community…

  • bex

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. Just last week I had a serious case of marriage doubt/cold feet and I found myself wondering why my favorite group of sane women on APW had not addressed the topic. It is an enormous help to read someone elses reassurance that even if we don’t get married, things will be okay. Really *knowing* that helps in the honest assessment of our relationships durring this crazy time.

  • ddayporter

    holycrap. Sara!! having the strength and courage to acknowledge that gut feeling so close to the wedding date, and then doing the right thing throughout the process of calling it off, and then not only writing about it but writing So Well about it, is all truly amazing. My heart hurts for you right now but it’s clear you are going to be fine. thank you thank you thank you for being a vocal member of team practical, this story helps so many.

  • http://scientistcarrie.blogspot.com Carrie

    Sara, this is an amazing piece, full of emotion, courage, knowledge, wisdom. Thank you so much.

    I think #9 is especially important. It’s a loss, and people need to grieve, and let themselves feel the whole range of emotions that come with grief.

    But #5 is also key. Absolutely. People will still love you — and you are still a lovable person, worthy of their love.

    I’m glad you listened to your gut feeling that something was wrong — and understood that calling it off was an option. That took real honesty with yourself, a ton of courage, and a ton of strength — to be really true to what you knew deep down, even though it would be hard for a while.

    This was a valuable reminder to me, even though I feel really good about being engaged and getting married, that I’m not locked into anything I don’t want to be. It keeps being a choice, and I should keep checking in with myself to make sure it’s still the choice I want to make.

  • Allison

    I admire your voice and the fact that you don’t seem to be asking for pity, just understanding. I’m sending you an internet shot of tequila and a hug.

    It takes a lot of bravery to admit when a relationship has failed. The man and I were apart for a year and when we got back together I was so afraid of having to explain the whole situation that I just didn’t say anything and have been telling people we’ve been together for 5.5 years when it’s really only been 4.5…

    • Alexandra

      My man & I had been together almost three years when I moved out and left. It seemed like he really wanted kids; I wasn’t sure if I ever did; we had different ideas about raising them. About six months later, we had concluded that we were happier together than apart, and tried again. It was awhile, though, before I told my siblings–I wanted to make sure we were solid first. He had asked me to marry him in those early years, and I’d said “Maybe” because I wasn’t sure, then.

      After some time together, the second time, we referred to each other as Life Partners, but weren’t sure if marriage was for us–why mess with a good thing? But in late spring of 2009, nearly eight years after our first date, we talked about it, and got officially engaged [with a formal question and response--romantic]. ;p

      We figured, Why rush? We’re not hurry-ers! So we just took it easy and enjoyed being engaged for a long time, then slowly started talking about what we’d like our wedding to be like. And now, ‘finally’, we’re really planning, and getting ready to put down a venue deposit. And it feels right. We’re having fun talking about what songs we want to play, who we want involved, etc.

      So, just wanted to let you, and other APW folks, know that there are other folks who have had a relationship come back, better than ever, from a hiatus that looked like a permanent end at the time. ;)

  • http://projectsubrosa.blogspot.com Cate Subrosa

    Well done, Sara. There’s nothing more important than being true to yourself.

    And, Meg? APW is on fire this week.

    • meg

      Well. It was new site. I didn’t want anyone to think I was going to play it safe, now, did I? ;)

  • Honey S.

    As usual, an incredible piece of writing from a truly inspiring woman. I wish I would have had your courage and bravery 20 years ago before I married my first husband. I knew it wasn’t “right”, but went along with the wedding because I felt obligated – what a huge mistake! Live and learn, eh? Thanks for sharing your story with the world…I’ll be sending a link to my teenage daughters! :-)

  • ashley

    I commend your bravery. I wish my sister had the same courage. The months leading up to her wedding were filled with fights and tears all along the way. She had serious doubts and we all told her she didn’t have to get married if she didn’t want to. We would take care of everything. I think she felt that she was too deep in the planning, was embarrassed to admit defeat, and wanted to start a family soon. Now, three years later, they’re not even friends but trying to have a baby. They both want one so badly and think it will help the marriage somehow. I think betting their happiness on a child is a mean thing to do to an innocent kid. It’s a shame because they’re both super awesome loving individuals. They just don’t make a good match.

  • Jessica

    Thank you for this post. I am a constant lurker on this site, but this post made me want to respond.

    I, too, was a wedding drop-out almost three years ago. I had been in that relationship for nearly six years. While we loved each other, the decision to get married was made mainly for practical purposes – he needed a visa. The engagement was totally anti-climatic and disappointing. There was always this feeling of dread about the wedding; it made me feel so alone and anxious and terrified. Then, I didn’t know it was natural and common to have mixed feelings about marriage. It wasn’t just about the wedding, though. It was about the relationship, which had a lot of issues.

    In the end, the engagement made me examine those issues very seriously. I had to ask myself really tough questions, and the answers I found scared me. The day I had to sign the contract on the wedding venue and the photographer, I had a break down – I couldn’t do it. I put the wedding on hold, but vowed that I would try to make it work.

    Thing is, it takes two people to make a relationship work. I think, for many reasons, we couldn’t make that happen. Nine months later, I ended the relationship. Like Sara, I loved my fiance and wished him well. It was with extremely mixed feelings that I ended things, but I have no regrets about the decision. It was the 100% right thing to do and I shudder to think about what my life would be like now if we had gotten married.

    I particularly want to echo Sara’s point #10. Life goes on. As a result of the whole thing, I got into therapy and am in a better place today than I ever was.

    I love this blog because it provides a forum for all of the messy, joyful, complicated feelings about weddings and marriage. Thanks, Sara and Meg!

  • Alison

    I am so proud of you, Sara. You are strong. You are an amazing friend. You are going to be so much better than okay. <3

  • http://www.missgiggles.com/blog Giggles

    Now that’s some good wisdom there. I admire your strength, just as I admire the strength of my friend who has been through a very similar thing.

  • Claire

    It’s been said before, but your story is powerful. Thank you for sharing it. It took great courage, but in the end, will help other women make the right decisions in their lives. Thank you for speaking up.

    And Meg, I love this site. I’ve been happily married for more than eight months now and it’s still THE most compelling blog/website I read. It’s a ritual for me. Thank you. (And: I LOVE the redesign. Bravo.)

  • Rachel

    In addition to the bajillion commenters who have already said, “Bless you and your courage,” I want to add mine. This was just a wonderful piece!

  • april

    Dearest Sara: Your honesty and courage is incredible – thank you so much for sharing your story and wisdom, and I wish you all the best from here on out. BIG hug! xo

    You know, I seriously LOVE APW and the gutsy, smart, funny and real people that are in it. YEAH!

  • http://aweddingofourown.blogspot.com Lindsey M

    Wow.. That took some serious bravery to write, and I cannot even begin to comprehend the bravery it took to actually do that.

    Thank you for sharing your story with us. I think it is so important for everyone to hear this. We all get so caught up in planning our weddings that feelings of doubt can get pushed to the side. Kudos to you for having the strength to confront your feelings head on.

    Again, thank you for sharing that. It was really powerful.

  • http://brokensaucer.blogspot.com sera

    Thanks for sharing this Meg. You are so right – many of us have been there before.

  • Kat

    APW, and Sara…. FTW.
    My cuppeth overfloweth with love for this website and all its wonderful readers and contributors.
    love kat

  • Laura

    So much love to all of you ladies – it is necessary to be surrounded by such honesty and support through life’s difficult moments.

  • http://www.onecatperperson.blogspot.com Angie

    I never used to read comments until now. The support, strength, and kudos given to the authors of each and every post are astounding. I’m glad I get to be part of that.

    Sara- #7 and #9. Love it. Love it. Love it. How are we supposed to live a full life if we can’t let ourselves be sad when we need to be and grateful when we should? True brilliance you got there.

  • sarah

    this post was very sad, and yet happy at once – because let’s face it, there’s nothing worse than being stuck in a marriage that isn’t working. and what courage to be able to stand up for yourself and say, “hey, this isn’t working!” before it’s too late. my parents are divorced, and my mom saw warning signs before the marriage, but chose to ignore them. 5 years in and realized she was in an emotionally abusive situation with a 2 year old daughter. then she left to become a single parent. not that it has to be that drastic; maybe it just wasn’t right. but either way, it definitely takes strength and courage to realize that and make a definitive choice in the opposite of the intended direction (not to mention publish it for all of us to read).

    and for those of us who are not in this situation, hopefully we can use this post as a way to take a moment out to recap and make sure that we are feeling sound in our relationships, remember why we wanted to get married to this person in the first place, and try to hold on tight to that, and not take it for granted!

  • Theresa

    Wow, Sara, if I could reach through here I would give you a huge hug, a beer, and a high-five. Thank you. I would be proud of anyone I knew who had to be brave and cancel their wedding/engagement-that’s so much stress all at once, and the prospect of losing not only sanity, but money in this economy is more than scary! Thank you for keeping your chin up, and for making it through to set a strong example. :)

    Kudos to your gut as well, for keeping you so informed. :)

  • Margaret

    I have huge, HUGE respect for women (and men) who have the guts to take a close look at their relationship, even once a wedding date has been set, and who call off the wedding if it doesn’t feel right.

    Thanks for your bravery in writing about this topic, Sara (and Meg). It’s so much more related to what weddings/marriage are about than every single post on the kn*t.

    • meg

      I think maybe we should always star that word out. Ha!

  • http://lisarde.blogspot.com Kim

    A lot of people told me I was brave for calling off my wedding two weeks before (not trying to one-up you or anything, Sara!). I thought, NO, I’m not brave, or I would have called it off a long time ago! I felt like I had to be pushed right up against the wall before I finally, finally made a decision.

    I felt like a HUGE weight had been lifted off my shoulders when I did it. That’s how I knew I had made the right decision.

  • http://peacockfeathersdiamondrings.blogspot.com Rachel

    Thanks Sara. Just wanted to add my congratulations to facing such a situation and being able to write about it with such grace.

  • http://www.mysanfranciscobudgetwedding.wordpress.com Sarah

    This is a great blog. I wish I had had the guts to walk away from my first wedding. I knew at the time that something was not right, but the wedding train was chugging along smoothly, my parents had already invested so much, and I had made a promise that I felt obligated to fulfill. Calling off the wedding would have been so, so much simpler and so much less painful (painful still, but less so) than living for 14 years in a marriage that was never right and going through the heart-rending pain and expense of divorce.

    Kudos for recognizing when it was time to walk away and for the nerve to do so.

  • Pam

    I have been engaged twice, but never married. It’s more than 20 years since I called off my second engagement. Now I know why I’ve been reading A Practical Wedding for so long. I belong here. Thank you, Sara. Thank you, Meg. Team Practical: you rock!

  • http://meaghanking.wordpress.com Meaghan

    Thank you so much for sharing this! As others have mentioned, this post is exemplary of why I love APW – you don’t treat weddings like a poufy fantasy ball, but as the beginning (or end) of a complex relationship between two people. Good for you, Sara, for having the courage and sense of self to do what was right for you.

  • Nicole

    Wow, Sara, that last paragraph- the love and the missed connections and the timing… heartbreaking, but so inspiring. Thank you for sharing your story.

    And, Meg, thank you for bringing together such smart, insightful, wonderful people. There is really no other place like this on the internet. Or anywhere, now that I think about it.

  • http://slidingintoplace.blogspot.com/ Laurie

    Thank you, Sara, for sharing your story! You aren’t alone. I’m a wedding drop-out, too, and it is so helpful to know that I’m not the only one feeling this particular strain of heartbreak. Meg: this is why APW is the only wedding-related blog I still read. You freaking rock.

    • Bridget

      Thank you Sara and to everyone for your stories and comments. I just called off my wedding 5 days ago (we are 6 weeks out till d-day) and I happened to stumble across this post. I too love my fiance very much and he loves me, but we weren’t getting along very well and we had dated for 5 years plus tried counseling. We feel so comfortable together which makes it very hard, but I don’t want to marry for comfort. I’m lucky in that within hours of calling it off he was able to admit he had been feeling the same way, but however lucky I am it does not make things easy by any means. I am still crying about 30% of the day and want to change my mind nearly every 10 minutes but we’ve agreed that when one or both of us becomes week to help each other remain true to ourselves. I hope I get through this (especially the housing situation since we own a house together) and truly am happier when it’s all said and done. Maybe some day I will meet the man that truly is the right fit for me.

      • http://www.meanestlook.com Sara

        Keep the faith. Happiness and love is out there for you. I think the best thing I learned was that I needed to surround myself with love to heal. Friends, family and I needed to invest in being a loving person to those around me. Nearly 2 years later, I have an amazing life bursting at the seams with love and happiness. I wish strength and comfort for you. And hugs, so many hugs!

  • http://2000dollarwedding.com Sara Cotner

    So brave! So right! Thank you…

  • http://www.AZinAugust.blogspot.com Jenni

    Wow, this was really well written. It’s a hard process to go through and it’s brave and wonderful of you to share it on APW, it may help so many other would-be-brides out. Thank you for opening up to us all.

  • http://emilytakesphotos.com Emily

    Beautifully written, and a very important story. Thank you for sharing!

  • http://www.twitter.com/irisira irisira

    My stubborn ass went to the place we were going to have the reception and had a party with my besties.

    Actually, a friend of mine did that as well. Her venue said that she couldn’t cancel without losing a hefty deposit, but if she instead wanted to turn it into a smaller affair, they would work with her. So, she had a swanky sit-down dinner for her 25th birthday, complete with an open bar. Not a wedding, but she was glowing that evening, and that’s what counts.

  • http://www.unspeakablevisions.blogspot.com Christine

    Thank you for this.

  • http://bondingcarbonunits.wordpress.com/ Sarah K.

    First of all, thank you for sharing, Sara. It’s a very intense and deeply personal experience that becomes painfully public; thank you so much for sharing your advice.

    Try therapy first. Pre-marital counseling, individual therapy. Whatever helps you sort your head out. We tried too little, too late and then it just imploded on our efforts. It takes a lot of hard work to make a marriage work and therapy will help you know if you and your partner are on the same page or if dropping out is the right path.

    THIS. This, this, this, this THIS. My fiance and I have been dating for ten years, since high school. Quite frankly, we’ve grown up together. Going through all those life experiences together is amazing, but also strenuous. We’ve had our fair share of rough patches in our relationship, and we have our own individual issues. We’ve been going to a couple’s therapist for a little while now, and I like to say (only partly tongue in cheek) that it’s made us argue better. It’s helped us communicate, helped us expose our weak spots and our strengths. We can point them out and be aware of what we need to work on as a couple.

    I’ve been through therapy individually in the past (seasonal depression and anxiety, whee!), and it’s absolutely helped me. Our couples counseling was my fiance’s first foray into therapy, and now he’s decided to do some individual counseling as well. It’s helped to peel back the layers of our relationship, after what it’s become after ten years, and it’s so helpful.

    Even if each of you is really stable and your relationship is great, doing a few pre-marital sessions could really be helpful. And I’m not talking about counseling sessions with a religious figure (we’re doing some with our minister this summer)– counseling with a licensed therapist. Even just a “round” of therapy can be helpful; we initially said we would start with only six sessions and would allow ourselves to stop (we’re still going every other week because it’s been so helpful).

    I’m really, really proud of what we’ve done over the past couple months, and it has made our relationship so much stronger. We all have doubts, we all wonder about this whole “for the REST of our LIVES” thing, and therapy can be an invaluable tool for jump starting conversations and connections that can really build up a relationship.

  • Pingback: On Divorce, Second Weddings and Knowing When to Call It Off « My San Francisco Budget Wedding

  • http://breadandcheeseplease.blogspot.com Charise

    I had a friend call off a wedding 3 weeks out, and my group of friends around here (who are generally more traditional) were all shocked. They couldn’t believe someone would do that, and even admitted they would still follow through with the wedding rather than face up to the problems/anger/judging/etc. by calling it off (no, seriously – WTF?!?)

    I couldn’t believe them! I think it takes major guts to realize when it just isn’t right and then be brave enough to stand up and DO something about it.

    The dumpee in that instance is now engaged to a MUCH BETTER fit for him, and the break-it-off-er is also much happier. So it WAS the right thing to do!

  • http://www.meanestlook.wordpress.com Sara

    Thank you all so much! (le blush) On the days that are hardest, I’ll have your kind and compassionate words to get me through. And greatest thank you to Meg, for letting me share my story. Cheers to the beauty in love, sadness and sharing honestly!

  • http://www.ameliacarolyn.com amyc

    beautiful post. heart is feeling gratitude for sara, for meg for an entire team of amazingly honest, bright, funny, smart and compassionate women. thank you.

  • http://kismetatcrowhollow.wordpress.com/ Lane Ellen

    This is an amazing post. Thank you.

  • http://www.diagnosisdeferred.com Teresa

    LOVE the honesty of this post. I am a now married, but a former wedding drop-out. It takes so much courage to do what you did. Bravo!

  • http://knitsmcgee.blogspot.com Shayna

    I am so frequently impressed with the amazing people that hang around here. I would just like to remind everyone to continue getting down with their bad selves!

  • http://www.glaciercountyhoney.com Courtney Fullerton

    Gorgeous, brave post. Thank you.

  • http://mrsbasement.wordpress.com Mrs. Basement

    Seriously. My antennae have been up in terms of the transition. I’m waiting for, like, the for-pay members-only part or the part where an ad jumps onto the page like its a trampoline or the part where I get bored. Now, I can point those antennae at someone else. This post is bomb-tastic. Can you now please make a list of every taboo wedding topic ever and proceed to cover them all???

    • meg

      Send me the list.

      And people wondered why I didn’t take the first week off…. THIS is why.

      • Tristen Chang

        The part of wedding planning that sheds light on a seriously troubled love one (let’s say, oh, an alcoholic father) who disowns you because of your marriage/ mate? (Not a lot out there on this one)

  • angela

    marvelous post, better comments….. let´s shed light on the less traveled paths… it will be worthy

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  • http://www.bearandhoney.net Juliana

    This post inspired me to write about my own experience as a Wedding Dropout on our blog. Thanks for breaking the silence. :) http://bearandhoney.net/2010/04/13/tomboy-bride-wedding-dropout/

  • Michelle

    Thank you for this. It is so timely. Last week my fiance and I ran headlong in to a brick wall during our premarital counseling. We’ve known each other a year and our engagement is six months — so there are still lots of things we need to learn about each other. Our pastor is wonderful and is working with us. We don’t know what we will decide as we continue on this journey. It’s been both a rough and glorious week in our relationship. It’s good to know that there are survivors should things fall a part.

  • Tristen Chang

    Bravo for you, girl. Wonderful post.

    Thank you for your courage and honesty, because you know what? The thing nobody wants to say is that plenty of marriages that shouldn’t happen do anyway, and it takes serious guts to sign yourself up for that heartache.

    In the end though, there’s no question.

    Sending you lots of e-hugs!

    T

  • Breanne

    Thank you for writing this Sara – so so much.

    Almost four years ago I was engaged, married, and divorced within two years. There were so many factors contributing to the madness during that time: I was young, yes. I was excited, without a doubt. I was scared, shitless. And I was in love … with the idea of us.

    I’ll never truly understand why it happened the way it did. Retrospect is wonderfully refreshing and incredibly frightening all at the same time. I guess I was caught in a gust of emotion that never really allowed me the chance to step back, breathe, and define my path. What I do know is that my perception of marriage and what it takes to maintain a strong one has changed entirely over the past few years. When my ex proposed, my parents took a step backwards and decided to part ways. In addition to a slightly-shaken foundation, I planned the wedding during my senior year of college, with a fiance who loved me … but didn’t “get” me. I’d started a new job with new friends and was beginning to understand myself and my personal needs. I spent most of our engagement convincing myself that those needs still included him. I even had a dream I’d walked down the aisle, only with someone else.

    I wish I could say that I listened to my gut the way Sara did. Instead, I listened to my friends, to stories of cold feet, to my fiance’s pleading during my personal moments of doubt … and finally, on our day, I was listening to thunder, lightening, and rain-pour. I’m not superstitious ladies – not a bit – but dark rain clouds situated directly atop a Temecula winery in 108-degree heat? Bizarre, extraordinary, and very very scary to a girl who just put too much time, money, and emotion into one big day. As I was putting on my dress the lights actually went out. Three times. There were other things too of course … and I wanted to call it all off, I wanted to run.

    But we were married and I was happy. Actually, I think it’s safe to say that he and I were at our best for the next six months. He was more loving and less angry – I was more understanding and less demanding. Then one morning I woke up sweating like crazy. I spent days wondering what was wrong with me. I had wanted kids – and he was talking kids – but something was terribly wrong. I didn’t see children or family or a future with the man laying next to me. I did see a friend, my very best friend. I loved him, but not in the way he or I deserved. In the end, I didn’t want to compromise his chance for real happiness or my own. Could we have worked it out? Maybe. Would it have been the right thing for myself, my husband, and our future little people? Not a chance.

    I’m 27 now and engaged to the incredible guy in that dream … the one I saw a future with four years too early. I have such mixed feelings when I have to tell people how it happened, what I felt. Some people looked at me like I’d lost it, like I was a glowing example of the frivolous, thoughtless youth of our time. I sometimes thought that of myself in more disheartened, self-critical moments.

    I’m so happy to say that my ex-husband is now married to a beautiful girl. It wasn’t easy and there was plenty of shouting, crying and pleading along the way. But I knew there was someone better for him. I knew that he deserved to be loved by someone the way he thought he loved me. Most of all though, I’m thankful that I mustered up enough strength to leave us – maybe not at the most appropriate or conventional time – but in my own time and for very valid reasons.

    For all the gals out there who just aren’t sure – there’s no rush. Breeaaaathe deeply and LISTEN to yourself. The only person you have to answer to at the end of every day is you, so make decisions that reflect your spirit, beliefs and personal needs. You cannot love anyone fully until you learn to love, respect and appreciate yourself.

    Lots of love to what appears to be a very intriguing and special groups of ladies!

    • Katie

      This article and your response are so honest and so real. I am currently engaged to a great guy who has been my best friend for these past 5 years. After becoming engaged, these fears and doubts started to creep in, and I am at the point of questioning everything. I’ve grappled with this for months and I am truly confused – should I stay or should I go? I feel like a fool! Like, who gets to this point in a relationship and NOW has doubts?

      Thank you for recognizing your feelings, for saying it is OK to feel this way, and that there are options. It’s not easy, but you will come away a whole new outlook.

  • Jodi

    When I read this article a few weeks ago I thought wow, what a strong woman that is. And I was grateful that everything about our upcoming wedding felt to right. I said a little prayer of gratitude. Now, 8 days before our wedding, my fiance has decided that he may not want to go through with it. I’m devastated…and hopeful…and I feel sick. Mostly I’m hopeful that this is just ‘cold feet’ and he’ll realize that. But if not (oh god, I don’t want to even think of this), I know I’ll be ok somehow. So right now, my wedding gown that my mother, sister and grandmother loving helped me customize is hanging in the closet. And I’m just walking around in a daze of “what’s next”. So Meg and Sara, thank you for being so real all the time about everything. I was drowning in all the other pretty, perfect wedding blogs. And that’s just not real life.Truly, thank you.

  • Rachel

    Sara, thank you thank you thank you THANK YOU! Words really cannot describe my admiration, empathy and pride for you and the fact you share your story so candidly.

  • Karen

    I don’t think it’s strange that people sometimes realize the most that something is wrong, when they are already planning the wedding. When you get engaged and start thinking about a wedding, that’s when often it really hits you, that you are going to commit to a life with this person. I believe that this realization can sometimes make everything more clear, good things as well as bad things in your relationship.
    The idea however is usually that once you are engaged, that means your relationship must be great, and so people try to avoid thinking hard about their problems and issues. Don’t fall in this trap! Listen to every hunch, feeling, cold feet, everything, even if you are sure your relationship is great. Use these feelings to work on your relationship, or to realize that it just isn’t right. And don’t feel stupid that you’re only realizing certain things after your engagement, I really believe this is normal!

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  • Kiki

    Sara – I just wanted to comment and say that reading this post and the follow up posts on your blog helped give me the courage to stand by my convictions and address the nasty gut feeling I have been feeling since I was engaged 11 months ago. Earlier this week, I called off my engagement to my ex-fiance (someone I’d dated/been engaged to/lived with for 4.5 years) and now in the messy throes of figuring out where to live and how to rebuild my life. There’s a lot of hurt and awkwardness and it’s been hard and scary and sad but I feel this overwhelming sense of peace with my decision. As hard as breaking up is, I feel like it’s so much more reaffirming and brave and juicy to follow your gut out of a situation that seems wrong. I am sad to have lost the person who I loved for so long; I was scared that I would lose all my friends; I have no idea where this road will lead me, but I just wanted to thank you for being brave, and beyond that – for sharing your story, because I had a really hard time finding “role models” in my situation. I wish you the best of luck, and THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU.

  • Monica

    I got married in 2004, in the lead up to my wedding i knew i was making a huge mistake, i loved my fiance but i also knew that our relationship wouldn’t make it. I was 22 and he was 23 and we just weren’t ready for marriage. 2 years later we seperated. I just didn’t know what to do, i was scared and confused and couldn’t see a way out. I wish i’d had the courage to call it off before the wedding, it would have been hard but not as hard as going through with a divorce.
    I’m now 29 and getting married in 7 weeks to an incredible man and i know i’ve got it right this time, it feels so different leading up to our wedding, i’m so excited i’m walking around with a smile on my face all the time and i know this is how it’s meant to be! Thank you for sharing your story.

  • Alexandra

    Thank you for writing and sharing such a brave post. It is good to have reminders to check in with yourself, and your comfort level. Cheers.

  • http://mstomrs.blogspot.com/ Ms2Mrs…and back to Ms

    Thank you for this post. I’m a wedding drop out myself. I called off my wedding about 2.5 months to the day it was suppose to happen. I’m roughly a month out from when my wedding day would have been. Your post has made me feel so much less alone. Thank you for sharing your story.

  • Brave girl

    I was engaged to a guy for over a year and relocated to another country to be with him. He ended up cheating on me, and because of that and other behaviors, I decided to break up with him. We had not gotten very far in the wedding planning (probably because we both had our doubts about the relationship) but it still sucked having to explain the breakup to friends and family members who expected us to get married.

    Luckily my closest friends and relatives were very understanding and encouraged me in my decision-making.

    It’s been about a year since the break-up and I’m so grateful I didn’t get married to him. Sure, it hurts to lose someone and your imagined future together, but I’d rather it be with the right person.

  • pixie_moxie

    Thank you for sharing! My former fiance said to me at breakfast the day after my dress arrived (4 weeks out) that “He loved me, he loved me more every day, but he didn’t think he could marry me” That was crushing. We set about “postponing” our wedding, his word, mine was canceling. We we were locked into a lease until a month after our wedding date at which time we had planned to move to where he was going to grad school. We continued living together till then. We went to counseling, we had long talks on our balcony over clove cigarettes. What we learned was we really were moving on from that part of our lives. Closing that chapter.
    I hurt, I cried, I lost 15 pounds. My boss offered to not let him in the store. I was surrounded by supportive people, but I was sort of walking like a zombie for a good while.

    When my new fiance and I got engaged this summer my dad gave me the biggest hug with tears in his eyes said “It is good to have you back.”
    That piece of me that spark that had faded had come back. Not because I found a new guy but because I found how to survive and be happy. That happiness is what drew in my new guy.

    “Do I still love him? Yes, and will for a very long time.”

    Thank you for being brave enough to say this. Not everyone understands in my life, it is nice to find people that do. For yes, I still love former fiance, but does that diminish the love I have for the man I am Marrying this summer. Not. One. Bit. I knew after our first date he was the man I would marry. Never in the time planning the first wedding did I have such strong convictions.

    • http://konsciousdecisions.wordpress.com/ Katie

      I discovered this post months ago while in the middle of painfully crushing engagement anxiety, and the relief I get from Sara and subsequent comments never ceases. Thank you for sharing your experience as well.

      I have since called off my engagement, and things are hard, especially this time of the year. On days where I really miss ‘us’, and I wonder what my future holds, I appreciate stories like this that give a realistic picture of what a ‘happy ending’ really is.

      I, too, will probably always love my ex-FI. We both shared a wonderfully unique relationship and learned so much about and from one another.

  • Lionness

    Life is gritty. It takes a lot of bravery to listen to your gut, really assess things, and change course. I’m glad you are able to find peace and clarity, even amongst pain and upheaval. I wish you the best.

  • alyssa

    Oh, Darling, you are so brave! It is so important to do what your heart tells you to do, and that you followed your heart even though it was so tough makes you a crusader for love! Thank you so much for sharing your experience.

    • http://www.meanestlook.com Sara

      You are so right, Alyssa. Only I didn’t know it at the time. It really was an act of love to not get married. We’re both so much better off. Yay Love!

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  • http://www.little-white-dress.com Alexandra

    Thank you for such an honest post. Heartbreaking and eye-opening.

    I find it’s hard to tell when you’re in the middle of all of the planning and wedding frenzy hype whether it’s stress and cold feet, or if you are having doubts about the marriage.

    I know sometimes even though I have always been dreaming of my big day, I often feel like it might not be what I actually want. I want a life that is full and a marriage that is more often than not, happy. I look to the relationships that have shaped my views on marriage and realize in order for it to be successful you have to be committed to eachother as a team. It has nothing to do with your wedding colours or how fancy the meal is.

    I love the APW helps you be okay with this, even if it means that marriage wasn’t what you wanted in the first place. I think the wedding industry puts WAY too much enphasis on ONE day on not on preparing for a lifelong relationship. This is why I love APW.

    • http://www.meanestlook.com Sara

      In case you aren’t familiar with my updates, dropping out of my wedding was the best decision I have ever made. I love my life, couldn’t possibly be happier, and have found love in a way I never even knew was possible. <3

  • Meg M.

    “Did I want to work things out at first? No. Did he? Yes. After a little time went by did I want things to work out? Yes. Did he? No.”
    This was me- except it was a marriage I called off instead of a wedding. I should have called off the wedding; I almost did but caved and we suffered for two years because of it.
    You are one brave, brave lady.
    And I’m so glad to hear your update! Yay!

  • Allyson

    Thanks for writing this. I broke off an engagement once, and it was incredibly hard. We hadn’t set a date yet, and couldn’t agree on even the silliest details (one of the things that led to my realization that I didn’t want to spend my life with a man who hated every little wedding idea I threw out there … it wasn’t any of the details themselves so much as the fact that I was finally realizing how much he shot down every individual thought I had… it took planning a wedding for me to recognize it)… but I had been dress shopping and had picked out what I wanted … I had a diamond ring on my finger that I spent months afterwards panicking because it wasn’t there (I was terrified of losing it when I did have it [it was so expensive!], then I’d forget I’d given it back and have a millisecond panic over ‘OMG where’s the…. oh, right.’ It was incredibly difficult to tell all of our friends that we weren’t together anymore… in fact, he avoided doing any of it. I even had to tell his brother we had broken off the engagement when we ran into each other and he said ‘hey I haven’t seen you in awhile, where’ve you been?’ That was a sticky situation… anyway, it sucked horribly, and I didn’t have a list of vendors and guests to call… just people who knew we were engaged.

    Now I’m engaged to an AMAZING man. He’s great… he likes to support me (though I’ll admit there are times when his tendency to poke fun hits a sore spot, but that’s my issue to work out, and he’s pretty forgiving), he’s also excited for our wedding… and it feels completely different. It’s incredibly exciting. The word ‘engaged’ has taken on a much more active meaning – like, Patrick Stewart saying ‘Engage’ – from the moment he proposed, it’s like we’re working towards something. Of course there are the usual frustrations and hiccups and whatever else, and I won’t lie – I have insecurities from my former relationship and failed engagement, and there are days where it’s hard not to project that onto everything. But it’s so amazing, and I can’t WAIT to be married to this man. I’m not planning a frustratingly detailed party – I’m planning the first day of our married lives. It’s AMAZING.

  • R.

    I stumbled onto this site out of curiosity, as I am, in fact, absolutely the furthest from planning a wedding EVER — and just went through a terrible breakup. This was one of the most genuine, courageous, and honest pieces of someone’s heart I have had the pleasure of reading ANYWHERE on the world wide web. Thank you for sharing this, Sara. You are so brave to write all this, and actually post the darn thing!!! THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!