Ask Team Practical: Layoffs and Weddings

So, just under three weeks before my wedding, my boss drops the bomb that I’ve been unceremoniously canned from a job I’ve had for two years. Mind you, I was laid off in 2009 and it took twenty months to find a job after that. I’m a writer/editor and as you probably know, the recession has not been kind to journalists. I had been miserable at this job for a while, and I have a chronic pain condition that made a full-time job challenging. Yes, it’s a blessing in disguise, I know, and now that I’m marrying into an excellent health insurance plan, I won’t be forced to take a job that I’m not psyched about just because it has benefits.

I met my fiancé during my stretch of unemployment, so we’re used to tight finances. But we moved to a bigger apartment, which I adore, after we got engaged, and I’m terrified of losing it.

I just found out about my termination, so everything is raw and painful, and I know I’ll be fine in the long run, but this has REALLY put a damper on my wedding excitement. (Though I am relieved that it’s given me more time to attend to last minute details. I didn’t have any vacation days or sick time left to use up for the wedding, so time, as they say, is on my side.)

But please help me preserve the joy and happiness befitting of the occasion. I know I will write a kick-ass wedding graduate post about being laid off right before my wedding, but right now I’m having trouble seeing the forest for the trees (is that how that saying goes?). I plan to reread all your posts written by unemployed brides, but I need some serious wedding/existential crisis triage. Also, the circumstances will surely exacerbate the wedding ceremony tears. Help!


Dear Anon,

I won’t offend your intelligence by pretending this doesn’t suck. It truly does.

But, man, isn’t it terrific that you have someone beside you to face this crap with you? That’s a big part of this whole marriage thing. Whether there was a wedding in three weeks or not, you’d still be facing down unemployment. Only now, you’re lucky enough to have somebody to help you through it. To encourage you, join you in binging on comfort ice cream, and apparently, to let you take advantage of some health coverage. So, maybe you have a bigger apartment than you would if you’d know about the firing. Maybe you’d have picked carnations instead of peonies. But, no one can make choices based on what might happen. You just take what you’re dealt, and work with that. Right now, you’ve got someone beside you to help.

Like so many other folks reading right now, I’ve been just where you are. Well, to be accurate, I’ve been just where your partner is. My now-husband lost his job just about a month before our wedding. Cue anxiety, midday crying fits and reluctance to even think about the wedding, let alone knock out those place cards I needed to emboss. Does it help to know you’re not alone? Because oh man, lady, you are NOT ALONE.

But you know what that stint of unemployment taught us (and then the stint after that, and then the one after that, and after that)? That we can make do with very little. That we can find the happy bits of some sucky situations. And most of all, what I mentioned above, that we can lean on one another.

You’re already doing a fabulous job of finding the bright parts of this unemployment (which is hard when you’re in the midst of it all, so go you!). This makes great practice for seeking out the silver lining in all the storms ahead. Cause, yeah. There are surely more to come.

I can cheat and give away one of those bright parts right now: Opportunity. Scary-new-unknown is scary, new, and unknown. Which is exactly what makes it hard to leave shitty-safe-comfortable. Sometimes we cling to the comfort of shitty things because it’s easier than stepping out into scary things that are better for us, if a little painful at first. Show of hands, you guys, who here has stayed with something terrible (job, partner, whatever) because you were afraid of the risk of moving on? You may not be able to see them, Anon, but I’m looking at an internet full of raised hands. What’s that saying about doors closing and others opening? If you hadn’t been kicked out of this craptacular job, who knows how long you would’ve stayed, growing old and miserable and gray for the sake of a reliable paycheck. Now, you have the (sort of forced) opportunity to see what else is out there for you—even if that means a few weeks of daytime TV and Doritos, for now.

So, here it is. The end of a crappy soul-sucking job, the close of possibly a cruddy year. But, also, the beginning of a bright shiny adventure, a brand new marriage, and a fabulous, hopeful new year. I’m excited for all of the things that might be waiting just around the corner. This stuff right here is why you’re getting married. And dammit, it’s this stuff that’s going to make your story YOURS.


Team Practical, how has job loss and financial issue impacted your wedding and marriage? How did you cope? How have this year’s trials helped you to find hope in the coming year?

Photo Kelly Benvenuto Photography.

If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Liz at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though it really makes our day when you come up with a clever sign-off!

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  • Anon

    Ugh, that sucks. I kind of know the feeling, too. My husband got fired while we were on our honeymoon… through an e-mail. Yeah, good times. He still hasn’t found a job yet (thank goodness for unemployment insurance) but we’re working on it, together. In the meantime, he’s taking care of our apartment and working on home improvement stuff, which he loves, so all is good. Hang in there!

  • Ummm I totally feel you. I have basically being looking for a job for 2 years and a half now, and though I’ve worked dead-end jobs in the mean time, and been busy with internships, I have not been able to settle in my profession.
    But like Liz says, this might come as an opportunity to explore what more there is to you (other than what your degree defines you as), to play with possibilities. To jump at what you have always been wanting to try (maybe grad school? maybe starting your own business? maybe (…) ? ) but you did not have time or energy to concentrate on. And like she said, you are not alone in this, your future husband is right there with you, and you will make it out of this together.
    Hugs to you, I hope the storm will be over soon.

  • Zoe

    Liz gave awesome advice. I don’t know if this applies, (just leave it if it doesn’t work for you), but here’s some ‘practical’ advice.

    – Take the time between now and the wedding to relax as much as you can.
    – After the wedding, while you’re job hunting, take volunteer/internship opportunities. Or even better, start your own small editing/tutoring/whatever business. This will keep you busy and keep your resume active. Plus, networking!
    – Journalism is such a tough field to be in right now. If you’re interested in a career change, I would try to get a job in development or other administration at the nearest university. It will use your writing skills, pay pretty well, and normally you can take free classes!

    • Dawn

      I’d like to second this (well and expand it to say don’t forget about your local community colleges in addition to the university). Institutions of higher ed really seem to value writing skills more than a lot of other employers so you might be able to find a job (even if it’s not what you want to do long term) in the foundation or grants/development office.

      And don’t forget about temp agencies (after you take that bit of time to enjoy your wedding and relax!) I got my first real job through what was initially a much lower paying temp position. My degree is in history which basically means that I didn’t really have any great marketable skills other than being able to write and do research. So getting a temp job (with state level government) gave me a chance to show what I could do (I started just answering phones and doing grunt work but as soon as a real position opened up doing grants management I was able to apply and move into it based solely on the fact that my boss had seen what I could do in those months of temping).

      And good luck!

      • ottid

        I second the temping! In my city in NZ at the moment a lot of jobs are going unadvertised, businesses are going straight to the temp agencies to get them help to fill the roles, and often the agencies already have someone on their books that they can just slot into position (that’s the way I got my job, helped that I had temped at this business for a couple of weeks before hand too!)

    • SO true. I was really worried when I changed careers from journalism a few years back that I wouldn’t be considered marketable, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. The writing skills alone are priceless, but also the interviewing skills, analytical skills, people-reading skills, etc. are invaluable. I have a master’s in public administration, which helped me get some credibility to break into the job market, but it’s the journalism degree that I find I use more.

      • Kara

        I work (in a consulting-type) job with a lot of former journalists. They’re very valuable.

  • I was/am in a slightly different, but still similar, situation as you. I got laid off a month after our wedding, and I am still looking for a job, four months later. But the silver lining has been being married to my very supportive husband and learning how to live and save money on one salary. Also, the whole not having to get up early in the morning to go to a thankless job is pretty sweet, so there is that to look forward to!

  • I got laid off 2 months into our 9 month engagement. Here are the bright sides I found:

    1) You actually have room in your brain to take on the part-time job of wedding detail gathering. Whew!
    2) You have the opportunity to bounce back and forth between job searching and wedding planning or even thank you note writing in your case, post wedding, and you aren’t spending all day applying for jobs and feeling unproductive. A normal unemployment stint probably wouldn’t conveniently have a built-in project that can let you celebrate yourself, feel productive, and feel like your life is progressing in another area.
    3) You can do things at odd times! Gone are the days of having to leave work early to run errands or make appointments or even phone calls!

    It’s not the most convenient timing, agreed, but when I look back at it, I cannot imagine how I would have done what I did with a job. And I felt like I alleviated stress from my fiancé by being able to take on more wedding stuff. Sending peace and energy your way!

  • Granola

    I just want to say that I really wish I could give you a hug. This totally sucks. Eventually it will be OK, but it doesn’t have to be OK right now.

    I second a previous commenter’s suggestion of freelance work if you can find it – check the Freelancer’s Union for suggestions. And, if you’re in New York, we should get coffee. I’m also a journalist/editor who spent a year self-employed and freelancing and would love to help.

    • But I completely agree that — eventually things will be OK and it’s okay that things are not OK right now. The thing that’s important to do amid all of it is to take time to do the things that make you happy and help you feel productive – whether that be planning your awesome wedding, cooking, or doing volunteer work. I got laid off with 4 weeks notice right before meeting my husband. The first six months of our relationship, I definitely felt that all of it sucked – even as there was this amazing new part of my life.

  • MouseyBrown

    I just want to add my voice/experience to the chorus of “this is actually a good thing!” My partner got laid off more than three years ago from a job he despised. After working a few office management gigs – which he also hated – he decided to pursue his dream of going to culinary school. This year he graduated, we got engaged, and we found out this week that the restaurant he’s been interning at wants to hire him full time after the start of the new year. He put in notice at his last craptastic office job ever yesterday.

    All those years of dead-end, miserable jobs were worth it, because it gave him the drive to take on a new challenge. And honestly? I have never seen him happier and more excited to get out of bed in the morning.

    Hang in there!

  • Mary B

    Yo, letter writer here!

    Liz invited me to post when this letter was published so I could update all you wonderful, wonderful ladies. But first thing’s first: had I not been canned, I would not be enjoying Ewan McGregor on Live with Kelly & Michael. Silver linings come in a million forms.

    It’s been about a month since the wedding, which went off without a hitch. For a blissful 72 hours, I barely thought about unemployment, even though I got rejection emails from two different companies right before the big day. While I subjected myself to three interviews the week before the wedding, I put a moratorium on online job searching for a full week after the ceremony (which was the weekend before Thanksgiving). I even found out I need a major root canal and a new crown that week. Fortunately, my husband has a university job with AWESOME insurance.

    I’m proud to report that the layoff in no way detracted from the joy of our wedding/marriage. If anything it added to it. I’m taking my time writing thank you notes because the process lets me hang onto the happy memories even longer. We took our time unwrapping gifts and opening cards for this reason too. I hope to re-live this feeling when we eventually go on a honeymoon.

    Prior to getting laid off, I’d used all my personal and vacation days on sick time, so I’d only scheduled two days to attend to wedding details. That seems insane now.

    What was unexpected was the overwhelming gratitude I felt toward everyone involved. Words can’t express how thankful I am for the cantor, the pianist, the violin player, florist, priest, venues owners, etc. Any hesitation or guilt I had over being showered with wedding gifts quickly disappeared. Every time I opened a card I mentally checked off utility bills and car payments. None of it will be wasted and every little bit helps.

    I’m trying to drum up freelance writing/editing while I wait this out (I live just outside of Chicago). I was doing pretty well with it prior to being hired by my last company, but most of that has dried up since then. So networking, here I come. I even went through with changing my name with the attitude that it’s part of my re-branding campaign.

    Thanks for all your comments!

    • “Re-branding campaign.” I love it!*

  • Denzi

    If you can, give yourself a brief vacation from job searching and wedding planning. Take a couple days to feel the sad and scared and “take that” and hopeful and whatever other feelings you may be not acknowledging because OMG WEDDING MUST BE IN WEDDING MODE. You would have been at work on those days, not getting anything done, so let yourself not get anything done! Give yourself a little budget for treating yourself out of your savings (even if it’s just $5: you can get super awesome Ghiradelli hot chocolate for $5!) and just decompress, so that you can be more present for both the wedding and the job search.

    You’re amazing and you’ll make it. (You’re totally allowed to not feel like it right now. Hopefully you can feel it eventually.) We’re all rooting for you.

    • Liz

      This is a super point. When friends go through sudden job loss, I always encourage them to go out for cheap dinner or something to sort of… get yourself straight (or, if you’re in a relationship, get your team straight). When Josh lost his job suddenly, we hopped in a car and went to the beach for the day (um, he had the free time). Take a bit of time for yourself to realize the world has not ended.

  • Caroline

    That’s rough. We’re talking about getting engaged soon even though my partner got laid off 3 months ago and still hasn’t found full time work. It’s so helpful to remember how many other young people are dealing with in and underemployment. For us, we’ve realized that we want to be married and being married won’t make us less able to help eachother through rough financial times, it will make us more able. But it’s so scary. We too have dealt with recurrent batches of unemployment, and getting laid off from shit jobs which is sort if a blessing in disguise. I think, if nothing else, we are growing a lot right now.

    • Caroline

      Ugg, I need to stop using my phone for comments, they always come out typo ridden. I meant un- and under-employment.

  • Class of 1980

    Everyone has already offered great advice. The only thing I’ll add is this …

    No matter what happens, you will still be here. You will find ways of getting through, and you will move on to a new life. Family and friends will help if the need arises, and you will find solutions.

    In the meantime, enjoy the health insurance, enjoy the time off, and enjoy the wedding!

    Worrying in advance won’t solve a single problem, and you might be worrying about the wrong problems anyway. ;)

    • One More Sara

      “No matter what happens, you will still be here.”

      SUCH a good reminder. I might have to post-it that to my mirror ;)

    • I was thinking just this morning about something somebody said here (maybe you?) about how worrying was meditating on negative outcomes. I was worrying about something this morning and imagining the worst case scenario….then that comment flashed in my mind and I realized (again) that it really doesn’t do me any good to worry. And like you said, I probably wouldn’t be worrying about the right thing anyways…

  • I’m totally on the other end of this situation. My then-fiance lost his job in July, (we got married in October), and is still unemployed. We had enough savings that we were doing OK, but now we’re getting to the end of that and having to tighten things down EVEN MORE than we already were. It’s shitty, and stressful, and has provoked a lot of weird emotions on my part (I bounce back and forth between feeling bad for him, getting distraught and frustrated about the ongoing unemployment, and really bizarre feelings of resentment that he no longer has to go to his crappy job while I still have to work at my job, which I don’t particularly enjoy).

    Relationship-wise, I just want to suggest being sure to include your husband in your experience in whatever way you can. The hardest thing for us is that he feels ashamed of being unemployed, so he doesn’t really want to talk about it with me… which, in turn, freaks me out because I feel like I don’t know what’s going on and what’s going to happen. We’ve had lots of talks about it, and it’s getting better, but I know his first instinct is to shut down and go into “I’ll do this on my own so Cali doesn’t have to worry” mode, which is actually counter-productive to what he wants to accomplish. Even if it’s just expressing your frustration with not getting calls back, or asking him to give you tips on your cover letters… in my situation, at least, feeling included in the process and like we are combating this crappy situation together helps to alleviate some of the anxiety.

    • LIZ (SINCE 1982)

      Oh, lady, I had to delurk JUST to say how very much I feel you on all of this. My intended has been un- or under-employed for most of the time we’ve been together. I’m in a decent place financially but a line of work I’m not really interested in, and it’s been a struggle learning not to feel that resentment of “must be nice to do what you want all day.” Of course he’s not doing what he wants – he wants to be in a meaningful job, and in the meantime he’s taking care of the apartment and picking up what work he can. But it’s rough on his self-image to not have an answer when someone asks him “what do you do?” and, not gonna lie, rough on me to provide the emotional support he needs as well as carrying us financially.

      A major part of why we took so long to decide to get married was due to this situation, which at first made me feel wretched, like, what, I don’t love him enough to marry him unless he’s bringing in a paycheck? But I finally figured out that that wasn’t it – it was my fear that, ultimately, I wouldn’t be strong enough for him to lean on; that I wouldn’t be able to take care of us both. The #1 thing that helped us, like you guys, was talking about it all – which was extremely uncomfortable at first. A lot of stuff came to the surface that was hard to admit or articulate – gender baggage, issues with money/security, you name it. But in the end, it helped us realize that we’re in it together – helped me understand that I can actually lean on him in many ways instead of trying to shoulder everything by myself, and helped him accept that he can let me in on his thoughts and fears without worrying that I’ll run screaming. The #2 thing, and probably what I needed most, was just time. Before our first round of unemployment, I wouldn’t have thought we could last a month, but we did – and then we made it work for another month, and another, and now we’re looking back on seven years’ worth of proof that I – he – we – can handle it.

      But it’s SCARY, still, sometimes, and I know we’re going to have to keep talking and pulling together. It’s really good to hear we’re not the only ones in this rickety boat.

  • Hi! I’m the spouse of a person who is amazing and supportive and currently unemployed.

    How can I as a spouse help him? Or try and establish household roles without going all “breadwinner-homemaker” in a bad way? Any advice for new immigrants who don’t have a network in place? (that’s both of us, by the way)

    I work from home, so I see him all day long. I worry that he may be getting depressed, but because we are both introverts and he’s shy on top of that, it’s hard to tell. When I ask he says he’s doing fine and not depressed… but then there are days when he spends all day in bed in front of his laptop, although he does get up to fix lunch for both of us.

    I want to encourage him to find new work, but don’t want to be pushy. I would love for him to get a hobby and leave the house more and see friends and hang out, but he doesn’t seem interested and granted, this is kind of his personality, even when employed.

    Because we are recently married, recently immigrated and recently moved together for the first time, I’m not sure what “normal” is for us. So any advice on how to be an amazing and supporting wife for my unemployed and maybe a bit lonely husband would be appreciated!

    • No good advice at the moment… just solidarity. My husband is acting very similarly, not really leaving the house or hanging out with people, and I’ve been trying to brainstorm ways to get him out into the world more without it coming across like I’m saying, “Get a life, you friendless/jobless loser.” I feel like he’s bumming himself out and would probably benefit from hanging out with people other than me and our pets (not that the pets and I aren’t totally awesome, but you know…)

    • When I immigrated to Quebec and couldn’t work, I took a French class. I already spoke French but just getting out of the house and having somewhere to go did wonders for me and my mood. Did you immigrate somewhere with a different language, where they might offer free or low-cost language classes for immigrants? Or perhaps some sort of language “jumelage” program (no idea what this is called in English), but it’s where you are paired with someone (of a different native language) who wants to learn your language and whose language you want to learn. Then you meet each week and spend half the time in each language…

      Also, a family member here connected me to a volunteer committee that met once a month. Even though it was only once a month, it was great to have something that felt kind of professional and have the social interaction with people in my new community.

      Good luck to you both. Immigration is hard, and dealing with isolation while trying to build a new life in a new place is also a challenge. It takes time.

    • Caitlin

      As a shy introvert who was unemployed for months on end after moving across the ocean, I’ve been in your husband’s position. A couple of thoughts:

      – Try to find activities outside of the house that you two can do together regularly. Such as take a class, go for a walk, explore a nearby bookstore etc. Maybe just go out exploring together, so you both get more comfortable with this new place you’re living in. You might meet some people in the process. Also getting out and doing things with you might be a good stepping stone for him to find something he likes outside of the house. For me going somewhere or doing something new was less scary (as a shy introvert) when I did it with my partner for the first time.

      – In a similar vein, you mention you work from home, I don’t know if it’s possible, but maybe you two could spend a day at a coffee shop. We do this sometimes when my fiancee has a lot of work and even though I’m doing the same things (on my computer) as I would at home, it’s somehow feels different. It’s amazing how much just getting out of the house can help with mood. I know that you said he’s feeling fine now, but it can be draining and it’s easier to be proactive at maintaining a good mood when you are already in a good mood. For me, while I felt okay in the beginning, being in a completely new place and unemployed became more and more draining. Once I started feeling depressed I had even less motivation to get out the house or to meet people (and I didn’t have a lot to begin with as an introvert).

      – Exercise. There are a lot of different ways to exercise and for me it really helped me stay feeling good. We started going for walks and hikes together. It doesn’t have to be hardcore or about burning calories. In fact one of our “dates” we do on the weekends sometimes is to leisurely to the nearest frozen yogurt location (about .5 mile away), eat yogurt, and then walk home. We get to have quality time together, we get to eat fro-yo, and we stretch our legs!

      – Once you get settled and meet a few people, try to arrange small gatherings to get know them better. Again this is just from my prospective, but in the beginning all of our social interactions we were invited to were larger gatherings (my partner’s school/internship friends) which are a nightmare to navigate as a wallflower. As we got more settled, we started having game nights with just a few people we met at the larger parties and I quickly had more people who I felt comfortable hanging out with.

      Sorry that was kind of wordy. Hopefully some it you find helpful!

      • Cathy

        I would definitely agree with this!

        My fiance and I have been moving around a lot in the past couple of years for his work. Each time, I have to start again in a new place – jobless and friendless! Leaving my last job was fraught. I didn’t enjoy it that much, but I will miss the friendships I had made. Not to mention the feeling of self worth.

        I wouldn’t say that I am an introvert by any means, but making new friends can be hard. And feeling bummed out by being a drain on finances don’t help!

        All I can say is, unemployment is really tough. In fact it’s horrible. But now that I am facing it for the third time in three years, I know better what to expect and what pitfalls to avoid.

        My key tips (echoing themes from above):
        -Get up out of bed in the morning
        -Get out of the house at some point in the day. (I’ve just moved to rural Scotland, so I walk to the river to say hello to the ducks, or go and buy something at the butchers!)
        -This ties in with getting some exercise. Like anon, I have a long term health condition. Looking after yourself is important. Take a walk, breathe the air, say hello to elderly neighbours!
        -Stay in touch with family/old friends. Just Skyped for the first time at Christmas. Seeing my family’s smiling faces was the greatest pick-me-up ever!
        -Volunteer. You meet people. You do some good. You feel good about your day. You get out of the house. You get experience and something to fill that new gap on your CV.
        – Talk to your partner

  • I was laid off six weeks before my wedding, so I definitely know what that feels like. It feels.. not good. I had a lot of struggles around feeling like I was entering our marriage as “dead weight” — I even said this several times in fits of tears, as my fiance told me I was being ridiculous.

    The WIC aspect of things was also infuriating. I heard over and over again “oh wow, perfect timing, now you can plan your wedding!” — as if I’d rather be thinking about paper goods and corsages at home by myself than going to my job every day.

    I think the thing for me was that I had a lot of my self worth tied up in my job. And losing that made me feel like I was entering our marriage as less than. Less than a complete partner. Less than a financial equal. Less of standing on my own two feet.

    As Liz mentions, marriage is about a lot of this stuff, and about leaning on each other. And letting your partner take care of you and be there for you to lean on.

    In terms of getting excited about stuff, I basically knew we’d already spent most of the money, so there wouldn’t be many major expenses coming up…. and then I just chose to enjoy things and to let myself really be present, to acknowledge that the timing was shitty but then to enjoy the other things – extra time with family and friends in town, more time to hunt for little things on Etsy or eBay, and an understanding that this was just a minor blip on what will be a long, happy lifetime.

    Three weeks after we got back from our honeymoon, I was offered a new job. Yay for happy endings!

    Hang in there – I know it’s super hard and super scary, but you can do it!

    • This was SO me. I have had several bouts of unemployment since DH and I first met. At the moment, I’m 6 months pregnant and have managed 15 weeks work in the last 12 months. And I still have to work through the feeling of being “dead weight” in the relationship!
      Its still an ongoing struggle sometimes, but my rule is to take one day at a time. Its all you can do sometimes. So long as the financial details are looked at and running ok, and you are trying your best under agreed terms (I’ve stopped looking for work what with Christmas closedowns meaning I’d be lucky to get in 3 weeks before wanting to go on maternity leave), then thats all you can do!