Poop it out: How to deal when guests bail the night before your wedding

Pooped a rainbow
Poop it out! Photo by Flickr user cspower, used by CC license.
I got married a few days ago. I am ridiculously happy and our day was so wonderful. Everyone who came made such an effort and it was the best day of my life.

The evening before the wedding, three guests cancelled via text. I was pretty gutted as there didn't seem to be any reasoning behind them cancelling. Obviously if it was something really important behind them cancelling, I would be so understanding — but they didn't really give a valid reason.

I'm a bit sad that they didn't come and I'm not sure what to say when I see them next.

The answer to that last question is pretty simple: the next time you see them, just say, "It's good to see you — we really missed you at the wedding." That's all you need to say. I don't think that's really what you're asking, however, so let's see if we can break it down…

Recognize that this may not be about you

Yes, a wedding is an incredibly meaningful day and a powerful life moment. Weddings can be tent-pole events that act as community and family markers for the passage of time. That said, your guests are all just people with their own complex and challenging lives.

Simply stated: shit happens, and people cancel plans. This shit likely has nothing to do with you or your wedding.

Not knowing how large your wedding was, I can't know of course whether three people canceling is a huge deal (there were only 30 guests invited, and 10% of them didn't show?) or just three fewer people sitting in the pews at your 200-person ceremony. Let's split the difference and say you had 100 guests… trying to get 100 people in a room on one day is always going to be a challenge! Given the realities of life, three of them bailing at the last minute feels pretty plausible.

If it IS about you, make some decisions

I think what I'm really hearing from you though is not that you had a wedding guest cancel last minute — but that they canceled using a method you don't like, and reasons you don't think were valid.

We can debate for ages whether text messaging is an appropriate way to break bad news, but ultimately it's subjective. The ways people use text messages varies a lot by region and community. Your guests may have been trying to do you a favor by not calling, knowing you were likely busy the night before your wedding, or they may be cowardly jerks trying to avoid any accountability for their decision. We can't know, and I don't know that it's worth debating.

Now, as for this other issue:

Obviously if it was something really important behind them cancelling, I would be so understanding — but they didn't really give a valid reason.

Ah, validity.

What counts as a valid reason? Only you can know this, and what you find invalid might strike someone else as totally acceptable. A couple examples: I had a guest at my wedding decline attending because her yoga guru told her she needed to be on a "travel fast." A few years later, I was pregnant and missed a friend's wedding because I was exhausted from morning sickness puking. Are either of these reasons valid? Who knows! It's subjective.

If YOU feel that someone's reason for missing your wedding was unforgivable, then you can decide to confront them or simply end your relationship with them. It's up to you whether you want to give them an opportunity to defend or explain their decision not to attend, or just write them off completely. Someone missing your wedding could be a deal-breaker on an already strained relationship.

Only you can know, but in this matter and all interpersonal issues, be gracious and forgiving when you can, and clear about your personal boundaries when you can't. Above all, hold yourself completely accountable for whatever decision you make — because ultimately, this is YOUR decision.

Yes, they missed your wedding, but it's YOUR decision how you react.

Then poop it out and move on

Ask yourself: are you focusing on these guests who bailed because you're not ready to let your wedding go? Are you using these three guests as a way to continue chewing over your wedding?

If so, find a way to swallow your wedding, digest it, be nourished by it, and then poop out the stuff you don't need.

Here's the tough reality: the time after a wedding is confusing, and can be a major let-down. You've been anticipating and building toward this one day for months or years, and now it's over. Maybe it went awesome! Maybe it was a disaster! Probably it was a little bit of both, and either way you want to give yourself some time to eat up your wedding.

For me, I did this by pooping out first a 4000-word write-up of the entire event, and then an entire book. For other people, it might be assembling a wedding scrap book, submitting your wedding to Offbeat Bride, or just posting on social media. This is the digesting and nourishing part. Capture your wedding in whatever way feels best to you. Feel nourished by all the wonder and beauty and lovely moments, and then move on.

Moving on also includes pooping out the wedding shit that didn't go well. The three guests who flaked at the last minute. The vendor who said that rude thing at the end of the night. The aunt who you caught rolling her eyes during the ceremony. This is the poop of your wedding, and it's not doing you any good to keep it inside. If you need to take direct action, go for it — but it might serve you just as well to do Ye Olde "write a letter you'll never send" action, and let that be your pooping.

Most importantly, make sure you find post-wedding aspects of your life to apply your energies. Pursuing a promotion at work? Applying to grad school? Making your living space feel awesome? Finding new levels of intimacy with your partner? Saving up for your next big travel adventure? These are all life thangs we love to talk about over at Offbeat Home & Life, so maybe after you're done pooping out the left over wedding stuff, we'll see you over there.

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  1. I love reading your advice Ariel. It's always so thought provoking and down to earth.

    My fiancé has a good way of looking at these things called 'hanons razor'. Apologies if I'm quoting it wrong: "Don't attribute anything to malice, that can be adequately attributed to incompetence."

    It's not that those guests are incompetent but just that they perhaps didn't think about how those texts would read. Or they've never been to a wedding and thought a text the night before would be a serviceable rsvp.

    I like the idea of pooping the day out though….:D

    15 agree
  2. I need to poop out my resentment over the guests who came to the wedding for free (my sis paid all their expenses) and they never brought a gift or said thank you or anything. Not even a card.

    6 agree
  3. Your wedding isn't as important to nearly everyone else as it is to you. Once you realize that, it's a little easier not to stress over things.

    I wonder if the cancelers were 'related' (by family or friendship)

    11 agree
  4. I just had a wedding the weekend before last and out of the 60 people that RSVPed "Yes", 9 did not bother to show up or contact me to let me know that they weren't coming, including my own sister and her family! It agitates me that my husband and I spent over $150 a person of our hard earned/scrimped and saved for over two years money on people who didn't even have the decency to pick up the phone to let us know that they couldn't attend, money that could have been spent on our 3 kids or buying a house.

    Your advice is solid, I'm still digesting it all as we just got back from our honeymoon and the stark reality that it is all over and the massive amount of money that we spent makes me sick to my stomach that so many people never bothered to show up and over half of our guests didn't even give a card with well wishes, much less a gift.

    I'm hoping to let this all go soon and "poop it out", this is step one! I don't want anyone outside my husband to know how disappointed I am as I'm supposed to be in some sort of wedded/honeymoon bliss now, so thank you for reading this & letting me vent!

    5 agree
  5. This is awesome. We had a similar situation happen. My husband's brother facebook messaged ME two days before the wedding to say he wasn't coming. Oh yeah, and he was best man. He's still on our shit list. But, sadly, we weren't surprised. We moved on with it. My father-in-law stepped in to be best man and the day went smoothly. Honestly, it was the only large hiccup we had. If that is the worst, it wasn't so bad. At least to me.

    5 agree
  6. Oh my goodness, this is exactly what I needed to hear! I have been obsessing over the "poop" of my wedding for the last month. I have been struggling to move on, this definitely has helped. Thank you!

  7. I can't imagine RSVPing for an event like this and then cancelling without a really good reason. Weddings are expensive and saying you'll be there means the couple has to pay for you… even if you flake out and don't show. It's true what counts as a good reason varies from person to person but I know if my guests just cancelled last minute after saying they'd be there I certainly would want to hear some sort of reason. Also some groveling for forgiveness would go a long way… but that might just be me.

    2 agree
    • I think it might surprise some people that a lot of people really *don't* know how expensive it is to invite someone to a wedding, especially if they have never planned a wedding themselves (or at least not somewhat recently). I'll admit that before I started planning mine (we were pretty young so none of my close friends or family had gotten married recently), I didn't really know what costs were involved. In fact, I did a little bit of the opposite, saying "yes" to a wedding pretty close to the date (within a few weeks) instead of my original decline, due to family pressure. At the time, I had no idea what costs might accrue to add someone to a wedding at that point, but I didn't think it was a big deal. After having planned a wedding, I realize that it might have been a lot more of a burden than I was aware of, especially since I didn't contribute a specific gift (at that point I was still operating within my family unit, so my name was signed on the cash gift my dad gave).

      Anyway, my point is, there are a lot of people who may not know what the costs are for inviting someone extra or bailing, even though obviously on wedding websites like OBB we all pretty much have an idea that the costs may be substantial. I'm not sure what the context is in the original question or in your life, but I think there's value to benefit of the doubt, particularly for people who may not be familiar with the costs of weddings.

  8. As someone who frequently has to cancel last-minute, due to very dodgy health, thank you for being gentle about those who can't attend. I don't know what a 'valid' excuse would be, but some of us DO feel true, piercing guilt over the things we can't control that totally trash our social life. And then shame.
    As a bride-to-be, it's definitely good advice that I will endeavor to remember: savor the good, and let the bad pass benignly.

    5 agree

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