So I canceled my offbeat wedding…

Guest post by Cailleach an Airgid

So I canceled my offbeat wedding…

I was nearly there, you know. I'd bought a second hand dress and Irregular Choice shoes. I had booked my venue and I was organising my independent honeymoon to India. I had invited just eight people to my little ceremony. I had made 500 paper cranes for my Senbazuru decoration. I had chosen music and a menu and started to stockpile little bits and pieces for my small but no less special day.

And then my relationship ceased to make sense. I choose not to divulge these reasons here as it is a story for two people to tell. Suffice it to say I am satisfied now (nearly a year later) that it was exactly the right decision for us. It was an extremely challenging time, and I mourned my relationship, my home (as I moved from the house I shared with my ex) and my identity. And I mourned my wedding — the hours on the Offbeat Bride Tribe, on Etsy, on Pinterest and on crafting and planning and dreaming my wee dreams.

It was a very hard, very sad time. And I really remember feeling very alone when it all happened — plenty of people talk about divorce, about second marriages, about partner breakups… I couldn't find other people who had cancelled their wedding — even on the Tribe, my bible for all things wedding, there was little to be found on how to break up gracefully.

I struggled through and here I am, nearly a year later and I am sane and happy and whole. So, without further ado, here is my guide to canceling your offbeat wedding. These are just some of the things I wish I'd heard last year.

1. Be a grown-up

If you were old enough to make the decision to get married, then act like it when the relationship ends. I remain very grateful that my breakup was calm (as much it could be) and dignified. We split money down the middle, he gave me space to move out, I left my engagement ring and we parted in an adult fashion. It can be hard if the other party is behaving badly, but hold your head high and think dignity and class. You will be proud that you did.

2. A marriage trumps a wedding

Do not stay in an unhealthy, unhappy relationship because you want a wedding. I stayed longer than I should have, even though I knew long before then that I needed to leave. A wedding is a wonderful thing, but it is not as important as long-term happiness.

3. You are not alone

You might feel that you're the only gobshite who made the grave mistake of getting engaged and spending a load of money only to call it all off with a few short months to go. Over time, SO MANY people have told me stories of this happening to them. I would like to consider myself a sane, level-headed, logical person and it happened to me. Feeling less alone helped me immensely (but it does seem to be something that's not discussed as broadly as other breakups, so be patient as people share their stories with you).

4. Your loved ones care far more about your happiness than they do about a wedding

I was so anxious I was letting my parents down. I HOWLED over my mother's outfit she had bought for the wedding. Mum is not into clothes and would never spend money on frivolous dresses for herself. She did for my wedding and was so excited that she didn't want to take it off when she showed me. I felt wretched that I was letting her down. She on the other hand roared laughing and told me “it's only a shagging dress, you are way more important.” So, um, that told me then.

5. Feel your feelings and let go

Man, I grieved for that wedding — like a person. I really went through the stages of grief as I dealt with the loss of my relationship and wedding. I think that by openly expressing these emotions (painful as it was) I moved past them and things got easier. And sometime, you have to let go. I gave my wedding stuff to charity, I spent my savings for my honeymoon on an iPad, and a holiday to Italy with Mum, and I let my sister take care of selling my dress. I sobbed, and raged, and drank (a lot of) wine. And then, in time and, without even realising it had happened, I let go.

6. Offbeat weddings are ENDLESSLY creative

I (rather foolishly) worried I'd used all my good ideas up on my cancelled wedding. And you know what, there's like a MILLION different weddings and they're all unique and wonderful and there's NEW IDEAS all the time. And look, I am seeing someone, and it's VERY early days, and I'm saying nothing, but like, if I had to start thinking all over again…

Sunflowers and a seating chart on a ladder. And a ceili band. And a tea length dress… In other words, I might be seeing you all again in a few years, keep an eye out.

In the meantime be brave and be honest. You are strong and you deserve to be happy. Trust your heart and you will come through the hardship. Being offbeat is about being authentic in your entire life, and not just your wedding.

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Comments on So I canceled my offbeat wedding…

  1. I love this.
    And felt many of the same feelings when I postponed my wedding a few years ago, only to break up with my ex-fiance a while later. Your happiness is the most important thing in all of it and allowing yourself to feel whatever it is you feel and moving forward from there.

    • I’m going through this now, though my fiancé doesn’t realize it yet. This is the second wedding to both of us and I know I should listen to myself – knowing doesn’t make it easier. I want to postpone the wedding. I’m not even sure I want a wedding. Thanks for your advice.

  2. I hadn’t made it that far in the planning process, but I too cancelled my wedding and my relationship. I mourned my offbeat wedding for a long time! Parts of me still wish fondly for the event that never was. You are seriously NOT alone!
    But I’ve learned to appreciate what that gave me. For one, I’ve already wrestled with a lot of the choices that offbeat brides face, so I know where I stand–and my family knows about a lot of those choices, so it shouldn’t be a surprise when I finally do wed!
    For another, I’ve learned that the world will not cave in if I change my mind. I thought ending my relationship would ruin my life forever. But it didn’t. It’s given me the confidence to realize that I could change my career, move across country or decide to have a baby and that I would make it work, that I would find happiness no matter what.
    Finally, I learned that my wedding dreams were filling a lot of holes in my life that I hadn’t even realized were there. I wanted to host a big party because there wasn’t enough fun in my life. I wanted to gussy up, I wanted to dance, I wanted to laugh and I wanted a hobby. I started focusing that energy on myself and I found that I had been ignoring some deep needs for a long time.

    • I’m right there with all of you. The only money that had been spent on my wedding was my ring and his. Thankfully, we were on different continents the entire time and so being adult (ish) was fairly easy. I didn’t write about it because it was so hard and I had to distance myself from everything that reminded me of the wedding, and him.

      Well done on getting past it! I know I’m so much happier now that I’m marrying the right man.

  3. I did not cancel a wedding but I did end an engagement previously. I just wanted to say I’m glad you shared this. I really, really agree with you, especially about the acting like an adult part. It can be really hard at the time but in the long run, it makes it all so much easier. My dude and I had each previously called off engagements but in totally different ways. I’m a lot less bitter than he was and got to wish my ex-fiance congratulations on his recent marriage with which he is very happy. That felt good, knowing we are both happy now.

    I’ve seen mentions of this here and there, but if you have to call it off, sometimes throwing a party is a fantastic way to end things. Maybe only one of you holds the party, depending on how you each feel, but I honestly think that endings are worth celebrating as much as beginnings. 🙂

    So thanks for sharing your lessons learned about how to cope with calling off a wedding.

  4. This, all of this! Especially the end: “Be brave and be honest. You are strong and you deserve to be happy.”

    And on a less positive but no less important note, I suggest making peace with the fact that one of the reservations you are canceling is your family-to-be. Yes, there are stories of the people who still have wonderful support systems in their ex-in-laws. Think of them as the exceptions rather than the rule. More often than not, your ex’s family is loyal to her/him, and if you have decided to walk away, be prepared to say goodbye to not one, but a whole bunch of people. This isn’t necessarily a negative thing and it’s sure as hell not a reason to stay. It Is What It Is. You won’t suffer by preparing for the worst even while you hope they want happiness for you.

  5. Oh, boy. I’m also one of those canceled-the-wedding/broke-up-with-the-fiance brides, even though we hadn’t yet put down a deposit on one of the places we were looking at. It was so the right thing to do – he simply was not husband material (or even boyfriend), and at times it verged on serious emotional abuse.

    But even knowing that as clearly as I did, man, it was so hard. Weddings are such a key happiness/success marker in our social narrative, that canceling one sometimes feels tantamount to announcing in neon letters, “I was unable to complete the circle!” Which we KNOW isn’t true, but even so often as we tell ourselves that, sometimes it just stings so hard anyway. (Plus, I never got to buy that adorable peacock fascinator, or those gorgeous bridesmaid necklaces, and oh the wasted venue spaces took on lives of their own…)

    Obviously weddings are important, or Offbeat Bride wouldn’t be so popular, let alone the more mainstream sites. (For a while after, I felt like a lurker on here, and would tab out faster than if I’d been looking at porn if someone came up behind me.) Eventually, though, I started to “butterfly phase,” as you well put it. I stopped feeling like I’d been cheated of something important and started being grateful I hadn’t spent any more time or energy on that ex. I dated some more, and eventually I found someone who I visualized a marriage with, rather than a wedding.

    Kudos for posting this, and living your life genuinely. And hugs. And I’m quite sure you’ll get your sunflowers someday, and I’ll get my peacock fascinator. Even if it’s not for a wedding. 😉

    • ” Weddings are such a key happiness/success marker in our social narrative, that canceling one sometimes feels tantamount to announcing in neon letters, “I was unable to complete the circle!” ”

      This. For a long time I felt like a complete failure because my partner didn’t want to get married. The longer he went without proposing the more I felt like I’d failed.

      Now all of our friends are married, and our relationship has changed: I’m no longer sure I want to marry him. But like you say, our social narrative makes it such a big deal…. The advice in this article I find helpful for this situation.

  6. I’m glad you wrote this!! We’ve had 3 friends who were getting married this year all break it off and I’m sure they’ll be glad to know they’re not alone.

    Also, one of these friends had a hard time letting all that planning go to waste so in her new home she’s decided to throw small monthly dinner parties and use some of the fun ideas she came across during planning. I thought that was a pretty brilliant idea AND it’s helped me realize that, for my own wedding, I don’t have to try to cram everything in. There will be lots of occasions to use the stuff you see on your pinterest boards. A wedding isn’t the only time you can celebrate and be crafty.

  7. +1 on the “you’re not alone” part. I cancelled mine pretty early in the process – it was initially postponed so we could work on our issues, but eventually cancelled as we went our separate ways. There was definitely a mourning process; in fact the day that the wedding was supposed to take place was one of the most painful, wretched days of my life. Looking back, I am very grateful for that experience because it snapped me out of a passive, formulaic idea of relationships and how they are supposed to progress. I was young, and a little naive, following a default trajectory without much thought. Meet -> Date -> Move in -> Get engaged -> Get married -> Have babies. I never really examined my feelings about the whole thing. When my perfectly structured little life fell apart, it was such a rude awakening, I ceaselessly thought, wrote about, and examined every facet of the relationship process. It was a period of intense personal growth, and my opinions about everything really shifted as a result. I have much more solid positions on everything from engagement rings to joining finances to keeping my name, to deciding I don’t want children. Now it frightens me to think that I could have gone through with it, and probably lived for years in a state of inertia. The shock to the system was, for me, a painful but necessary jolt to grow my self-awareness.

    • And much, much better that you went through that growing process BEFORE you got married rather than after your husband filed for divorce, the way I did.

  8. I cancelled what would have been my first wedding a month before it occurred after planning for two years. It was one of the hardest things that I ever had to do, but I was surprised how much support I received. Since that time nine years ago I have had so many women tell me that they wish they had had the courage to do what I did. Many women went through with the wedding despite having strong feelings that it was the wrong decision. Kudos to you for knowing yourself and having the courage to cancel the wedding.

  9. Thank you for writing this.

    I have an extra perspective to add. One of my greatest friends had to cancel her wedding under awful circumstances last year, and she is coping with the pain with sheer grace and elegance and being angrily drunk in my kitchen and the rest.

    Now, I’m getting married myself this year, and she tried very hard to be part of it – the parties, the celebrations – but finally had to say ‘No, this hurts too much right now, I can’t’. And THAT IS OK.

    For every person who’s cancelled a wedding and can’t quite bring themselves to celebrate anybody else’s for a while: that’s absolutely fine, and shouldn’t make you feel guilty. Sometimes it’s the wisest and sanest thing to opt graciously out of celebrations, even though you send the couple the best wishes in the world. If it’s going to hinder your healing and make you gut-miserable, opt out. Take care of you.

    This doesn’t mean saying no to every wedding invitation for the next five years out of misery that everybody’s happy and you aren’t – but a hiatus, a breathe-out period of no weddings, doesn’t make you a bad person.

    And don’t bottle up your pain if you feel like you ABSOLUTELY MUST take part in the wedding. Tell somebody – if not the bride, then a therapist, or members of the bridal party, or somebody who will take care of you and make sure you’re OK on the day. Seriously.

    This seems like a niche sort of issue, but it’s come up so many times in conversation with no-longer-expectant-brides that I feel somebody has to say SOMETHING.

    • Thanks for this!

      I’m a wedding photographer, but I took the last year off because it was too painful since my fiance ran out on me. I’ll probably get back to it this fall, though. My cousin is next.

      I do have to thank my church, though, for making the day itself bearable. They took over my reception venue and turned it into a completely non-wedding-related party, and we had a great time! Community is the best way to fight the loneliness that comes after a cancelled wedding.

  10. My first wedding was about as non-offbeat as it gets, and I still mourned it when it was cancelled. I was much younger, much less wise and much less happy. I too stayed in a relationship for far longer than I should have because it seemed silly to be spending all that money on a wedding only to have things blow up in my face, and (while I tried to end things as smoothly as possible), things went rather badly for us after a long “postponement” phase. It’s lovely to see that there are other people out there who have had the same feels, because I honestly haven’t come across any in my travels. I’m lucky enough now to be able to say that I’ve found the mysterious “it” in my current relationship and am insanely happy (which only makes me more aware of how miserable I was before). As a bonus, I get to have the ultimate, non-boring wedding I always wanted.

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