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.

Comments on So I canceled my offbeat wedding…

  1. Beautiful article.

    As a wedding photographer who’s had couples call off the wedding a few months beforehand after booking all their vendors, I can reassure all of you that this happens more times than people like to admit.

    As a young bride who spent five years married to someone she shouldn’t have married because she wanted the wedding more than the marriage, I can tell you I wish I’d had the courage to do what the author of this article did.

  2. I was a tribe member and ended up canceling my wedding too. I believe I posted about it and then never really came back. I felt like I didn’t belong here anymore, which was foolish. I can’t think of a better online community to turn to in such a time. While I was absolutely doing the right thing by ending the relationship, I forced myself to act like I didn’t care even though I was hurting tremendously. Thank you so much for writing this!!!

  3. Lady, thank you for writing this. And for having the courage to know when to step away, the grace to deal with your emotions and the levelheadedness to know that it isn’t The End. I’ve mourned my wedding, as well, but after it happened. I got sucked into the whole “I’ve already spent too much and people will be too disappointed and I don’t want to be a failure and … and … and … ” and that sucked. Almost as much as all the legal wrangling now sucks. But whether we mourn The Things, The Wedding or What Could Have Been, comfort comes in knowing that the decision was the right one.

    And uber kudos for being not-single again, because that is really scary. But the buterflies aren’t scary. The butterflies are the best.

  4. I just want to thank you for this. A few months ago I was the one who was broken up with, and all my very fledgling plans were canceled, and while the circumstances weren’t the same, this article helps me sort out a lot of the lingering questions. You’re a brave woman, and I’m happy this was shared/posted.

    (I am also not-single again, but my butterflies are overtaken by being scared shitless, haha)

  5. Both my husband and I had the same wedding idea since we were kids (Christmastime, with trees and Christmas colors and snow all around), and when he told me his dream wedding, I almost peed myself because it matched my dream so much!

    But, in having the dream that we both had, it also meant that I gave up my more offbeat dream of getting married barefoot by my favorite waterall. While not the same as mourning a marriage and relationship and awesome-sounding wedding (I hope you at least got to still go to India?!), I feel this waft of sadness about the what-ifness of that OTHER wedding I had also thought about having.

    • I’ve also had to give up my dream wedding, but for different reasons.

      I dreamed of having what I had envisioned as a Celtic and Fairies inspired outdoor wedding, with dances around a bonfire and a wildflower bouquet. And I had my heart set on having an elaborate celtic knot style circlet.

      But due to a variety of reasons (including making sure his brother can make it, as he plays college football, and the fact that he himself is allergic to life) we are having our wedding in the middle of January. And then the color scheme I wanted so badly to use wasn’t going to end up working. I was crushed.

      But it was temporary.

      Now we’re having a “comfy wood cabin/ski lodge” shindig, getting married in front of a roaring fireplace, and I’m still able to focus on the big thing that I really wanted to accomplish: making every aspect of the event a tribute to how we make each other feel.

      Now if only I could get the honeymoon figured out… /cry

  6. Where was this post last year when I cancelled my wedding? The only thing I have found harder than the cancelled wedding, was my decision to stay with the guy. It has been seven months, and as long as I don’t think of the what ifs, life is better than it ever was.

    • I thought I was the only one… I hadn’t got far in planning a wedding but I did realize after being engaged for a year and a half that I have some serious issues about marriage, and we went through a rough spot. We ended up canceling the wedding but stayed together. Luckily we were able to work out the majority of our issues and things are looking good. I’m still not sure if I want to get legally married but I know I’ve made the right choice in a life partner regardless.

      I wish you the best of luck and happiness 🙂

  7. I agree wholeheartedly with this post. I called my wedding off in 2010 just six weeks before the day. My fiance lived several states away because I had moved home to finish planning everything, though we had a condo together back where he was living. It was when I moved home that I was able to step outside my day to day life with him and say “this is not what I want” and this is not WHO I want. Because I called it off so late, I had already received numerous presents, bought my dress, paid for a photographer, the wedding site, and was pretty much finished. But when I admitted to my mother late one night how scared out of my mind I was, she looked me dead in the eye and asked me “Victoria…do you want to get married?” and I burst into tears and said “not to him!!” and bawled my eyes out. I drove four states with my best friend to move myself out of my condo while my fiance was at work, waited for him to come home and gave him my ring back and told him I loved him, but not enough to be his wife. I walked out of our condo and felt the greatest sense of relief, but then…the grief hit, just like the author said. I mourned the end of the relationship, the wedding, all the work, all the money, all the time that went into the wedding. thankfully, while I laid in bed for days depressed over everything, my Mother and Father made all the difficult phone calls for me, letting people know that there would not be a wedding happening, but that they would receive their gifts back. I am now marrying someone who I can’t wait to walk down the aisle and I do not have a hint of the impending dread that I felt with my last wedding to my ex. I can’t thank my family and friends enough for being so wonderful. I tell people that calling off my wedding and my three year relationship to my ex was the HARDEST, RIGHTEST thing I’ve ever done. Just because you do the ‘calling off’ doesn’t make it really any less sad. I dealt with so much guilt over breaking my fiance’s heart, especially because he swears he had no clue it was coming, and he tried so hard to win me back for months. But, I knew in my heart it was not meant to be, but try telling that to someone who truly believes in their heart that you are their one and only. The guilt from that is hard to deal with. thank you for writing this post. I understand pretty well how you felt.

  8. Unfortunately this is my story too. In 2010 my relationship with my partner ended very abruptly and traumatically. The experience was truly horrific and extremely isolating.

    I’ve known a number of women who have gone through the same experience. One of my clients was diagnosed with cancer and six weeks before the wedding, the groom took off. Awful story, but bullet dodged. And the bride has happily moved on and married someone else. The right person, who actually loves her unconditionally.

    We are not alone in this. There are many others.

    Being a grown up is key. I see some nasty fights and temper tantrums sometimes and it makes it hard to help when that happens. Walk away with respect, as best you can, for yourself and each other and just leave it there. Work on your grief on your own, with friends, with a counselor, not by lashing out at everyone around you whose trying to help. Because that’s the one thing that WONT help.

    • I also have a friend who was diagnosed with cancer and then entered a relationship that eventually turned into a now-broken engagement. She also went through a nasty divorce before her diagnosis. Nowadays, she seems to be somewhat happy to be single again, but I can tell that she’s still trying to heal from all the heartbreak and pain she’s been through for the past few years. But she remains one of my role models because she is so strong and determined to overcome her struggles, especially her ongoing battle with cancer.

  9. Somehow this is something that rarely is spoken about, as you wrote in your article.
    I am one of those, too. I broke up with my fiance only 2 weks before the wedding. And I never regretted it! It was one of the best decisions I made. I had been unhapoy and not sure about that relationship since we started dating. But I convinced myself that this is right, He is right.

    Fortunately I had someone in my life who shared my doubts. And finally being able to open up helped sooo much to take that step of cancelling the engagement.
    And fortunately ours would have been a very low-key wedding, so there was not much to cancel. We divided up who did what and that was it.
    Now, 7 years later, he is engaged to a girl who fits much better with him than I ever did. And I am still, happily, Single 🙂

    I just could not see myself marrying him and being with him for the rest of my life. So I decided it is best to break up with him before the wedding than having a divorce later, or a very unhappy marriage.

    I am glad you shared your experiences and I wish more people would read it. It helps to see you are not alone. And gives you strength if you are in a similar situation.

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