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 was so frustrated right after my broken engagement; the only other person I knew who had broken off an engagement was my sister’s husband, and his was more of a mutual, long-time-coming thing, whereas mine was a bizarre, out-of-the-blue, over-the-phone, never-saw-him-again thing. And the only advice I could find on the internet was the proper etiquette for returning the ring and/or the wedding gifts.

    Well, fortunately, we hadn’t progressed far enough into the engagement for there to be gifts, and I knew I was going to do whatever the hell I wanted with that ring, etiquette be damned (I wound up leaving it with a mutual friend).

    So, no thanks to the internet, I’m getting through it, like any other serious breakup, with time and lots of talking it out. But oh, the triggers. They are bitches.

    I’ve been in two weddings since. My youngest sister (by six years) had her wedding just a few months later. I kept it together most of that week, but I had to slip away during the toasts and find a quiet bathroom and cry my guts out. It was probably too soon for me, but how do you say no to your sister, you know?

    The other wedding was just last weekend, and it was far and away the most emotional wedding I’ve ever been to. The couple are both dear friends of mine; in fact, I introduced them, and was the biggest cheerleader for them getting together. So I was incredibly happy, but also incredibly pained; their relationship had parelleled ours (we started dating and got engaged around the same time), and their wedding had *so many* of the elements I’d wanted in mine, and thusly, it was a pretty harsh reminder of what I thought I’d have, but don’t.

    While running errands with the groom the day before, he casually inquired into my (currently non-existent) love life, then tried (in a well-intentioned but somewhat clumsy way) to be reassuring. God love him, it just felt like platitudes, and it almost made me cry. But (perhaps mercifully) the rest of that weekend was so busy, I didn’t have much time to think about myself, and so it was easy to be happy.

    I crashed hard after the wedding, though. And it wasn’t a cathartic release, it was a slump. Just a total collapse, and it wasn’t until I got a message from a fellow attendee and old friend that I had any form of emotional liberation. The message, simply stated, said, “Are you ok?”

    And as I formulated an honest answer (the summation of which was “no”), I was overwhelmed, not only with the pain I’d been trying to keep at bay (surprise! It didn’t work!), but also with gratitude that someone would just ask. That someone else would acknowledge, with one simple question, that what I had gone through was agonizing and horrible and had the potential to color my experiences of that day. Two of my closest friends had checked in with me before the wedding, but I think it took the wedding itself to draw a lot of that stuff out.

    Point being, I guess, is that while I was mopey about not having anyone around who’d been in my shoes, it meant so damn much that, when I really needed it, people inquired about, listened to and acknowledged my pain. Even if they haven’t “been there” themselves. It’s important. It’s what makes community beautiful.

  2. Oh wow, this resonated with me so much. My last relationship was a real heartbreaker. We were together three years and planning a wedding, and then we broke up (another woman). Then, after a year of therapy and crazy drama, we got back together, and got engaged again, and started planning a new wedding. My friends were terrified for me, but they celebrated with me, champagne and offers of help and hours spent planning. Five months later he left me again for the same woman. It was insane. I didn’t know how to cope. I was ashamed and embarrassed and felt like such an asshole.

    But I survived. My friends were amazing and I learned SO SO SO much about myself and what I need and want from a relationship. My life on the other side is eight thousand times better, and I’m in a relationship now with an amazing man who is over the moon at the thought of building a life with me. It’s early days, but we know where we’re headed. That nightmare feels like just that…a nightmare, and it’s over.

  3. I hope this posts gets out to A LOT of people. I have had 4 friends get married and within one year get a divorce. When asked, they all said they knew before they got married, could not imagine canceling the wedding. One of them actually said “how can you cancel a wedding once it is planned?” My response was, you just do.
    I still ended up getting married, but we canceled our HUGE fancy wedding our parents wanted for us because I started questioning marriage, when really it was the stupid wedding stress. We had a tiny offbeat inspired wedding instead that we planned ourselves under 2 months. Some people were mean and disappointed, but those that cared about us were happy for us.

  4. So maybe I’m still bitter, or maybe I’ve had a true revelation about marriage… But I think it’s a sham (now at least). I just canceled my wedding in May because my fiancé ended up being a daranged sociopath – and I had known him for a long time – we’d been together for 6 years and it turns out I never really knew him because he had lied about everything. Long story short, the way I feel now, personally, is that I want to be independent forever. I’m sure I’ll love again but at this point in my life I don’t see myself ever wanting to commit to one person for a lifetime ever again. To clarify I’m not saying that marriage is irrelevant or not meaningful for other people, but it isn’t for me anymore. I want to be totally independent and not ever be bound to someone, especially since they could turn out to be a maniac one day (though this is obviously not the case for most couples). Long story short (and this may seem immature to some people but I’m aware of that – but sorry im not sorry I want to do it anyway), I still want a wedding but not a marriage. Before I continue, in my defense – I just read a post on offbeat bride where a woman was talking about how a lavish wedding weekend put a 70 year old woman in the hospital because the celebration was so overwhelming. I want a big day for me and about me, that I would pay for myself (that is to say I wouldn’t burden my parents with a costly expense for the sake of a patriarchal-era influenced, religious tradition), where I could wear a huge beautiful dress and cut into a huge cake and be surrounded by all of my friends and family having a wonderful time (*bonus for guests – no need to spend money on gifts). I hope some of you feel similarly, I can’t be the only one.
    A less attainable goal (obviously because I can’t control the government), we could push for domestic partnerships (or some other terminology) to replace legal “marriage”. Honestly when you get down to it there really is a distinction between a marriage, which is really a religious ceremony, and a legal “marriage” that is held in public record and benefits your spouse in a time of crisis. This would take care of the prohibition of gay marriage and take us modern women out of the 50’s stigma of women being inferior to their male counterparts in one fell swoop.
    If anyone is on board with this mentality could we start making it socially acceptable to host a party as a celebration of being free and independent in lieu of a marriage for those of us who don’t ever want to get married? I feel like we should give it a title…

    Again, full disclosure, I am more than happy for those couples who do support the idea of marriage and am more than happy for them. All I’m saying is that there must be a segment of the population that does not want to be married ever and I think it’s time we accommodate that section of the population as well 🙂

  5. I’m planning the wedding after my canceled wedding, and I STILL have triggers and uncertainties. Not to mention the awkwardness when vendors remember me at wedding shows, or when sending inquiry emails. BUT, it was the best thing I ever did.

    My fiance left me (for a bridesmaid, I’m clearly a cliche), but in the end, it taught me more about myself than anything else could have. And I’ve gotten so much better at communicating my needs and emotions, that I’ve become a decent person to be in a relationship with. Which makes it a lot easier to build a strong one.

    I find there’s a lot of shell shock and disbelief now that I’m engaged again, but people are coming around. I’ve been dating my fiance a year and a few months now, and we’ve pretty much known from the start this is where we were headed, but since he was divorced and I was left before a wedding, we waited a whole year till we couldn’t anymore.

    I find myself feeling defensive and cagey about the whole thing with family and friends who naysay, but I check in with myself and him and we talk through it and make this happy and fun rather than some sort of challenge to prove we’re ready for the long haul.

  6. I completely understand. I had been with my ex for 4 years, started off “promised”, then engaged (twice!), even bought the wedding bands…but never managed to make the wedding thing happen. We looked at a house in the country that needed ALOT of work, him talking about building a workshop to make armor (he did reenactments), about having a small farm and “our” kids running around the dogs we’d get. I’m a suburban girl, to get that out there first, and I’d get kinda squeamish at the idea of all this country-ish stuff, but I always tucked it away. I figured feelings like this happen because of the nervousness of making big decisions, no biggie right? (Mistake number one) It took my now hubby coming into the picture to have some true strength to make our last break up the final one. We’re going on 2 years this month of being married and through all of everything we’ve been through, including deciding together we don’t want kids (yeah, that took alot to bring myself to admit to), there’s absolutely no way I’d want anyone else by my side to battle through all of the shitty stuff with.

  7. Oi. Yeah. I was engaged before, and getting dumped by my fiance was terrible- beyond terrible, actually, because that relationship was an abusive one and the dumping the nearly-final act of abuse (counter-intuitive, that, and took me years of therapy to face into). It was, in some ways, not a “real” engagement, because they weren’t too keen on actual wedding planning the way I was, and kept control in the relationship partly by refusing to be definite about things. Going to other people’s weddings was hard, for awhile. Lots of things were hard, because even though the relationship was abusive I still mourned those dreams of marriage and kids and wedding and all the rest. Well, and heck- it took me a couple of years to even acknowledge that that relationship had been abusive. We don’t talk a lot about abuse in same sex relationships, even though it’s a HUGE problem in the lesbian community. Our worry about our image keeps a lot of people in dangerous and toxic relationships.

    My soon-to-be spouse and I got fairly serious fairly quickly- but I wasn’t ready to commit for awhile. I had a bit more healing to do, and my partner gave me the space to do it. And when I knew I was ready I knew I wanted to get married to this person the way I was never sure the first time around. My head and my heart and my intuition are all on the same page on this one. And wedding planning this time around? Totally awesome.

  8. I too canceled my wedding, one month before it was supposed to happen. Thank you for posting your story. I am planning my wedding to another wonderful man, now, and I can relate to other commenters’ fears around that. The embarrassment and anxiety around friends and family maybe not taking me so seriously because I’ve ‘flaked out’ before. Hard to celebrate when I’m feeling ashamed, I guess. Anyway, my family was so lovely when I canceled (you and your happiness matter most!) and I can’t say enough times how right the decision was. Kudos to us all for braving the headwinds of the WIC and our deposits. Xo.

  9. Thank you for starting this dialogue. I feel very fortunate not to have gone through this experience, but as a pragmatist with still more than a year to go until my own wedding I am trying not to count my chickens. I prefer to go in with my eyes wide open, and with a community like this I know that if we start running into warning signs we will recognize them and will be able to approach them with the knowledge that cancellation is a sensible recourse, that it really will not be the end of the world or our personal happiness, and that we have a huge support group among our family and friends (and, for me, the Tribe!) to help us get through it. Your solidarity and reassurances make the unthinkable, well, thinkable, and that makes it enough less scary that I can be sure that I am making my choices leading up to the wedding for the right reasons.

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