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. I’ve been there, but on the receiving end. I should have been the one to call it off, I’d admitted to myself we didn’t love each other but it took him to put the final nail in the coffin. I was so insecure and anxious about the idea of re-entering the dating game that I was actually willing to marry him as long as he was still willing to marry me, and he went back and forth on this for a solid 6 months while I buried my head in the sand and planned away.

    The wedding was supposed to be in August and it ended in December (he sat me down the day after Christmas to tell me he didn’t love me any more).

    My family really came through for me, they held my hand while I cried and made all the tough phone calls. I think one of the hardest parts was how many friends I lost in all of it, I didn’t realize how many of my friends were really his, I was so grateful to realize that I had great friends in my whole family. I was able to remain civil about the whole thing until I came to find out that he was already staying with another girl within a week of the split.

    I felt awful for the money others had spent. My Grandmother had purchased my dress for me, it was beautiful and it meant the world to me. I considered wearing it when I got married a few years later but besides the fact that it didn’t fit any more it felt wrong for a billion reasons. Deposits had been paid, flights had been booked, various wedding outfits had been bought. It sucked.

    That was a little more than 4 years ago now. I had a brief (and really quite stupid) engagement shortly after, I guess as a reaction to being ignored for 5 years, suddenly being paid attention to was amazing and I got caught up in it. Luckily that ended quickly and no money ended up being spent.

    The biggest lesson I think I took away from all of it is that I needed to think more about the marriage, less about the wedding and I wasn’t doing that before, I was thinking “I’m going to be a bride” not “I’m going to be a wife”. I got married this last summer and I had a ton of anxiety leading up to the wedding because of my past experiences, I was afraid he’d wake up and realize he didn’t want to be with me since it’d happened before, but he was nothing but loving and understanding. I’m so happy that I’ve found someone that I’m happy to spend the rest of my life with and that I’m proud to say I’m his wife.
    the end 🙂

    • Did you find that with this being your third engagement, people took you less seriously?? I am now in my second (and FINAL) engagement, and although I can point out the billion ways this is different this time around, I’m not so sure the rest of my family can.. I feel like, in a small way (and bless my mom for really trying to get on board) they don’t believe I’ll go through with this one either. I called off my wedding one year before… December is 18 months to wedding day (yes, I am a firm believer in long engagements!) I’m going that by next summer people start seeing that I’m serious about this one.. Just in time to jump in the fun!!!

  2. I didn’t cancel a wedding, but I did end an engagement with my first college boyfriend. It was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made. I loved him and his family so much, but we had irreconcilable religious differences. I’m an aspiring cosmologist, so I not only believe in the Big Bang, but I will be writing my dissertation on it, whereas my former fiance is an evangelical Christian, who interprets the Bible literally. I just couldn’t marry someone who thought I was going to hell. And even though I never let him buy me a ring and we hadn’t booked a venue yet, we had chosen a date: June 11th, 2011. I dreaded spending that day alone, so I chose to schedule my college graduation party then (even though it was a month after commencement), when I would be surrounded by family and friends, a different gown, a different cake, a different guy.

  3. I wish I found this article sooner, maybe my life might be different now. I felt a fleeting panic in the days leading up to my wedding only 6 months ago, everything was running smoothly except our relationship…….I think a culmination of spending my entire savings, being together for 8 years and having 2 children together as well as not having the balls to call it off in conjunction with exceptional circumstances holding our life to ransom from the previous year snowballed the sheer panic I felt. Unfortunately I went through with the wedding, yes I had an amazing day……but when alone with my husband that night everything fell apart he was wasted told me he wanted a divorce and I felt like such a fool for marrying this man that I once loved with my whole heart……I found myself in the shower at 2am crying my eyes out for 3 hours, not the wedding night I imagined. In the months after the wedding things got much worse to the point we didn’t talk for 2 weeks and I slept on the couch for over a month , we keep going round and round in circles and I truly am at a loss as to how to fix how desperately unhappy I am, I know I deserve better and im setting a bad example for my children I dont want this for them as adults. I wish I had of called it off but i didnt want to be the one responsible for all the feelings that everyone would have expressed at me then…… hindsight i sure as hell wouldnt feel the way i do now, like a complete fool who married a man thats broken me to the point i cant trust anything he says anymore, he broke my spirit and my heart and for the foreseeable future im stuck in a broken marriage with no way out.

  4. While my first wedding that I planned wasn’t all that offbeat, it was incredibly hard to let go of. It was perfect. Traditional, fairytale wedding in the most perfect venue. I felt the more “perfect” my wedding was, the less I would feel how “unperfect” my relationship was. Finally, exactly one year before, after I had just put my deposit down on the venue, and had purchased THE dress, I called it off. I did my best to be as adult as I could about the whole thing, though my ex fiance didn’t seem to do the same. It didn’t matter. I had hurt him, and to him it seemed to come out of nowhere. To this day, I still mourn my venue, and my dress…. Because, they were BEAUTIFUL. But this time around, I’m enjoying including my fiance in the plans…. It’s OUR day, not mine. This wedding may not be “perfect” but it will be unique, so “us”, and it will be FUN! Most importantly, I’m not hiding behind it. I get so excited about our “happily ever after”. I can’t wait to be his Mrs. I want the life and the marriage that comes after that one day.

  5. I’m so happy to have read this. I also read a few of the comments and feel relieved I’m not alone. We didn’t cancel our wedding but we did postpone it indefinitely for the moment. I always acknowledge that feelings are valid but I was feeling a bit odd for mourning my wedding. The day I took down my wedding website, I felt so sick and cried all morning. I told my fiance that I was still so happy to be with him and that I knew we were still engaged and going to wed one day, but I couldn’t pretend I wasn’t also very very sad.
    Thanks for sharing this. It helped me to see I am not alone in my feelings.

  6. I love how you worded your number 2. Marriage is so much more important than that wedding! I too had held on to a relationship past it’s expiration date but the dawning day came when I realized the wedding held more meaning to me than the groom! Alarm bells rang, we talked it though, went our separate ways and now I am happily married to the RIGHT groom, where the wedding process meant less than the man I was marrying. I was able to easily shrug off problems because all that mattered was that at the end of the day I was married to Mr. Right-for-Me.

    My only warning is that you might have moments when the time comes around again where you might do what I did and bemoan “that wedding”. I fretted over decisions because I wanted to make the event between me and Mr. Right-for-Me special and unique… and when the plans paralleled too close to the plans I’d made for “that wedding” I would panic. Don’t panic! Luckily my groom was super patient with me and helped me realize if I was paralleling, it was probably because it was a FANTASTIC idea and we need to do it! I almost stuck to the dress I’d wanted originally and ended up with something the same cut and style but much better suited for the NEW wedding. Same but different. And the wedding came out beautiful and personalized for us and the past only mattered so much in that it gave me a stepping stone to what I needed for the now.

    Great article and thanks for sharing!

  7. Thanks so much for sharing this. You are definitely not alone. We postponed our offbeat wedding a couple of years ago, then broke up, but not really. 2 years later we’re still in this weird undefined space. I think there’s a lot of unnecessary shame around cancelling a wedding. I know that – even as an offbeat bride – I felt immense unspoken judgement from family and friends. There was an attitude of ‘you almost HAD him! What happened?!?!’ Well… reality happened. Our love for one another was never in question, but our ability to handle the challenges of daily life was. We ignored mounting issues during a year long engagement, and paid the price for doing so. I don’t know what our future holds, but I’m glad we didn’t succomb to pressure and rush into something we weren’t ready for.
    The reality is that no matter the circumstances, I think women are particularly vulnerable to the opinion that we somehow failed. It doesn’t make sense. It isn’t right. But it’s the reality of social expectations right now.
    Sorry to go on a rant. This just really resonated with me in a way that I don’t get to express to my loved ones, cause even though they meant well, they were part of the problem.

  8. This is wonderful and much needed advice! I’ve come to believe that it is possible that some people just want to have the party so badly that they are willing to get married to have it. And it is so easy to get caught up in the feel-good-iness that is thrown your way when you announce your engagement, that you begin to feel like it really IS a good idea (even though that voice inside your head is saying “not so fast……”).

    I love the idea several of you have mentioned about having the party anyway. When I am working with my clients, who have such great ideas, I begin to break out in party-envy-itis. To cure me of this, I have created occasions to celebrate in a big way: a medieval themed vow renewal, a Edwardian/Downton Abbey dinner party to celebrate my retirement from my “day job”, and a Christmas dinner where everyone wore their old wedding dresses or other formal attire. There is really no reason why you have to get married to have a kick ass party. Life is a pageant to be celebrated!

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