I got left at the altar: turning heartbreak into artwork

Guest post by Shelby Swink

When I met my fiancé, we were both athletes at the same university in Tennessee. We started dating soon after that and hit it off very quickly. Our relationship was put to the test a year later when he moved back to his hometown in Florida, and I stayed in Tennessee to finish school.

After a year of long-distance, he surprised me and decided to move to Memphis, my hometown, to be with me. Two years after we met, we moved in together and were doing great. So great, that we got engaged and started planning the wedding for the next year.

I poured my heart and soul into the wedding plans to try and make it the best day it could be. It was going to be a celebration of our love and commitment to each other, so I wanted it to be absolutely amazing. A few weeks before the wedding I had everything planned out to a T and was so excited for our big day.

Five days before the wedding the unexpected happened. My fiancé and I sat down and he told me that he was not in love with me, and did not want to marry me, or spend the rest of his life with me.

I was in complete shock and had no idea what to think or do. I was numb. The next couple days were a blur of calling guests, canceling services, and figuring out our living arrangements. Fortunately, my friends and family surrounded me and showed me endless love and support.

As the day that was supposed to be my wedding day approached, none of us knew what to do, think, or feel. I knew that a pity party was the farthest thing from what I wanted or needed. A few people brought up the idea of trashing the dress, and at first it sounded crazy…

My mother had spent so much money on the dress and alterations, so I was nervous to even think about destroying it, let alone try and pitch the idea to her. But after thinking about it, I knew that doing something to mark the occasion was the perfect thing for me. I was not going to let my ex-fiancé's mistake of letting me go take away my happiness.

Trash The Dress (Elizabeth Hoard Photography)

My bridesmaids and parents supported the idea 100% and even joined me in their own dresses and suit. My friend Carolyn didn't even wait for my photographer Elizabeth to say “go” — she just kind of threw the paint on me.

Trash The Dress (Elizabeth Hoard Photography)

The moment the paint hit my dress… I was free. All the disappointment, all the hurt… I just felt it leave me. I can't even describe how liberating and cathartic the experience was for me. I let go of all the hurt and became myself again.

Trash The Dress (Elizabeth Hoard Photography) (102 of 319)
Trash The Dress (Elizabeth Hoard Photography) (128 of 319)
trash the dresses before and after
Trash The Dress (Elizabeth Hoard Photography)
Trash The Dress (Elizabeth Hoard Photography)
Trash The Dress (Elizabeth Hoard Photography)
Trash The Dress (Elizabeth Hoard Photography)
Trash The Dress (Elizabeth Hoard Photography)
Trash The Dress (Elizabeth Hoard Photography)
Trash The Dress (Elizabeth Hoard Photography)
Trash The Dress (Elizabeth Hoard Photography)
Trash The Dress (Elizabeth Hoard Photography)
Trash The Dress (Elizabeth Hoard Photography)

I am a strong woman who believes that everything happens for a reason. We all face adversity in our lives, but what really defines us is how we decide to overcome that adversity. I decided that I will not let this tragedy and heartbreak consume me, and bring me down in life.

Trash the Dress, Part Two (110 of 124)

Afterwards, my dress was proudly displayed at The Barefoot Bride in Memphis.

Through the beginning of 2015, a portion of each wedding dress purchased while my dress is displayed will go to a Memphis non-profit that helps other women learn how to find their inner strength.

Trash The Dress (Elizabeth Hoard Photography)

Ultimately, I have come out of this experience a stronger and better person, and I am excited for the future knowing that God has a plan for me. Always remember to remain true to yourself and believe in your own strength and you can overcome anything life throws at you.

Trash The Dress (Elizabeth Hoard Photography)

Updated to add

Here's a video, from Shelby's dad!


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Comments on I got left at the altar: turning heartbreak into artwork

  1. Thank you for sharing this. The love your friends and parents have for you shines through in these photos. They are so beautiful. This is inspiring for women going through tough times of all kinds. Finding inner strength is so important.

  2. Beautiful! While the painting ritual is symbolic and the photos are gorgeous, I love how you took it an extra step and used it to benefit charity!

  3. Those photos are AMAZING! Is it weird and creepy that I wanna print out the photo of you and your dad and frame it and hang it on my wall? It’s just so gorgeous and full of feelz! I love everything about this post – thank you so much for sharing 🙂

  4. This. Is. Amazing. I can’t even begin to describe how much this inspires me. I commend everyone involved and am so glad I found this post today!

  5. Gosh, I can’t imagine being in your situation. You dealt with it incredibly well. Well done and good luck for the future!

  6. He who finds a wife finds a good thing….blessed is the man who finds you. You are an amazing woman and yes God has a plan for your life. Consider it a blessing to have gone through the heartache now instead of many years down the road in a loveless marriage. I just hope you post pics of your real wedding for us to congratulate you on!!! Thanks for sharing!!!

  7. ….Can….can I just have a dress that looks like that at my wedding? That is incredibly beautiful in a totally imaginative and empowering sort of way. Also, the way you handled such a shitty thing is amazing and I give you a virtual internet fist-bump.

  8. WOW, this is beautiful. There is so much love and soul in all the pictures, they are like life distilled. Truly this is art.

  9. LOVE all the pictures! I love the one of mom and dad throwing paint on each other!

    But seriously – the one of just you and your dad, forehead to forehead, brought me to tears!!

  10. this is amazing. I had the same thing happen to me two years ago, my wedding dress is still in my closet and I haven’t ever known what to do with it. What i did was go to Africa and work in the IDP camps and orphanages, it got me to stop thinking about myself and when I came home it was a long journey and in some ways i’m still recovering. I realized though, that who I am and my value is not defined by his or anyone else’s opinion of me. Just because he doesn’t see my worth doesn’t mean i’m worthless. I now have exciting plans with the wedding dress, thanks for being awesome.

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