Why did a bunch of my guests break up right after our wedding?

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Are they breaking up next week? (Thanks to christinalikesbirds for submitting this photo to our Flickr pool!)
Are they breaking up next week? (Thanks to christinalikesbirds for submitting this photo to our Flickr pool!)
I just got married last year, and I noticed something really strange:

After our wedding, several guests who'd attended went through significant break-ups.

What the heck?

I mentioned it to a married friend, and she said the same thing had happened after her wedding a couple years ago.

Is this a common thing?

Why does it happen?

-Jessa

It could have been! When you say, “I do,” you encourage your guests to muse upon their own relationships. By standing up and declaring your commitment, you encouraged others to consider their own commitments … which can mean a guest looking at the person sitting next to them and realizing, “Oh, hell no. I DON'T.”

Let me be clear: This isn't about your wedding being SOOOOOOO AMAZING that everyone else's love just pales by comparison. I'm not saying weddings blow the feeble minds of your friends and family who are like “How could my piddly relationship ever compare to the awesome power of this amazing couple!” My point is just that weddings are a celebration and observation of commitment, and if a guest is in a relationship that they're not quiiiiite sure about, there's nothing like thinking about commitment and love non-stop for several hours to bring in some perspective and clarity.

Furthermore, Big Life Events (weddings, graduations, funerals, births) just tend to shake up communities. Sometimes relationships can be the casualties of these enormous life shifts. Perspectives can change quickly, and stress (even the good YAY WORLD kind!) has a way of pulling things into focus.

Possibly, couples who are already a bit iffy put on a good face for your wedding because they don't want to make things awkward at your celebration. “Oh, why am I here without your Uncle Bob? Well, Bob and I separated last month and uh, I moved into a studio apartment downtown and, sniffle, well, he's keeping the dog and … [starts crying].”

There's also the chance that your wedding had nothing to do with it: people break up all the time, and it happening after your wedding may just be a coincidence. Or you may just notice with a little bit sharper acuity because you just made a big commitment.

It's a weird phenomenon, the post-wedding guest break-ups. It totally happened at my wedding too, something I wrote about in my book. I'd love to know if readers have any of their own theories about why break ups tend to come in clusters after weddings.

Comments on Why did a bunch of my guests break up right after our wedding?

  1. This happened at my own wedding. Two couples broke up in the parking lot. One because he realized that he didn’t love her “like that” and the other because she realized that she was in love with someone else!

    Neither were bitter toward us and thankfully didn’t clue us in until we got back from our honeymoon.

  2. This totally happened after my wedding too. Some broke up just before our wedding and played it cool and then told us after, obviously to not interfere with our celebration. And I am just awestruck by that kindness. Some broke up after our wedding.

    I think Ariel has hit all the right reasons, and I would add what a friend of mine told me as evidence, “You looked so happy and in love, and I realized I wasn’t happy at all.” Another friend told me seeing her friends getting married, like me, made her feel pressured to get married, and she realized the person she was with wasn’t her “One” and that time was getting short, blah blah blah, and she needed to be free to fall in love with her “One.”

    I think the thing to keep in mind is to try and be supportive of people who are exiting relationships just as you’ve made a huge commitment to yours, and be grateful for what you’ve got. Just don’t rub it in 😉

  3. Yes. 3 couples broke up the following week, including one person in the wedding party and her long-term boyfriend. Also – one of my bridesmaids was/is in an unhealthy marriage, and after my wedding day I never heard from this couple again, so I lost a Godchild in the process. Weddings are emotionally-loaded for other people, no matter what you do to make it fun/easy for them.

  4. I had this happen too. My maid of honor went right home and moved out of the house she’d been sharing with her boyfriend of 5+ years. I had another bestie though who was on the rocks with her sig. other on the way to the wedding (and had been for about a year), and ended up recommitting herself to the relationship afterward. Weddings are emotional events centered around relationships and I think it can either wake people up to their unhappiness or remind them of how great their partner is!

  5. On the other hand, there was a couple who met at my wedding – two friends from different parts of the country – who are now getting married this October! I agree that it’s a time when lots of people put thought into their relationships.

    • Yup – not any new relationships, but lots of engagements followed ours. I think it’s the same thing, but opposite. With a touch of “hey, if they can do it and I’m leaning towards commitment too, then it can’t be that hard.”

      • Yes! Two sides of the same coin, I think. My new sister-in-law got engaged to her SO the weekend after our wedding. It was in the works for a long time (they had already bought a condo together) but I think our wedding was a little nudge for them. We also had an already-married couple who had a small ceremony sans-family decide that they might do a re-commitment thing and invite their families this time around. No post-wedding break-ups on our end (yet) but it could have just as easily gone that way!

  6. I think all of Ariel’s reasons sound good: nothing like a few hours of hearing about commitment and love to and seeing it first-hand to make you look at your date and say: “Hunh. Is this us? Urrrrg…”

    I wonder if also the reverse is true, and some couples become closer?

    • Yeah, I always get really turned on at a wedding. My FH commented on it at the last wedding we were at, and at first I was a bit upset by it, thinking he’s making it sound dirty, but then I realised that no, I’m thinking about ourselves and imagining it’s me getting married to him, so I’m quite happy with it now. I think that every wedding we’ve been to has strengthened our own relationship, to the point where we know that this is what we want for ourselves.

    • Definitely true, my fiance and I went to three weddings the first year we were together and by the third one we were openly talking about how we were so totally going to get married someday and what an awesome life we would build together. I don’t know if we would have talked about it so openly early on if we hadn’t had that catalyst!

  7. I think maybe it’s kinda like when one person/couple in a social group gets pregnant or drops a sprog and then a few others seem to follow suit; seeing friends or family go through major changes like marriage or becoming parents can make you look at your own lives and reassess where you’re headed with your own life.

    On a happy note, after my wedding last year, my sister and her long time boyfriend decided to get wed too and my bestie got engaged shortly afterward! 🙂

  8. ours has been an interesting relationship cos we’ve probably been together longest amongst our siblings (a blessing we’re grateful for). the break-ups, make-ups and mash-ups that have ‘whirlwinded’ around us are more than anyone would care to know or hear about

    a wedding is a stressful time for everyone involved and i think that the relationships that go through change were the ones that were teetering on the edge of getting even stronger or of breaking down.

    its also part of our self-conscious culture to observe and dissect every inch of our lives and compare ourselves with others (friends, colleagues, skinny models, supposedly happy celebs etc) so if someone was feeling at all insecure, then in the glow of a (capital ‘w’:)*Wedding* the cracks and imperfections would make them feel all the more unhappy with themselves and wanting for some change

  9. This didn’t happen with any of our friends/family, but it DID happen with two couples my cousin is friends with, for exactly that reason.

    I broke up w/ my ex less than a week after a friend of mine said to me, “Oh, I heard you got engaged!” (We had NOT.) Thing is, we had talked about it quite a bit, but hearing it from someone ELSE put it in a different perspective for me.

  10. I think it also happens sometimes that couples have already been on the verge of a breakup for some time but – consciously or not, and for a variety of reasons – wait until after an upcoming big event to go through with it.

    • That happened to me once. We’d never really been right for each other, the relationship had been on the way out for several months at least but it wasn’t until we did the rounds of my family and his family at Christmas that it really hit home that this was never going to work.

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