Story time: How and why I called off my wedding
This isn’t a happy subject to cover, is it? We love weddings and all the happy emotions that come along with them. But what happens when the wheels of your wedding are already in motion and you’ve come to realise it’s a mistake? What happens when you need to bring that happy, romantic train screeching to a halt?
Well, that happened to me. Today, I’m happily married to my Popup Weddings co-founder, Kerry. But I was engaged once before, and pretty damn far along the process of actually getting married. But we (or perhaps just I) called it off.
In a later post, I’ll share some practical advice about calling off a wedding. But for now, let me explain how it all went down.
How I got engaged in the first place
I met Henrietta through mutual friends. (Henrietta’s not her real name, by the way.) We spent the first 12 months of our relationship both living at home with our parents. But we saw each other almost every day – sometimes alone, sometimes going out with friends. We got on great.
Our relationship moved very quickly. After a year, we bought a house together and everything was looking peachy. I knew she was keen to get married, and I was keen to make her happy. So I booked us a weekend away in the Cotswolds and popped the question. She said yes.
We had a great engagement party with our friends and family, and we set about planning our wedding. So far, so perfect.
Looking back on that first year, I think we were both making that extra effort you tend to make at the start of a relationship – before you relax and really be yourself with someone. We didn’t know each other as well as we should have.
How we started to notice our differences
When we started planning our wedding, one very big difference started to become clear: Henrietta was quite an emotional person, whereas I’ve always been very logical. Looking back, this was the basis for the majority of our problems.
But still, planning our wedding was fun at the time. We went to wedding fairs, met with vendors and made all those decisions about colours, timings and such. That was the fun part.
But as that second year of our relationship rolled on, we started to grate on each other. Most of our disagreements seemed minor, and we’d either have a little argument or just ignore it.
For example, Henrietta didn’t like me eating fish and I didn’t like her smoking. I found her fish aversion illogical, but I didn’t want to upset her over something so small. She quit smoking, but she’d often smell of smoke when I picked her up from work. She said it was from being around friends who were on a smoking break.
As I remember, there was never one big thing that set us at odds. It was just an ever-growing number of little things.
How the cracks started appearing
I remember feeling conflicted that year. I was willing to make compromises to keep the peace, but I was suddenly very aware it would be like this for the rest of our lives.
As time passed, I started feeling like I shouldn’t make compromises so easily without discussing them in greater depth.
Discussing meant arguing. Greater depth meant louder and more heated arguments.
Sadly, we weren’t having the kinds of arguments that end with hugs and kisses before being totally forgotten. No, these were the arguments that end with us both going to bed angry and waking up angry. They stayed unresolved. And we grew a little further apart each time.
Sometimes she would get upset and go and spend the night at her mother’s, so our disagreements were no secret.
How the cracks became chasms
We both really wanted our relationship to work. Henrietta talked about relationship counseling, but I was against it – if we couldn’t make things work without professional help, I thought, then we just weren’t right for each other. This upset her. She’d say I wasn’t as interested in making our relationship work as she was.
Just when things seemed doomed, we found something that helped us to have fun together – the wedding gift registry. We’d signed up at John Lewis and they give you a date to go and scan the barcodes of everything you’d like to add to your gift list. We had a great day, and it seemed like we were getting back on track.
But then we started with the guest list and invitations. She didn’t like some of my friends, and she didn’t want them at our wedding. This was a big thing to ask. To not invite some of my close friends to my wedding would affect my relationship with them for the rest of my life to some degree.
I put forward all the logical reasons in the world, but she said she didn’t want to be upset on her wedding day by having them there.
So I compromised. We didn’t invite them, and I had to tell them why.
So the stage was almost set. Guests invited. Gift registry live. Some people had already bought gifts or made travel plans. We’d booked our vendors, paid deposits and, in some cases, final balances. Everyone was ready. Except us.
How I tried to find a third option
With the big day just a month away, we had a huge argument. I don’t even remember what it was about, but it ended with us both leaving to stay with our mothers and do some serious thinking.
For my part, my mother could obviously tell I was upset and nearing the end of my rope. Eventually, she just came out with it: “You don’t want to go through with this, do you?”
I’ve never been so conflicted. Should I follow through with this massive emotional and financial commitment that feels like a mistake? Or back out now, throw everything away and face the fallout?
And there is a lot of fallout. That’s why calling off a wedding is such a scary thing. You’ll lose your deposit money. Everyone will think you’re selfish and reckless for spoiling a great day and possibly costing them serious money. Your in-laws-to-be (or not to be) will hate you for it.
I decided I would suggest to Henrietta that we postpone the wedding. And maybe not even set a new date – just give ourselves less pressure and more time.
How our final argument played out
I drove to pick Henrietta up from her mother’s house. When I got there, I think everybody had been crying. We left together to go home, and I said we should wait until we get home to talk about things. That’s the logical move, right? We’re in a moving vehicle, so if anybody gets super upset it could be dangerous. After all, it was only 15 minutes home.
She wanted to talk. And when I said, “let’s wait until we get home” a couple of times, she started crying.
She kept asking me if I was breaking up with her. Then she started really crying, so I had to answer her. I told her we should postpone the wedding. It seemed like an excellent plan – our best compromise yet.
It didn’t go down well. She made it very clear that she didn’t like this idea, and that she was annoyed by my mother’s involvement in it. The rest of the journey was silent.
When we got home, she went inside and made herself busy. I went upstairs and sat at the computer and tried to carry on being normal and give her some time to calm down.
A few minutes later she walked into the room and said something like: “If we’re going to postpone the wedding, we may as well cancel it altogether.”
To which I said, “okay.”
The relief was immense. A huge emotional weight lifted from my shoulders.
How the aftermath played out
That was the last we spoke to each other for a while. Our next conversation was when we officially agreed to cancel the wedding, sell the house and divide up our stuff.
I told my close family and they spoke with Henrietta’s mother about it. They agreed they should each write to our guests on our behalves. It was incredibly kind of them.
I’ll write another post about dealing with vendors, gifts and such. (Spoiler: Hooray for John Lewis.) Those things aside, the next few months were a bit odd. The date of the wedding came and went. I don’t know if they were just being polite, but most people were really understanding about it.
A lot of people (including Henrietta’s mother, and my hairdresser) told me we’d done the right thing, and commended us for not making a lifelong commitment that didn’t feel right. Some people said they probably wouldn’t have had the courage to back out at such a late stage.
As time passed, I started looking forward to finding my own way with relationships. I didn’t have a desire to marry, but I wasn’t excited to be single again. I can be happy with my own company so I didn’t feel anxious about being alone and I knew I’d find someone special at some point.
When Kerry and I got together, I wasn’t planning to get married. But I changed my mind, and I’m very glad I did.
Have you or someone you know ever cancelled a wedding at really late notice? How did it happen? Let us know in the comments.
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