Listen to me. I’m about to give you the permission slip that you do not actually need, but may think you do.
This letter I’m writing is not for the blissful lovebird bride-to-be. She is in a mix of floating on clouds and worrying about seating arrangements. She is fine. This letter, instead, is for the woman who’s secretly asking herself, “should I call off the wedding” and maybe has already realized that she’s about to make the biggest mistake of her life and has no idea what to do about it.
You are the bride-to-be who does not actually want to get married.
Maybe he popped the question yesterday. Or maybe you are supposed to walk down the aisle tomorrow morning. Either way, it doesn’t matter. The same fact is true: you are allowed to change your mind right now.
You do not have to get married if you do not want to get married. As a divorced woman, I can tell you that walking away before you are legally and socially connected so intimately to your partner is easier than changing your mind after you’ve said “I do” and signed all the legal documents. I was way too young to be married and way to young to fully discern red flags. I had no idea who I was.
Would it have been easier to walk away before I said “I do” than it was to get a divorce afterwards?
I know you are probably thinking “but” over and over again…
But what will everyone think?
But I don’t want to hurt him.
But what about the gifts they have already bought?
But what about the venue’s deposit?
But how will I ever survive the embarrassment?
But I already told this person I would say “I do.”
Let those “buts” quiet for a moment and look at the facts.
Fact #1: You can be assured that somebody (or many somebodies) in your life will judge you, ridicule you, get angry at you, or make you feel embarrassed if you walk away from your upcoming marriage.
Fact #2: You may not be able to get financial refunds on everything you, your fiancée, or your family have already put deposits on or purchased for the wedding day.
Fact #3: If your spouse-to-be is a decent person of any kind, they will probably be heartbroken, or at the very least hurt, by calling off your wedding day.
Can you survive all that? Yes you can. Can they survive all that? Yes they can.
Fact #4: If you continue going through the motions and get married even though your heart, intuition, or logic is telling you it is not the right decision, you will end up being emotionally, sexually, spiritually, financially, and legally connected to a person you do not want to be connected with. You will be living a life that doesn’t feel like your own. You will be playing a game. You will feel like a fraud.
Can you survive that? Honestly, maybe you could. But the question is: do you want to?
Trust. Your. Gut.
Cold feet is what people get because they get nervous about whether or not it will all work out. Cold feet is what people get when they are in touch with the massiveness of their decision. Cold feet do not tell you: DO NOT MARRY THIS PERSON.
If your gut says: DO NOT MARRY THIS PERSON, you owe it to yourself to listen, my friend. If the walls feel like they are closing in and you cannot breathe at the thought of standing at that altar feeling like a fraud, listen.
This is your life. You have only one. Pretending you want to marry somebody and then going through with the wedding is not a kind or compassionate scenario for you or for your spouse-to-be. Removing yourself from your engagement in the most gracious way possible is actually the kindest thing you can do.
My guess is that you are full of fear right now with hundreds of questions swarming your head. You probably keep wondering if every bride feels this way. You keep thinking about what your family, friends, coworkers, and even casual acquaintances will say, think, or do.
And ultimately, you originally accepted a proposal for a reason. My guess is you are in knots about devastating the life of a person you once loved or cared for, or maybe even still love, by telling them you aren’t able to marry them. You are asking yourself, “Will they ever be okay after I do this?”
These questions are valid, and they are human. But I am telling you they aren’t the right questions you need to be asking right now. Try these instead:
WHY? – Why Don’t I Want To Get Married Anymore?
Take some time to really nail down the exact reasons you do not want to walk down the aisle. If you can articulate it clearly, you will be able to communicate more effectively when you explain it to your partner and family.
Know your truth so you can speak your truth.
Maybe you never actually wanted to get married in the first place. You could have been swept up in the exciting moment. Maybe you’ve been together for so long it seemed like the natural next step, but it turns out it’s not the step you want to take. Maybe you simply are not in love.
If the reason you want to call off your wedding is due to your partner being physically, emotionally, or verbally abusive, RUN. Don’t walk. Don’t give it one second glance or chance. Do not attach yourself to an abusive person. Step away.
REMEMBER: You do not owe an explanation to anybody you do not want to give an explanation to. If your ex-fiancee is a good-hearted person, it would be kind to explain things clearly and graciously. Other than that, you do not owe anybody a reason beyond: “It’s the decision I made.”
HOW? – How Am I Going To Work Through The Mess?
Take some time to come up with an action plan. Calling off your wedding may seem like the biggest of messes to be dealt with, but if you break it up into small, manageable steps you will realize that you are definitely strong enough to handle it.
Maybe your fiancée has paid for the ring and your parents have paid for the venue or the DJ, and you are wondering how you will ever survive the uncomfortable feeling of telling them their money has been wasted. Maybe you already live with your fiancee and need to find a new home. Start searching for solutions.
We could spend hours listing out everything that can go wrong and dwelling on them. Or you can take the next right step by being honest and then figuring out what you will need to deal with as those moments come up.
REMEMBER: Give yourself time to work through any problems that arise as they arise. Don’t jump to fretting about Point H when you haven’t even made the move to Point B. We often anticipate things turning out more horribly than they actually do. But when it does go sour, turn to the next question…
WHO? – Who Is Going To Be My Support System?
Being honest with yourself and your partner about calling off a wedding is not fun, and it is certainly not easy. Having your tribe around you during this time is incredibly important. Even if you can only hold on to one girlfriend, a cousin, or a brother through this time, do it.
Women are often shy about asking for help. We don’t want to burden people. But when you are going through an emotionally draining time, reach out and ask for help and talk to the supportive people in your life.
REMEMBER: Don’t forget to also be a part of your own support system. Yes, we need other people in our lives. But at the end of the day, we should be our own biggest champions. So cut the negative self-talk and show yourself some compassion.
WHEN? – When Do I Drop The Bomb?
Deciding when to have this difficult conversation is tough work. If your wedding date is further out, you will be able to plan out a more ideal circumstance. If your wedding is tomorrow, you are going to have to speak up immediately. Every minute that goes by is one more minute that you will start doubting your gut (not to mention refunds become more and more difficult to receive the closer you are to the hour of your wedding.)
Chances are extremely high that you loved the person you are about to not marry, or at least you cared for them. It is always kinder to be honest sooner rather than letting them feel duped later. Even if you feel like you have waited to the last minute, utilize that last minute immediately.
REMEMBER: Unless your partner is abusive, this conversation should be done face to face. It’s going to be hard. Then you are going to survive it. Then it will get easier. Don’t cop out with a text message.
WHAT? – What Happens Next?
You will probably cry. You will probably feel guilty. You will probably wish time would speed up so you could get past all the nasty parts. You will have bad days, and you will undoubtedly feel embarrassed. People may shame you or look down on you at some point.
That’s the bad news.
But there is so much more good news.
What happens next is you get to move on. You get to throw off the debilitating coat of guilt, because you do not deserve to wear it. You get to start down the path of the life you want to live. You get to do whatever you want to do.
REMEMBER: You’re a free woman. Go do great things. Chase hard after everything you want.
Be grateful for what you have. Love yourself and love your life. Try something new and don’t forget to enjoy every second.
I had a twinge in my gut before I got married that told me something wasn’t right. I didn’t trust the churning feeling in my gut that screamed, “call off the wedding.” My marriage ended years later in massive heartache, the disappointed feeling of years wasted, the legal hassle of a divorce, and much financial difficulty. The lessons I learned were exponential, but the most clear and impactful was this: trust your gut. Since then, it has never guided me down any path other than the very best.
Trust your gut, Bride-To-Be!