Real Runaway Bride: Why I Canceled My Wedding At The Last Second

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sad bride

When Steve, the man I was dating, showed up with a diamond engagement ring at my job two weeks after I'd met him, I was so blown away by excitement and romance that I said yes. It was so utterly romantic and impulsive, it must have been true love. 

Or so I thought, until I became a runaway bride.

I didn't notice the drinking and overlooked the drugs, which he said he didn't do anymore and went ahead with plans for a big wedding; it was part of the fantasy of marrying Prince Charming.

RELATED: 9 Life-Altering Lessons Calling Off A Wedding Taught Me About Love

I got a long, white gown with a train, a bustle, and a Basque waist, and asked my sisters and three friends to be bridesmaids.

I spent an awful lot of time getting the details just right. From the elbow-length gloves to the diamante bracelet, I was going to be the perfect bride, and everyone would beam as I walked down the aisle of the church, seeing how beautiful and mature I was.

I paid for the catering, the silverware, the dress, the DJ, the cake, the invitations, and all the other details.

I tried to keep an eye on the checkbook, but couldn't help but see how additional money vanished from the account and how charges I wasn't aware of started to show up on my credit card.

If I asked Steve about it, he always had a reason. "It's for you, baby," he said. "I got it for you."

Several months in, my sister invited me for lunch and tried to tell me that if I married Steve it would be a huge mistake; that there was something deeply wrong with him and I needed to break up with him.

Horrified, I pretended I wasn't hungry; I didn't feel like eating anymore.

Without the benefit of therapy or wiser friends, I went home and told Steve that if he ever drank again, it was over. He duly promised and, to my folly, I believed him. 

I bought a blown-glass ornament of two lovebirds nestled under a clear heart — so fragile, so very lovely atop a cake.

I imagined the cutting of the cake and hoped Steve wouldn't smash it into my face in front of all my family, friends, and boss, and how I wished he were a Navy man so he could cut the cake with a sword.

A few weeks before the wedding, Steve disappeared. He vanished for three days with my new car, finally showing up breezy and cheerful and energized, the way a person who might be using cocaine would be.

When I asked where he'd been, he said he was tracking down a guy who owed him money.

Steve had gone to collect the money and beat the guy up when he couldn't pay. I sat there aghast, finally realizing, "I can't marry this guy." Then, "I'm getting married in six weeks. The invitations are going out Monday. The bridesmaids have their dresses. I have silverware. I have to marry him."

RELATED: Why I Called Off My Wedding — Even Though Everything Was Paid For

I couldn't tell my parents I had made a mistake. I couldn't tell my co-workers who'd endured every moment of the wedding-planning for 14 months. I couldn't tell my sisters and friends, who were bracing themselves to parade in their rainbow of finery.

I couldn't marry him, but I couldn't back out now — it would mean that I'd made yet another earth-shatteringly stupid life choice. I didn't know what to do.

The next day I had lunch with my sister again and told her I was thinking of calling the wedding off. "I'll tell the family," she immediately offered. The relief was clear on her face.

That weekend, I threw Steve out and set about canceling wedding plans. But he didn't go easily.

I awoke a few days later and found him standing over me, insisting on getting into bed with me. After that, I took his name off the apartment lease and changed the locks.

He showed up at three in the morning, high and drunk, and pounded on the door.

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I wouldn't let him in. Then, he stole my car, and later, showed up with a gun, demanding that I give him his things and that I had cheated him out of a wedding and left him for no good reason. 

His parents and sister joined the fray, calling me on the phone and sending me letters, telling me what a b**** I was and how I owed him money, a wedding, a car, or life, something to assuage his humiliation.

I took the bustled, lace-encrusted dress to a consignment shop. I got my deposit back from the caterer and the travel agent. My sisters sent back their dresses. I began to use my new silverware every day.

And then I decided to have an "Unwedding" party instead, on the date we had chosen.

I ordered a cake with wedding bells and a red circle and slash through them. The bakery didn't believe that's what I really wanted.

"I Don't," I said. "Put that on the cake."

The weather was sunny with a blue sky, a nice day for a white wedding. Friends and family came to my barbecue in the local park. We tossed a Frisbee and I thanked everyone for coming.

We laughed and drank cheap champagne, and celebrated my not marrying the wrong man.

RELATED: I Couldn't Stop Thinking About Another Man On My Wedding Day

Julia Park Tracey is an award-winning newspaper and magazine reporter with 30+ years of staff and freelance experience. Her work has been published on Salon, Thrillist, Good Housekeeping, Paste, Scary Mommy/Club Mid, and others. Visit her website for more.

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