What do you say when your friend calls off her wedding?

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By: Sebastian RiehmCC BY 2.0
A dear friend of mine was all set to get married after getting engaged earlier this year, but recently ended the relationship and called off the wedding after finding out her fiancé was a TOTAL piece of shit. She, as expected, is totally crushed and packed up all of her things (from the house they JUST bought together) and headed back home to her parents‘ 1000 miles away.

I reached out to let her know I was there for her, and to let me know if I could do anything for her (we live in different states and don’t see each other often). But I just don’t know what to say to comfort her. My heart breaks for her, but everyone has already MAXED out the clichés on her via social media. I’d like to mail her something but I’m really not sure what to do.

Has anyone else experienced this? I’d love your insight on how I can help her out during this extremely trying time. -Jessalyn

Comments on What do you say when your friend calls off her wedding?

  1. My sister had a very similiar situation last year. Shortly before I became engaged her boyfriend of 3 months proposed (with no ring or any plans I might add) and they began their plans for a wedding. I was skeptical due to the non commital nature of her fiance in the past and was terrified she would be heart broken. Their wedding date changed a few times, I saw very little of my sister even though I was a bridesmaid. At one point she took out three credit cards for the rings that they purchased and a pay day loan to pay for a new car payment. Eventually I noticed she was physically starting to change. She looked tired and worn out most of the time. I became a witness to some emotional and verbal abuse on his part and started to plan some type of intervention; but knowing my sister’s nature I knew this would only further her disconnect from the people that might tell her the truth. Her wedding date suddenly changed, and then a month or so later it was called off. She was still dating him, living with him, supporting him financially. And then they broke up. I was elated! We went out to the bar for the first time in months and talked and laughed, she was a new person. Several weeks later I found out she was dating him again and again she began the reclusion process. She quit her job and went on the road with him while he was trucking. And then I got a call. He had spent that time using her and then when they returned from his job he told her it wasn’t working out and dumped her. I slowly saw her back into my life and she opened up about the abuse she endured. I comforted her, I told her I loved her and that she was beautiful every day and we had “sister” time. It’s been a year. She was my bridesmaid at my wedding and never once expressed jealousy or hate. She is living on her own and paying off the debt she incurred because of the horrible person she was with. I think the best advice “WE” could give you is to show love. She needs to know the support is there but when they need it; not when you want to give it.

  2. I was engaged, moved across the country to start a new life with my fiance away from friends, family, home. We were planning the big day and looking for a house (almost decided on one) when the crap hit the fan and it all ended. I knew I was making the right decision, I knew I should be grateful that I didn’t marry him, and other people telling me that wasn’t helpful.

    The dress shop owner was the worst. She kept telling me all this positive stuff about how the right man is out there for me, what a strong woman I was for leaving him, how proud I should be, how my future was going to be so great…. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to cry or punch her in the face.

    What your friend needs most right now is DISTRACTION. One of my best friends (MOH #1) took me on an awesome road-trip-adventure day, just the two of us, with lots of junk food and a creative photo-scavenger hunt that lasted all day. She knew I couldn’t pretend to be happy and I couldn’t smile in pictures, so the whole day was all about looking at OTHER things and seeing the beauty in the world. Then after moving 1500 miles home, my other best friend (MOH #2) had a Gina-is-awesome night out which involved a bowl full of tropical alcohol and… well, I don’t really remember what else was involved. 😉

    My point here is that sympathy isn’t always the way to go. She’s already thinking about it 24/7. Try getting her to think about something else. I don’t know WHAT I would have done without my besties. That time was so hard for me, and they were incredible.

    • I love you Gina! Literally, I would do whatever it takes to make you feel better all the time.
      MOH #1

      (By the way, I stumbled on this post and remembered you saying you had written something on it. I'm not super stalking you)

  3. I called off my wedding in 2007 and it was the best decision I could’ve made. I saved myself from being a 22 year old divorcée.
    Two of my bridesmaids (and supposed bffs) wrote be scathing emails bitching me out for not telling them immediately. And they had the audacity to demand their money back for their bridesmaid dresses while I was LIVING IN MY CAR. Great friends… Who OBVIOUSLY aren’t a part of my life anymore.
    Be supportive, above all else. Anyone who called off their wedding is experiencing shame, embarrassment, fear and freedom. They need their friends now, more than ever!

  4. I was in your friend’s position a few years back. At the time, I was devastated (and was also dealing with the then-recent death of my father…it was a horrible double-whammy.) It absolutely did not help to constantly hear from people about how they never liked him, or any other cliché breakup trope that people resorted to. I hadn’t yet reached the point where I thought he was an ass, and I hadn’t quite recognized that I had dodged a bullet. I was just an emotional mess.

    If the breakup was recent, I would offer to lend a hand canceling vendors and the like. This can include helping to make all the necessary but excruciating phone calls and emails to people who have already RSVP’ed. A lot of this is stuff you can do remotely, since you mentioned that you’re not in the same area as she is, and she would probably appreciate not having to re-live the breakup dozens of times over every time she talks to someone new. You can also offer to help shut down her wedding website and registries – those sites are damn near impossible to quit, so having someone else do that for her would probably be appreciated. Canceling everything was probably the hardest part of the whole ordeal for me – my ex completely disappeared off the map about a month before our wedding, and my family hadn’t been terribly supportive of the relationship to begin with. I had to deal with the emotional pain of canceling every aspect of my wedding alone.

    Also, make sure she’s taken care of on what would have been her wedding day. I spent that weekend at the beach with my would-be MOH, alternating between distracting myself on the beach and drinking heavily. It helped tremendously to have plans to look forward to for that day. Even if you’re not able to be with your friend physically, perhaps you could send her a gift certificate for a spa day or another activity she might enjoy, so she can escape from reality for a bit on D Day. I guarantee that day will weigh heavily on her mind regardless, but it’s nice to have something to look forward to so she’s not just sitting at home miserable all day!

    She will heal in time and will see that she dodged a bullet, and will be all the happier for that. Good for you for being such a great friend to her!

    • BEST advice on here. I would have LOVED if someone could contact my vendors to let them know it was off and handle all my internet crap too. That was probably the most torturous part of the whole thing. Just reliving it over and over as you explain, “Nope, I don’t need to move the date. That’s correct, it’s not happening.” UGH! And yes, having a big fun distraction on D Day is definitely a must.

  5. I am in the same situation as your friend. I recently broke off my engagement because I found out that my fiance’ cheated! It is so comforting to hear that I am not the only one going through this. I too have heard all of the cliche’s but what has helped me most of all is stories like this to let me know that I’m not the only one and that I shouldn’t feel ashamed or guilty. I am proud of myself for having the courage to end things when I actually considered ignoring the problem because I didn’t want to have to tell people that I was no longer engaged. If I were you, I would write your friend a nice card/letter saying how much you love her and how proud you are of her for being so brave and send her a gift certificate for a mani/pedi or a massage (something to pamper her).

  6. I can’t speak to the part about breaking off an engagement, but I recently went through a very difficult break-up with a man I had been with for 3 years and was totally convinced I was going to marry. The best thing that has helped me has been to have friends available to just use as a sounding board. I’m sure everyone processes differently, but for me talking it out with friends who are willing to just listen and not judge has helped me immensely. If she says anything especially crazy, like wanting to get back with him or wanting to start dating too soon, don’t roughly shoot down her ideas, but instead pose questions to her to help her really think through what she’s saying, and if she really needs a reality check make sure to give it to her gently. Remind her that what she’s feeling is totally valid and normal. Avoid cliches about there being more fish in the sea. The only helpful cliche is that it takes time to heal. Whatever you do, do NOT speak ill of her ex except in agreement to something she has just said. Even if she’s said something the day or even hour before. She’s bound to be very confused about her feelings right now.

    I was floored after my break-up by the people who came out of the woodwork offering kind words in private Facebook messages which included offers to be a listening ear. I didn’t take all of them up on the offers, but each one helped if only just a little.

    As for something to send, a friend sent me a nice box of handmade dark chocolates. Though I barely ate in the two weeks following my breakup I finished that box of chocolates in about two days. I happen to be a total chocoholic, of course. If you know of anything like that which she likes it might be something nice to have. I would caution against anything not consumable, though. If she just moved back to her parents’ house (which I also did after my breakup) she may not have enough space for all the stuff she’s brought with her, so you don’t want to add to the clutter.

    Best of luck to you and your friend.

  7. You know best how your friend deals with things, but I can add a little from my own experience here, which echoes that of previous commenters. Almost five years ago, I called off my wedding, left my fiancé, and moved back in with my parents. In my case it wasn’t one big terrible thing that my fiancé had done that ended it, but one little one that made me realise how unhappy I was and how he wasn’t treating me in the way I deserved. I remember being really annoyed at the time that people kept bashing him and telling me what a dick he was (and it turned out pretty much everyone hated him, apparently), because we’d had a lot of good times and I felt like people were basically telling what an idiot I was to spend five years with him- in a time of such upheaval, a big dose of self-doubt was really the last thing I needed. I came to the realisation on my own soon after that he really was an absolute knob but I felt like that was my decision to come to and no-one else’s to try and foist upon me.

    Not long afterwards, I went out with my best friend who was going through some heartache of her own and we got ridiculously drunk (in a safe place). For me it was just so good to let go and let it out, but also have a really good laugh about unrelated things. The next day I woke up surrounded by the stench of sambuca-scented vomit with a flashback of my mum wiping my face and thought that on top of everything else I was in for a bollocking from my mother about coming home in such a state. Instead, she cleaned up after me, looked after me and told me she was giving me this one time because I was upset (but she never wanted me coming home like that again while I was under her roof.) I was just so touched by her unexpected kindness and acceptance, and it was that tacit understanding that she knew and was there for me that meant the most- a definite contrast with some people who meant well but who I didn’t hear from after the sympathetic clichés or the ex-bashing. Her gentle warning not to do it again grounded me- it balanced out the self-indulgence of the night before with a reminder that life was going on and prompted me to remind myself that I was not defined by this one thing that had happened. Your friend may be at any stage of processing what has happened and figuring out comes next, so reaching out and simply letting her know that you are there for her will give her the opportunity to provide you with some cues about what she needs. I like the ideas given above as well about silly pictures and suchlike- something lighthearted and normal and grounding.

    About a month after the split, I attended my cousin’s wedding. It was a bit of a difficult one at times because I’d originally RSVPd as a couple, and it was a rather obvious reminder of what had happened with my ex-partner. At the reception I found myself alone at a table with one of my uncles. We were chatting and watching the dancing and all of a sudden he said to me, “I wanted to say- it was a brave thing that you did. Sometimes it’s a lot harder to walk away than it is to stay.” That meant so much to me, and still does, to be honest. I’d been on such an emotional rollercoaster and had been dealing with the fallout of the split and a lot of it felt like a mess I’d created, and so many times I wondered if I’d done the right thing. That one sentence made me realise that others looking in weren’t just seeing a woman floundering in the consequences of a rash decision, they were seeing a woman doing her best to deal with a difficult situation. I held myself a little straighter after then.

    I’m waffling a little here but I think it’s quite telling that it’s five years later, an awful lot has happened including building a family with my now-husband, but I still remember so keenly the kindnesses my family and friends showed me back then and the people who made me feel worse. I think the fact that you are trying so hard to be considerate rather than offering empty platitudes shows that you are one of those who deserves to be remembered fondly in five years’ time when your friend looks back at how far she’s come 🙂

  8. im not exactly sure how to apply what id do to this situation, but when i put together packages, i love to do themes.. so like, people said in comments to congratulate her on making a decision for the better for herself, so you could do a congratulations package. a big congrats card, champagne to toast with, noisemakers, those pop-able confetti things, a gift certificate for a celebratory dinner, ect, ect.

    obviously i dont think that specific thing would work for every person, you know your friend, but thats what i always like to do when i send care packages.

  9. When I had a friend who experienced this, I tried to be her “whatever she needed” friend, just standing by her side while she did what she needed to do. Ended up peeling her off a few bar tables, taking her to get her belly button pierced, and making sure she always got home safe (and alone!) And I also was there when she just wanted to have a glass of wine and watch horror movies (after all, romantic films of any kind are off limits after heartbreaks!) I think when your friends are in need, they just want you to be there. Just let her know you are there. Help her take her mind off of it. Whenever I have had a broken heart, the best things anyone ever did were take me out, get me moving, help me shake it off…and occasionally let me cry about it without saying “you’re better off” until I was ready to say it myself.

  10. After your friend gets to the “I’m no longer totally freaking out about having to cancel this and I no longer feel like garbage about it,” stage, you might want to assist her in the rest of the planning that goes along with what happened. She needs to disentangle herself legally from “house they bought together,” and other potential legal/financial issues and might want company/hand holding/advice.

  11. I’m going to speak from the perspective of a women who ended her relationship/engagement and cancelled the wedding with a terrible person right after buying a house together. I, personally, didn’t want anyone to say anything for the most part. I may be in the minority in that regard, I’m not sure, but when I was in her shoes (eerily similar shoes, too) it was hard enough for me to deal with all of that and the last thing I wanted was to have people bring it up. If it did come up, the best thing someone could say to me was “If you need anything, even if you just want a distraction, you know where to find me.”. It let me know they were there for me, but I didn’t feel pressured to talk about it if I didn’t want to. Plus, distraction is the absolute best thing that you can offer someone going through something like that.

    I hated when people said trite, cliche stuff to me mostly because those are the things people say when they feel obligated to say something. Whether it’s heartfelt or not, it isn’t helpful (again, maybe that’s just me, but I hate when people say stuff like that to me).

    Pleasantly distract her! 🙂

  12. I haven’t read all of the comments, so I’m sure I’m repeating something, but I wanted to add my 2 cents anyway. A friend of mine called off her wedding 3 weeks before the date last year. It was the right move, the guy was a jerk and his family was nuts. I had already (just the day before actually) bought my plane ticket down, so me, her other bridesmaid, and her family decided to go down and visit anyway. We had a blast, and did really fun things on what was supposed to be her wedding day.

    She was torn between being thankful for getting out of an not so great looking relationship early, and being sad about missing what was the love of her life. I’m pretty sure she still misses him a year later. Just be there for your friend to talk about whatever it is she needs to talk about. Don’t be judgmental, don’t offer advice if she doesn’t ask. Just be her friend, and let her know that she ultimately made the right decision for herself.

  13. As someone who did call off their wedding, my friends were not much help. For some reason most seemed to think my decision was about them (“how could you do this to me” ) or that I called off my wedding to go sleeping around/ partying. Their reactions left me more depressed about my decision and feeling very lonely. It’s not surprising I don’t speak to most of them anymore.

    For me, I would have loved caring distraction. Tell your friend that you know it was a very hard decision and you’re there for them. Then try to get her out to do something fun or relaxing. Do not judge her on anything. The hardest thing was feeling like I had to defend my decision. Don’t bring it up. Don’t encourage her to talk about if she doesn’t.

  14. A matter of weeks before the wedding, I discovered a deal breaker about my ex-fiancee. He lied about his age. He was SIGNIFICANTLY older than he said he was. I suspect there were a few other things, but this one was it. I know now that the lying was the problem. I may or may not have accepted the age difference from the beginning, I’ll never know, he robbed me of that choice.

    For a few days I was devastated. I laid in bed and cried. I lost my job that week too and the week just SUCKED. I wanted him to make it better. I also wanted him to be hit by a Mack truck. I was a wreck.

    Then my buddies stepped in. They dragged me out camping. We fished. We drank. We told stories, cooked over an open fire and no one mentioned him or the wedding. Ever. It was wonderful. When the trip was over, another of my friends drove me to his house to dump off his crap from my house and pick up mine from his place. Then she took me to dinner and margaritas. Then we went to my favorite adult toy shop. I giggled all evening.

    I guess the best thing you can do for someone that has cancelled a wedding and ended the relationship is treat them just like you normally would. Take them out. Show up with her favorite movies, a pizza and margarita makings. Buy marshmallow guns and let the attack begin. The only thing they don’t need is to be consoled as if someone died. Eventually they will come to terms with the fact that they are better off, saved a ton of money on a divorce lawyer and that better things are in store for them.

  15. I’ll speak up as I’m one month into my divorce and only my 2nd night in my own apartment.

    In response to the pity and condolences, the hardest thing to hear is people telling me to “be strong”, or “the Miranda I know would…” It’s insulting. I’ll get through it. Just support me.

    So, YES! YES! YES! to all the positive fun suggestions of things to do and funny texts. Especially any kind of help moving, unpacking, and decorating my new space. Bright cheery flowers would be awesome. Anything to take my mind away from my current wreck of a life. I’ll figure it out and I’ll come to you when I need it.

    And don’t worry about talking about marriage, or dating, or love. LOL. I still love my friends and want them to be happy!

    PS. Don’t drop by unannounced. I do not want to be discovered in a puddle of my own tears by anyone. Let me appear strong in public and dissolve in private.

  16. There is one another thing to address, and I’m not exactly sure how, but I would also support her moving in with her parents. It’s not just the breakup that is a huge change, but having to GIVE UP YOUR FREEDOM. Seriously. I moved cross-country and back in with my parents at age 30, post 9/11, and though it was the only thing I could do, financially, in order to move cross-country and still survive, it also was a huge, huge hit psychologically, emotionally, and socially. My parents, god love them, no matter how old I was, were always, “What time will you be home?” etc. Dating really was out of the question because it’s not as if I could bring a guy home (conservative Catholics did NOT support sleepovers) or spend the night at the guys house (guaranteed 4AM panic call from my mom “WHERE ARE YOU?”). So not only is there the breakup to contend with, there is the major psychological change of moving in with the parents.

    If there is any way to help support a girls night out, special girls weekend (maybe you and some other friends can find a spa deal on groupon?) for her, etc, it will help. But I found the adjustment to living with my parents to be hard. While I loved those 5 years because I was able to get a great relationship with my parents as an adult, pay off student loans, and save $$ to buy my first house, the restrictions I felt on bringing significant others home, and in my own social life in general, are one of the reasons I feel that I am single now in my 40s. Maybe I shouldn’t have lived with them so long, but then I would still be in debt, etc. Hindsight is 20/20.

    I just see this as 2 major life events, not one, and both need to be acknowledged and supported. Because moving back in with your parents after being independent for however long is a huge change, on top of having a major breakup.

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