You Can Always Say 'I Don't'

The toughest question, as it turned out, wasn’t whether we could cancel the caterer or back out of the bakery order or renege on the reception hall. It was: What do we do with the odd combination of towels and kitchenware and lingerie that I got at my bridal shower? The answer we came up with was that when you’ve already used those particular items—this wasn’t crystal stemware still in the crates, after all—you take them as consolation prizes and move on.

Other than that awkward little anti-Emily Post moment, canceling my wedding was startlingly simple. I’m here to tell you that the practicalities of it all are the least of your worries. If you’re engaged—even if you aren’t having doubts—I suggest you spend a little less of your betrothal time on dress, shoe, and cake shopping and a little more contemplating what you want from a lifetime mate, if you’re truly ready to settle down, and whether this guy is really all he’s cracked up to be in your romantic fantasies. Once you’ve gotten through all that, I’d recommend skipping the caterer taste test in favor of some serious talks with your future husband about, well, everything—hopes, dreams, visions of the future, procreation, life philosophy, who’ll clean the toilets. (Don’t assume you know his answers; I was stunned by some of the stuff that came out of my beloved-of-ten-years’ mouth.) If you still want to say “I do” after all that, then I’ll be the first to toast to your lifelong happiness.

Whether you do, you don’t, or you’re not sure yet, there’s one thing all brides or potential brides absolutely must know: Calling things off isn’t that hard. The emotional cost, of course, is steep. I wouldn’t wish that giving-back-the-ring moment on my worst enemy. Telling someone you don’t want to spend your life with them is brutal. But no woman should let theknot.com bully her into going along for the ride—no matter how many of those nagging “reminder” emails they send her—just because she won’t have anywhere else to wear that veil.

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