Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Getting Personal: “Finding Happiness After a Canceled Wedding “

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The following essay was written by guest contributor, Sarah Fetters. She’s pictured above on her wedding day with her new husband, Josh.

When I got married in November of 2012 I was a first-time wife, but a second-time bride. About four and a half years before I walked down the aisle towards my husband Josh, I called off my first wedding. My first fiancé at the time, Tim, and I met and fell in love almost instantly. There were some red flags, though like his parents’ emotionally abusive relationship, and Tim’s tendency to tell small lies. But despite these things we had several blissfully happy years as we moved in together, got engaged, and planned a beautiful wedding. We booked a swanky museum for our reception. I bought a gorgeous designer gown in a rose pink tint. And then about six months before our wedding, a bombshell revelation about Tim’s father changed everything.

The revelation threw Tim’s family into chaos, and Tim spiraled into a state of constant rage which he vented at me. He became cruel and distant, withdrew from the relationship, and eventually cheated on me with a coworker. I packed my bags and left. I mourned the loss of my relationship much more than the loss of my wedding day, but the fact that I was a bride made everything harder. Every time an acquaintance came squealing up to me on the street talking about “OMG, your WEDDING!” I ended up in tears as I briefly explained what had happened. Calling the vendors to cancel our wedding preparations was gut-wrenching. I avoided like the plague the plethora of wedding-related shows on television. There is this overwhelming idea that being a bride is the very best time in a woman’s life and that her wedding day is the be-all-end-all of her existence, the epitome of happiness and femininity. This is totally bogus, of course, but knowing this is society’s general opinion made me feel like a failure and, at times, a freak.

Over the next year I got a great new apartment, switched jobs, and bought a new car. I spent time with friends, dated casually, went on trips, and was again happy and fulfilled. After realizing I was ready for something serious, I asked around to see if any of my friends knew an eligible bachelor. I met Josh on a blind date and we hit it off. We got engaged after two years together, and started planning a wedding.

At first I worried about what people would say. Was I allowed to have a big wedding since I’d already planned one and called it off? Could we have an engagement party even though I’d already had one of those with someone else? Mostly, though, I was met with overwhelming support. My friends and family reminded me of how much I deserved a husband and a celebration that were as great as I was.

Being a second-time bride was not without obstacles. When my family met some of my in-laws to try on wedding gowns, the bridal salon tried to put me back in my first wedding dress. My mother and I sat there in silent mortification (who knew they kept dresses in production that long?). I felt guilty taking the money my parents generously offered to contribute to our wedding, knowing that they had helped pay my canceled wedding. I worried about what would happen if Josh and I fell apart; I couldn’t handle the humiliation of another called-off wedding.

Sharing some of my fears and feelings with Josh helped. We went to premarital counseling with a highly reputable psychologist in our area who helped me process some of my feelings, and we came out feeling stronger than ever. We purchased a home and made it “ours” over many long weekends of painting, drywall, and tilework. I adjusted my attitude and started thinking of this wedding as a completely new and joyous celebration, wholly separate and untainted by the (non) wedding that had come before. Mostly, I looked forward to the time after the wedding when we would just be regular husband and wife.

On a beautiful November day in 2012, Josh and I were married. It was an absolutely stunning wedding: white-gloved waiters passed mugs of steaming hot apple cider and mini caramel apples; thousands of fresh flowers adorned every corner of the hotel; and a string trio played Eric Clapton as my father and I walked down the aisle. Josh and I spent the rest of the month honeymooning in Hawaii. It was everything I wanted and more. And now it’s over. I am just a regular person again — not a bride and no longer the bride that wasn’t — and I am so glad. I feel peaceful knowing that my husband is by my side now and always. I may have planned two different weddings, but with Josh, I am mapping out a life completely our own. And that, I have learned, is much more gratifying.

161Uranowski - CopySarah Fetters, known to the Dear Wendy community as “Bostonpupgal,” is a mechanical engineer, amateur writer, and passionate baker. She lives with her husband and two Boston Terriers in Pittsburgh, PA where she consumes copious amounts of wine and cheers her favorite hockey team, the Pittsburgh Penguins.




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31 comments… add one
  • GatorGirl March 6, 2013, 2:09 pm

    Oh this is lovely. Just lovely. Best wishes to you and your new husband!!

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  • MaterialsGirl March 6, 2013, 2:22 pm

    Love it! and you looked gorgeous

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  • ktfran March 6, 2013, 2:24 pm

    Thank you for this story. Seriously. It was perfect and I’m very happy for you and wish you lots of happiness.

    It’s funny, since I too called off a wedding and granted I wasn’t nearly as far into the planning as you were, I often wonder if I deserve or should even consider a future wedding. I feel as though I had my chance and I shouldn’t get another one.

    Reading something like this and knowing others have or had similar thoughts is very reassuring.

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    • GatorGirl March 6, 2013, 2:36 pm

      🙁 it makes me sad that people who have called of a wedding feel like maybe somehow they don’t deserve a “second” wedding.

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    • PFG-SCR March 6, 2013, 2:39 pm

      “I feel as though I had my chance and I shouldn’t get another one.”

      Life isn’t about only having one chance at love, so why would a wedding be any different? A wedding is a celebration of a man and a woman, and your next wedding will special because it’s you and him.

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    • Fabelle March 6, 2013, 2:39 pm

      I recalled that, & thought this was you until I got to the bottom! Glad that it reassured you 🙂

      Sarah, you looked gorgeous & I’m happy you were able to discuss all the feelings you were feeling with your fiance (now husband) & that things are well. I enjoyed your writing style!

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  • PFG-SCR March 6, 2013, 2:36 pm

    I never thought about how this might cause some to be conflicted about planning another wedding. It’s the much better choice to call off a wedding than to make the mistake of marrying the person when you know they are wrong for you.

    I’m glad you had the wedding with Josh – the wedding is about the two people getting married, not about a one time event for the woman. I’ve had friends have big weddings for second marriages – I see nothing wrong with that if that’s what they want to celebrate their marriage.

    Very nice article – thank you for sharing!

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  • Holly March 6, 2013, 3:32 pm

    I realize this is off-topic and extremely random, but I got jarred out of reading this when I realized your husband shares a name with my first ex-boyfriend and your last partner shares a name with my most recent ex. I know they’re common names, but nice coincidence.

    Back to reading, I think. The top photo is adorable, by the way! Puppies!

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  • weiwei March 6, 2013, 3:50 pm

    Before I even read the article, I scrolled down and saw your picture and went, OMG what a beautiful bride! I’m glad you learned to enjoy your second chance, which you definitely deserved. Thanks for sharing your story!

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  • redessa March 6, 2013, 4:10 pm

    Am I the only one who wants to know what this life altering revelation about Tim’s dad was?

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    • lets_be_honest March 6, 2013, 4:12 pm

      I thought it was just that he cheated.

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      • bostonpupgal March 6, 2013, 8:12 pm

        LBH, I actually wanted to put it more details about the life altering event haha, but it’s really not my story to tell. Suffice it to say his father was doing something that was illegal, and got them into a lot of financial trouble

        On a side note, I am overwhelmed by the positive comments about my article. You guys are great!

      • lets_be_honest March 7, 2013, 9:12 am

        Ooh juicier than I thought! I was so excited to realize it was you writing after reading. Really nice job!

  • John Rohan March 6, 2013, 4:55 pm

    I’m glad things turned out well. This statement is enlightening:

    “There is this overwhelming idea that being a bride is the very best time in a woman’s life and that her wedding day is the be-all-end-all of her existence, the epitome of happiness and femininity. This is totally bogus, of course, but knowing this is society’s general opinion made me feel like a failure and, at times, a freak.”

    I guess men and women think differently. The way she saw her wedding day and the way I saw my own are like coming from two different planets entirely.

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    • GatorGirl March 6, 2013, 5:01 pm

      Well how did you see yours??

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      • Iwannatalktosampson March 6, 2013, 5:21 pm

        Haha I doubt he saw his wedding as the epitome of femininity for one. I can’t tell if you’re genuinely curious about how he felt about his wedding or suggesting that the wedding day is the epitome of happiness.

      • GatorGirl March 6, 2013, 5:29 pm

        Genuinely curious. I’ve gotten really bogged down and overwhelmed with all of this “it’s the bride’s day!! You’re the most important person there! Make sure your napkin color is perfect!” bs that surrounds weddings and how I feel like women are often judged a lot regarding their wedding choices. To me it’s not about any of that stuff and really about the joining of two lives and to hell with the materialized junk. And I don’t think the wedding day is the epitome of happiness…sure it’s a wonderful joyous day but I’m more concerned with the longevity and health of our relationship then that one day. (But I’m still a stikler for etiquette)

        So, I guess I’m wondering what John, a guy who I don’t know, thinks about the whole process. Since he disagrees with the “it’s the brides day” mentality.

      • John Rohan March 6, 2013, 11:03 pm

        Obviously I saw it as a very important day, but not the defining moment of my life or the “be-all-end-all of my existence”.

        I know some girls who dreamed of their wedding day even from when they were very young. I used to laugh at them for this – I guess that was rather cruel. But I never even thought anything about my wedding day until I was actually engaged.

    • Astronomer March 6, 2013, 5:22 pm

      Eh, not all women get totally geeked up about weddings. I dreaded mine, but agreed to a ceremony and reception because it was important to my husband. He and a couple of my friends planned most of it. (Confession: It was a super-fun day that really fit us, and he got to say, “I told you so!”) But yeah, I was not on board for any present parties or bridesmaids or the whole princess-for-a-day thing. I kind of wanted to die a little when I realized I was going to have to do a public thing at all, but I sucked it up for the man I love.

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      • landygirl March 6, 2013, 6:04 pm

        The wedding isn’t nearly as important as the marriage.

      • Astronomer March 7, 2013, 1:29 am

        Agreed! I realize that I’ll never be in the majority on this one, but I always thought that a wedding should be a private thing between the two people getting married. It seems like so many weddings have very little do do with the actual relationship, and in fact, often put the real relationship on hold for the billion years of planning that have to happen first. But yeah, I fully admit I’m odd in that respect.

      • bethany March 7, 2013, 8:50 am

        I agree with you on it being a private thing. I think it’s so bizarre when people have 200+ guests at a wedding. I wanted only people my husband I were really close with to be there.

      • GatorGirl March 7, 2013, 9:16 am

        Sometimes you can’t avoid 200+ people. Especially when parents are helping to pay the wedding bills. Our guest list is right about 200 due to my family (close, spend holidays together and all live with in 20 minutes family) being 90 people and my fiance’s family being around 60 people. Add in a few friends/collegues/plus ones and you hit 200 before you know it. I’d rather have had a much smaller event but with out offending anyone (like inviting one aunt but not her sister) we had little choice.

      • Grilledcheesecalliope March 6, 2013, 6:37 pm

        I get this, but I don’t think we should shame women who get into it. I want a princess party. I was born on a dumb day, and never had a bday party. I want my damn princess party. But I totally understand women who don’t like the “special day” thing and thats ok too. Hmm I just got irrationaly defensive there.

      • ebstarr March 6, 2013, 7:24 pm

        That’s the beauty of wedding-obsessed culture… the entire billion-dollar wedding-industrial complex, plus every cultural idea about women, marriage, heterosexuality, motherhood, etc., all glorify the wedding day for the woman’s benefit, and then as soon as she gives in and says, hell yeah, this is my special day, we try to cast her on Bridezillas and make fun of her for it.

      • Astronomer March 7, 2013, 1:26 am

        No need to be defensive, for reals! I respect people who want a special day kind of wedding. After all, my husband is one of them. It was very important to him to have his moment in front of our friends and family, and I think he got it.

        Funny, his birthday is December 27, and he never got a birthday party when he was a kid because it’s so close to Christmas. I’ve even tried to plan one for him, but no one is ever in town/available to hang out then. I wonder if that has something to do with his wanting a wedding.

  • FireStar March 6, 2013, 5:17 pm

    This was lovely. I’m glad things turned out so well for you.

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  • Moneypenny March 6, 2013, 8:28 pm

    This is a great essay, thank you for sharing!
    A few years ago a friend of mine (actually, more a friend of my sister’s, but I consider her a friend as well) broke up with her fiance in the midst of planning a super-huge wedding. Since then, she took care of herself, temporarily got back together with the ex, took care of herself even more, and ended up meeting a great guy on match.com. They got married a couple of years ago and are expecting their first baby in a month! It makes me happy to see her happy, and likewise, I am really happy that things have worked out for you and that you are surrounded by loving, supportive friends and family. 🙂

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  • d2 March 7, 2013, 7:55 am

    This was a nice story. And the dog photograph was great!

    I had a wedding cancelled (only one contract was signed, so it was easy to back out), but I never really thought about that how that might have an affect on a second.

    I never really had a lot of interest in weddings (participating or attending). But, I always enjoy hearing about other folks planning theirs. Is that a weird contradiction? I always was kind of the odd one out.

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  • Nookie March 7, 2013, 9:34 am

    What a lovely story, and of course you look stunning. The top photo with the puppies is quirky and I thought it was a great shot. Funny how we think our lives are going one way and then we find out another road is open to us…

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  • Boosker March 7, 2013, 3:58 pm

    What a beautiful dress. And I don’t think you should’ve felt weird about having your real wedding. I think things get a little dicey when you have two weddings somewhat close together. Like I know a girl who got married summer of ’09, divorced within a few months, and then remarried before the summer of ’10 and immediately got pregnant. For her second wedding, she just had immediate family there which was probably the most appropriate option. But you didn’t actually get to enjoy your first wedding. It never happened. So of course you deserved an actual wedding day!

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