Almost a Runaway Bride

Charlotte and Trey, Sex and The City

Weddings are everywhere now.  Movies, royals, my ex-husband, . . . everywhere.   So I thought I’d write about my own bride story, hopefully not in a “I should have known” way, but just the facts, ma’am.

I was having an evening church wedding.  My bridesmaids were my sister, my best friend, and two  close friends.   The rehearsal dinner was meant to be casual, pizza and soda/wine at my parents’ house.  The rehearsal itself had gone pretty well, I’d done the “get someone to stand in for the bride” thing  . . . so I watched.

Probably not the best idea.

On the five minute ride from the church to my parents’ house, I was driven by my college best friend, discussed in the I Don’t Go To Weddings  and Always a Bridesmaid posts.

I got in the car and said to her, simply.

“I’m not going to do it, you know.”

My Bridesmaid  was very calm, and, after she’d gotten me to clarify and  repeat my confession that I was not going to get married, she replied,

“It’s nerves, it’ll be okay.”

My response,

“Oh, I’m not nervous.  I’m just not doing it.” As if I was talking about getting on a ride at an amusement park.

What could she say?  I think she just said okay. She must have felt horrible.   I was so matter-of-fact about this huge statement.  I went through  our rehearsal dinner, and it was, as I’d wanted it, informal.   My husband-to-be  looked so  veryhappy, I remember.  Still,  I didn’t say or do anything that revealed my discomfort.  I did love him. Something was pissing me off, though.  For a fleeting second  I felt like he’d won, he “gotten” me, clipped my wings.

The next day, I  did the whole wedding day prep thing, got my makeup and hair done, put on the big white dress.   I guess I thought I was over it.  But I wasn’t excited.

Once we were at the church, we realized that someone forgot to bring  the flowers for the flower girls.  Silly to have little girls with nothing in their hands.  Someone had to run back to the house to get the flowers.

This gave me time.  Maybe too much time.

As we all waited in the vestibule at the back of the church,  I walked myself and the big white dress into a corner . . .  way into the corner . . .  facing the corner.

Later, my bridesmaids told me that at first they thought I was praying.   But I wasn’t a praying kind of girl, not in a room full of people, anyway.  Maybe praying is what I should have been doing.  What I was doing was seriously considering making a run for it, big white dress and all.   I pictured myself running out of the church, across the busy street,  and through town, like in a movie.

A Runaway Bride

Awkward.  I heard the bustling around me, wondering if anyone noticed that I had put myself in time-out and that I wasn’t speaking to anyone.   Ironically, the big white dress — with a train–  created a physical barrier from everyone.  I was hard to get to. My body was in the corner, my face was down, the dress fanned out around me.  Still, I think I was waiting for somebody to do . . .  something.

It started to get uncomfortably quiet.

Finally, my best friend slid herself between the wall and my dress to get close enough to me to say,

“Are you all right?’

“Yes,”  I replied, curtly, but  I was not a happy bride.  I think I might have told her  or even  waved her to go away.   I didn’t speak much.

I was thinking, though.  I was thinking that if I did this, got married, I mean,  it was for life.  I didn’t believe in divorce, not a religious thing, just not an option for me (at the time).   I was thinking I didn’t want to hurt or embarrass anyone.  I was thinking that if I ran, well,  that would be bad.

Someone came back with the flowers for the flower girls.

At the last minute me and my big white dress turned around and got married.   And, by the way,  he was so nervous, he did not even  look at me while we took our vows.  I joked later that he really married the minister, not me.

Does anyone remember Charlotte’s first wedding on Sex and the City?   Charlotte  expressed second thoughts to Carrie at the back of the church (because Trey couldn’t perform).  Though Carrie at first responded that it was just nerves,  she eventually told Charlotte that she doesn’t have to get married,

We can go get a cab and everybody will just have to get over it

Sex and The City,   Season Three, Episode 12, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

I have wondered over the years — what if someone had said to me, “You don’t have to do this.”   I’m not sure if it would have changed anything.   Like Charlotte, even the most ambivalent of brides would probably go through with it anyway.

Still . . . it makes a girl think.

This is in no way a criticism to my bridesmaids for not uttering the Carrie words.  We we all so young.  None of us knew what we were doing.   I was the first of our age group to get married.  It takes a very mature person to  actively assist a runaway bride.  So I know why they didn’t say it.

But what if someone had?

The institution of marriage should not, as the preacher says, be entered into lightly.  So for all you bridesmaids out there, who have promised to wear the  coordinating dresses and walk ahead of  the bride down the aisle — don’t forget to look back to make sure she’s there.  Well, actually before that,  let her know that, if need be,  you will run out to the street and hail a cab for her . . . big white dress and all.

Just Me With . . . a bride story.

Funny, when my now ex-husband got re-married, I was just The Nanny.   But I did have dinner with one of my former bridesmaids that day.  Perhaps she didn’t know what to say when I got married, but she knew what to say when my divorce was final.  My relationship with her has stood the test of time, hopefully, until death do us part. See To My Best Friend On Mother’s Day

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13 responses

  1. As the wedding consultant opened the double doors, my dad said,”You don’t have to do this. We can walk right out.” It kind of broke my heart a little. He didn’t care about the money or the people; he wanted me to be happy. I had my doubts in the days leading up to the wedding, but I have not regretted getting married. Yet. Do you think all brides consider running, or is it a really bad sign?

    1. I don’t think all brides consider running, but I assume all brides have butterflies, some even have doubts. But I think that if putting on the dress makes a bride want to run off, it may indicate a problem. I haven’t seen a bride who was as distraught as I. I can see how hearing it from a parent might make you sad. I think that it’s good for someone to say it’s not too late to back out, or simply to ask if you are sure, but it really depends who. I wish I’d had someone to talk to back then before the wedding day. If I’d had run on the wedding day, that would have hurt so many people. I regret not talking it out. Ignoring the obvious argument about having had these wonderful kids because I did go through with it, I wonder if the pain I would have caused by running outweighs the pain I’ve gone through since. hmmm

  2. Wow, I SO feel you!! I have a similar story, and a question…

    My in-laws to be were staying with my parents and I before the wedding, as they lived out of state. This couple had 7 children and had been married more than 35 years at the time. They were devout Christians, (Pentacostal,) and on the outside had “done all the right things.”

    The day before the wedding they were in the bathroom together, sniping loudly at each other. She was nasty, bitter and demanding. He was irritated and infantilized. Two things suddenly became clear to me: They hated each other, and I hated their marriage. I came out to the kitchen, pale and shaking and told my mother that I didn’t want to get married.

    She assured me that my marriage would not have to be like theirs, that I was over reacting, and I felt the strong, pervasive energy underlying her words that scream: “ARE YOU INSANE?!?!?! WE ALREADY PAID FOR THIS FIASCO!! PUT ON THAT DAMNED WHITE DRESS AND GET TO STEPPING OR I’LL KILL YOU!!!!” (Though she would never say that out loud.)

    I told my husband-to-be about the incident. He made excuses for his parents. That should have been my last red flag. That all by itself should have been the thing that moved ME from the “corner of the church” out the door. I thought I was so smart because I was 25. I’d had my first proposal at 14. I’d waited until I was “old enough.” What I didn’t know, was that the goal was really not to “do the right thing,” but rather to do the true thing. I also didn’t know that I was still dumb as a box of rocks and completely negating my own spirit and discernment in favor of those around me. I went ahead and married him.

    I’m with you, Just With… If someone had given me external permission to listen to that voice inside that said “You don’t have to do this…” I would be living a very different life right now. Hopefully one that didn’t include legal fees, divorce papers and stress over custody issues and single parenting.

    The thing that scares me though, is that I honestly believed I knew what I was doing. I am pig-headed by nature and once I think I know the answer to something I’m really hard to shake. I’ve gotten better with that over the years, but back then, there were no gray areas.

    So my question for you or anyone else who cares to answer is: Is there any way to help our children learn from our cautionary tales when they are young, determined and dumb as a box of rocks? Or do they just have to make their own mistakes? Can’t we help at least take the edge off of some of the messes for them? You know, sort of like cutting the bitter crusts off of their toddler sammiches?

    I’ve told her that if she ever married a man who did not pay attention to her, cherish her, or engage her in the kinds of deep connections she loves, I’d kill her before her marriage could. I’m thinking that wasn’t the most successful or wise strategy. Anyone got any insight here?

    1. Wow. We do live in a parallel universe. Since my intended and I had been dating since teen years I too thought I’d waited until a respectable age. My parents weren’t thrilled about the wedding and we were barely talking so there was a bit of “I told you so” avoidance. I do think there are things to do to help our children minimize mistakes. I don’t know if they will work — I use song lyrics, movies, etc and the bus theory — that men/boys/(or girls) are like buses, if you wait long enough another one will be around shortly. I’ll try to keep talking about things they can do –achieve experience– . A cancelled wedding is preferable to a divorce every time. No contest. Like I said having somebody to talk to is key–there’s a difference between nerves and true doubt– and “what’s love got to do with it”? Nothing.

  3. PS — My now-ex husband did everything he could to unconsciously force our marriage into a form that he recognized — the mold of his parents’ marriage. I resisted, even as I began to understand WHY his mother was so bitter and nasty. My choice became to be like her or to leave. I got smart and started trusting my own voice. I left.

    I remember the pull of not wanting to hurt people by backing out of the wedding. I can’t speak for you, but for me? That pain would have been preferable to all we’ve been through in the last 18 years.

  4. Is it just weddings? Should we all be there for our friends to ask them questions they need us to? To support during times of life-altering change – no matter what that is or what decision we come to? When, sometimes with our lives on the line, the right answer is “no”?

    1. Not just weddings . . . anything. We should be there when our friends take a new job, apartment, house, class . . . I think to be there to ask, “Are you sure?” and let our friends know they can change their mind and we’ll help them unpack, even if we’ve just helped them pack. No judgment. No “I told you so.” Yeah, we should all be able to say, “We’ll just get a cab, and they’ll just have to get over it.”

  5. I LOVE this post…and you have convinced me to watch SATC with all the references in you posts and tweets.

  6. This post makes me sad. I have wondered the same thing about my wedding day. Actually one of my uncles did tell me I didn’t have to, but it was in one ear and out of the other. He wasn’t the one who mattered. My other uncle that told me I HAD to get married was the one who mattered. Still, I was stubborn and determined to be the ‘good girl’ so I’m pretty sure I would have done it anyway. I only wish that while I was married and so obviously struggling I would have had some support from my family. Ten years later when I filed for divorce my other uncle (he raised me) tells me he never liked my husband anyway. Why did you say I had to marry him then?! I wish someone would have stood up and told me they would help me. Help me get out, get a job, a drivers license, a vehicle…anything. It pains me to think about how little support I had. I could never see my own daughter in a situation like that and not do all I could to help her.
    Later while going through my divorce people in our town would barely even speak to me. The reason- “I still have to live in this town.” See my husband’s parents were political figures in the town and I was the outsider in spite of living there for eight years. My husband could do whatever he wanted (i.e. breaking into the house, harassing me, etc.) and no one would ask me if I was OK or offer any help. If they saw him or any member of his family come around they would get away from me as quickly as possible so they would not be seen speaking to me. I lost a lot of respect for people. It boils down to people having a spine and standing up for what is right. Unfortunately those people are few and far between. I’m not trying to say your friends were spineless, I know you were all young and the thought of helping you bail out of your wedding was probably incomprehensible to them. I am only saying that in my case some sympathy or support from my neighbors and supposed friends would have been nice.

    1. Yes, that support would have been nice. I ended up getting that support when he finally left me, but I do wonder how it would have been earlier. My Ex has no political power. Your situation sounds so hard. People were just weirdly afraid of my Ex and are very polite to him. My own mother says she’s always been afraid of him. Of course when I was young and brainwashed I was offended by that, since my Ex never laid a hand on me. In my mind, at the time, absent physical abuse anything else was okay and he was being maligned. And, having not dated before I never really knew how things were supposed to be. But on my wedding day, or the day before, something got to me and I was almost ready to run. It’s true, though, that’s a very hard thing to do. I probably would have gone through with it anyway. But if my friends or family had said, “Look, you don’t have to do this, but if you do and something feels wrong, call me.” I think I would have remembered that, over the years.

      I pledge to pay it forward, though. If any bride I know seems reluctant, I’ll let her know somehow that she can opt out or at the very least, slow down.

  7. My sister tried to talk me out of it all the up to the point where she was walking down the aisle before me. She was in tears.

    I should have listened.

  8. […] to the visual representation of my younger self standing in front of me — Run! Run! RUN!  See Almost a Runaway Bride.   No, I could not handle it.  No, no.   Did I say no? […]

  9. […] The church where I married recorded everything that happened there. The good, the bad, and the ugly.  I assume this was to preserve sermons and music. In my case it preserved our voices stating our now defunct wedding vows, along with some really good music (I had a brass quartet at my wedding. It was beautiful . . . but I digress) and it recorded the reading of probably the saddest poem ever read at a wedding, “The People Who Never Say Goodbye.”  This was a cry for help. As I’ve said before, ladies, your job as bridesmaids is not limited to showers, bachelorette parties, and shopping for dresses. Your job is to read the room, the bride, and call the whole thing off if necessary.  Almost a Runaway Bride […]

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