When the Wedding Is Called Off

She’s been waiting for this moment since she was old enough to play dress up. The venue is booked. The flowers ordered. The perfect dress purchased. She said “yes” to forever with the man of her dreams. She’s going to be a bride!

And then . . . it all came crashing down.

It’s hard to know how to comfort a grieving bride reeling from a called-off wedding. After watching a friend endure this heartache, I reached out to a handful of friends who’ve walked this road and asked to share their stories with you. (Some names have been changed to respect their privacy.) My hope is that hearing their stories will help us know how to comfort and support a former bride-to-be.

What responses did you find comforting after the initial announcement?

Julie: It’s human nature to want to know what happened, but if they haven’t already told you why, you’re probably not one of the people they’re planning to share those details with. So don’t make it worse by asking!

The most helpful responses were the people who simply reminded me that they loved me. Don’t start with, “God has a plan . . .” Getting to the point where one is ready to talk about God’s plan being better is a process that varies from person to person.

Melissa: I tend to be very private and an internal processor, so it was hard for me to talk to very many people about it. Honestly, it took some time to process what I was feeling, so being able to share the news but then not talk much about it and just move on with life was most helpful.

My family and my best friend were always there to talk but let me initiate, never pressing the issue. I felt comfortable turning to them because of their complete lack of judgment and their encouragement that this wasn’t my fault.

Sarah: The most comforting responses came from those I knew well. Words from people you don’t have a deep relationship with feels more like an intrusion. Make sure your relationship with her is strong.

Two mother figures in my life were welcoming and warm, allowing me to cry and grieve. They didn’t push; they didn’t say, “I told you so.” They were Jesus to me when I was hurting very badly.

What are practical ways I can help?

Julie: One friend invited me to go to her church the first Sunday after our announcement so I didn’t have to face everyone quite yet. Another friend let me show up at her house randomly at times when I just needed to be out of my house but away from people.

My parents took care of calling all the vendors & cancelling everything for me. I’ll forever be so thankful I didn’t have to be the one to do that! Also, a group of my mom’s friends took care of addressing and sending out the cancellation announcement and then coordinated returning the presents. It was a huge blessing to not have to stand there and physically hand back presents, look people in the face, and pretend to be okay.

Melissa: My mom and friends spent time with me doing fun things to keep my mind off what just happened. This was so helpful at the beginning before I’d truly begun to heal.

Sarah: I remember feeling alone and hurt, trying to survive. You hit grieving points that come out of nowhere, so having someone who will just be there, listen, and grieve with you is huge.

What helped you get through what would’ve been your wedding day?

Julie: My three closest friends surprised me for a night of dinner and a movie at a fancy hotel—some good, solid distraction.

It was hard attending weddings for a while because it was another painful reminder of how different things turned out for me than I’d planned. My advice would be to go with other single girl friends. Then you have a safe place where you won’t get left hanging like you do when you go as a third- or fifth-wheel.

Sarah: Don’t bring up painful memories. It’s easier just to let the day go by.

What should I keep in mind as she continues to process varying emotions later on?

Julie: There’s a fine balance between letting the bride process and vent and letting her become bitter. I’m having to figure out how to forgive my former fiancé, who hurt me very deeply, in the same way Christ forgave me. In my relationship with God, I am the rebellious, sinful person deeply hurting God . . . but He forgives me and continues to pursue and love me. That is super humbling!

One of the hardest parts I didn’t expect is feeling so alone. You’ve lost the one person who was “your person.” I remember how my world suddenly got very quiet and empty feeling after breaking things off. I’ve heard it likened to a death, which is incredibly accurate. You feel like a failure on top of not having your best friend to fall back on. Girls need to know that they’re not alone and they won’t feel so alone forever. Turn those emotions to God, not to a boy to fill those desires. It will get better.

Biblical counseling is good and has been helpful for me, but I wasn’t ready for it right away. I needed a few months before I could talk about it without the pain being quite so intense.

Melissa: I desperately needed encouragement and to be reminded of truth. The best thing my mom did was to encourage me in my value as a person, as a woman and potential wife to someone someday, and most importantly to remind me of my value as a child of God.

There’s a quote by Alistair Begg from a sermon on the book of Ruth that stuck with me: “God’s providence covers even our mistakes.” In hindsight, I felt I’d made a huge mistake even entering a relationship with that man. But praise God His sovereignty covered it and rescued me.

Sarah: Give her space to grieve. She may, of course, wallow in her grief, so help her move on in that case. But let her know it’s okay to grieve. There are times where grief hits again, such as attending another wedding or holding a friend’s baby. But help her keep moving forward, reminding her that we grieve with hope, knowing the future the Lord has for our lives.

A Word Directly to the Former Bride-to-Be . . .

Julie: Being married isn’t worth being married to the wrong person. If you’re at the point of thinking about canceling or even just postponing a wedding, it’s worth all the social embarrassment and whatever money is already tied up in the event to cancel it and make sure this is the right decision.

Melissa: God used this experience to grow my trust in Him and in His goodness, even when it’s hard to see. Those few weeks were some of the most difficult in my life but also some of the sweetest as I traced God’s guiding hand and the way He answered my desperate prayers.

Give yourself grace and plenty of time to heal. Certainly take responsibility for and learn from your own mistakes, but don’t beat yourself up. Cling to the promise in Romans 8:28 and trust that God will use this difficult season for good in your life.

Sarah: I don’t recommend keeping a friendship with the guy you broke up with. When you’re so close like that, it’s too hard and hurtful to maintain a friendship. You’re playing with fire. It’s not wise, even just for the sake of a future spouse.

Proverbs 30:5 stood out to me when I felt abandoned. God’s Word was still true. He was still a shield. I could still take refuge in Him, even in deep pain. When you’re in pain, He will meet you in a way that you can’t see when you’re not in pain. He tells us He hears us when we call on Him. It’s still painful. It’s still difficult. But when you feel like you can’t go on, you can. He will carry you through it.

So What Can We Do?

As you consider how to comfort a friend or daughter in a similar situation, keep in mind that these women’s stories are unique. Their needs may vary from your loved one’s. But note the common theme throughout: They need to feel loved.

Obviously being reminded of God’s Truth is necessary for healing, but we’re doing them a disservice to skip over the grieving process in order to get there. Sometimes what’s more important than a sermon is simply a cup of cool water to soothe a thirsty soul (Matt. 10:41). You can’t be the solution to their problem, but you can show them the love of Jesus day in and day out. “Preach” the gospel to them through every hug you give, every prayer you say, and every task you cover. Because love is what a grieving friend needs.

The following are Scripture verses these women want to pass along that helped them heal. We also created a playlist of songs they found particularly comforting. Perhaps these are what you or a friend needs today.

About the Author

Leanna Shepard

Leanna Shepard

Leanna Shepard worked on staff with Revive Our Hearts from 2014 to 2019. She loves a cup of hot tea with a good book, experimenting in the kitchen with a new recipe, and cheering for the St. Louis Cardinals.

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