45. Free Wedding Gown — Never Worn

45. Free Wedding Gown — Never Worn

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Forgiveness

Free Wedding Gown—Never Worn

The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable.

~James A. Garfield

The man I was going to marry had just told me he was breaking up with me and marrying someone younger. Bill didn’t want me. He asked for his engagement ring back and I gave it to him.

No drama, no anger, no tears. It was a quiet, civilized, dignified, mature breakup. I was so stunned I felt like I was sleepwalking.

I had a wedding gown, I had invitations, I had a church reserved—I had everything for a wedding except a groom.

I felt sad and empty. I was also embarrassed. I’d been dumped. I wondered if other people knew it was coming before I did. Why didn’t my friends say something? I guess they didn’t want to hurt me, but I don’t know how anything could hurt more than being left at the altar. Well, I wasn’t exactly left at the altar—I was given two months notice.

I’d spent months sewing pearls and sequins on the train of my gown. I had a hundred printed invitations; I had two hundred napkins with our names and our wedding date printed on them; I had paper plates and cups decorated with wedding bells. Some things could be cancelled, like the photographer, church, minister, reception and flowers. I was just stuck with the other things.

I felt ashamed, like I should apologize to everyone that I’d been jilted and the wedding was off. I felt like I’d disappointed people. Mostly I just wanted to hide, I wanted to run away. If I hadn’t spent all my money on the wedding, I’d have gone to Hawaii or someplace to escape all of the “I’m so sorry” conversations ahead of me. How many times would I have to say, “Oh, I’m fine. No, I don’t have any hard feelings. It’s for the best.”

We lived in a small town; it would only take a day or two for everyone to hear the news. Thank goodness I hadn’t had any bridal showers yet, so I didn’t have to return gifts to people.

I was still in love with Bill. I knew Jessica, the woman he’d chosen over me. I didn’t know her well enough to even speak if we passed each other on the street, but I knew who she was.

To make matters worse, my cousin was getting married in two weeks and I was her bridesmaid. I’d have to walk down the aisle at my cousin’s wedding, smiling and looking happy. I knew she’d understand if I cancelled but I couldn’t let her down. She was counting on me. I’d hold my head up and be happy for her.

I knew someday I’d get married, but I knew I couldn’t wear the wedding gown I’d made for my wedding with Bill. I put an ad in the paper and said I’d donate a new, never worn, size twelve wedding gown to any woman who was marrying a man in the military. Four days later a nice girl named Tammy and her fiancé Jack, who was in the army, left my house with the gown, veil, and plates and paper cups with bells printed on them. I gave them everything that didn’t have my name and Bill’s printed on them. All the hours of sewing sequins and pearls on the gown weren’t wasted; Tammy would look beautiful at her wedding.

My pride was hurt. I felt like people were gossiping about me, wondering what I’d done wrong to drive Bill to another woman. I cried. I couldn’t sleep. A dull pain throbbed inside of me.

I hoped I would find someone fabulous and get married before Bill and Jessica to show him I was over him and had moved on. But I wasn’t even dating anyone and Bill and Jessica got married a month after our breakup.

I tried to keep busy. I tried new hobbies. I started going to a different church because I just couldn’t keep going to the same church where I had planned to get married. I wondered if I’d ever stop hurting, stop feeling the pain of rejection, stop feeling humiliated.

Six months later I saw Bill and Jessica together. They didn’t see me. I was sitting in my car looking at my shopping list when I saw them walking down the sidewalk. There were holding hands and laughing. They looked happy. They were having fun.

They weren’t thinking about me at all. They weren’t wallowing in guilt or shame or embarrassment. They were enjoying their lives.

I watched them go into a restaurant. He held the door open for her and she looked up at him and smiled.

I wondered if Bill and I had laughed and smiled at each other when we were together. Had we held hands when we walked down the street? I couldn’t remember. Our relationship had seemed more serious, more sensible. It wasn’t fun. He didn’t make me laugh and I don’t think I made him laugh.

I suddenly realized he was with the right person now. It showed on his face. They were happy. He’d done the right thing for both of us when he broke our engagement. And I also realized that after we broke up, my thoughts were mostly focused on the wedding itself, not on our future together. The wedding had become more important than the marriage.

I was shocked. All this time I’d made Bill the villain but maybe he’d been the hero. Okay, he wasn’t the hero but he’d done the right thing. He’d saved us from making a mistake. We wouldn’t have been happy together, the marriage wouldn’t have survived.

I laughed for the first time in months. I was over it! I didn’t hurt anymore. I was okay with Bill being happy with Jessica, and I was so relieved I wasn’t married to him.

It’s funny. I thought I’d never recover, never get over it, and then suddenly it was like the sun coming out after a storm. Everything seemed bright and fresh and new.

I felt good. I felt free. I was okay!

~Holly English

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