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Runaway Brides

An Extreme Form of Disengagement


Runaway Bride
Photo: Jupiterimages / Getty Images
Although runaway brides are a source of humor in many movies, considering the fear and pain that their running can cause to loved ones and the trauma they are creating in their own lives, runaway brides are not really funny.

Why Do Brides Run Away? What Creates Last-Minute Jitters and Doubts?

Here are some of the reasons that brides run away, ways to prevent the phenomenon, and more resources on this extreme form of disengagement.
  • Pressure from wedding planning.
  • Fear of divorce.
  • Too little planning for a life together.
  • Fear of disappointing others by backing out of the wedding.
  • Shame over postponing or canceling a wedding at the last minute.
  • Feeling out of control and overwhelmed.
  • Issues not discussed such as attitudes about money, dealing with problems, and an inability to argue fairly rise to the surface.
  • Red flags, warning signs, and an admission to having "cold feet" are dismissed as just normal feelings by fiance, family, or friends.
  • Repressed feelings and issues.
  • Fear of breaking an engagement.
  • Expense, stress and complications of large weddings.
  • Long engagements. Pamela Paul of Time magazine reported in 2003 that the average period of engagement rose from 11 months in 1999 to 16 months in 2002. Source: Time, October 6, 2003.
Anne Milford: "In the aftermath of our breakup, I quickly realized how many women want to call off their weddings -- but don't. They say 'I Do' when they really want to shout 'I Don't!' They go through with it because they think 'It's too late to cancel,' or 'This may be my only chance to marry' ... If you are about to marry the wrong guy, your one and only task should be ending the relationship. Your friends and loved ones can help you cancel the party."
Source: Anne Milford. "How to Be a Runaway Bride." HuffingtonPost.com. 6/16/2012.

What Can be Done to Prevent Runaway Brides?

  • Use the time of planning your wedding day to also focus on building a strong foundation for your marriage. As Engaged Encounter states, "A wedding is a day, a marriage is a lifetime."
  • Remember who your wedding is for. It is for the two of you. It is not for your parents, other relatives, or your friends. If you want a simple wedding with less stress, say so!
  • Share with one another about your impending wedding and life together.
  • If you have doubts, or if you are aware of red flags or warning signs in your relationship, postpone your wedding date until those issues are resolved.

Disengagement Aftermath

Although calling off a wedding is often times the best decision an individual or a couple can make, running away from a wedding rather than facing the issues is usually not a good decision.

The suffering is more intense, the healing process of the breakup takes longer for both the bride and groom, and the feelings of grief, helplessness, rejection, guilt, depression, embarrassment, and bitterness are deeper.

Calling off a wedding takes courage, and the couple involved needs support and understanding. However, although some friends and family may want to throw a "broken engagement shower" or a "She's Out of My Life Bachelor Party", we don't recommend this type of celebration at the end of a relationship.

Sheryl Paul Nissinen of Conscious Weddings: "So it has become something of a taboo in our culture to utter the words "grief" and "wedding" in the same breath. Yet how could grief and fear not be a part of this transition!"

"We have the bride and groom letting go of their singlehood and stepping into one of the biggest commitments of their lives; we have the mothers of the bride and groom letting go of their "little ones" and possibly facing their own disappointments about their wedding or marriage; and we have girlfriends freaking out about panty hose color when really they're scared about losing, at least temporarily, their lifelong friend."

"In short, a wedding, as the rite of passage that it is, involves a loss and a gain, a death and a birth, an ending and a beginning."

"And in order to celebrate the joy and embrace the birth that a wedding and new marriage brings, we need to be willing to face our fears, honor our losses, and talk about more than napkin colors and flower arrangements as the big day nears."

More Resources About Runaway Brides

There Goes the Bride: Making Up Your Mind, Calling It Off & Moving On
by Rachel Safier and Wendy Roberts
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The Hard Questions: 100 Essential Questions to Ask Before You Say "I Do"
by Susan Piver
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The Conscious Bride's Wedding Planner
by Sheryl Paul Nissinen
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