When I imagined myself getting married, ironically, I pictured that ending scene in “Runaway Bride” when Julia Roberts walks through the grassy field towards Richard Gere. With her hair blowing effortlessly in the wind; the fall foliage vibrant against her ivory gown and her off-the-shoulder dress trailing behind her she finally strides up to her groom with ease and confidence and says, “I do.”
When it came time to don my own ivory gown and tie the knot, I proved to be the real runaway bride, calling off my wedding just 11 days before the ceremony was to take place. In the aftermath of my decision, as I sat sifting through ripped-up RSVPs, wedding favors and registry refunds, I couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps I was missing that “bridal gene.” With this being the second wedding I’ve called off in less than two years, it seems I have my answer … but let me start at the beginning.
A year ago, almost to the date, I had plans to be married abroad at a charming chateau in Europe. My fiancé and I had been together since college and our relationship had already taken on a lifetime of memories. We joked about being “an old, married couple” in our 20s. With a ring on my finger, wedding planning took full force and began to consume both our lives. I had imagined wedding planning to be a movie montage of laughing girlfriends, vibrant bouquets and cake tastings. Instead, I felt overwhelmed and distant from the celebration, as if I was taking a back seat to my own life.
Just six months shy of the wedding, my fiancé and I called off the nuptials and notified 100 guests of our “postponement.” We had chalked up my cold feet and runaway bride behavior to the woes of planning a wedding abroad. Since we weren’t in Europe, or involved in the tastings, venue selections or décor, how could I feel like the wedding was my own? It was a perfectly rational explanation for such irrational behavior, and in the months that followed, I clung to that logic like a life raft.
As I watched my best friends distance themselves and my family retreat into disappointment in the post-wedding fall-out, I felt an overwhelming sense of guilt for having bolted in the opposite direction of marital bliss. Perhaps because of this, a year later, I found myself back on the wedding track and convinced that the second time would be the charm. With plans for a wedding stateside, I knew I would be more involved and integrated into every phase of the celebration.
What I hadn’t accounted for was the mutual realization that my fiancé and I were simply two different people. It was a cold awakening to realize that our problems never rested with wedding details, but rather, stemmed from an incompatibility in how we viewed our futures and what we wanted out of life.
While growing up, I would spend time on top of a red brick ledge that marked the entrance to my parent’s flower garden. High above the vibrant red roses and black and yellow bumblebees, I would sit perched above our quiet, suburban neighborhood with a journal in hand. On these lazy afternoons, I would stare up towards the sky as planes flew overhead, imagining the exotic, faraway destinations they were going to.
Maybe that plane was en route to London? Perhaps that one had just come back from Asia? At that age, the possibilities were endless, and the world was wondrous as I imagined all the places I had yet to explore. Now, at age 26, I am still that little girl dreaming of her next adventure. The vision of my life, or at least the next couple years of it, is a kaleidoscope of volunteering abroad, backpacking the world, submerging myself in various cultures and growing emotionally, spiritually and personally through travel.
With a journalism degree in my back pocket, I have been pouring my heart and efforts into developing my travel writing, growing my travel blog and getting my work published. As I flew off on press trips and travel assignments, the reality of my dreams, and the future my fiancé and I would have, started to dawn on us. While he envisioned something more comparable to “the American Dream” and longed for a backyard, cozy home and a dog, my aspirations pointed toward a future that was less stable and more spontaneous.
It took some time for my heart to catch up to my head and realize I wasn’t running from a wedding; rather, I was running from a future in which I didn’t see myself. I blamed the stress of wedding planning, the miles abroad and the money, but at the end of the day, the reason for our wedding being called off was simple: My fiancé had roots and I had wings. There was no future where we could reconcile that difference.
The label of “runaway bride” is a heavy one to carry, and although the decision to cancel our nuptials was mutual, the spotlight seemed to burn most brightly on me. Perhaps my dreams of travel writing will never come to fruition, or maybe a year from now, I will find myself living abroad. Anything can happen, and while a month ago, it felt as though my future belonged to someone else, now what happens next belongs to me.