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How to Be a Runaway Bride

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Even though it was almost 20 years ago, I can still remember every detail of the day I became a runaway bride. No, I wasn't wearing a white dress and sprinting down the center aisle of the church. The wedding was still five months away. But "runaway bride" was what everyone called me in the days and weeks after I cancelled my wedding -- and I didn't care. In fact, I was so happy I wasn't getting married that it far outweighed any embarrassment about this very public breakup. What did embarrass me was the fact that I had pretty much known all along that my fiancé and I were not right for each other -- and I chose to stay with him anyway. Don't get me wrong -- he was a good guy. He looked great on paper. Intelligent? Very. Hardworking and Responsible? Absolutely. And he treated his mother well. But when it came to making me laugh, sharing the same goals, and building a life together -- we didn't work.

I was 28 years old and it seemed like all I did was go to weddings. All of my girlfriends were moving on to the next phase of their lives and I think I was scared I was somehow going to be "left behind." Think of Kristin Wiig's character, Annie, in the movie Bridesmaids. Behind all of her hilarious antics and crazy behavior was a smart woman struggling through a temporary rough patch. When her best friend got engaged it sent her over the edge. She was scared because her friend was moving forward and she felt stuck. She was broke, she hated her job, her bakery dreams were shattered and all she had were a couple of crazy roommates. We've all been there in one way or another. And while the only thing I had in common with the "Annie" of Bridesmaids was the same name, I totally understand how she felt. She was afraid to be left behind and alone.

And that's precisely why I agreed to go on a date with the guy I met at work. And why I said yes to a second and third date even though we had no chemistry and not much in common. It's also why I said yes when he eventually asked me to marry him. "He's a nice guy," I told myself. "You should like him." I feel terrible for dragging him along as I figured out what I really wanted and needed. Forty-eight-year-old-me understands what 28-year-old-me did not: being alone is not the end of the world. In fact, it can be quite nice. And there is nothing worse than feeling alone in a relationship. Fortunately, I found the courage to call off the wedding before my fiancé and I made the biggest mistake of our lives.

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 any of this sounds familiar, or you have been struggling with doubts about your upcoming wedding, listen up: I am going to tell you how to be a runaway bride. There is plenty of advice out there on the proper etiquette surrounding a cancelled wedding: How do you notify guests? Who keeps the engagement ring? Blah. Blah. Blah. Based on my experience, most women never need Miss Manners's advice because they walk down the aisle anyway -- even though they already know it won't last. I want to stop you before you get to the altar!

Unfortunately, too many women get so caught up in the details of the ceremony and reception that they feel forced to follow through. They are paralyzed by the thought of telling their family, the florist and the caterer that the wedding is off. It seems silly when you think long-term. Will the caterer be there when your future husband is out drinking every night with his buddies? Will the florist keep you company as you endure the silent treatment? 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.

Ask yourself:
1. What is stopping me from calling off my wedding?
• Money spent on the dress, flowers reception etc.
• A feeling it is too late to cancel the party
• Embarrassment over telling my wedding party that the party's off

These are all issues related to cancelling a party. Don't let this muddy the waters. Next, ask yourself:

2. Deep down, do I really want to end the entire relationship?

If your answer is yes, make a list of the reasons why. "We are not compatible." Or, "We are constantly fighting and I know it won't change." This will help you identify your specific concerns.

And finally, the most important question of all: If you could call off your wedding, free of embarrassment, hurt feelings and financial loss, would you do it?

If the answer is yes, it's time to say: "I don't."

You'll be surprised how supportive your friends and family will be. It will be hard to tell your fiancé you don't want to get married. But it will also be a conversation you won't regret. Don't join the ranks of the 30 percent of divorced women who knew they were making a mistake on their wedding day. If he's not the one -- run! You will have a happier and healthier life if you do. Just ask all the other runaway brides out there. We'll be waiting for you outside the church with a pair of running shoes and a bottle of champagne! (But do yourself a favor and don't wait until the last minute!)