I met Stephen when I was at university. A few years older than myself, he was a junior doctor at the local hospital (friend-of-a-friend type thing). I was bowled over by what I thought was his charm and sophistication; I later came to realise that he was manipulative and cold – but more of that later.
For some unknown reason, he turned his attention to me. In hindsight, I wonder if it coincided with me arriving at a cricket match with my brother in a (borrowed) Porsche. I was wooed in classic fashion: flowers, poems, grand romantic gestures, etc. You name it, he did it. I can't begin to explain how flattering it was.
He asked me to marry him after three months; he telephoned my dad to ask for his permission. Some friends thought I was mad, but I told them that he was the love of my life. It was only later I learnt that he had asked my dad for money towards the engagement ring because I wanted an expensive one (this wasn't true and he certainly didn't spend the amount he had "borrowed").
Only the best was good for Stephen; my parents had suggested a local hotel but he pushed for a five-star hotel in a stately home. The guest list grew and grew. A string quartet, a photographer from London because anybody local was too "provincial" for him. I was complicit in all of this, swept along in the excitement.
Of course, my dad was picking up the bill for all of this. And 'all of this' was (grotesquely) expensive. The meal alone was just over £100 per head.
I started to feel uneasy about four months before the 'big day'. There was nothing specific, but I started to have doubts about him. My uneasiness and unhappiness grew, I lost weight, I didn't sleep; I was drinking more than I should. I finally made my decision three days (yes, three days) before the wedding. I told my dad first.
You need to know my dad was from working-class stock, a self-made man, down-to-earth, etc; he looked me up and down, touched my hair, hugged me and said, "Better now than afterwards". If only my mum had been so understanding. She said I had "brought shame on the family!".
I told Stephen, he looked at me coldly and said I had "humiliated" him. Which I had, probably, but never once did he tell me he loved me, he didn't cry (like I was doing).
You asked how it felt to cancel a wedding – it felt awful. It still feels awful. It isn't about the money which my dad lost (although I feel tremendous guilt), it's about my feelings of letting people down.
I do know that not marrying him was the right decision. I just did it too late.
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