Slate recently published a piece advising readers on how to stop a wedding. The editors of Slate loved this piece, declaring it on Twitter to be one of the most popular articles ever amongst Slate staffers.
The advice is decent, albeit a little obvious.
- “Think about why you want to break up the wedding.”
- “Approach the bride or groom several days or weeks before the wedding.”
- “Organize your thoughts.”
- “Be graceful.”
I don’t exactly think “Be graceful” is the kind of advice that people are looking for when trying to stop a wedding.
Not exactly helpful.
And what were the alternatives to this advice?
Don’t give any consideration to the reasons for wanting to break up the wedding. Just g with your gut. Enter the conversation as mentally disorganized as possible. Wait until about 15 minutes before the ceremony and be as rude as possible.
See what I mean? I hardly think that the advice that Slate is offering is groundbreaking.
In my life, I have attempted to stop two weddings. Both times, I used the same strategy, and and both times, my attempts failed. This may make you wonder why I am qualified to offer advice on this topic.
Perhaps I am not.
But two things:
- Slate makes no claims that the author of this piece was ever successful either, so I am at least as qualified as the author of this piece (which is actually a collection of anonymous WikiHow contributors).
- Despite my attempts to stop the weddings, I remained close friends with both brides. After each subsequent divorce (I was at least correct in my prediction about the future of these marriages), both brides acknowledged my attempt to save them from disaster and thanked me.
I didn’t stop the wedding, but my attempts did not damage my friendships with these women.
Slate also offers advice on how to stop a wedding in process. I think this is stupid. If you haven’t tried to stop the wedding by the time the actual ceremony begins, then you need to keep your mouth shut. There are too many other people invested in a wedding day for you to ruin it by your inability to speak up beforehand. And in the event that you are wrong and the marriage lasts (which is entirely possible), you will have placed an irreparable black mark on the couple’s special day.
Divorce is a simple process these days, especially when there are no kids in the equation. Wait a month or two and then check in on the party in question. Inquire about the status of the marriage. Ascertain your friend’s level of happiness. Attempt to break it up then if necessary.
In both of my cases, the person who I was encouraging to stop the wedding was also a woman who I had once dated. In one case, this had amounted to a single date. In the other, we dated exclusively for about four months. I remained friends with both women after our romantic relationship ended. I attempted to stop these weddings because their future husbands were not good men. I had no interest in resuming a romantic relationship with either woman.
There were no ulterior motives.
My advice to stopping a wedding is simple:
If your intention is to stop a wedding in order to win someone back or win someone over, don’t. If the person in question is happy in his or her relationship, you have no right to open your mouth. Every day, men and women get married, and every day, there are those who wish that they were standing beside the bride or groom instead. Love is not always reciprocal. In fact, it’s rarely reciprocal.
Deal with it.
If you are attempting to stop the wedding because you believe that the marriage is doomed, either because it’s a bad match, or the person in question is settling, or the future spouse is not a good person, then proceed with the following steps:
- Check with one or more of the person’s closest friends before proceeding. Do not attempt to stop a wedding without obtaining agreement from at least one other knowledgeable, unbiased person. We all make mistakes. This is not the moment to be wrong.
- Meet the person alone. Even if the person’s six closest friends agree that the wedding should be stopped, no one likes to be ambushed. No one likes to be outnumbered. Enter the conversation solo. Better to allow the friends and family in agreement to be waiting in the wings, ready to affirm your opinion once the person has been given time to process your words.
- Choose a setting that allows you to leave immediately if necessary and permits the betrothed the privacy that he or she may require. This is not the time to meet your friend for dinner at a restaurant. You need to be able to dispense with your advice and exit if that is what the person desires. This will not be an easy conversation. Be prepared to eject.
- Be direct. Explain in clear and uncertain terms why the wedding should be stopped. Be sure to have specific examples to support your concerns.
- Tell the person that you are not the only one who thinks this way. Offer names of others in agreement. Encourage the person to seek out their counsel as well.
- Offer to assist in the cessation of the wedding. Explain that you are willing to do whatever is necessary to make it possible. You will call caterers. Meet with photographers. Negotiate the return of deposits. Even stand by his or her side when the news is broken to the fiancée.
- Assure the person that people call off weddings all the time. If you have a specific example of a mutual friend who did so, use it. Suggest that he or she consult with this person.
- Be prepared for significant turmoil in your friendship, including the possible end of your friendship. This could happen. As I’ve said many times, the easy thing and the right thing are rarely the same thing.
Last month, my wife and I ran into one of the women whose marriage has ended. She told us how happy she was that her divorce was nearly finalized. It was the first time that I had seen her since the dissolution of her marriage, so I couldn’t help myself.
“You know,” I said. “I told you not to marry that guy.”
My wife punched me in the arm (as she is wont to do) and told me that I was a jerk for saying something like that.
“No,” the woman said. “Matt was right. He told me not to marry [that guy], so he has a right to say ‘I told you so.’ No one else warned me like he did.”
It’s true that I didn’t stop the wedding. My advice failed to yield the desired results. But stopping a wedding is hard. Telling someone not to marry the person who he or she loves is hard.
My record is 0-2, but I stand by my advice.
It’s at least a hell of a lot better than what Slate had to offer.