Monday 26 September 2016

'I bought a €2,600 wedding dress - then my fiancé jilted me'

Published 05/03/2016 | 21:22

Bride walking in park
Bride walking in park

It was my fairytale wedding dress – ivory, 1950s-style and covered with the most exquisite beads. At £2,000, it was also vastly over-budget. I handed over my credit card anyway.

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I justified splashing out by telling myself that it was the most important thing I would ever wear. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The dress has never been worn. Today it’s hidden away in my grandmother’s attic and I can’t bear to look at it. That’s because three months before the big day, my fiancé James* called off the wedding.

We had been inseparable since we met through a mutual friend five years earlier. He was a homely, sensible policeman, who loved his family (that’s what attracted me to him), and a perfect counterpart to my hectic life. I’d always pushed our differences to the back of my mind and when he proposed on holiday in Venice, I said yes.

I ploughed a huge amount of effort into the wedding and finally it was all booked: the hotel in the Scottish countryside near where I grew up, the jazz band, the hen party.

But one evening – a week after posting the invitations – I came home from work and found James sitting on the sofa wearing his coat. He said he’d booked a table for dinner.

Over starters, he told me he couldn’t marry me. The things we wanted were, he said, too different. It had only hit him after we sent the invitations that I was too work-focused to give him the quiet life he wanted. He knew working in LA for a year or so would do wonders for my career in PR, but he wanted a family straight away.

He probably took me to that restaurant so I wouldn’t make a fuss – we’d rowed a lot in the previous few weeks, usually about me working late. But I’m still surprised how calm I was as I picked up my handbag, walked out and hailed a taxi to my friend’s flat.

I’d once begged an ex-boyfriend to take me back and was determined to never lose my dignity again. That weekend, my parents moved my belongings from James’s flat into my friend’s spare room – where I ended up living for 18 months.

Weeks later, James emailed with a spreadsheet to split the wedding costs: he divided it 50/50 – all apart from the dress, which he said I should cover. Looking back, I wish I’d refused to pay a penny, as it was his decision, but deep down I wanted to keep it amicable in case he changed his mind.

Telling my family, friends and colleagues was humiliating. It was too excruciating to announce it publicly so I told people individually. I worked longer hours and spent every free moment in the gym.

I heard through friends (and Facebook), that James went on holiday a year later and fell for an American girl. I’m told she’s pregnant and plans to move to London.

For many years I wondered whether I should have done those things too. Was I right to be so career-focused? But I can finally say I regret nothing. Working those extra hours paid off. I was promoted and, best of all, I’m being seconded to LA.

I’m typing this from the departure lounge at Heathrow. I’ve said goodbye to everyone who helped me through tough times – and to my wonderful boyfriend, Pete*, who will be waiting for me when I return in a year. Even though he can’t come with me he fully supports me and would never stop me from living my dream.  

*Names have been changed.

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