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When Cold Feet Before The Wedding Walks You Down The Right Aisle

Most weddings go off without a hitch. Happy couples pledge to love one another for better or worse in front of their nearest and dearest. But for a small group, they never make it to those vows.

Calling the whole thing off has become a reliable plot twist in movies, but this week on For the Record, we hear three different, real-life stories about calling it quits before walking down the aisle.

/ Courtesy of Stella Grizont
Courtesy of Stella Grizont

Stella Grizont

"He was a totally nice guy. There was nothing i could say was wrong. And I so just figured, why not?"

Grizont says the marriage prospect all seemed perfect on paper.

"He had so many of the things I had on my list. He seemed like a kind man, cute, really loved his family. Worked really hard, and so, all those things seemed right."

/ Courtesy of Nikki Vargas
Courtesy of Nikki Vargas

Nikki Vargas

Vargas, who ended up getting engaged at age 24, met her ex-fiancé in New York City as an intern.

"It was just supposed to be a summer fling," she says.

They ended up moving in together pretty quickly.

Jonathan Brill

/ Courtesy of Jonathan Brill
Courtesy of Jonathan Brill

Jonathan Brill said his relationship felt easy. After four years of dating he got engaged at 23 because it just seemed like the thing to do.

"We kind of grew up in the same area, went to the same church, had the same friends."

It's probably a sign, he says, that he didn't even remember how he made the proposal.

So there you have it — all three couples blissfully unaware that things were going to unravel.

A Moment Of Realization

For Stella Grizont, that unraveling began when her fiancé came home and announced that he was buying them a house — one of the several moments she said where she felt their values didn't align.

"I was like, whoa. I mean, we haven't even talked about this," she recalls. "I had never seen the house. I wouldn't be able to commute to my job. And then his family was supposed to move in with us to, and I realized that this is just not how I want to be in partnership with someone."

Nikki Vargas' unraveling happened just a couple weeks out from her wedding. Her fiancé was on his bachelor party weekend with friends, when she packed a backpack and went to South America by herself. When she was hiking in the jungle she had an epiphany.

"I didn't want to get married," she recalls. "It was the first time I'd said it out loud."

She'd already postponed the wedding once before, months ago when the logistics felt overwhelming. This time, she knew another postponement wasn't the answer; she wasn't in love.

Stella Grizont, too, remembers the moment it all came crashing down.

"There was one day where I was just lying on the bed and I got a call from my aunt. And she's' like, 'How are you?' and I just started crying. ... I wasn't happy at all. And she just said, you know, you don't have to do this. It was almost like that was the permission I needed."

In some ways, says Jonathan Brill, acknowledging for himself that he didn't want to go through with the wedding was the easy part.

"When you have a relationship that ends that way, it's not ending with one person, you're breaking up with her family," Brill says. "So I remember having to take her little brother out and spend time explaining it to him."

Damage Control

And of course after the emotional drama of the break up — there's the dismantling of the wedding industrial complex.

"Our venue was booked, the dress was bought, guests had their flights," Stella Grizont says.

Jonathan Brill remembers having to chase down the deposits afterward.

"We emailed over 100 people," says Nikki Vargas. "We sent apology notes."

After the gifts have all been returned and the rings given back, there's the inevitable soul searching. Stella Grizont, realized that her fiancé had really been a rebound from another failed relationship.

"I needed to kind of go through that because the big thing that I was missing was the insight, which I didn't realize. It was buried really, really deep," she admits. "I guess I was carrying this belief that I needed a man to make me happy and feel complete."

Jonathan Brill says he was just utterly unprepared.

"Nobody really tells you that the person you end up making a commitment to is going to have an impact on the rest of your life," he says. "And there's a skill to figuring out who you are and what's important — and how to choose that person."

Stella Grizont and Jonathan Brill are now both in happy marriages, eventually finding the people they wanted to take the plunge with.

Nicki Vargas, too, is in a happy relationship — no engagement yet though.

Can she imagine going through with a wedding in the future?

"I mean, I don't know if I can imagine it so much as I don't know if anybody would come at this point," she jests. "I'm like the girl who cried wolf except I'm the girl who cried wedding."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.