Untying the Knot

Preferring God’s will to a doomed future.

by Mary Leslie Tipps

It was done. The preparations were finished. The responses were in, the wedding dress had been tailored for the last time, the flowers had been designed and ordered, the bridal showers had been hosted. The guests who needed to purchase airline tickets had done so, all the gifts had been cataloged, and the thank-you notes had been mailed.

We had spreadsheets on top of spreadsheets documenting all the arrangements. The UPS deliveryman had become a personal friend. The bridesmaids’ gifts were tucked away in fluffy wrappings that reflected the wedding’s colors, and . . . the whole event had been prayed for daily.

Then the bombshell: The wedding was off. Through a series of counseling sessions for the bride and groom with our minister, information came to the surface that changed everything. It became apparent that though the two had dated several years, that history did not promise a “done deal.” The wedding was cancelled, with no intentions of reconciliation.

Sadness and shock

Sadness was abundant. A pall went out over our household as if we had just been informed of the death of a loved one. We were shocked out of our minds and reacted accordingly. There was quiet and then there were tears, sleepless nights, and days we might nap through the whole morning and afternoon.

There was grappling with “What and how did this happen?” and then empty thoughts in which we couldn’t even formulate a question. We watched television as a diversion and ate only when we had to. Mostly we just stayed inside and didn’t talk to a soul.

Questions and strategy

Why didn’t she see this coming? Why didn’t we see this coming? Why didn’t we, as parents, have our antennae up higher? What had gone on behind the scenes? Why didn’t someone say something before all that emotion and money were spent?

After a few days when we didn’t understand any more about the change of heart than we did the first day, we advised our daughter to break all ties with her ex-fiancé. The tears had to start drying up sometime, so we requested her to deny phone calls and cut Facebook connections. That would provide some much-needed distance for the healing to begin.

Shame and salvation

Shame raised its ugly head when the immediate shock wore off. How could we face our friends? What about all those people who had invested time, effort, and money into our happy event? All of those parties. All of those gifts. We had been so sure of it all.

If we were ever to be brave enough to sit in church again, what would people say about us, about our daughter? Would they say she was crazy, that we weren’t good parents? Would they roll their eyes as to how something this bizarre could have happened? When you combined situational depression, embarrassment, and discouragement, we were the icon for failure to launch a wedding.

Salvation came from many directions, though. As a Christian family, we continued to be on our knees regarding the much-needed grace in the situation, and we continued asking how we should start to upright everything. Grace was delivered in many ways.

The undoing

The undoing-the-wedding work became therapeutic. My husband crafted a short letter announcing a simple statement of regret. We folded the letters, addressed the envelopes by hand, stamped them all, and in the mail they went. The motions were mechanically easy, yet, the sorrow behind the correspondence was so great.

Our older daughter flew home, rolled up her sleeves, and provided a tonic of hope and energy for us all. It took all three of us females to figure out what gifts went back where, how to return them, how to dig up old receipts, how to trade in some of the gifts, and how to apologize for gifts that had already been exchanged. And then, we put all of that figuring into action.

My husband handled the biggest dread: requesting mercy from the hotel where the reception was to be. Could there be some way we would not have to pay for the affair and all the trimmings?

Nope. He wrote a check — a huge one. I was so mad at the hotel that I wanted to throw the wedding party anyway but ask homeless people to attend the event instead of the guest list.

I’m glad we didn’t do it. It would have been done for the wrong reasons.

Mother’s mission

I, at home at mission control, did the simplest things first. I called the church and cancelled the sanctuary reservation, the need for the minister of music, soundman, custodial help, and our precious minister. Over the next few days I contacted the florist, the baker, the photographer, and the band.

We lost all the deposits straight away, with the promise from the photographer that I could use the deposit on wedding pictures next time around. Next time around? That seemed like an impossible hope.
I requested the bridal shop to store my mother-of-the-bride dress and the bride’s dress for a while. They were wonderful and respectful to the situation.

Daughter’s work

My sweet, not-to-be-a-bride-this-time daughter didn’t wallow in bed either. Amid the tears, she worked at her computer for hours trying to return by mail all of her lingerie shower gifts, where there were few or no receipts.

She then decided to let the bridesmaids have their bridesmaids’ gifts anyway because of all the love and support they had shown her. We reimbursed the bridesmaids for their dresses, too, though one refused to take the money.

Another type of work came that was therapeutic as well. My daughter, who had just graduated with a nursing degree, dried her tears, squared her shoulders, and started pursuing more education for the next school year. Then she boldly visited the hospitals in town, found a job, and named a starting date. After healing in her hometown with us for a year, she hoped to get further education in her profession the next year.


Support came out of the woodwork. Besides the love and concern we obtained from our own families, friends telephoned, brought food, sent gifts, mailed notes of encouragement, and helped return gifts.

And my prayer group was “on it”! Before the wedding, the members prayed about my niggling concerns regarding the marriage. That arena of prayer equity and the prayers of others helped save us from disaster.

Our minister did not leave our side either. Although most of his time was spent checking in with our daughter, we knew he was there, waiting for us if we needed him.

Essential talk

I cannot tell you how many conversations my husband and I had with our daughter. We felt that talking was essential, though many times she didn’t want to, nor did we.

Still, we encouraged her to tell us what she was thinking. We informed her of our own pent-up feelings as well. We didn’t know then that those talks would continue for weeks and months, as did the praying.

Beginning of hope

After a time, a family member offered us a vacation home so we could leave the scene for a while. We took him up on it. Another family member spent the actual wedding weekend with us in another city, helping us wipe out the memory of W Day.

One family in particular ministered to us. We had been friends for many years, had grown up together, and had vacationed together. They coaxed us into having lunch with them one day. Love and care were all around us. It was a beginning.

A few weeks later this family asked us to embark on an afternoon of kayaking. We agreed to fellowship with them, though we still didn’t feel like it. Little did we know hope was beginning to show itself that very day.


Sunshine was on the other side of this heartbreak. On kayaking day, my daughter was befriended by one of the boys in that family, and a “friendship” started that set us all back on our heels.

What’s this? Hope again? But where had he been? He was sensitive, astute, and had a sixth spiritual sense on how to help her move through this. We didn’t know that something so wonderful could happen, that there were second chances.

We had forgotten about all the prayer equity others and we had put in, all the time we had asked God to send us a blessing. He did — and in a most surprising, glorious way that we could never have manufactured ourselves.

Divine protection

I am thankful that our daughter did not let the short-term thrill of a white-dress moment win out over what was actually happening with her relationship with her fiancé. She did right in respecting her spiritual sixth sense. Thank You, Lord.

The past cannot be undone; the future, of course, is never certain. But for today we reflect that God’s protective hand has been seen a hundred times in all of the no-wedding aftermath. What a God of surprises. We are grateful that the wrong union didn’t take place. Truly. And we are hopeful that God will provide the right one the next time. Today, it looks like the “next time” is closing in. God of grace. . .

Happy ending

Since this writing, God has indeed given our daughter a second chance. That son of the family we had known for so long proved to be a chosen part of God’s plan for our daughter all along.

I think out of our obedience of how we handled things, we were given an immediate blessing of a new happy ending. Our daughter was married a couple years later. The God of grace and God of glory never disappoints. Amen and amen.