A person’s wedding is one of the biggest days of their life. Sometimes, the person one decides to marry is not who they thought they were. Brides and Grooms share which red flags they should have noticed before their wedding day. Content has been edited for clarity.
A Controlling Partner
“My first husband and I chose not to live together before our wedding. His name was on the lease of our one-bedroom apartment, but he wanted to maintain tradition and not move in until we were married, which was fine with me.
Two days before the wedding, some of his friends I had never met flew in from out of town, and he offered to let them stay at our apartment. I found out about it when he showed up with them and their luggage two days before the wedding. So, there I was, during one of the most stressful weeks of my life, still in my pajamas, and I was expected to welcome complete strangers into my home for the two days before the biggest event of my life. I was not happy. I had always been an introvert who needed a bit of solitude to maintain my energy. I have never functioned particularly well with houseguests, even those closest to me. Shouldn’t a man who had been my best friend, boyfriend, and fiancee for four years have known? Spoiler: He did.
So, I pulled him into the bedroom to talk. I told him I understood it was important to him to have these friends attend the wedding. I also knew attending our wedding wasn’t an insignificant financial burden for any of them, given they were still underemployed and starting to pay off student loans, and two of them saved for their own wedding. The idea of saving them the cost of a couple of nights in a hotel was understandable, but, it wasn’t fair to surprise me with houseguests I’d never met – especially two days before our wedding. I suggested we call the hotel to see if their reservation could be changed and offer to cover the cost for ourselves since our wedding had come in under budget. If they couldn’t, I asked him to find another hotel or even ask his parents, grandparents, cousin, or one of his three local aunts if his friends could stay with them because they all, after all, at least had extra bedrooms.
He lost his temper. He never yelled before, but when he talked to me, it was as if venom were dripping from his voice. He told me how selfish and disrespectful I was being. He told me the wedding was being held in his church (of a denomination of which I had to convert) in his hometown with his four cousins replacing some of my closest friends in the bridal party. We held a reception at the venue he chose with the menu he favored, all decorated in a color scheme guided by the flowers his mother chose. Then, leading up to the honeymoon, he insisted the details didn’t reflect him or what he wanted at all. He told me I was a terrible person for denying him ‘this one little thing.’ He reminded me without him, I couldn’t have afforded my apartment. When I dared to point out the only things I’d denied him were inviting his ex-girlfriend and hosting his friends who were complete strangers to me in my home, he raised his hand to me. Looking back, I’m fairly certain the only reason he didn’t follow through was the fact I caved in.
He and his friends left temporarily right after the incident. I called my best friend, who wasn’t my ‘Dude of Honor’ and was, instead, an usher because my fiancee had thrown a giant hissy fit over the idea of a male being in the bridal party, and told him I was having doubts. I didn’t tell him my fiancee had intimidated me and was an absolute nightmare to be around. I wish I would have because he wouldn’t have let me talk myself back into getting married.
Approximately 48 hours later, I married a person who turned out to be horrible. It started with calling me a ‘piece of trash’ on the first full day of our marriage while dragging me through our honeymoon destination to show me all the places there which were significant to him and his ex-girlfriend and listed all the ways I’d never measure up to her.
It ended three and a half years later with me moving out after he was horrible to me. It was like a never-ending nightmare. In the interim, he cheated on me with at least three different women (the aforementioned ex-girlfriend, a family friend, and a woman I never met), mentally abused me to the point I nearly lost it more than once, and left me over 10,000 bucks in debt by running up charges on my credit card and opening new cards in my name. It’s been fifteen years since I left. I’m still haunted by certain phrases and get physically ill when my husband dons a polo shirt. I have panic attacks if I find myself in situations reminding me of things he did to me. I’m still trying to believe I’m a person worthy of the love I receive from my husband, two children, extended family, and friends. He was only a nightmare to me once, but he broke me. I should have seen it coming.”
The Four-Letter Sentence
“When I was dating my husband, he had graduated the year before with a law degree. He took a job working with a good company and I thought he was doing very well. He drove a brand-new sports car; the car was his baby. He lived in a nice apartment he furnished himself.
After dating for around one year, we decided to get engaged. Almost immediately, we started shopping for rings. I already knew the ring I wanted. It was a one-half carat diamond ring with a gold band, and I bought him a wide gold band.
About a month later, he came to my house and surprised me with the engagement ring, and gently slipped it on my left finger as I was taking a nap! I woke up and he was smiling ear to ear, my parents standing just behind him all excited. We had a celebratory dinner that night and my parents broke out the bubbly to celebrate! It was an unforgettable evening!
A few hours later, as my fiancé, was leaving my house, I noticed there was a strange vehicle in our driveway. This vehicle wasn’t nearly as nice as his sports car. When I asked him about it, he told me it was his vehicle. I asked him what had happened to his sports car. He told me he sold it to buy me an engagement ring. I was stunned. I knew how much he loved the car. It was his baby and he was so proud of it. He bought it right after landing his first job, it was his dream car….and then I learned he sold it to buy me an engagement ring! I told him that he should get it back and we will work something out. But no, he insisted I keep the ring.
Then he said, ‘I really needed the money anyway. I have really bad credit.’
Those are four powerful words that I should have paid close attention to, but I didn’t.”
The Epitome Of A “Mama’s Boy”
“My first husband, an only child, invariably prioritized his mother’s slightest whim over anything I wanted or needed. His pitifully hen-pecked father did the same, so it’s not as if my fiance knew any better. She took offense to absolutely everything, and half his time, and therefore mine, was spent appeasing his narcissistic father.
My engagement ring was a beautiful family heirloom. After he gave it to me, his mother wanted it back. I didn’t want to give it back because it was my engagement ring, after all.
He stole it out of my jewelry box and gave it back to his mother. The two of them gaslit me into believing I was the one who had lost a diamond and sapphire ring that had been in his family for generations. I was completely freaked out, of course.
Only after our divorce did I realize why my lying husband and his lying mother treated the loss of the ring as no big deal after previously treating the ring like the Eustace Diamonds.
Our wedding? ~75 people, 55 of whom were related to the groom; rather, his mother. The food? Inedible, right down to the wedding cake frosted with Crisco. My new mother-in-law insisted on choosing the caterer.
We lasted about 19 months.”
“My fiancé and I had a weird exchange, prompted by a Mazda commercial, in which he claimed men are better drivers than women. I laughed, thinking he was joking, but when I looked at his face, it was humorless.
I said something like, ‘You’re not serious. What a ridiculous claim to make.’
At that, his face froze into a stony silence, and he refused to speak.
I tried to persuade him into responding a couple of times and then began to get weirded out by his behavior. It wasn’t what he said that really upset me because it was silly; which is why I thought he was joking. What I was most worried about was how he removed himself from the conflict by shutting down. By shutting down, he was unwilling to engage with me on a point of even insignificant contention. The behavior demonstrated to me was a disrespect for our impending union.
After trying again to open him up, which didn’t work, I gave up on him for the night and settled on the living room couch. I spent the evening first detangling the beliefs and behaviors he had just demonstrated, which were strange to me, and transposing them into a real marriage. Kids, stress, bills, chores; you know, areas that are more important to manage than abstract conversations. What I saw displeased and confused me so much, I considered calling it off. In the end, I covered it up with memories of how sweet he was, chalked his behavior up to nerves, thought about how much I wanted to be married, and let it go.
Over 20 years later, I wished I hadn’t given my fiancé the benefit of the doubt. The small moment foreshadowed the breakdown of our marriage to a T. The benefit of the doubt is the hole I spun down to get into the rabbit hole of our marriage.
Shutting down and refusing to engage in conflict ensured he got his way because I didn’t even get a place at the table. It gave him attention and released him from the responsibility of having to explain himself. I ended up looking like a desperate nag because I had to chase down answers. When things got really bad, I slid head-first into the swamp of unstable emotions.
There are fewer crazy-driving things in this world than a spouse who retains power by withdrawing from your relationship when it demands engagement, and then suggesting that you’re emotionally unstable because you respond to his negligence with frustration.
I’m blissfully single now and headed into the last chapters of my life with nothing but peace signs, places to visit, a book to write, and a four-legged friend to keep me company.”
To The Cottage
“Unfortunately, my red flag was on my wedding day. But a week before versus the day of is all the same I think.
After the ceremony, the dance, speeches, and the cake, the reception party carried on through the night. We knew it would. We had planned and expected it.
The red flag waving to me on this night was when my newlywed husband disappeared all night once the formal affair was over and just ‘the kids, our friends, cousins, siblings, and a loose uncle or two were left to party away into the night.
I finally tracked my husband down as the sun was starting to rise. He was as ‘gone’ as could be. He had been drinking ‘hard substances’ with a few other people, minus me, in a house some of our guests had rented for the night down the road from the main guest house/party.
As I partied and danced with the guests, I every so often wondered where the heck my new husband was. Nothing wrong with hanging out with friends, I told myself. We were not the most conventional type of people, and I wasn’t really set on some romantic wedding night. My guests were important, had traveled for my event from all over and I wanted to spend time with them. It didn’t change the twinge I had of feeling forgotten by my husband.
By the time I caught up with him, everyone was asleep except for me because. I wasn’t going to the honeymoon cottage we had alone with him high on ‘hard substances’. He apparently was not concerned about where I was or about spending time in our private cottage together the first night we were married.
This became the theme of our life together. I would be alone at home wondering where my husband was and when he would be home. I would not want another drink and was ready to call it a night, while at the bar with him and friends. I always eventually went home alone while he stayed out drinking. If we were out together, where did he go? Who is he flirting with now or making you angry? I would attempt to divert and control his actions to not have more to drink or try and end the night before he turns into the ‘gone’ fool who stops being logical.
This was usually when we were home, at a friend’s house, camping, or wherever. I was constantly attempting to monitor my husband’s drinking. Every drinking time, which was often more than once a week. It was like herding an ornery cat for me; impossible. Looking back, not realizing then, I was either anxious when he started to drink, monitoring and worrying about how much he was going to drink, or anticipating his ‘gone’ state when he was out and sure to come home eventually.
The issue was always the same. He was drinking. He drank too much. What will he spill? How loud will he insist on blasting the music? What rude thing will he say to me, or argument he will try and start? It wasn’t amusing.”
Long Hair, Short Marriage
“He decided he wasn’t going to get a haircut, and he wouldn’t pick up his suit from the cleaners.
He’d been watching the Highlander series on TV, and, he decided he was going to grow his hair out and wear a ponytail — like the highlanders.
So he gathered what little hair he had and put a tiny rubber band on it, and that was that. This was my haircut now.
It was 24 hours before and he still had not picked up his suit, nor gotten his hair cut.
I was crying in my living room, and my Dad was there.
He said, ‘You can call this all off right now. He’s being really passive-aggressive and you need to know why.’
He was right, I should have listened, but everyone was flying in from out of town, I was so embarrassed to have them show up and then just not go through with it, and, we were leaving on a cruise 48 hours later.
So, my Dad pulled him aside and said ‘Go cut your hair. Right. Now. Go get your suit. Right. Now. If you don’t, then leave. Right Now. And for good. The choice is yours.’
He went and got his hair cut and suit picked up and we went ahead with it.
I should not have. The passive-aggressive acting out was a sign I should have taken to heart.
I divorced him three years later.”
Cake To The Face
“Some red flags are so screamingly obvious, to ignore them is really a symptom of a complete state of denial going on. This was the case with my big wedding in 1992.
On the morning of the big day, my mother was still telling me, ‘You can call this off right now, honey. Please don’t feel like you have to go through with it.’
I was far too deeply in denial to have called off the wedding. Things aren’t likely to get better, later on, that’s just wishful thinking.
Despite it spiraling out of control in terms of plans, costs, my dress, and everything else, the guy I was about to marry continued to insist on the most important ‘tradition’ for the wedding. In his opinion, this was going to be the one where the groom gets to jam the wedding cake into the bride’s face after they (supposedly in a tender fashion) serve each other the first small piece they slice from the wedding cake.
I was willing to concede on just about everything, including the venue – his mother’s house. Having the wedding there meant she controlled almost everything else; theme, music, food, drinks, photography, dancing, decorations, and everything. I didn’t even see it coming. She even refused to serve the cases of happy juice I had bought. She didn’t let the caterers serve them until hours later for the toast, by which time few people were left. What’s a wedding without happy juice?
It was shocking to see almost all of the groom’s out-of-town people leave at once after the ceremony. Looking back now, I don’t blame them a bit. Happy juice was meant to be flowing freely from the one p.m. starting time! The caterers said they would serve it then, and I had bought many cases of it. We were stuck with a whole garage of it. Aftershock: I’m no longer fond of sparkling happy juice.
But this one tradition, the ‘smashing cake in bride’s face’ tradition, which I had never known to be a tradition, was the most important thing to him about the wedding ceremony. It should have been my red flag/stop sign when he made this very clear and would not relent, even though I was begging and pleading with him to spare my dignity, my face and hair, and especially my lovely Victorian-style gown the horror of having cake smooshed all over me. Yet he swore he had to have this included in our wedding. That’s a red flag if ever there was one.
I should have seen this, and a few hundred other warning signs, but I didn’t want to acknowledge how far gone this idea of a match between us really had been from the start. I was in total denial. My mother was right by me when he did, in fact, smash the cake in my face, and she took me to the edge of the decorated outdoor cupola in his mother’s re-landscaped yard where she can be seen on the video wiping it out of my eyes, and speaking soothingly to me.
Obviously, I didn’t want to jam wedding cake in his face, so it just came off as one of several cringe moments in a wedding that shouldn’t have happened. I didn’t go back near that cake at all, there were pounds of it stacked up there waiting for further trouble.
I tried to move on with the wedding. I was lucky to have both my mom and my sister right there.
I didn’t cry, I was just too numb. I wanted to believe in the illusion the wedding itself created, even though the illusion was already falling apart. I pulled myself together and the dancing part of the day went better than the rest of it, although only the wedding party and a few family members and friends were left by then. He insisted we leave at nine p.m. and that was the end of the party.
The whole relationship between me and that man lasted about two years from start to finish. I don’t think the wedding itself or getting married were factors in our failure to stay together. That commitment kept me there too long.
If one partner in the wedding won’t compromise on something uncomfortable to the other person, it’s probably past the red flag stage. Proceed at your own risk.”
“It may seem silly, but in retrospect, it symbolized where I would fall in my husband’s thinking about me in relation to his family.
He was number five of seven children. I felt I didn’t understand how ‘close’ they were because my family was so dysfunctional, so I had pushed down every feeling of boundaries being crossed and how not right much of this was throughout our whole engagement. He wouldn’t make a move without his family’s approval. We would make a decision; then he would talk with his family and suddenly, a new decision would emerge.
We were in our 30s, so it wasn’t like we were children. His father was also a multimillionaire, many times over, and paid for our wedding. That was my husband’s excuse for a lot of the changes in decisions. I really didn’t care, which should have been a red flag. I only cared about the music and flowers. Because my taste was considered exquisite in terms of flowers, no one could fault me there. As far as the music, I paid for it myself so I could have a crescendo starting with quiet and traditional at the church, Rat Pack-y during the drinking hour, upbeat but not overpowering during dinner, and then a blowout at the end with a mix of grunge and rock.
At our rehearsal dinner, we were having a nice time.
I overheard two of his sisters tell him he’d better ‘shave that stuff off his face before he gets to the church tomorrow.’
He wore a goatee. He had a goatee most of the time we had been together. The only times he had been without was for job interviews, and well, they made him look like a prematurely old man or like a man closer to 50 than 35. He had a weak chin and the goatee helped a lot. With the goatee he was attractive. Without? Eh, I didn’t really want those wedding pictures.
Was I being shallow? Maybe. But I was expected to cram myself into high-heeled shoes (which I hated) and wedding foundation garments and groom myself more than I cared to for him and because of pictures. I also agreed to a full ceremony when I do not practice.
I didn’t want kids at the wedding but all 17 of his nieces and nephews were somehow at the reception. I didn’t want seating arrangements. I didn’t want ice sculptures. On and on; is a list of things I compromised on.
Before we said goodnight, I told him I heard what his sisters said, and I asked him to not shave. I told him I loved the way he looked with the goatee and that’s how I wanted to remember him. And how I wanted him to look in our pictures.
Well, he ended up shaving off his goatee.
I knew what I was going to walk into on my wedding day. I wanted to not show up because I knew. But so many people had traveled so far and spent so much money. So I sucked it up and got married. I ignored my husband for the whole reception. But I had a great time dancing with my friends.
The way I looked at it, he chose his family. I wasn’t going to be his family ever. It was true that day and every day. What I love now is that he’s married to someone who puts her family first. I wonder how that works out for him.”
Not The Time
“The week before my wedding, my ex stood in front of my entire family while we were watching a show, blocking the TV and kissing my face incessantly. He would not stop even when requested by me and others. This moment made me uncomfortable; he did not know the appropriate place and time for romantic behavior.
He was not being inappropriate, so I let it go then The cards were out, and everything was planned. It bothered me, and I did not heed my intuition then. I wish I had because it turned out that it was his way of staking his claim on my time and attention, that was obsessive. He turned awful when I tried to address it.
Or he would go into childish sobbing fits, crying ‘You don’t love me’!
I dealt with 20 years of this before I dared to end it.”
He Knew About Her Plans
“We had been dating for four and a half years. I was head over heels in love and kept telling him how much I wanted to marry him. Instead of a proposal, he kept giving me hurdles to jump before it could happen.
Over time, I became less eager for marriage. I’m not into jumping hurdles so when they kept coming, I decided to end things and move on. When I ended things he didn’t seem very upset.
Flash forward about a month later. All of the sudden, he showed up in the middle of the night and seemed very ‘concerned’ we were no longer together. He got down on one knee without a ring and asked me to marry him. I didn’t question his timing, but for some reason, the proposal seemed more of a ‘let down’ than anything else. I couldn’t figure out why.
I accepted anyway, and we went forward with preparing for a wedding.
The night before my wedding, my husband-to-be was celebrating by having a few drinks. He boldly announced how happy he was that he decided to ‘visit’ my apartment while I was at work one day and ‘figured out my plans’ before they went any further.
I checked into things, and he went to my apartment while I was at work one day. A guy I worked with answered the door (while he was repairing a stove for me as a favor) and said I wasn’t home. Apparently, my husband-to-be thought he was a potential lover or someone I was dating.
To beat out any other suitors, he asked me to marry him. The only reason he proposed was that he was convinced he had inside information, I was going to date someone else, and he had to beat that guy to the punch.
I told my dad I didn’t want to get married the morning of my wedding. He refused to allow me to back out of it. Walking through the doors at my wedding was the biggest letdown I have ever felt.
We divorced after 10 years but it was really over after the first four. We had kids. I stayed in the relationship way too long. Live and learn. Right?”