By Senior Producer
msnbc.com
updated 5/2/2005 1:15:01 PM ET 2005-05-02T17:15:01
COMMENTARY

As a fellow bride-to-be, I understand the pressures and stress related to getting married. 

My phone was ringing off the hook this weekend as my friends and family learned the news that Jennifer Wilbanks had fled from her fiancé in some sort of a panic attack over her upcoming nuptials in Duluth, Ga. 

Since my wedding is approaching in a matter of days, my support system was calling me to wonder if I wanted to run as well. My own mother called wanting to make sure I really wanted to go through with my big day.   

I spent the day on Saturday at a New York hair salon getting my final hair cut before walking down the aisle. The salon was buzzing with developments in the so-called "runaway bride" case. Strangers were coming by my chair asking if I was getting cold feet. 

As I thought more about it, I wondered what I would do if I were feeling like Wilbanks?

Might have called one of 14 bridesmaids?
Call me crazy, but if I were to get cold feet, I would tell someone. I would talk to my fiancé, my parents, my sibling, my friends, or even my minister.  Where were her 14 bridesmaids when she needed a shoulder to cry on?

Wilbanks, who was planning to tie the knot this past Saturday at a lavish, 600-guest wedding outside Atlanta, must have completely lost it to buy a Greyhound bus ticket to Las Vegas and run without even a peep to anyone. 

As an all-out manhunt was launched, her family and friends feared the worst. Even people who had never met Jennifer helped search for the 32-year old marathon runner. 

How dare she do this to a sympathetic public? I have no sympathy for her. 

Rather, I feel sorry for her fiancé who is now facing a dilemma: does he dump her or does he forgive her and marry the “runaway bride?”

Most guys I know would not take her back after such humiliation. 

And the worst part is many Americans following this twisted tale were at one point wondering if her fiancé John Mason had something to do with her disappearance. That is sickening.

      

Pressure of today’s weddings
Sure we all feel the pressure. No one ever warned me about the planning “pains” and that all my free time would be spent doing wedding-related chores.

From the flowers, to the cake, to the transportation, to the church, to the music — it seems like it will never end.

The phone calls and e-mails from friends asking ridiculous questions like can you send me directions to your wedding? Ever heard of mapquest?!

Or the single guests who are invited alone, but respond “with guest”? What would Emily Post think of that behavior?! 

Deciding where to seat certain guests is enough to make you break out into a sweat.  But is it enough to make you head cross-country and fake your own abduction? Come on!

Intense affair
So why have the pressures of a wedding in the year 2005 become so intense? 

“I think weddings now can get out of hand. Brides and grooms feel like they have to have this or have to have that. But who says they have to have that?” said Washington, DC-based psychologist Robert Nay, Ph.D.

“It is important to sit down as a couple and resolve what appeals to you. Make sure the wedding is reflecting what the bride and groom really want, and sometimes that concept gets lost," added Nay.

When my mother has insisted on certain things that she thinks we “must have” at our upcoming wedding, I tell her that this is my wedding day. She’s already had hers. If Wilbanks did not want 600 guests seeing her in her gown, she should have said something.

If Wilbanks were 22, I think the public would have an easier time forgiving her. But at age 32, she should be smarter and she should have spoken up. Wilbanks and I are the same age. I feel fortunate that I met my fiancé when we were older (and wiser), so we actually now know what we want.           

What to do?  
How can you tell real concerns from just “cold feet?”

“Everyone feels pre-wedding jitters. But when it feels more profound than that, like you feel sad or irritated, and everything seems like a burden or you are noticing that you are fearful. That is when you stop and find someone who you really trust, your best friend, a parent or your pastor,” Nay advises. “Or you can go to your partner and talk about the issues together to resolve them. It does not matter if that means you have to postpone your wedding. The goal is to help identify what your real needs are.”

When I walk down that aisle in 12 days, I can honestly say I have no reservations and no second thoughts.

Maybe we can all learn a valuable lesson from Wilbanks. When you’re feeling the heat, take a deep breath and ask for help before running for the door and scrapping the chance to “live happily ever after.”

Nina Bradley is a Senior Producer for MSNBC.

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