Bride To Be Lied About Kidnapping
Jason Braverman  /  Zuma Press
A billboard in Duluth, Georgia, pokes fun at runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks.
updated 5/10/2005 10:47:23 AM ET 2005-05-10T14:47:23

Readers share their experiences of wedding-day jitters: (We are no longer accepting submissions for this topic. Thank you for the thousands of responses).

True love is (color) blind
My husband and I met in 1980 while stationed in the Navy on the Aleutian island, Adak, in Alaska.  He is black, I am white, and 25 years ago that was a very bold thing to declare our love!  We met at a Martin Luther King Celebration choir rehearsal (I was the only white person there) and he knew the moment he saw me that we would be married.  It took me a whole week to know for sure, and 3 1/2 months later, our wedding date was set.

Chuck and Linda Worthy

His mother, who had never met me, but who didn't want her son to marry a "white girl", contacted the Navy base and to make a long story short, although we were active in the base Chapel, we were not allowed to be married in the Chapel or by the Chaplains.  Because Adak was a military island at that time, there was no place to go "off base".  The Legal Officer married us, but we were only allowed to get married during lunch time on a Friday afternoon in the Chapel recreation room.  Best friends boycotted the wedding, sure we were making a mistake.  One friend even told my husband that God told him to tell us to not get married because "nothing good would ever come of it."

On the morning of my wedding as I was preparing to enter the recreation room (no isle, there!), I panicked and got very cold feet.  I was about 10 minutes late coming out of that dressing room, thinking I must be crazy to go against everybody and get married.  Still, I loved him and decided to go ahead with it.  Although there were only a handful of people to witness our vows, when I walked in the room and heard my sweetheart singing a love song to me (he's an awesome singer!), I knew I had done the right thing!

We had many obstacles to overcome, but we can look back and see the amazing things that have come out of our marriage.  For the last 15 years, we have had the largest Christian Performing Arts ministry in the Northwest and have had the opportunity to influence many, many young (and not-so-young) artists, and we have had great success in our personal and professional lives.  Even my parents, who were initially against it, have come to love my husband as their son.

I have the best husband in the world, and we share the same values in "giving back" to the community and being compassionate toward others.  I can't imagine life without him, and I am looking forward to a long and happy life with him.  People who claim to be your friends are not always looking out for your best interest.  I'm glad we went through with it, against all odds. And so are all our wonderful family, friends, and musicians!
--Linda Worthy, Gig Harbor, Wash.

Look out for your own feelings
I remember standing in my bedroom telling my bridesmaid that I didn't want to get married. This was right before the ceremony and the guests were sitting ready for the affair to begin. I chalked it up to cold feet plus I didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings, so I went through with it. It was the biggest mistake of my life. I was married for almost four years and I have been divorced for twenty one years. There is no worse feeling than feeling all alone when there is another person in the house/bed. I will never again do anything that I don't want to do just so I don't hurt someone else's feeling.
--Ruth Weeks, Green Bay, Wis.

No look, no love
I thought seriously about calling it off. I had a huge wedding planned and did not want to disappoint anyone.  The worst part was, I had agreed to let his stepfather do the ceremony (he is a minister) so all the pre-marriage counseling was done by him!  I had no one to talk to about my doubts.  My groom went out for his long-planned bachelor party and came home and called my by his ex-girlfriends name!  I let that pass, as he was extremely intoxicated.  Then, as I was walking down the aisle, he never looked at me!  Not one time!  Then at the reception, when we cut the cake and went to feed each other, I went along with the huge crowd chanting, "smash the cake" and smashed a small amount on his face.  (As is done traditionally, maybe not wisely)  He called me an awful name (which was caught on video tape) and pushed me away from him and I was humiliated.
Finally we left for our honeymoon. He watched football, I begged for attention.  I spend the next twelve years married to a man that couldn't keep a job, was miserable, lacked any kind of communication skills whatsoever, was a habitual liar, and only interest was sports.  As a matter of fact, he nearly killed himself by working on a "Fantasy Football" website for so long (12 hours straight) that he developed a deep vein thrombosis which led to him almost dying from pulmonary emboli.  And guess what? I saved his life!  The thanks I got from all of this?  He moved our daughter and me to Florida (supposedly so he could find his purpose for still being alive), met someone and cheated on me.  And then treated my like I had done something wrong.  The happiest day of my life was the day my divorce was final.  His girlfriend dumped him, I met someone who is wonderful and life goes on.
Had I walked the opposite way on my wedding day, I would have not lost the twelve years of my life; and since he wasn't looking at me, he probably wouldn't have even noticed anyway!
--Michelle, Florida

The voice lies
No, I didn't have call it off, but this little voice in my head kept repeating "if you have any doubts, don't do it".  I kept hearing it over and over again. Endlessly.  I loved my then to be husband very much, I was madly in love, but considering that everyone, family and friends, never thought the marriage would work (and I knew that) I guess that little voice felt compelled to keep shouting.  My fiance was almost twenty years older than I, had three children, the oldest being only six years younger than I was, and had a reputation and being a "bad boy".  This gave everyone cause for concern, except me.  I have always listed to my "gut" and I knew this man.  I knew his endless, wonderful qualities and I just could believe that I could be wrong about my judgment of his character.  Well, even given the age difference, here we are twenty-eight years and two beautiful daughters later and I'm still in love.  I was right, he is a remarkable man who has made all my dreams come true.
--Debbie Schamp, San Ramon, Calif.

Out of sight, out of mind
I called off my wedding five days before the big day, and boy am I glad. My fiancée and I were high school sweethearts and I guess I was just with him so long and I was young and naïve. I just thought that was the next step, what was supposed to happen. Well, throughout our engagement we were long distance and would see each other every other month, I think the distance made me forget about all the doubts I had about getting married to him. I kept putting all my feelings in the back of mind, "out of sight, out of mind" Well he came down for the wedding and I called it off. I never felt such a peace about my decision. I felt like this huge burden was lifted off of me.
God totally reaffirmed my decision 2 months later when my ex-fiancee called me to tell me he was going to be a father with a girl that he had cheated on me with previously. Wow!! I was totally saved from that! It would have ended in divorce. Three years later, I am now happily married to the love of my life, who was also previously engaged and called off his wedding to his fiancee. He is the man that God had for me my whole life, and because I listened to Him and my heart, he blessed me with my husband.
--Blessed, Florida

Delay worth taking
When I told my fiancee that I wanted to call off the wedding, he was wonderfully understanding. He only asked that I go with him to pre-marital counseling before officially calling it off.  The counselor took a huge amount of stress off me by telling me that I could simply postpone the wedding for as long as I needed to while I worked through my doubts. My fiancee agreed, telling me that I was worth waiting for.  Now, after 20 happy years of marriage, I am very glad he waited!
--Linda, Tulsa, Okla.

Just cold feet
I met my husband on a blind date. At the end of the first date he asked me out on a second.  I firmly believed I didn't want anything to do with him, but didn't know how to tell that to him so I agreed to a second date. This man had a lot of baggage, ex wife, kids, bankruptcy, unemployed, and living with his parents.  By the fourth date we went looking for engagement rings.  We eloped in Vegas because planning a wedding is tough enough without blending two religions.  I remember standing at the alter and my hands were shaking so hard and the feeling of impending doom was scaring the heck out of me.  It honestly was just cold feet.  Eight years, two kids, and a house later I am still happy with him and thrilled that I said "I do."  Sometimes cold feet is just that, cold feet.
--Michelle T., Roy, Utah

He's the one
I am getting married next week and I can totally understand pressure of the wedding. We are having a small wedding but the details of the event are so overwhelming that it has crossed my mind to call off the wedding. However, I have only thought of about postponing the event, because I know my fiance is the right man for me. We don't have a lot of money and we are sort of over our heads paying for the wedding, but every time I think about being his wife, raising a family with him and spending the rest of my life with him, all the doubts, in-law wars, and pressures just disappear. Face it! To death do us part, is no easy declaration!  
--Melanie soon-to-be Perez, La Jolla, CA

You can always back out
I did not call off my wedding, but I definitely got the jitters. We had both graduated from college. I was 23 and he was 22. I had been out and working for a year. It wasn't that I was afraid of marriage and being married. We'd been together for three and a half years at college. I was more afraid of the wedding day itself. What helped calm me down the most was a conversation with my aunt. When I was asked if I was ready for the big day and my response was something like, "Well I guess so, it's too late to back out now." My mother looked shocked, but my aunt said, "No it's not. You can always back out if you want to." It's like I had permission to change my mind if that's what I really wanted to do, and that took the pressure off. We did get married and have been married 21 years now with four kids of our own.
--Mary, North Carolina

Remembering life without him
My wedding date is set for May 14, 2005. Wow, that's two weeks away!  My stomach is in knots and to be honest, I have had many doubts.  Sometimes it's difficult to remember why we even decided to get married in the first place. Our relationship hasn't been a "bed of roses."  But I remember what life was like without him and it makes me thankful for today. We have had many ups and downs. Life with him will be difficult at times but life without him would be impossible.  Experiencing doubt is normal. Marriage is a life-long commitment and I think people forget that. Or actually they remember and that's why they eventually end the relationship. The most important thing to ask yourself when you are having doubt is "Is this person really what makes me happy?" And if your answer is "yes" then that is a good indication that you probably should not go through with the wedding. Your fiancee should not define your happiness in life because often times you will find yourself filled with emptiness, you will be miserable. Your spouse can never meet and satisfy all your needs, they were never meant to. So in order to decide whom you should spend the rest of your life with, you should find out who you are first! The most important thing to keep in mind is that love is not an emotion, it's a decision.  In the end "Love" isn't what keeps you together, the decision, the commitment you make is what keeps you together even when you feel like giving up!  

Should have run
I didn't call off my first marriage even though my "little voice" told me that I should. Everyone thought that she was Miss Right including my religious leader who told my God wanted me to marry her. It ended in divorce a few years later after I suffered a physical breakdown from the stress of being married to her. I lost my job, and spent several months in the hospital recuperating. I'm now happily remarried with a new career although my health still suffers somewhat. I should have run away.
--Douglas R., Snohomish, Wash.

Out the window
At the last minute? I climbed out the window of my parents home, left a note saying I just couldn't go through with it, there was something wrong, but I couldn't figure it out. I then went to the ambulance station I worked out of and asked which of my co-workers wanted to be relieved for the night. No one even thought to look for me there.
It was the smartest thing I ever did, I found out three months later he was wanted in another state for aggravated assault, rape and attempted murder of his live-in girlfriend. He went to prison; I lived to have a wonderful marriage at a later time to a different man.
I was literally running for my life even though I didn't know it at the time, but if I'd done as (Jennifer Wilbanks) did, I'd expect to go to jail or prison for the fake kidnapping. Next time it happens to some one, it might be real and no one will take it seriously till it's too late.

Warning signs
I certainly should have called off my wedding in 1998. I was so upset that I drank almost a whole bottle of champagne before I could muster up the "courage" (or stupidity) to walk out the door of the bridal dressing room and down the aisle. My now ex-husband had displayed "Jennifer-like" behavior in the past by jilting two other fiances prior to me, yet I denied that these past tendencies as a danger sign. That fact was a forewarning. So was the fact that his groomsmen so kindly made several escorts/strippers (no, they didn't just dance) available two nights before our wedding -- and my ex took them up on their generosity! I learned some lessons about love, commitment and faithfulness from him. I thank him for showing me what a marriage SHOULDN'T look like.

Cowardly ending
I was to get married earlier this year and had everything planned out. It was about 5 months before the wedding and we were arguing a lot and I just thought that it was pre wedding jitters but my fiance decided that he didn't want to get married anymore and never bothered to tell me. So what did he do? He cheated on me and made sure that I found out about it, then told me that he never wanted to marry me and he just couldn't find a way get out of the relationship, so slept with the first girl he talked to and went to bed with her two hours later. Women aren't the ones with cold feet, if you are not sure about getting married then I do think that you owe it to your fiancé or fiancée to tell them why you don't want to get married. Although what mine did was cowardly, I do think that it would have been worse if we did get married because we would have probably both regretted it.
--Anonymous, Vancouver, B.C., Canada

Pay attention to doubts
I was 21 years old and planning to marry my high school boyfriend when I started having second thoughts because something did not seem right. I voiced my concerns to my mother who thought I was joking and did not take me seriously. I also told my cousin just days before the wedding that I didn't think I wanted to get married, but he too offered no solutions. So I went through with the wedding (which seemed like a prison sentence), honeymoon and then the divorce. Although we were officially married for just over three years, our relationship started a steep decline shortly after our first anniversary and we lived apart for the last year. Although I learned a lot from the experience that has made me who I am, I would definitely tell someone who is having second thoughts to give them serious consideration because it could save a lot of stress and disappointment down the road. While telling my family and friends that I was getting divorced was very difficult, I would have preferred to have three very unhappy years of my life back.

Having "The Look"
About 37 years ago, at the age of 28, I called off my wedding, and promptly returned my engagement ring (and all gifts). Friends thought I was crazy, and said that at age 28, this might be my "last chance." I dreaded telling my parents, but they handled it beautifully. They claimed that I never had the "look that a bride to be" should have (frankly I didn't know what they meant, but I was just happy that they didn't give me any grief.) It was actually my sister who had suggested that if I felt "really torn" that I should take the ring off and see how I felt. She was absolutely correct with her suggestion, because as soon as I took the ring off, I felt a sense of relief and I knew I was doing the right thing by calling off the wedding. My fiancé was really shocked and upset, and I never heard from him again. So much for that! Quite some years later, I met "Mr. Right" and after only dating a short time, I knew what my parents had meant all those years earlier when they said I didn't have "that look," because now, I did have "THE LOOK." I was absolutely madly in love and couldn't wait to see my boyfriend who in 1978 became my husband. It is now 27 years later and he is still the love of my life. My advice: Don't listen to anyone who tries to talk you into going through with a marriage you are nervous about entering into. Your heart will lead you to the right decision. You won't get cold feet when you have chosen the right one. I still remember my wedding day all these years later, and I can recall the joy I felt, knowing that the man I loved so much had chosen me to become his wife. 
--Ruby, W. Palm Beach, Fla.

Third time a charm
My first marriage, I looked at my new husband across the room at the reception, and a tiny voice inside me spoke up to tell me that I had made a mistake. But being young and stupid, I ignored the voice and spent the next fifteen months trying to make it work. The second time around, I was pregnant with my daughter, so it was even easier to ignore the little voice urging me to run for my life. I spent the next seventeen years of my life in abject misery, married to a man who did not care about me in the slightest but only wanted household help for himself and his children (I had our son four and a half years later).
But by the time I met my third husband, I was older and wiser -- wise enough to know what a wonderful man he is, and wise enough to have no doubt in my mind whatever. Ignore that still, small voice inside yourself at your peril.
--Diana, Pittsburgh, Pa.

The marriage, not the wedding, important
I was on the opposite end of the stick. My fiancé called off the wedding two months before it was scheduled. I was crushed. I believed that in a relationship, the two parties work things out, no matter how tough things get. Still, he was adamant that it was merely a postponement and not a cancellation. But I was still devastated. It was then that I realized I was concentrating on the WEDDING and not the MARRIAGE. I was delighted at being the center of attention and having "my day" -- not on how much I loved him or my commitment to him. I realized the dress, the flowers and the cake were expensive, white, fluffy distractions from a relationship that would have never worked.
--Francesca, Chicago, Ill.

Something didn't seem right
I am 34 years old and have never been married. I was engaged and called off the wedding five months before the ceremony. The hardest part was calling my friends and family to tell them that there would not be a ceremony.  All of them were very supportive and understood completely. Something did not seem quite right with my fiancée and I had a feeling something was going on. I questioned him about it and of course he denied it.  A few weeks later he finally he confessed and told me he was seeing someone else.  She died in a car accident the night he confessed to me.  I have learned to always listen my intuition.  I would be divorced by now if I would have married him.  When the time comes for me to marry, I will know without a doubt that I am doing the right thing or I will not go through with it. A woman's intuition is a wonderful thing -- so listen to it! 
--Christy, Georgia

Worse than a bad country song
My ex-fiancée jilted me weeks before the wedding, after he encouraged me to make an expensive cross-country move, move in with him, break my lease and quit my job. I was working three jobs in a strange town with no friends, with no benefits, and had just put my life savings in a CD, at his encouragement two days before.  He gave me two weeks to get out of his house, and said I probably didn't want to marry "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde."  He said he would be okay, was going back on Prozac, and that I would be fine because I was "strong."  I was devastated.  Evidently he had betrayed me, and has since married someone who looks like me, although younger.  They deserve each other if she was with him, while engaged to me.  The whole thing was worse than a bad country music song. He was a 49-year-old Humanities professor (how humane was that). I wish he had left me and my life alone. I needed him like I needed a hole in my head.

It just wasn't right
After postponing the wedding one time already, I finally mustered up the courage to get out for good.  Once I realized what was right for me, I was able to let go of the beautiful dress and all the money my parents had spent on the wedding.  Part of me felt like I had so much time invested into the relationship and wedding planning that I was determined to make it work no matter what.  But something just wasn't right all along, and after months of making excuses, I decided to get out for good.  It was the best thing I've ever done.  I ended up meeting a wonderful man later that year and we're now happily married.   
--M.H., Grand Rapids, Mich.

He wore the gown!
I just got married 8 weeks ago under some extremely stressful conditions.  My husband just returned from deployment to the tsunami area in Indonesia, and I am preparing for a deployment later this year.  He had only been back for a week when a brain tumor was discovered.  The next day, we were married in his ICU room at the hospital.  There was never any hesitation in my mind.  We had never had the opportunity to discuss the issues that we suddenly had to face about the brain surgery, the risks, the recovery, possible death.  We had our license and just decided to do it there at the hospital.  Talk about pressure.  I doubt I will ever get my fairy tale wedding, but I do have a great marriage.  My husband has been making remarkable progress and I have no regrets whatsoever-well, O.K. he got to wear the gown.
--Katie, Bremerton, Wash.

The right decision
It was early spring of 1990 and I was supposed to get married in June (the key words are "suppose to"). I called off the, 500-guest, social event of the season wedding two months prior to saying "I do" with only a long letter written to my fiancé. Some said it was cowardly and I should have faced my problems head on; however, no one knew the real reasons I was calling it off. Well, no one except my parents, my best friend, and of course the man himself, my fiancé. You see, he was an abuser and honestly I left fearing for my life. At the time, I abandoned everything I owned, but later did go back for it all with the help of my parents, a few friends and the Vancouver police. Life was not easy, the stress, the guilt, the hundreds of phone calls, and of course the apology letters to all the invited guests. But not for one split second did I ever consider leaving my parents, family and friends, to worry if I was dead or alive. Even though I don't have the greatest relationship with my parents I would never put them under that kind of stress. In the last 15 years I have been very fortunate, I have people that love me and I love back and I have a secure happy life. I wish Wilbanks the same fortune.
--Jill, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

A confirming reaction
Yes, I called off my wedding 3 weeks before the wedding date. My family was very supportive but his family reacted differently. After I requested to postpone the wedding, the reaction from his family and him that I received, made me realized that I don't even want to go through it at all and we broke up at the end. I never regretted my decision and glad that I did it.

Honesty absent
I called off a wedding three weeks before the ceremony because I felt that my bridegroom was not being honest with either of us about his on-again/off-again relationship with a longtime colleague in his office.  As I saw it, their relationship was never really "over" and never would be. Eight months after I cancelled our wedding they were married.  Two years later they were divorced. They still have an on-again/off-again relationship and I doubt it will ever change.  They can't seem to stay together but neither can they stay apart.
--Scarlett O'Casey, Tucson, Ariz.

A tough decision at any time
I called my wedding off SIX MONTHS in advance and still had a lot of pressure and questions to deal with.  While it can be intimidating, I can't imagine that Wilbanks didn't have reservations at some point prior to this incident.  I have no sympathy for someone who can't address their own issues and I have little faith in a marriage that is going to lack any semblance of communication
--Anonymous, Dallas, Texas

The right instinct, wrong decision
I sure thought about it.  As I put my arm on my Dad's I was filled with overwhelming dread and kept thinking throughout the ceremony, just before we said I do, that I could still leave, I could still leave.

I wish I had done that. It would have saved me intense grief over the years.  We're divorced, but not after having three children and suffering through five years of hell being married to that man.

But at that time, the intense pressure of 'doing the right thing' and just calling my fears 'butterflies' was great enough to stop me from running that day.  When I remarried, I had no doubts in my mind, and it's been 15 years and we're still going strong.
--Anita Huffman, Salem, Ore.

Weary of repeating a mistake
Three months before the wedding, I tried to postpone. My fiancé went in to a crying frenzy. We were both in our early 20's at the time. It took a week or so for her to convince me we should go on with our plans. I remember the day very well. There was a situation at the reception that always stays with me. I had tried to introduce my new wife to some long time friends I've known for since my childhood years, and when I tried to introduce her, she freaked and really embarrassed me. That was pretty much her M.O. during the course of out doomed marriage.

A bit awkward by the Bay
We have been divorced for almost 20 years now and neither of us has remarried. I think the reason we haven't remarried is we have already gone down that road and don't want to make the same mistake again. We are still friends however and get along much better. We both know our lives would have been very different had we not got married. I am in the wedding business and see couples get married every weekend. I have had only a few cancel on me before their event. One event that didn't get cancelled but took a turn for the worst was on a Fairy Boat in San Francisco. We had motored out in the bay for about an hour when the ceremony started. I had provided the music and the PA for the ceremony as well as the reception that was going to continue on after the ceremony. However, during the ceremony when the officiant asked the bride to say I do, she said I can't and ran off to the upper level of the boat. There was really nowhere for the bride to hide.
We then motored back to the port, which by the way took another hour and a half. I can't imagine what the groom was thinking let alone the bride and the rest of their guests and family. It was to say the least a very uncomfortable 1 1/2 hours back to port.
--Jack Crawford, Santa Cruz, Calif.

A bad omen
On the night before my 1st wedding we had the rehearsal. After at the dinner I told my four bridesmaids I wanted to back out. I felt like I loved him as a brother not a husband. They all said you got to do what you want to do, they all agreed maybe it was cold feet. The next day I got ready for the wedding with a sickening feeling in my stomach.  When the two limos arrived the bridesmaids got in their limo. I went to go in my limo and all of a sudden black smoke started to pour out from the hood of the car!!  I started crying. My Dad said "Don't worry we'll get you to the church". What he didn't realize was I knew it was a sign not to get married.    Well I got married anyway and six years and two kids later I got divorced.  See I knew it was a bad sign but at least I have two beautiful kids from that marriage.
--Christine Madden, Bensalem. Pa.

Go with your gut
I surely gave it some thought - as far as calling off the wedding. But I weighed the fact that my children were going to take part in the wedding, the guests coming from so far, the "heat" I would hear from the groom's father (my father was too ill to attend and none of my family decided to take the flight to come out - nice huh?), and all the expenses that were already committed and signed by on the dotted line - if all of these factors weren't involved, I surely would have called it off.  I wish I would have listened to my intuition/cold feet -- after 12 months of living together as husband/wife, a divorce is pending and the then-groom is walking away with over $100,000 of my money.  It would have been worth the trouble -- believe me.
--Stupid in California

Lesson learned
As a woman being married for the second time in my life on May 22, I have realized at age 31 (today) that no woman in her right mind should ever get married until at least age 30. I have thought of the pressure and of the stress it takes to put together a 200 guest wedding, with or with out a wedding planner, and then I realize when my fiancé is just doing something normal like watching the game or cleaning up the yard that this man is worth all the stress in the world and it is OUR wedding and if want to scale it down to lessen the stress of it all, then that's what we do! Good luck to all of you bride-to-be's out there.
--Michelle Jackson (soon Stinson), Portland Ore.

Don't ignore your feelings
I did not want to marry my first wife back in 1981. However, I went ahead and got married and after eight months the marriage was over.
I want to tell the people out there if you have doubts, just call off the wedding. Talk to your friends, the priest, whomever is willing to listen but just cancel the wedding. You will save a lot of trouble.
--Raul, Doral, Fla.


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