Growing up, years of teen dramas and rom-coms made me believe runaway brides/grooms would be a lot more common at weddings.
Fortunately, I have never witnessed this at a wedding. Still, it does happen — a while back, u/bsstoryteller asked, "Did you, or someone you know, ever attend a wedding where the bride or groom was left at the altar? How did it turn out?" and people actually had some pretty wild stories. Here's what they had to say!
*Along with some replies from this Reddit thread on runaway brides.
1. "My entire fourth grade class was in attendance at our teacher's wedding where she was left at the altar."
"The whole situation was ugly. My teacher was the bride and was about 3/4 down the aisle when the groom decided he couldn't do it. He walked off to the side, and at first, my teacher and her father didn't notice and kept walking, smiling radiantly. There was about a minute of really solid confusion (last minute cold feet? bathroom emergency?) before everyone realized what was going on. My teacher was whisked out of the church, and an announcement was made that there was not going to be a wedding. This happened the second or third week of June; she didn't come back for the last week of school."
2. "This was sometime in the '70s. My uncle in India was attending the wedding of some not-so-close friends (totally common to have 1,000 people at a wedding with many people that barely know the couple in attendance). The bride was left at the altar and literally standing on the stage and waiting while everyone was watching. My uncle stepped up and said he'd marry her. He must have felt some sudden rush of Bollywood go through him. Anyway, she said yes, and they are happily married to this day."
3. "Around 1999, my uncle got engaged to this woman named Erin who was beautiful; we loved her, and she had a son and a big country house. ... She gets pregnant, my uncle speed-walks through the wedding planning, and at the altar, she reveals that she was fucking their gardener and it's his baby and leaves to the other room. He ended up trashing her beloved Jeep in the parking lot with a chair (he's prone to rages) and leaving."
4. "[I] had a friend that didn’t know she was the bride until she was halfway down the aisle. Her parents had arranged a marriage for her (common in her culture) and had told her that the family had all been invited to a cousin’s wedding. My friend was told everyone was going to be wearing white for whatever reason, I don’t remember. They arrived at the church just before the bride was scheduled to walk down the aisle. My friend, thinking they’re late, wanted to slip in and stay in the back. Her father, however, takes her arm, and they start walking up the aisle."
"It isn’t until they’re halfway up that she stops and realizes everyone is looking at her and smiling and crying tears of joy. She turned to one of her aunts in the pew next to her and asked them who was getting married.
The whole church went silent, and then, the aunt looked at my friend's father and said, 'You can’t be serious! You planned a wedding for your daughter and just expected her to go along with it?! Have the two of them even met? Did you seriously think this would work?!' The whole room was then chattering about them, and the father just cleared his throat and told his daughter to keep walking. Luckily, the aunt grabbed my friend first and pulled her into the pew, pushed her past the row of people, and they both ran out of the church. Her parents disowned her after that, and she moved in with that aunt."
5. "I was at the wedding for one of my sister's friends who was the bride. The bride never showed up at the wedding, and no one could find her. After several hours, the groom and his family all went home. Turned out the bride went for a wild night of partying and slept with some guy she met at a club. She was passed out drunk at his place all day long before she came around and realized she missed her own wedding."
"She was out with a friend that did nothing to stop her from getting wasted and screwing around (I think her friend let her get carried away because she thought the bride wouldn't have been a good wife and figured it was the easiest way to get the couple to split up).
The father of the bride was mad as hell about the expense of the wedding that came out of his pocket. The groom has since moved on with his own life. ... The bride has been having problems trying to get the respect of her family back after that stunt."
6. "I am the home-wrecker. I stood up during 'if anyone should give reason' and blurted out 'DON'T' to the guy I've loved since junior year of high school (I was 25 when this happened, we are now in our 30s) while his and her entireeeee party of wedding guests stared daggers into me. He walked off the altar, and we met halfway in the aisle, and I told him 'I love you. Please don't.' He stared at me for what seemed like an eternity, walked back over to his would-be bride, told her he didn't love her, [and that] it wasn't right that they got married. He said he was sorry; she slapped him. I tried to apologize but was cut off. She screamed at me (no, we were not friends or acquaintances), and I deserved the humiliation and berating."
"I walked out, and across the parking lot of the venue, he followed shortly after. We walked for several blocks in silence and sat in the park. Just stunned. He moved his things out the next day and stayed in a hotel for a few weeks, got his own place. We moved in together three months after. I married him in a small, private, location ceremony with a handful of people present. We've been married for 10 years."
7. "A woman I briefly dated was a runaway bride. Her ex never hit her, but constantly belittled her and was basically emotionally abusive. ... Telling her she was lucky he wanted her, that she could never find anyone better, that she was ugly but he dealt with it, etc. etc. etc. She was a smart kid (was a medic in the military, saving dozens of lives in Pakistan), but emotionally manipulative people can get anyone if given enough time, and he got her."
"On her wedding day, her dad who wasn't usually in the picture (having divorced [her mom] when she was a teen) was having a conversation with her in the ready room, and got concerned when she started repeating a lot of the things her fiancé was saying to her. She said that she was midsentence when he stood up and said, 'Lets go to Dairy Queen' out of the blue. When she was little, they often went to DQ and talked over ice cream. She took a second, agreed, and they left to go to DQ. But he drove three towns over, and they sat and talked over ice cream for hours while her phone rang the battery dead in the car.
She said she felt like a huge weight was lifted, and felt bad that her friends and family were waiting for her, but they would all understand later. He eventually went back to the church and told the bridal party it wasn't happening and got his buddies to come and move all her stuff out the next day. She said that while her dad wasn't the best father in her teens, he was the best dad anyone could ask for that day."
8. "[I] went to a lovely wedding of a friend of mine. It was a classic fairytale style wedding. Big white dress for the bride, tux for the groom, horrible dresses for the bridesmaids, family friend as the priest, you know the drill. The ceremony goes well — no crying babies, no interrupting ex-lovers, and the vows have nearly everyone crying. And then, we come to the big question: Do you take this man or woman to be your husband and wife? A simple question, right? Well, the groom decided to be a little romantic. He was going to respond: 'No...I take her as much more than that, as my lover, my wife, and my very best friend.' Unfortunately, he didn't get that far."
"He says, 'No, I do not' and before he can finish, his fiancé begins to scream at him, and in about the space of two minutes, we find out that she stole money from him and made a little nest egg, had been cheating on him for the last year with three different guys, and made about a dozen insults to the guy's physical appearance. She then storms off out of the church with her bridesmaids in tow.
The groom is just left stunned at the altar. For about 30 seconds, no one moves...no one says a word...barely anyone breathes. We can just about hear the bride screaming outside and then...silence.
And what does the groom do? He BURSTS out laughing, and I mean properly laughs until he's holding his sides; he then walks to the middle of the altar and says this unbelievable speech.
'Ok everyone, well since the wedding isn't going ahead, I hope you don't mind if I say a few words. To the bride's parents, you both owe me a drink, and I prefer a nice pint of Guinness. To the friends I have made thanks to my now ex-fiancé, there is no ill will to any of you....
Now, my best man, Sean is single, so ladies if you're interested, he loves music and basketball.
And lastly, to the reception, by my count we have a well-stocked bar, a hotel full of waiters, and a great meal ahead, so what do you say we go to the hotel, get everyone suitably drunk, and celebrate a new start to life? Any objections?'
No one says a word so the groom grabs his best man, and we all go to the hotel and have an absolute ball, people get drunk, eat great food, and when it came to the dance of the bride and groom, the groom got his parents and the bride's parents to dance.
And after the reception, he left with five of his friends and went on his honeymoon. It was a great party."
9. "I'm a bit hazy on the details since I was 8 when this happened, but in 2006, I was attending my cousin's wedding, and she was getting married to this guy she met about six months prior. It was definitely an expensive wedding. Prior to the ceremony, there was practically a circus outside waiting to entertain. Anyway, once the ceremony started, they said all the general, common things for a wedding, but once it was the groom's turn to say his vows, he just froze all of a sudden. He stood still, staring in his fiancé's eyes for five minutes and then promptly sprinted down the aisle and into the road. He took a golf cart that happened to be on the grounds and drove off. Apparently, he was divorced, but he didn't get over his ex-wife, so he tried to get her back."
10. "My pastor once officiated a wedding. He had done all the premarital counseling for the couple; they seemed good to go and fine. Got to the altar, he did his opening prayer and welcome. He gets to the part when he says, 'Do you take this woman to be your wife?' and the guy looked at her, back and him, and said, 'No.'"
"Pastor laughed a little and repeated the question thinking he misunderstood, but the guy stopped him and said, 'No, I don't.' He took the groom aside to a back room, where the guy essentially said that he couldn't do it, that the bride and her mother had manipulated the whole wedding, and he had been too chicken to stand up to her before, but that he couldn't throw his life away. They brought in both families, and had a very real conversation, and then, the pastor had to go back out and explain to the very uncomfortable congregation that there would be no wedding today, that the guests could help themselves to some refreshments, but that the rest of the evening's events were canceled."
11. "It happened to my sister. He lost his bottle (editor's note: a term common in the UK meaning to lose one's nerve) and didn't show. He was a turd anyway. I, as one of her three brothers, joined the other two on a bit of a manhunt, but we didn't find him; he was apparently already out of town. My sister didn't really react at first, but my father, several thousand out of pocket, wasn't so quiet. The groom's family, friends, and relatives all apologetically and sheepishly melted away as our lot went on for the meal and a drink. Our father ended up being arrested for basically threatening to wipe out his family over the whole thing a few weeks later, and my sister held her head up throughout, came out with her dignity, and carried on. If you're out there, Tim, we still haven't forgotten what a cowardly shit you are."
12. "I attended a wedding where the bride was left at the altar. Man, it was sad, and odd. There was a pretty large audience. Soon enough, the time to start comes and goes. Everyone in the audience is sitting there waiting at least 30-60 minutes after the ceremony was supposed to begin...all with no official word from the wedding party or why there was such a long delay. Rumors started going around. People were saying that one of the groomsmen stained his shirt, and a bunch of other stuff that indicated nothing serious. Finally, the bride's father, tears in his eyes, gets up on stage to announce that the groom has had a change of heart."
"Needless to say, it was pretty shocking. But he told everyone to go on ahead to the reception and eat (full dinner) because the food had already been paid for so someone might as well enjoy it. I couldn't believe it, but the bride actually showed up at the reception and greeted EVERYONE — with a smile, no less. The groom did not make an appearance.
The bride got married a few years later (to a guy with the same first name, oddly), but the groom is still single to this day. Apparently, he was never truly ready to get married, but he couldn't bring himself to say anything until the pressure finally got to him on the Big Day. He got a LOT of flack from friends (and strangers who didn't even know them), naturally, but the two of them ended up agreeing that since he wasn't ready, then it was a good thing that he did not commit. Though he definitely regrets the way he led her on.
The strangest part of the whole day? The wedding was on April 1st."
13. "My sister was left at the altar on her wedding. I was about 13, her maid of honor. He just said 'No' and walked out when asked if he would take her to be his wife."
"It was horrible after. He joined the Army and got married, like, six months later, and my sister moved back in with us. She stayed in my room and would cry herself to sleep every night for months. ... It's been 10 years, and she's now married to a guy we all really love."
14. "I was left at the altar. ... We were together for six years at that point and engaged for four. There was no signs that it was going to happen. ... We'd get together on Sundays for BBQ and planning. He was so excited. He'd talk about how awesome it was going to be to have a small ceremony then a picnic and a big bonfire. How we didn't need any of that other stuff since our love was real."
"After an hour of waiting, it was obvious. He called me and said he just couldn't do it. I stood before everyone and explained that he got cold feet but we can still have the picnic! Which we did. I walked around in my wedding dress joking about his cold feet. After all, [after] six years, I knew him well.
The weirdest thing? We never brought it up. Like ever. He was watching TV when I got back from our wedding like nothing was unusual. He moved out a week later, but two months later, asked to come back. I let him. Life continued.
About a year and a half later, I got in a bad car wreck. I was in a coma for a bit. He came to visit, but as soon as I was up and starting the first rounds of surgery (spinal issues), he told me he just didn't love me enough to go through with being there for me. I acted the same way I did when he left me at the altar. He left me in the hospital just like at the altar. It was almost eight years I was with him. Our families were close. I honestly thought we'd come together again. Never did.
I healed and grew emotionally. It's so hard when half of you is missing, and we had grown so much into one another. I took classes. Learned to kayak. Cried. Got new friends. Went dancing. Dated. I found my husband two years after the other abandoned me. I learned that having history with someone and feeling familiar and safe isn't always enough. I have never had more fun with anyone like I do with my husband. We live an adventurous and happy life. The life I would've had with my ex was predictable, but that's not what I wanted. Who I was and who I wanted was just not him, but I didn't know that. He did.
His abandoning me at the hospital and leaving me at the altar was the greatest gift I never wanted."
15. "The guy I was supposed to marry just didn't show up at all. He called all of his friends and family on his side, and told them not to bother showing up because he wouldn't be there. We waited around 'til about an hour after the wedding started, and finally got a text message saying he wasn't coming. So, I got to look like a jerk by telling my family, 'Oh, sorry, there won't be a wedding today.' It was mortifying. And to top things off, my son was asking me why his daddy didn't want to marry mommy. Very hard to explain that to a 2-year-old."
16. "I was about 7 and was a flower girl with my sister for a wedding. It was being held in the garden of a country club in Los Angeles. Well, being as it's southern California, no one expected bad weather. It began to pour, and the bride requested the wedding be moved indoors. The groom FLIPPED. Went on and on about how he was going to have an outdoor wedding, etc. The argument was so bad that the wedding was called off. I just remember it being really awkward and someone announcing it on the PA system as we all sat in the banquet hall waiting for the rain to let up. The couple then married a month later in Vegas, but I have no idea how they're doing now. My guess is the groom was really drunk, but who knows?"
17. "My ex's sister was getting married to this asshole. He was a total ass, and no one in the family liked him. He hid his pregnant ex-girlfriend from her for the first six months of their relationship and even said the baby wasn't his when it was. Such a drama-filled relationship that we should have known the wedding was going to be wild."
"Two years into the relationship, he proposes. But doesn't want a big wedding — only family at the courthouse. She says okay. The day of the wedding, he will not answer his phone. She calls him 50 times while her whole family is on standby wondering if they should continue to get ready. Finally, he answers and says he cannot get married because his daughter's mother found out and is going to take the baby away. So, she walks back into the house devastated and says, okay, it is off. She then proceeds to cry and talk hella shit.
Then, a week later, I get a call where she starts off saying, 'Don't hate me!' My response is, 'Okay, what happened?' The groom who jilted her came back and professed his love. He wanted to go to a casino in Nevada to get married. She says okay. So, a secret trip is taken so just immediate family can go. At this point, everyone is wondering if the wedding is going to happen. We were sworn to secrecy and told not to answer our phones all weekend. She wanted to make sure if he called it off again, then no one would know. The wedding did take place that weekend.
But six months later, the marriage is called off, and the divorce was filed. Felt like I was in a novella!!"
18. "I was a wedding coordinator at a Catholic church in Manhattan. Our church was booked for a large wedding party from Connecticut; they told us to expect at least 500 people as the bride and the groom came from large Italian families. When the day of their wedding came, the only people who showed up were members of the groom's side of the family."
"It was odd because we had seen the bride the night before at the wedding rehearsal, and everything seemed fine. But the next day, the bride and her party were no-shows. The groom tried his best to keep his composure. In an effort to track down the bride, the groom had his friends and family and myself call anyone who might have a clue as to where she went. Minutes passed, and eventually, hours passed. The groom begged me to let the current party stay in hopes that his bride-to-be would show up. I let his party stay an extra 15 minutes before I had to kick them all out and prepare for the next wedding that afternoon. We never learned of what happened to the bride. Her absence remains a mystery today."
19. "My dad's nephew (who we will call J) had a rough childhood. His mother (my aunt) was very abusive and controlling. He had many siblings, and his mother would tie them up in their bed so she could go out with her man of the night. Every time he bought a girl home to present to his mom, she would always reject every single one. Eventually, he found the one he was destined to be with and didn't care about his mother's approval."
"My dad, who was a father-figure to J, helped with the wedding plans and the ceremony. It was nothing special since they were a very poor family living in rural Mexico. My mom said that for once in his life, everything was clicking in place, and nothing could go wrong. He stood waiting for her at the altar for an hour, wearing this fake smile that was slowly slipping away. We found out that she left him because she saw how manipulative and abusive his mom was, and...she couldn't live with such a person. All the food that was prepared went to waste.
Just a month after, he had a confrontation with his mom saying how she was the one who drove her away and how he resents how badly she has mistreated him and his siblings. He ran away, and nobody knew where he went. Eventually, my father located him and found out that he was here in the States and was currently living in New York. My dad contacted J, but J refused to give his exact location. He said he didn't want to associate himself with the family who scared away his love. My dad has tried many times to call him, but he never picks up. He'll talk only when he wants to, and to this day, we don't know where he exactly is, but he's in New York.
My aunt still controls her children's decisions to this day. I have a 50-year-old cousin who still hasn't married because his mom doesn't approve of any of the girls he brings. My dad's family is all kinds of messed up."
20. "My aunt was left at the altar — her husband just basically never showed up for the wedding. They had been dating for almost two years and lived together for one of them. He was the one who suggested getting married. She described the experience almost like having a heart attack. One of the happiest days of her life turned into her worst nightmare."
"She has dealt with abandonment issues for years and has seen many therapists. Her biggest problem now is she doesn't believe anyone actually loves her. She doesn't think she's pretty, nice, and rarely speaks. She used to be one of the most outgoing people I know. I still love her, but this was three years ago, and I'm losing hope fast. TL;DR: Don't leave anyone at the altar, please."
21. And finally, let's end on a story with a happy ending: "My wife's friend ran during Mass. We sat there shocked, not knowing what to do or say. Do we just leave? What is the etiquette? Is there even etiquette to follow? She came back after about 10 minutes, after she and her mom got her wedding gown off and on again. Turns out, after drinking, greasy food, and nerves, she was experiencing severe GI distress and didn't want to chance it. Years later, we still laugh. At the time, it was one of the most awkward things to sit through. ... Yes, still happily married. She did tell the groom, but the rest of us had no idea until the reception. The bride is pretty blunt, and that's how we know what really happened."
Do you have any wild wedding stories? Let us know in the comments!
Submissions have been edited for length/clarity.