20 Percent of All Weddings are Called Off—Here's Why

Plus: ten harrowing stories of how things fell apart.

A common dramatic trope in movies involves a bride or groom bailing on their wedding day, often to pursue the person they really wanted all along. But as anyone who has been more than one wedding knows, this classic rom-com device rarely seems to happen in real life. (Thankfully, since it's pretty heart-wrenching for the person being dumped.)

But according to an exclusive survey conducted by specialist diamond buyers WP Diamonds, who polled 1,000 people between ages of 20 and 60 across the US, this happens more often than people might realize—though not necessarily at the altar. According to their findings, a whopping 20 percent of all engagements are called off before the wedding.

The responses of a Reddit thread from people who have broken off engagements shed light on the phenomenon, and indicate that, oftentimes, the decision stemmed from something seemingly small that happened over the course of the weeks leading up to the big day, something that signaled to them that it just wasn't right.

Some realized that their partner was more in love with the idea of marriage than they were with them. Others got the axe from someone who had commitment phobia red flags from the start. Sometimes, however, the reasons for calling things off aren't quite so clearcut.

Whatever the reasons for the breakup, it seems like most people feel pretty good about their choices. According to the survey, 82.7 percent of people don't regret breaking up, and only 7.6 percent of people blame themselves for a failed relationship. Around 40 percent said it was the other persons' fault, and the same number of people think both parties are to blame.

Of those who did break up, however, one out of four people believe that a willingness to compromise would have saved the relationship. Other factors that people said would have helped was better communication, greater self-awareness, more time together, and less societal pressure, so those are good things to keep in mind. To hear some of the worst engagement break-up stories, courtesy of Reddit, read on below. And to find out if your romance is doomed, check out 20 Relationship Warning Signs Smart Couples Never Ignore.

In Love with Love

woman breaking off engagement

"Seemingly out of the blue, my best friend says to me 'Dude, I am not going to come between you and your fiancée. I am not going to even give an opinion. Just next time somebody asks you what about getting married you are most looking forward to, compare her answers to yours,'" one user wrote. "I didn't get it, but sure enough a few weeks later, somebody at some family function asked me. I said 'I love her, and can't wait to have the security of knowing that for the rest of my life she will be with me.' A little while later, I heard somebody ask her, and eavesdropped on the conversation: 'I can't wait to have a husband, I will get a new ring, we'll get a house, I'll have a couple kids, maybe a puppy… A nice yard….' Nothing about me. Nothing about love, partnership, sharing our lives together. My best friend told me that it's what he's observed, too. Many times. It was never about me. I called off the wedding, and broke things off with her. We put the house we just purchased—but never moved in to—back on the market. She met some guy within days on a dating website. Two days after the house sold, they got engaged (it was only 4.5 months after we split up). She now has a husband, a house, three kids, and her new ring. I have my happiness." To make sure you never find yourself in this situation, learn the 15 Signs Your Partner Is Marriage Material (or Not).

Classic Commitment-phobe

man cheating on spouse

"We met through work. I knew him for about a year before we finally got together," one user wrote. "I should have known beforehand that it was a bad idea, as he had been engaged within a few months of us getting together, and broke it off seemingly for no reason. We spent 4 1/2 years together, during which time I was honestly the happiest I've ever been. He asked me to marry him while we were having a huge dinner with a group of friends—wrote me a poem, gave me the ring, along with a necklace and earrings. It felt nice to feel loved and share the moment with all of our friends and family. The last month of our relationship (about 6 months after the engagement), a new girl started at his work. He was a manager, and was the one assigned to teach her the ropes. She was gorgeous—and very much like me, in almost every way. I noticed he would come home smelling like perfume. He was constantly talking about how 'amazing' she was, and how he thought they could be 'great friends.' I left for vacation with my family a month after she started. I was gone for a week. Three days into my trip, I get a text that he doesn't know if he can be with me anymore. He was 'confused.' I spent the rest of my trip trying to call or text or interact with him, to no avail. He didn't want to talk to me. He'd answer and tell me so. He left me the day I came back from vacation—showed up at my house, asked for his stuff (and the ring), and left. Three months later, I came across the girl he worked with, at the mall. She came up to me, apologized for getting in the way, then showed off the 'amazing ring [he] bought for her.' You guessed it. My engagement ring. In the end, he left her for someone else too. Probably recycled the ring again." And for more horrifying breakup stories, don't miss the 20 Dumbest Ways Men Have Been Busted Cheating.

Not on Parallel Tracks

Proposal , Bad Dating Marriage Tips

"It was a hard choice. We seemed so perfect for each other," one user wrote. "The fact was that I was moving forward with my life and she was staying put where she was turned into a detriment. I felt like she would be a leech on my finances, even though I cared deeply for her. I tried to encourage her to keep moving forward, but by the end she only saw me as a nag. It was the hardest thing I ever done—and I still wonder if I made the right choice."

A Pretty Big Secret

note saying engagement is over

"I sold almost everything I owned, quit my two jobs, and took out a loan to move my fiancée to Florida from New York," one user wrote. "It was her dream. And I loved her, so I made it happen. I wasn't loving Florida, but I was making the best of it. I was out with a friend for a bachelor party; we all got drunk and went to the strip club. Well, twenty minutes later, ladies and gentle[men], please welcome Lilly to the stage. Only Lilly wasn't just any girl named Lilly. Lilly was my fiancée. Lilly was Lilly because of the tattoo of her favorite flower of lilies—that I paid for. I absolutely lost it. Luckily, some of my more sober friends removed me from the club. She lied to me and told me she worked nights at a bar, which I knew she did, but I guess it was very part-time. I stayed with a friend for a few days. I talked to her once. She admitted to being a stripper for a while. Needless to say, I was done. My dad came to Florida, swiped a credit card for a rental truck, packed my things up, and moved me back to New York three days later."

Unenthusiastic Proposal

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"We had already been living together for three years," one user wrote. "His proposal was something like, 'I guess you want to get married?' and he acted like he would do something special after that, but he never did. There were a lot of things that went wrong and we fought more than ever. He cheated while he had been working out of state. He finally moved out. It was really hard, despite being a very good thing, but I knew he'd be married within a year. And he was. Some woman was dumb enough to marry and have kids with him, and he is still a drunk who blows his paycheck at the bar every week. I'm just glad that it's not my problem anymore."

It Just Wasn't Right

Ghost, sad woman

"I thought about what it would be like at our wedding—how he would look, his outpouring of love for me, and how I would feel—a small sense of comfort because of how familiar he was to me, but mostly a sense of grim resignation," one user wrote. "Not, 'Oh how happy I am to be marrying this person,' but 'This is the decision I have made.' I think if marrying him were the right thing to do, I would have felt excited and happy about it." If you're feeling the same way about your partner, check out 15 Signs You Should Definitely Be Single.

Secret Texts

habits after 40

"I caught him telling another woman that he was thinking about breaking up with me after we had a long night of passionate sex," one user wrote. For more on how to see the infidelity train coming at you, check out Why Men Cheat.

A Marriage of Convenience

workaholic couple Bad Dating Marriage Tips

"I had decided way before we actually broke off the engagement. It was a little like a rabbit hole," one user wrote. "We talked about moving in together. We went to look at one apartment. We got a copy of the lease. Then, somehow, it just happened. We were signing a lease the next week. We talked about maybe looking at rings, then he was on one knee. We were already living together—how could I possibly say no? I said yes. Then, I realized this wasn't what I wanted. I had never wanted it. It was convenient. It was right there in front of me. I called it off. Now? I'm living with a man that I hope I have the privilege of one day marrying. If you worry it's not good enough, enough to really start a fire in your heart, it's not good enough."

The Soap Opera

Cheating Regrets

"I got engaged to my pregnant girlfriend. Four months before the wedding, she called it off, saying she doesn't feel the love anymore," one user wrote. "A week after that, I came home early from my second job to surprise her and see if we can work things out, and I found her in bed with the guy who would have been my best man. Turns out, they've been shacking up for six months and she planned to leave me for him as soon as he broke things off with his wife (who was to be her maid of honor). I decided to speed up the process by telling his wife what I found and, instead of leaving her, the guy ditches my fiancée to try to salvage his marriage." For more on the prospect of infidelity, read Why Women Cheat.

Bad Best Man

habits after 40

"My best friend stopped us from getting married. By using his penis," one user wrote.

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Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more
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