This Breakup Expert Cancels People's Weddings for a Living
For most, the months leading up to a wedding are equal parts excitement and anticipation. Amid the stressors of table plans and flower arrangements most soon-to-weds can’t wait to make a public declaration of their love. Yet with quarantine restrictions currently in place, many brides with upcoming weddings might instead by beset with worry. Venues are having to cope with a flurry of cancelations, and nuptials planned to take place with an extravagantly large guest list are now being held on Zoom. But what if you’re feeling uncertain about an upcoming wedding for another reason altogether? What if there’s a niggling doubt that you’ve made the right decision? What if you ultimately decide that it’s time to call the whole thing off?
No one knows how hard ending an engagement can be better than Natalia Juarez. After she called off her own wedding in 2010, she began to think about how she could help people in a similar situation.
“I called off my engagement just months before turning 30,” she says. “I was heartbroken, socially humiliated, and terrified of having to start my whole life over. I became obsessed with learning about how to process and grow from heartbreak, and I realized that it didn’t have to be as hard as it is for most people. I felt a strong desire to help other people through their own romantic hardships.”
In 2013, and with years of researching heartbreak behind her (which included going on 88 dates, seeing astrologers and tarot readers, enlisting multiple therapists and the aid of a $10,000 life coach), Juarez set up a breakup coaching service of her own. By founding Lovistics, she planned to use her personal experience to guide others through similar situations, and she’s been cited everywhere from Good Morning America to Vice on the subject of surviving a breakup. But rather than finding that the clients who contacted her all wanted help moving on from an ex (or winning one back, which is another of her specialties), she discovered that the need for her services was broader than she had anticipated. Plenty of people needed a hand disentangling themselves from the process of getting married altogether. Calling caterers, canceling dresses — can't be fun when every conversation is centered on the dissolution of your relationship. Why not outsource all that?
“I started helping men and women call off their weddings and engagements in 2017,” she says. “The process of calling off a wedding goes against much of what we have come to associate with them – they are supposed to be joyous occasions, the greatest day of your life. Yet for as long as people have been getting married, people have also been calling off weddings. The difference is that people don’t like to talk about it.”
For Sophie*, whose daughter unexpectedly called off her wedding weeks before it was due to take place, the social stigma surrounding the cancelation was an important consideration.
“When you call off a wedding at the last minute, the reaction from most people is shock,” she explains. “As a society we are used to breakups and divorces, but when you call off a wedding it’s considered scandalous and shocking. I was so depleted in my own capacity to navigate the situation. I felt the pressure to notify people straight away, but was worried about their questions and causing gossip. When I looked up how to handle this, I found very little information out there.”
Sophie had played a significant part in organizing and paying for her daughter’s wedding, but was caught completely off-guard when the engagement was called off. Feeling responsible for unmaking the carefully laid plans, and overwhelmed by worries about the financial impact and the repercussions for her relationship with her daughter, she contacted Natalia for help.
“I wanted to know how to support my daughter through one of the most emotional times of her life,” she says. “I didn’t want to be mad at her but I was – financially this was a huge hit and I didn’t understand why she was doing it. Natalia was able to give me some insight into how my daughter was feeling and help me to navigate the logistics of wedding cancelation. She guided me on what to say to guests, and helped me to figure out what my role was and what was my responsibility as the financial provider for the wedding. She gave me direction and perspective and an idea of what I needed to tackle now versus what I could tackle later.”
For anyone who needs a little help extricating themselves from a relationship, Natalia offers one-off sessions as well as more long-term plans. Her programs were already well set up for a socially distanced world, consisting of a series of 60-minute phone calls, and Natalia also puts together a 90-day plan to help her clients deal with the end of the relationship and the practical side of a wedding cancelation.
Single sessions with Natalia start at $180, while her longer-term recovery program starts at $1,500. For the larger price tag, clients have access to 24/7 text and email support, a service that Natalia says takes into account the all-consuming nature of ending an engagement.
“Once I’ve worked with a client on making sure that they are taking care of themselves, the next step is to develop an action plan,” she says. “We start by outlining all of the logistics involved, big and small. We then prioritize the tasks and start delegating. Most people don’t know that there is an established etiquette for calling off a wedding.”
Natalia says that the volume of clients approaching her for help breaking off a wedding has steadily increased over the past two years, and she now gets at least half a dozen inquiries per month on the subject. As well as contacting vendors, canceling the cake, and informing guests, there are emotional decisions to be made. For Natalia’s clients, these can sometimes be the most difficult.
“Two major topics that come up are what to do with the engagement ring and wedding dress,” she says. “I find that brides or grooms want to discuss early on about how to handle this, and they find it helpful to know that there are guidelines for these complicated matters. The topic of what to do with the wedding dress is a very personal and emotional decision and there’s really no right way to handle it. Many of the ex-brides I spoke with actually told me that they still had their dresses and were planning on potentially wearing it at their next wedding.”
With Natalia’s help, Sophie was able to recover some of the costs of her daughter’s wedding and managed to negotiate holding an alternative family event at the former venue. More importantly, she was able to rebuild her relationship with her daughter in a time of immense stress, tension, and blame.
“Natalia validated that my feelings were OK, which was important to me in a time when I was being hard on myself,” Sophie says. “She told me that my daughter needed to hear that I loved her and I would stand by her, even when I was angry and upset. I now feel that my daughter is the bravest person I know – she called the wedding off because she knew that something was wrong, and I’m so proud of her for that.”
*Name has been changed for privacy.