My Fiancé Dumped Me a Month Before the Wedding, So I Turned It Into a Charity Event

Dana's mom, Karen, dancing with the guests!
Dana’s mom, Karen, dancing with the guests!

The person I thought was the love of my life called off our wedding one month before we were supposed to get married.

I’m trying to think of something funny to say about it, but I’m not quite there yet. I’m making super-gentle jokes, like “I’ll probably be ready to go on Tinder in about 15 years” and “Well, I didn’t faint today, so that’s a score.” Actually, you can’t really call those jokes. They’re basically my small way of showing my family and friends that I still kind of have a personality and I’m probably not going to kill myself.

Even though I’m not really in a jokey mood, I want to tell this story because I’d never heard anything like it. Weddings get cancelled — I get it — but not like this.

I thought my ex and I were happy together. We had known each other for 15 years and been in a serious relationship for the last three of them. We were engaged for a year, and we were going to get married six weeks from when he dumped me.

Invitations were out. Three weeks before he broke up with me, we bought wedding rings. Five days before he broke up with me, we met with our would-be wedding photographer. Three days before he broke up with me, we asked some of his family members to play music at our ceremony. On a Sunday, we opened our reply cards and sipped on champagne while talking about who was going to get the most drunk at our wedding.

That Wednesday, he walked into our apartment and told me we weren’t getting married.

I don’t think there’s anyone in the world who would have said of us, “Yeah, I could have seen that coming.” We were happy. At least, I was happy, and we looked happy on the outside. That’s all I can know.

You’re probably thinking that I’m delusional. I’m not. (I know, I know; that’s exactly what a delusional person would say. But really.) Of course we had issues. Every couple has issues. We argued about stupid things. We had our moments of tension. I also believed we had a beautiful, loving relationship that we were going to honor with marriage and bless with children.

He, obviously, had other plans.

It’s been six weeks since he called off our wedding. We were supposed to get married last Saturday. I’ve been driving myself crazy trying to figure out what happened. But I’ve come to realize that I will never know why a person I loved — and who loved me back — doesn’t want to marry me. All I know is that he doesn’t.

So what’s a girl to do?

Well, you’ve still gotta throw a party.

The day after my ex dropped the bomb that I was a bride-not-to-be, I realized that not only was my heart broken, but I was broke. My family had paid for what was supposed to be a beautiful, fun, 250-person wedding. We were out tens of thousands of nonrefundable dollars. (His family had also paid for a small portion of the wedding — they were out some cash, too.)

I spent the next few days trying to figure out how we were going to manage to not throw a bunch of money down a super-sad drain. (I also spent a fair amount of time crying and drawing in therapeutic coloring books, but that’s neither here nor there.) The venue we’d booked made it clear that just because we were planning to have a wedding that night didn’t mean we were contracted to have a wedding. We could do whatever we wanted with the venue. We’d paid; it was ours for the night. It was also too late to cancel the band; they were ours, too.

I’ve heard of cancelled weddings being turned into birthday parties, anniversary parties, “Yay, I’m Single Now” parties, but I didn’t want any of that. I didn’t have anything to celebrate. Still, I wanted someone to have a good night.

I started to think about who would appreciate a good party. My family and friends and I weren’t exactly in the mood to go wild, but I knew there were all sorts of people in the city who would love a night out.

My parents and I decided to donate the event to an organization in Seattle called Mary’s Place, a homeless shelter in Seattle that focuses on helping women and their children find permanent housing, employment, and hope for the future. (Mary’s Place is rad; if you live in the Seattle area and you’re looking for volunteer or donation opportunities, check out their website.)

Of course, I know that one night of dinner and dancing isn’t going to make a huge difference in these women’s lives. But hey, at least they got to get their hair done, eat some good food, and put on their dancing shoes. The event was my family’s small attempt to turn what’s been an awful situation for us into something positive for other people.

And I’ve gotta say, throwing the party has pushed me into a better state of mind. I don’t know how, exactly, but turning the would-be wedding into an event for women in transition has made me feel a little less desolate. It’s helped distract me from the fact that I’m a jilted bride, that a broken engagement will always be part of my life story. It’s taken me out of my head, which has not been a fun place to be. And as corny as it sounds, it’s made me feel like part of a sisterhood.

My mom attended the event. And between the two of us, she definitely should have been the one to go; she worked incredibly hard to plan the never-gonna-happen wedding, and she worked even harder to transition it into an entirely different event with just over a month left to go. She told me it was just as amazing as we wanted it to be. As soon as the band started playing, the kids rushed out onto the dance floor. My mom said the families had a blast.

And as for me? I didn’t go. If I were a badass, I’d have gone to the event that was supposed to be my wedding and danced my face off with a bunch of awesome women.

But I’m kind of a wimp, so I did the only thing I could think to do on that sad Saturday night: Xanax and chill.

Dana Olsen’s post appeared on xoJane on January 19, 2016. Dana’s generous gift to the families of Mary’s Place was covered locally by KING 5, KIRO 7, KOMO 4, and the Seattle Times.

No Child Sleeps Outside

screen-shot-2016-09-14-at-3-28-23-pmThe number of homeless families visiting Mary’s Place began to increase quickly five years ago. It was heartbreaking to watch families leave our day center in the afternoon, knowing they had nowhere to go – no safe place to spend the night. We listened to these moms and got to work. We added night shelter and have grown to six locations housing 200 family members through community partnerships with congregations, other shelter providers, local businesses, and the City of Seattle. Our model is simple: partner with anyone and everyone who will help homeless women, children, and families and to create permanent housing and healing.

We can meet the need with your help! We can open a crisis response family shelter for 100 family members if we raise $500,000.

There are over 400 families, approximately 1,100 individual family members, sleeping outside right now in King County. Tonight, we provide beds for 400 moms, dads and kids – our goal is to have 500 beds by the end of 2016, 750 beds in three years, and a total of 1,100 beds within five years.screen-shot-2016-09-14-at-3-29-05-pm

Impact

We started in 1999 as a day center for single women; today we operate two day centers and six crisis response family shelters. We do this with lots of help from our 3,510 volunteers, 164 corporate partners, 64 foundations, 125 nonprofits, 113 congregations, and 4,759 donors.

With over 95,000 visits to Mary’s Place in 2015, we were able to provide:

  • 60,000+ bed nights
  • 200,000 mealsscreen-shot-2016-09-14-at-3-29-47-pm
  • treatment for 1,841 medical conditions
  • 6,572 clean loads of laundry
  • connections to stable housing for 112 families
  • 1,985 employment services

Corporate Sponsorship

With our yearlong calendar of events and activities, we have been able to raise the funds to increase the number of beds and to expand our programs.

Spring Benefit Luncheon Attendance has grown from 500 to over 900 people in 2016. This year, Amazon founder & CEO Jeff Bezos offered a $1,000,000 one-day matching grant to coincide with the luncheon. Thanks to donations large and small we met our goal!

No Child Sleeps Outside Crowdfunding Campaign Over the last two years Mary’s Place has raised $750,000 in partnership with over 40 leading corporate sponsors and 1,500 individual donors. The ground-breaking campaign reaches 200,000 charitable donors onscreen-shot-2016-09-14-at-3-27-19-pm Facebook with over 2 million impressions a year to inspire Mary’s Place supporters, and your customers, to insure that No Child Sleeps Outside in Seattle.

Seattle Hotel Association’s “Evening of Hope” Gala & Auction Mary’s Place is the sole beneficiary of this upscale event, hosted by the Seattle Hotel Association. This themed event draws hundreds of Seattle’s elite who come in costume for dinner and silent & live auctions.

Mary’s Place hosts several smaller events each year, including the Holly Jolly Holiday Party, Bingo for Beds, Brunch for Beds, and the new Steven Hauschka Celebrity Ping Pong Tournament that provide additional underwriting opportunities.

Beyond Sponsorship

Employee Volunteering & Employee Giving Corporate teams and individuals come to Mary’s Place to help with housing and job applications, practice interview skills, create resumes, serve lunch, play with kids, help with homework, and much more. Organized volunteer projects inspire, and are great for team building.

Many companies include Mary’s Place in their employee giving campaigns, doubling and tripling their giving.

We welcome the opportunity to discuss how you can help join our growing family of corporations ensuring that No Child Sleeps Outside. Please contact Katie Teplicky, Director of Development, at (206) 621-8474 ext. 115 or by email at kteplicky@marysplaceseattle.org.

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Mary’s Place 2015 Corporate Partners

  • Amazon
  • Aramark
  • Bank of America Foundation
  • BNBuilders
  • Brooks Sports
  • Cambia Grove
  • Campbell Nelson
  • Costco
  • Dick’s Drive-In Restaurants
  • Diono
  • Employees Community Fund of Boeing Puget Sound
  • Evergreen Computer Products
  • evo
  • Expedia
  • Globys
  • Harper Engineering
  • HomeStreet Bank
  • Kinzer Partners
  • KPMG
  • Laird Norton Company
  • Lennar Multifamily Communities
  • PEMCO
  • Perkins + Will
  • Perkins Coie
  • Regence
  • Russell Investments
  • Scan|Design Foundation
  • Seattle Seahawks Women’s Association
  • Susman Godfrey
    Virginia Mason
    Vulcan Inc.
    Windermere Foundation

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