Savvy womens Magazine

The Runaway Bride

You may have heard about Jennifer Wilbanks, the real-life runaway bride, who went out for a jog and kept on going just four days before her wedding.

by Judith Sherven, Ph.D. and James Sniechowski, Ph.D.

When a bride has to run away from home in order to remove herself from the fearful concerns and stress brought on by her impending wedding, perhaps it's time we rethink the pressures of modern day wedding fever.

Four days before her wedding day bride Jennifer Wilbanks started  out jogging, but then continued her run on the public bus system, ending up 1,420 miles from home.

According to press accounts she claimed that she suffered intense pressure about the 600-guest gala event and needed time alone.

Her time alone resulted in a media blitz that reported she might have been kidnapped or perhaps even murdered by her fianc'. But, far from the public spotlight, what Jennifer really needed was help preparing herself emotionally for her impending marriage and approaching her wedding from a mature perspective.

Rather than designing a wedding that would focus on the love and commitment between her husband-to-be John Mason and herself, she succumbed to believing that a large-scale theatrical production was what was important. Featuring twenty-eight wedding attendants -- fourteen bridesmaids and fourteen groomsmen -- her wedding drove Jennifer over the brink, as it has for many brides. Though usually we never learn about it in such a public and dramatic fashion.

Being upset, fearful, and having cold feet isn't part of the idealized perfection promoted by wedding fever. Sadly, Jennifer could not find it in herself to share her concerns with anyone, most particularly her fianc'.

Yet many brides and grooms aren't prepared to address the very real and troublesome feelings that arise as they approach the big day.

Because Jennifer and John were already living together, we would hope that they could have been far more open and trusting with each other than it appears. If so, Jennifer would not have had to suffer in a self-imposed silence, struggling with her anguish, isolated from the man she claimed to love and who claimed to love her. We say "claimed" because the dramatic loneliness that Jennifer exhibited is the antithesis of real love and emotional intimacy. The basis for companionship, happiness, and success in marriage had already been violated by Jennifer's inability to share her troubles with John.

Part of their problem, as we said, may be the result of perfection-driven fantasy expectations that surround the modern wedding. Our forthcoming book, The Smart Couple's Guide for the Wedding of Your Dreams: Planning Together for Less Stress and More Joy (New World Library November 2005) is dedicated to helping the wedding couple discover the true meaning of their unique wedding. It is essential that they be grounded in reality, establishing the cooperative power-sharing that will become the basis for the kind of marriage they want.

Instead of this rightful focus on the bride and groom's relationship, for too long weddings have been burdened by the perceived need to impress and entertain the guests -- as if the guests were the important stars of the show.

For too long the bride has carried the burden of planning and preparation without the supportive partnership of the groom. That must change. A wedding should never be a time for the bride and groom to feel separated from each other. And a wedding should never be a Las Vegas theatrical at the expense of the meaning to which two people have committed.

Weddings can only support the couple and the marriage they are creating when the ceremony, and the vows, are the central event of the day.

Perhaps Jennifer Wilbanks will have helped turn around this faulty and mis-guided notion that a good wedding is a big wedding, a fancy-shmancy wedding, a day to keep tongues wagging for months.

When weddings are expected to express and hold the faith and trust of the bride and groom, when guests are expected to bear witness to the sacred pact that is the heart of the ritual, then we, as a society, will have begun to support marriages right from their beginning moments.

In the mean time, we hope that Jennifer and John will seek out a good marriage counselor and learn how to communicate and share themselves

with intimate care and trust.

About the Authors:
Husband and wife Judith Sherven, Ph.D. and James Sniechowski, Ph.D. are the best-selling authors of Be Loved for Who You Really Are, The New Intimacy, and Opening to Love 365 Days a Year. They teach a variety of relationship workshops and teleseminars as well as consult to businesses. Visit their website at


Read more of Judith & Jim's relationship advice. . .