Don’t Judge Me For Leaving Your Wedding Early

Raised in a small town nestled in the Carolinas, I am well versed in the art of small talk and southern hospitality. Though social and seemingly extroverted, I’m a highly sensitive introvert. Attending sorority functions in college and being someone’s plus one at elaborate weddings were all things that I didn’t always enjoy, but I accepted them as parts of my life. I had survival strategies for these events, and life went on.

Once I moved to Germany, I had a more difficult time. The huge change involved with moving to another country coupled with culture shock, making new friends, and learning another language challenged my introverted nature every day. Fast-forward to three years later and some things, like speaking German, are almost second nature to me now. Other things, like attending a German wedding, are not.

German Weddings Are Social Marathons

Weddings in Germany begin early in the afternoon and last until the wee hours of the morning. This translates to at least twelve uninterrupted hours of socializing. In the States, I was accustomed to half that amount of time. German weddings are like marathons, and I am but a lowly sprinter who can’t keep up.

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Last weekend, my husband and I drove up to the beautiful Rhine River country in northwestern Germany. One of my husband’s closest friends from university was set to marry the beautiful, kind, and talented woman of his dreams. Would I survive?

Reaching My Social Threshold

The wedding itself took place at 4 p.m. in a stone church that oozed charm, from its flower-covered walls outside to its beautifully frescoed ceiling inside. After the ceremony, guests converged in the church’s grassy courtyard for champagne, followed by a reception in a restaurant with an outdoor Biergarten. After devouring delicious food, I actually enjoyed getting to know some of the friendly people sitting at my table. By 8 p.m., though, I had reached my threshold for socializing.

The sounds of upbeat music and loud conversation throbbed in my ears. The beer began to taste sour, the effort of smiling became more than I could bear, and the questions from well-meaning wedding guests caused my anxiety to spike. My husband suggested sneaking outside a couple of times. Each time I stepped out the door, I felt some of my energy return. But those minutes outside sped by, and they were over in what seemed like seconds.

‘I Can’t Believe You’re Leaving Early’

One aspect of German culture that I still struggle with is the starkly honest things people will say. Strangers and friends alike will say exactly what they think, because it’s straightforward and saves time. This is actually kinder in the end, because a person can find out exactly where they stand without much guesswork.

Unfortunately, one wedding guest’s blunt words had me in tears. After people gave emotional speeches, the bride and groom had their first dance, and the revelry really began, I participated less and less. The people were friendly, but my energy was zapped. The effort of speaking German, smiling as if I was having a blast, and existing in this noisy space were taking their toll.

A bit before midnight, I was unable to take anymore. We said farewell and best wishes to the bride and groom, who were disappointed that we were leaving, but bade us goodbye with hugs. A friend of the bride, who was standing close by, pulled me into a hug and whispered that it was nice to meet me. Feeling flush with pleasure, I hugged her back and told her that it was great to meet her too.

Then came the sucker punch. With one hand on her hip, she looked straight into my eyes with concern and said, “I can’t believe you’re leaving this early. You should really stay. How would you feel if someone did this to you at your own wedding?”

Why Can’t I Just Be ‘Normal’?

I couldn’t breathe. A million thoughts and retorts danced inside my already screaming brain, but of course the only things I was able to respond with were a weak “I’m sorry” and a grimace of pain as I shrugged in apology. I closed the door to the restaurant behind me, as my husband held my hand and walked me to the car. As I slowly sank into the driver’s seat, feeling utterly defeated, the realization of her unkindness hit me like a ton of bricks. I burst into uncontrollable tears. Feelings of inadequacy and shame washed over me.

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Why was I like this? Why couldn’t I just be normal like other people? I felt so selfish and rude, ruining my husband’s night and obviously offending the friend of the bride who wanted the best evening possible for her friend. I apologized to my husband, who then reminded me that I should never have to say sorry for who I am. I’m highly sensitive and introverted, and things affect me more deeply than they do other people.

What I Should Have Said

This is what I should have said to the person who so tactlessly tore me down:

It was nice to meet you too. My heart hurts to leave this party, but it hurts more for me to stay. You may not know it from looking at me, but I am an introvert. Being around strangers and making small talk for hours in another language is something akin to running a marathon for people like me. It drains my energy to the point that I get headaches and anxiety. When I reach that point, it’s unhealthy for me to stay and I’m not fun to be around. I hate that I’ve upset you, but it is unfair of you to expect so much of me when you don’t even know me.

Let me tell you about my own wedding. While my friends and husband were dancing and having cocktails, I snuck away to a quiet outdoor terrace to just talk to one of my friends. My husband understood that I needed to have some quiet time, and didn’t mind. He loves me for who I am, and wouldn’t want me to be someone that I’m not. So when you asked me how I would feel if someone did this to me at my wedding, here is what I would say to the guest who left my wedding early:

“Thank you for coming to our wedding. I am so glad that you traveled all of this way, dressed up in such a nice outfit, and met all my friends and family. Thank you for showing up and doing your best. It means a lot to me that you stayed as long as you did. Don’t feel bad about leaving. Whatever your reason, I’m sure that it’s a good one or you wouldn’t leave. You are a cherished person in my life and I trust your judgment to decide. I am so glad you were here on this day, one of the best days of my life.”

Then I would hug them and let them leave. I hope that before you write someone off as selfish or rude for leaving a party early, you will remember tonight and what I’ve told you. Things aren’t always as they seem, and people are just trying their best.

Wisdom for Myself

I am a good person, and I have a lot of empathy for other people. I hope that in the future I can be kinder not only to myself, but also to others. When someone questions my integrity or my motivation for doing things a certain way, I want to work towards responding with clarity and insight, rather than cowering in fear.

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Read this: I Wasn’t Living My Life Until I Learned to Stay Home


  • Traci says:


    I’ll never understand why it’s okay for extroverts to bully us to conform to their expectations, even if they do so with joviality, but it’s not okay for introverts to simply be who we are and quietly remove ourselves from stressful situations.

    Also, bravo to you for making it through 8 hours of socializing with strangers — in a second language, no less! It would take me a couple days to recover from that (if I were able to speak a second language, that is).

    Thanks for posting.

  • Agnes says:

    Thank you so much for writing this! Apart from being (obviously) introverted, I also have social anxiety. I dread most, if not all, social events that require mingling…but I dread weddings most of all. So much so that I often contemplate perpetual singlehood. The requirement to dance- which I feel no confidence in- makes it absolute torture. I have had two bride friends approach me after their weddings asking why I did not attend. I attend ceremonies just fine, but cannot bring myself to go to a reception, especially when single; bringing a friend does not help when you can’t stay glued to them without looking odd and can’t expect them to leave when you want (which for me is when the dancing begins). I have 2 weddings approaching and know I can’t make an excuse to skip the reception this time. The pattern would become too obvious to others for them to not notice.
    I am relieved to know I am not alone in this…and more relieved to know there’s still a chance someone out there might tolerate me enough to marry me when I’d likely want to leave my own wedding early! Here’s to hoping I can survive yet another wedding!

    • Agnes, thanks for sharing your story, too! It’s hard to admit it when we’ve had enough, but maybe it’s for the best. The times when I’ve hung in there the whole time, people have then assumed that they should invite me to go to clubs or long parties. So either way you look at it, it’s a hard reality to face. But either way, there’s definitely someone out there for you who’s patient, kind, and accepting. There’s a pot for every lid, and it’s worth waiting for!

  • Fiona T says:

    I’m also a highly sensitive introvert who has moved to Germany to be with my partner. How did you get over the hurdles of speaking in a foreign language? I am so highly sensitive and scared to get things wrong that I still am too scared to speak it and therefore improve/learn it better!

    • Fiona, add me on Facebook and I can share what I did to learn the language. Also struggled with learning and speaking German. I’m much shyer in German, so what helped me the most was learning in the right environment where I could perfect my grammar. It took a long time before I was confident enough to participate in conversations with German friends. You’re not alone!

  • Paula Phillips says:

    Hollis Cauble Matyssek
    You are the bomb! Thank you for sharing this! Growing up in our family we were just always around a big crowd and sort of grew into it. But I always harbored these same feelings myself. And most of my family feels the same way you u do with the exception of maybe one. And he is the one who was always shy and with his nose in a book until he was 16 or 17. Can’t wait to read more! Love you

    • Paula, thanks so much! I didn’t know your family has so many introverts. I guess it just proves that sometimes it’s easy to miss! Love and miss you- hope to see you over the holidays!

  • I absolutely love this! Big events are fun for a time but then I get totally drained and it takes a while to recover! I would have cried too if someone said that to me. Thank you for creating such a great response.

    • Thanks for your comment, Elizabeth! I feel your pain. Remember our weekend at Victory Junction, and how they had those free time periods called “Recharge”? I wish jobs and functions had that as well!

  • Anka S. says:

    Wonderful post, Hollis. I felt like I was there with you, and was feeling as burned out and thoroughly spent as you were. As an INFJ/HSP, I really appreciate hearing first-hand how others experience and deal with some of the over-stimulation situations we’re forced into. I used to ask myself the same thing: “Why can’t I just be normal?” But not long ago (I’m 36,) I stopped asking myself that. I stopped because I AM NORMAL. This is MY normal. And I’ll be darned if I’m going to spend my entire life trying to adapt to everyone else’s “normal”, especially when I’ve yet to meet friend or family who would so willingly adapt to MY normal. It’s about give and take, a balance. You went to this wedding, you spent many long hours there being a wonderful guest, you should make no apologies for leaving early. That perfect stranger who sucker-punched you is not in the position to demand any explanations from you. I realized that throughout my introverted life, I had become an Apologist for myself. We should not be this way. We should be proud of who we are. “Sorry” is for when we hurt someone, not for when we do what is right and healthy for ourselves. In this case, you were literally preserving your sanity – should you really feel bad about trying to do that? Should we give others the power to hurt us because we’re trying to keep our health and well-being intact? No. Never. And I would not give any elaborate reasons for my actions to anyone. If they are inherently good/kind people, they will already understand. Empathy is a powerful tool, but not if we let it control us and ruin the quality of our lives. I might suggest we empaths/introverts first learn true empathy for ourselves, so we can recognize all the ways we hurt ourselves when we don’t have to.

    • Anka, thanks for your unique perspective! How did things change for you after you stopped apologizing for yourself? Did you lose some friends, or did people learn to live with the new you? And it’s a great point to make that we should have empathy for ourselves. I’m guilty of sometimes being way too hard on myself.

  • Pati says:

    I am in tears. Cried all the way through, reading this.
    I had to laugh, seeing this in my mailbox.

    Last night, someone who is a spiritual/musical daughter to me got married.
    The music was so loud at the reception, I had to hold my hands over my ears, which made me feel rude.
    We had to shout to have any type of conversation. I knew no one else there. My table, though, were people of a similar profession, and I was hoping to pick their brains and share some stories.

    There were 140 people there. I enjoyed my table very much, but there was just a point I had to go. Do not collect 100 dollars… The pounding of the music, and the pounding of that many people shouting, verbally and non verbally….

    My sweetie was busy throwing things, and I just left without saying a word to her.

    I felt so guilty!!!! I sat in the car, too sick with a headache to drive, trying to gear up to go in and at least give her a quick hug.

    But, yes, hang over. I find that with parties now. I don’t drink. This morning I slept in until 11. I NEVER do that. I woke up and felt drunk and sick. Happens every time now. I have to sit before I can drive, and the next day I feel sick.

    You said it all so very, very well. I wrote my sweetie a long, heart felt apology. I felt so bad!!

    I’m not huge on all these posts on Introverts this, Introverts that….but today, this one, you were an angel on earth. You helped me so much.

    Thank you!!!!!!!

    • Oh, Pati! It sounds like you had a heartbreaking night! But I’m glad you got something from this post and that it gave you some solace. And I’m sure that this girl already knows you’re an introvert and loves you for who you are! Thanks again for your kind words… they were good for my spirit!

  • Jonquil says:

    I never feel sorry for leaving an event early. I bid my adieus and go. Perhaps the customs are different in Germany. When my husband and I attend weddings here in the US, we congratulate the bride and groom during the reception, but unless they happen to be standing near the exit, we do not seek them out to say goodbye when we are leaving. We just quietly go. I cannot imagine being expected to remain ar a wedding for twelve hours! My response to the cruel guest would have been far less polite than yours. After giving her the death stare, I’d tell her that if someone left my wedding after eight hours, I would be fine with it– and tough noogies if she’s not. On the other hand, I am an introvert, but not highly sensitive.

    The biggest part of being a gracious host is being sensitive to the needs and comfort of your guests.

    Perhaps next time, you can simply decline these marathon torturefests and send a gift. Twelve hours at a wedding is an abomination.

    • Jonquil, “torturefests” made me laugh. I’ll have to remember that one. It is a bit different in Germany with the customs, I’ve noticed. I was always rather fond of slipping out of receptions unnoticed in the US!

  • Anka S. says:

    Really good question, Hollis, and well-worth noting: Yes, I absolutely lost friends when I stopped being an apologist for my introversion/high-sensitivity. Lots of them. But I only lost the “friends” who didn’t truly love nor care about me! All the empathetic people in my life totally understood and even celebrated the “new” me. 🙂 It’s the people I thought were friends, the ones who used me for my empathy (emotionally abusive types,) who were very frustrated and angry with me. But I didn’t care, because my self-care made me aware of who my true friends are. When an empath starts taking care of her/himself, it weeds out the false and true friends. The true friends will ALWAYS support your self-care. They will encourage you and be happy for you. So needless to say, accepting my introversion/high-sensitivity and never apologizing for it, was the best thing I ever did for myself. My husband and family benefit by it, too, because I have more energy for what’s important in my life, and I’ve been consistently happy in the years since, instead of having fits of depression and anxiety like I used to.

    • Anka, I may have to screenshot your reply to keep as a reminder for myself in the future. It’s so important to prioritize yourself. Those friends who only come to us when they need something are not the kinds of friends we need. Thanks for the reminder! And I’m glad you were able to do it. I try, but I think I can do better.

  • Toni says:

    I loved this Hollis it is exactly the experience I have had over many years. I hate the loud music which is not conducive to conversation and since I also picking up moods and feelings from all over the room I am in sensory overload. One wedding I attended I couldn’t talk to the bride because I could sense her despair at making such an awful mistake. (the marriage ended 2 months later). Like Jonquil I no longer am embarrassed to simply say our goodbyes no explanations. ( I can’t imagine that Katharine Hepburn for instance who had loads of self confidence would be explaining why she was leaving. Conjure up your inner Katharine use her steely resolve, as all the Introverts who are actors can attest this gives you the armour to leave with panache.)

  • Julia says:

    Oh, I’m so glad I found this! I’m a German INFJ who also left her brother’s wedding just before midnight. Luckily, no one commented my leaving early. That was a few years ago – and they are currently divorcing, haha. I really did not miss anything.
    But recently, my parents had their 25year anniversary. I could not bear the thought of attending. Since I don’t even try to explain how it feels like to be introverted, I just… well, I kind of exaggerate the truth a bit. My headaches can easily become migraines, so I just say that I have one at that moment (Most people usually understand, no weird comments or accusasions.) I don’t like white lies, but explaining myself is just so draining, especially if you’re already drained of all energy and patience…