The Celebrity Guide To Calling It Off

Having second thoughts on getting hitched? Here’s how seven famous men – and one Playboy bunny – delivered the bad news

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If you're beginning to have doubts about the big day, it's important to remember you're not the first.

Here are techniques applied by famous men (and one woman) when it came to delivering the bad news.

Or, listen to Carol Martin-Sperry, our in-house couples therapist instead, who has looked at each break-up and offered up her thoughts.

1 | Make Friends With A Stripper

In 1991 Kiefer Sutherland and Julia Roberts were the centre of a studio-produced wedding that would have blown Kimye out of the water. It was not to be. Three days before the nuptials Roberts called time after rumours emerged Sutherland had made friendly with a stripper. He said they just played pool together. 

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The take home: don’t make pals with a stripper when you’re engaged to Julia Roberts. If you are acting out, it may be because of doubts says couples therapist Carol Martin-Sperry: “So air these worries before you pop the question. It’s very difficult to air concerns about plans for the future when there’s a big wedding in the way.”

2 | Make A Bad Movie Together

Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez cancelled on the big day in 2003 when they were £1.5m in the red and 400 guests had booked the time off work. The couple blamed media scrutiny, which they’d invited by appearing together in the woeful rom com <I>Gigli<i>. Such a big blow out of a wedding may have added to the strain, says Martin-Sperry. “When you have a huge wedding organized it can be a bit scary and daunting. The focus can be on the party and how it’s the best day of your life and that’s where the doubt can set in. You have to remember it’s not just a wedding; it’s a marriage.”

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3 | Wait Until The Wedding Invites Are in The Post (And Your Engagement is All Over Twitter)

It took the wedding invites being posted out to give Northern Irish golfer Rory McIlroy the screaming dib-dabs about his engagement to tennis star Caroline Wozniacki. He reportedly called their five-month engagement off in a three-minute phonecall.

At 25, McIllroy said he realised he wasn’t ready for marriage, possibly regretting the gusto with which he and 23-year-old Wozniacki embraced tweeting their romance.

Martin-Sperry thinks McIlroy probably balked when he realized the true undertaking of marriage. “This fear of commitment is normal,” she notes. “You’re about to make a decision that will affect the next 70 years of your life. It’s scary. You have to start to be realistic about what that might entail.”

4 | Wait Until She's Tried On The Wedding Dress In A National Magazine

After her engagement to Lance Armstrong in September 2005, Sheryl Crow took to trying out wedding dresses in Allure magazine. Armstrong, who left his wife for Crow, pulled the plug in February 2006. He later told biographer John Wilcockson that while Crow wanted marriage and to start a family, he wasn’t ready for any of that.

If you’re having doubts, it’s best to air them with a trustworthy close friend or older relative says Martin-Sperry. “Try to project into the future. Ask where you see yourself in five years time, if it’s with two kids, a house and a job — or not. If that horrifies you, you’re not ready for marriage.”

5 | Try It On With The Waitress (And Succeed)

Hollywood starlets Warren Beatty and Natalie Wood had been together a year when Beatty pulled the plug in 1963 in singular fashion. Towards the end of dinner at Beverly Hills eatery Chasen’s, Beatty adjourned to the men’s room. When he didn’t return, the restaurant owner had to inform a waiting Wood that Beatty had propositioned “the restaurant’s voluptuous blonde checkroom assistant” (according to a report).

He had in fact convinced her to ditch the day job and come on a three-day bender with him. It was thought Beatty felt backed into marriage by Wood. At the restaurant, he left it for her to sign the cheque. “Warren Beatty was a shit,” notes Martin-Sperry sagely.

6 | Get The Mob Involved

Head of Columbia Pictures Harry Cohn created his perfect cinematic blonde in Vertigo star Kim Novak. What he wasn’t so keen on was her 1957 affair with black America’s biggest star, Sammy Davis Jnr, which cut through race lines and would have spelt box office doom for Novak.

When the rumour hit the gossip columns that the lovers had taken out a marriage licence, Cohn allegedly ordered a Mob hit on Davis Jr if he didn’t get married to a black girl. Davis Jr did as instructed, fearing for his legs (the word was he’d be spared his life either way). There’s no real take home from this, except to say don’t get romantically involved with a girl who has mafia ties.

7 | Act Like The Mob Would

When Humphrey Bogart died, Ol’ Blue Eyes took over as provost of the Rat Pack Bogart had founded – and even made a play for his widow, Lauren Bacall. Furious with Bacall that news of their 1958 engagement reached The Los Angeles Herald, Sinatra called it off after a few days. At a dinner party months later, he ignored her. So if you are going to pull the plug, do it face to face, says therapist Martin-Sperry.

“You are going to be accused of being a coward anyway if you back out of the wedding. If you do it over the phone or via text you’ll be called a coward and a shit. You have to man up to it. Sit her down with a stiff drink and say ‘I can’t do this.’”

8 | Get Engaged To A Playboy Bunny

Playboy bunny of the month for December 2009, Crystal Harris, 26, broke off her engagement to Hugh Hefner, 86, in June 2011, five days before the wedding (Hefner’s third). Harris said she wasn’t ready for marriage, though she’d been happy to pose for a wedding special Playboy cover.

Despite the drama, Martin-Sperry says the situation can be salvaged, even after the wedding’s been cancelled. “But there’s been an injury, a wounding and that would need to be healed,” she says. “Have those grown up discussions then. Discover if you share the same values and principles which are key for long relationships.”

Hef got his happy ending after all: he was reconciled with Harris and they married on New Year’s Eve, 2012.

Sexual Healing: Stories and Insights From the Therapist’s Couch by Carol Martin-Sperry (Constable & Robinson) is published on 17 July

Article taken from Issue 42 of Esquire Weekly, out now. Click here to subscribe

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