Kayley Stead, 27, was preparing to marry her partner of nearly four years on 15 September when he disappeared without warning.
The insurance clerk, from Portsmead in Swansea, was in “absolute shock” at the jilting, but decided she “didn’t want to remember the day as complete sadness”.
“I had no indication he was going to do this but seeing my girls distraught as well made me want to turn the day around,” she said.
“The whole day, we were saying it felt like an episode of Hollyoaks or EastEnders. It didn’t feel like a real life situation.”
Stead said she last spoke to her ex-fiancé on the day before the wedding and has not heard from him since.
“We’ve tried to reach out to him but I’ve had no response from him, no reason why,” she said. “I’ve had no explanation. Not that I want one now, because it’s too far along the line.”
On the morning of the wedding, one of the groomsmen called Stead’s best friend to inform her the groom “was gone”.
The bridal party initially hid the bride’s phone from her in a bid to find out what was happening, but Stead eventually found it and saw she had a missed call from the groom’s mother.
“I called her back and she was crying and told me he had gone for a drive in the early hours of the morning and he was gone,” she explained.
“At that point I wasn’t nervous, I was still quite hopeful, as throughout our relationship he had sometimes gone for a walk or a drive to clear his head when he was nervous.”
Stead continued to believe that her husband-to-be would show up for her, adding: “I honestly believed, hand on heart, that he was going to be there.”
But at around 11am, the groom’s father rang her to inform her that her partner would not be at the wedding.
“At that point, I was gone. I was sobbing,” she recalled. “Once I told my parents, the hairdresser and the videographer, that’s when I had to tell myself that it wasn’t going to happen.”
But when the videographer joked that Stead should carry on with the wedding because of the amount that had already been spent and the guests who had arrived, she thought it might be a good idea.
“I’d spent all this money, I’d been looking forward to the food, a dance with my dad, spending time with my family, so why not?”
Both her and the groom’s wedding parties went ahead of Stead to tell the guests what had happened and asked them to meet the bride in the garden instead of the ceremony room.
“I asked for 10 minutes to myself before I saw my guests and then rather than walking down the aisle, I walked around the corner in my dress and had everybody just looking at me,” she said.
“Nobody knew what to do, I think they were a bit scared to say something, and then everybody just started cheering and hugging me.”
With the support of her family, bridesmaids, groomsmen, and guests, Stead went ahead with the joyous day without her now ex-partner.
On the way to the top table, she sang and danced to Lizzo’s “Good as Hell” and took solo photographs in her dress as well as snaps with her family and bridesmaids.
“We were just doing things off the cuff, really. It was all based on instinct and we just went with it,” she said.
“I was never going to make a speech, but I wanted to thank everyone for staying because they didn’t have to. It was a very awkward situation for them to be in, but they all stayed. I wanted to make sure everyone knew it wasn’t about the sad, we were going to power through this.”
Now, reminiscing about the day, she said: “After I found out he wasn’t coming to the wedding, I decided I didn’t want to remember the day as complete sadness.
“There were so many special moments, like my wedding entrance, the sparkler walk, the first dance, and punching the wedding cake. There was still happiness in the day.”
Stead’s friends have since set up a GoFundMe page to help her recoup the costs of the wedding.
Best friend and maid of honour Jordie Cullen wrote on the page: “Kayley has a heart of gold and would do anything for anyone.
“She did not deserve to be left on the morning of her wedding day with no explanation and zero contact from the groom. We now ask you help us pick our girl up, dust herself off and move on.”
There has been no comment from the groom.
Additional reporting by SWNS