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After being left at the altar this bride still held the reception

Cher Rankin’s bravest moment came moments after her future father-in-law announced his son had decided not to get married after all.

Cher Rankin was left at the alter 12 years ago but had the courage to continue with the reception without the wedding, or the husband. Pictured here at her home in Pickering, that she shares with her husband and kids, on December 1, 2015

Torstar News Service

Cher Rankin was left at the alter 12 years ago but had the courage to continue with the reception without the wedding, or the husband. Pictured here at her home in Pickering, that she shares with her husband and kids, on December 1, 2015

Cher Rankin had the dress, the limo, the flowers and the rings. She had four bridesmaids in matching purple and perfect June weather.

What the then-23-year-old didn’t have was a groom.

A creeping worry ended with a sucker punch when her future father-in-law announced to the wedding party that his son had decided not to get married after all.

But Rankin mustered the courage to invite the 200 guests, who had come to see her tie the knot, to stay for an evening of “solidarity” with her. They were witness to a surreal scene, right down to Rankin and her bridesmaids, still in their gowns, cutting the cake.

So Cher Rankin had the dinner, the DJ and the dance. The jilted bride sat at the head table at an Oshawa banquet hall with her father and the best man at her side.

“We ended up doing the reception without the wedding,” Rankin recalls, at home in Pickering almost 12 years later, “(The guests) were there for me. We danced, we had drinks and we had food. It was a very bizarre way of doing things, but that is what I call my bravest moment.”

Rankin even went on her honeymoon, but brought her dad instead. She eventually met and married a man she calls her soul mate. They have two children but her voice still trembles when she shares this part of her past.

But she said she now realizes these moments amount to an “opportunity to decide how your life will go from that point onward. Will you let it break you? Or will you let that be the moment that you find your strength and courage?”

Rankin’s story is one collected in blogger Alexandria Durrell’s Show Me Your Brave project, which started when she posted the question “What’s the scariest or most intimidating thing you’ve ever had to do?” on her Facebook page last fall.

She received more than 100 submissions, mainly from women. Some said just getting out of bed every morning was an act of bravery. Others had held the hand of a dying parent, stood on the edge of the CN Tower, confronted a fear of public speaking, or simply left home as a teen without looking back.

Today it’s common for large numbers of women to share their experiences publicly, especially online, which creates a source of strength, Durrell said.

“It’s kind of this female empowerment, and giving females a voice is something I’ve very much noticed, in the past couple of years, especially online,” she said. During the highly publicized sexual assault trial of Jian Ghomeshi, many women came forward with their own stories and were celebrated for their bravery, she pointed out.

“There has been a huge shift in how we listen to women’s voices now.”

Many of the respondents to Durrell’s project didn’t believe their actions were brave but found it validating to know others did, Durrell said.

That concept — “giving people the strength to understand that regardless of what they’re doing, how big or how small, it’s profound to them” — is what made Wendy Mitchell contribute.

Mitchell was 40 when she had an awakening. A vague goal to get healthy saw her lose 100 pounds over 18 months. She then quit her job, left an unhappy 10-year marriage and drove a friend’s car out west, listening to pop tunes recommended by the 21-year-old children of friends. She thought she would be a mess with all that alone time but the crash never came.

“I just had strength all around. Strength in body, strength in mind,” said Mitchell, who now works in Ottawa as a business developer for a research institute.

Like many women, Mitchell didn’t see taking control of her life as an act of bravery until a friend mentioned her transformation. It’s not as though she was saving lives, Mitchell said. But after some reflection, she has come around to the idea.

“In reality, I saved my own life,” Mitchell said.

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