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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I disagree emphatically with your responses to Father Francesco of Newark and to "Worried About My Friend," who was concerned that her friend was entering into a bad marriage and did not want to be in the wedding.

Fifteen years ago last week, I was in that same predicament. Wedding invitations had been sent; the arrangements had been made. Two weeks before the wedding, a friend pulled me aside and told me to think hard about my decision and search my heart to be sure this was right for me. My friend reminded me that I had invited only people I cared about -- and who cared about me -- to the wedding, and should I realize the wedding would be a mistake, they would support me.

I canceled the wedding. Friends and family who had made nonrefundable reservations came anyway and were there to support me on what would have been my wedding day.

The experience made me realize that I lacked the tools to make a good choice for a lifelong mate. I got some help, and have been married 10 years to a wonderful man. If most brides won't listen -- so what? The friend just might save one life -- and you don't know unless you try. -- GRATEFUL FOR MY FRIENDS

DEAR GRATEFUL: I've received quite a scolding from readers who agree with you and Father Francesco and say I've missed the boat. I'm inclined to agree. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: I've been down this road, and "Worried About My Friend" should know it's never too late. Not all brides are so hypnotized by wedding bells they don't comprehend their own situation, even as they shove aside inner fears and don a happy face.

When confronted, I had already spent days smiling for the world and nights sobbing alone in a locked bathroom. Thankfully, my sister and father invited me to a pre-wedding lunch and showed me a clipping from your column. The article contained "15 Reasons to Leave Your Lover," signs of an abusive mate. My fiance exhibited 11 of those red flags. Two weeks before my wedding, and with the support of family, friends and your column, I called it off.

Please tell your readers not to underestimate the power of friendship and love. When we fail to speak out against something we know is wrong, we unwittingly condone it. -- HAWKEYE GAL IN S.F.

DEAR HAWKEYE GAL: I know you're right. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: A long time ago, one of my best friends was engaged. Her gown was hanging in the closet when I found out her fiance had been sleeping with someone else. I knew I could lose a very good friend by speaking up, but I also knew I couldn't live with myself if I said nothing. I told her. The wedding was canceled. Her wedding dress was sold and the invitations were thrown in the trash. However, all the bridesmaids were there to support her through her tears, and she later met a wonderful, faithful man to whom she's been married for more than 10 years. -- I'D DO IT AGAIN, CORVALLIS, ORE.

DEAR I'D DO IT AGAIN: You did the right thing. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: I'm one of your male readers. A friend of mine once went through with the wedding because the hall had been paid for by his fiancee's father, and "if I called it off, he would kill me."

Today he is homeless and his wife is raising three children on her own. -- NEIL FROM NEW HAMPSHIRE

DEAR NEIL: The lesson may be, "When in doubt, say 'I don't think so' instead of 'I do.'"

Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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