Watching the ABC reality dating show The Bachelor has been a guilty pleasure for Kimberley Kennedy for a while now. "I can't stop watching it," admits Kennedy, who hosts her own show, Hot Topics, on the ABC affiliate in Atlanta. "Every season, I say I'm going to stop watching it, and I can't. I'm pulled back in." So Kennedy was glued to the screen last week when the bachelor suddenly jilted his fiancée for another contestant in front an audience of more than 15 million viewers. No one watching was more shocked than Kennedy, the author of a new book Left at the Altar: My Story of Hope and Healing for Every Woman Who Has Felt the Heartbreak of Rejection about her own wedding trauma. TIME senior reporter Andrea Sachs reached Kennedy at her home in Atlanta. (See pictures of the busiest wedding day in history.)
What was your reaction when you saw the bachelor leave his fiancée on live TV?
I've been where Melissa is I know what it's like to not just have your heart broken, but to have it done so publicly and humiliatingly.
What do you imagine she's going through right now?
It's devastating, especially because they were engaged. In her mind, she had already probably been fantasizing about their lives together. So she's devastated. But I'm probably going to get wrath from women everywhere because, look, this wasn't the first time The Bachelor was on television. These women were probably big fans of this show. They knew what they were getting into. They signed a contract. I mean, they know that the odds are a lot greater that they're going to get rejected than they're going to get chosen. People are angry because he did it on national television. Well, she was probably going to get rejected at some point on the show. I don't have as much sympathy. I mean, this is a television show. (Read "Defending The Bachelor.")
How did you originally meet Lew, your own fiancé?
A blind date. I had been very career-oriented. I had not dated a lot. When this man came along, I really fell hard because he seemed to have all the qualities I was looking for. He was smart, he was funny, he was in my business, we shared a lot of the same interests. He was athletic, very close to his family. So I did fall pretty hard for him. I'm not sure I even dated anybody after that, and I don't really think he did either. (See pictures of the 20th century's greatest romances.)
How long after you started to go out did you get engaged?
Exactly a year. We set a wedding date for that next Christmas, and then he said he wanted to wait. So I went, O.K. Just as long as we're going to do it, I can wait. It was a little unsettling, but he never, ever, ever said, "I don't know if I want to be married or not." He never said that one time. So I just assumed he was having cold feet. A lot of men have cold feet.
What happened the day before your wedding?
It was the day of the rehearsal. We were at the church. Anybody who has been married knows what that's like. Your whole wedding party is there. Your family is there. We were going to rehearse the whole ceremony and choose the music and the Scripture readings. We were there, and everybody was happy and excited, and he was late. I didn't think anything about it at first because he was kind of always late. When he finally came in, I didn't see him at first. His sister came into the sanctuary, where we all were, and said that he needed to see me. I knew. I knew something was wrong.
I went back into the priest's office, and Lew looked horrible. It was kind of surreal, because I saw him in a suit, like he was getting ready to go through with the rehearsal, yet the look on his face didn't correspond with being in the suit. So I could see. I knew. I just knew before he said a word that the wedding wasn't going to happen. And then he said the five words that changed my life forever. "I just can't do it." (Read "The Biology of Dating: Why Him, Why Her?")
So what did you do?
I think anybody who has been through a shock like that, you know how you feel. Your body is just really numb. My sister kind of came in and took over. By now, the word was trickling out, and it was just chaos in the church. I have to tell you, it looked a lot like Sex and the City, when Big wouldn't marry Carrie. My people were rallying for me, and my sister said things in the church she shouldn't have said. I'm sure bad words. She was yelling at him. I think I threw my ring at him. It was really bad. And then my family whisked me out pretty quickly. It was just a terrible scene.