Getting engaged and planning a wedding is one of the most exciting times of any bride-to-be’s life. But what happens if you change your mind? What if you wake up one morning and realize “I don’t want to get married anymore?”
The most important thing to realize is that you’re not alone. Whether something has changed in the relationship to make a bride reconsider or she simply realizes marriage isn’t for her, canceling a wedding isn’t as rare as it once was.
The important thing is to do what is best for you — and that may mean not going through with the wedding you once thought you wanted. If you have doubts or a complete change of heart, calling off your wedding is better than going through with it only to seek a divorce at a later date.
If you’ve decided to call off your wedding, we’re here to help. Our guide not only walks you through all of the essential steps, but also answers the key questions you may have about the process.
How to Cancel Your Wedding as Easily as Possible
There’s no getting around it, canceling your wedding plans will be a bit of a headache if you’ve booked all or most of your vendors and have already sent out invitations. That said, being organized and asking for help will make the task at hand less unpleasant.
Here are the seven vital steps to remember when canceling your wedding arrangements.
1. Talk to your family
Telling your parents, grandparents and your siblings should be your first step after you make the decision not to go ahead with the wedding. If you live nearby, in-person is best but, if that’s not possible, calling them is acceptable too. Just be sure not to do it by text or e-mail.
When it comes to extended family like aunts, uncles and cousins, why not let your close family members take that on for you? The last thing you’ll want or need is being stuck on the phone explaining the same story over and over. Once your parents and siblings know, they’ll likely be more than willing to tackle that task for you.
2. Call your vendors
If you have a wedding planner, you can leave the cancellation process up to them. They will be able to handle the majority of the work. Simply ask your planner what they can do and what jobs you need to do yourself. If you have an experienced planner, they will know exactly what needs to be done and will guide you through the process.
Even if you don’t have the help of a professional, you can make the process manageable by making a list of all of your wedding vendors. While this may be the last thing you feel like doing, it will ensure you don’t miss anyone when you start making calls. We recommend starting with the most costly vendors such as the venue and caterer and working your way down the list to the least expensive service providers.
3. Let guests know
If save-the-dates have been sent out, but not an official invitation, you can either mail or e-mail
cancellation announcements out to your guest list. While it will cost more to send a cancellation card in the mail, it does mean you won’t be roped into a dialogue like you would be with an e-mail message. Most guests are likely to respond by asking what happened and if you’re OK. If you want to avoid answering everyone’s well-meaning replies to your e-mailed cancellation, go the old-fashioned route.
If your invitations have already been sent, then everyone on your guest list must be called or e-mailed. This is an ideal job for parents, siblings and the maid of honor so you don’t get stuck on the phone rehashing your personal business with well-meaning friends and family members.
4. Cancel travel arrangements
If you reserved a hotel block for your guests, call the hotel as soon as possible to explain the situation. Hotel’s cancellation policies vary, but most will try to help you and your guests out, especially if you give them enough notice.
5. Cancel honeymoon
If you booked your honeymoon through a travel agent, the only call you will need to make is to that agent. They will deal with the cancellations for you, as long as you have travel insurance. If, however, your honeymoon was purchased via Expedia or Travelocity, you will need to call their toll-free number for assistance.
If you booked hotels and travel without any assistance, you’ll need to make the calls yourself. Most hotels are fairly easy to deal with as long as you didn’t choose a non-refundable rate and you are able to cancel your reservation within a certain timeframe. Simply call the hotel’s toll-free number and be sure to have your confirmation number on hand. If your cancellation is too close to your actual stay-date, you may be offered a partial refund or no refund at all.
Airline reservations are easy to cancel if you purchased a refundable ticket. Simply contact the airline’s reservations department or go online to request a refund. If you bought a non-refundable ticket, however, a refund is not an option.
6. Returning gifts
As big of a hassle as it may be, all unused engagement, shower and wedding gifts should be returned to the sender with a thank you note. If a guest insists you keep their gift, then you should do so, but be sure to thank them and let them know how much you appreciate their generosity.
7. Ask for help
If you’re calling off the wedding but not ending your relationship, your significant other can help you contact your wedding vendors and guests. If, however, you’re splitting with your fiancé, working together may not be practical, especially if your ex didn’t take the break up well.
That doesn’t mean you should go it alone. After all, even if you know calling off your wedding is what’s best for you, it can still be an emotional and difficult time. Never be afraid to ask for assistance when you need it. Parents, siblings or your maid of honor can be a huge help in tackling your to-do list. Having those who love you help out will not only give you some much-needed emotional support, it can keep you from feeling overwhelmed.
Canceling Your Wedding FAQ
Still have questions? Here are the most commonly asked questions by the bride-to-be.
1. Do I have to return the ring?
If you call off the wedding, proper etiquette dictates that you return the engagement ring to your fiancé unless you paid or helped pay for the ring. The only exception to the rule is if your fiancé says he doesn’t want it back. If, however, it was your partner who broke the engagement, then you aren’t obligated to give the ring back unless it is a family heirloom.
If you bought the ring together, then you will likely need to sell it and split the proceeds unless your ex says he doesn’t want any of the money.
2. What should I do with my dress?
If you’ve already ordered your dress, but it hasn’t been shipped yet, you may be able to cancel the order if your gown hasn’t been cut. If your dress has already been started, you may still be able to cancel your dress if you pay a cancellation fee to cover the work that was done.
If your dress has been shipped, you can ask the bridal salon manager to put your dress up for sale in the store’s next sample sale. While you’d have to split the profit with the store, you’d at least have some money back in your wallet.
If neither of these are an option, you can always sell your dress online, sell it through a consignment shop or donate it to charity.
3. Do we need to explain why the wedding was canceled?
In a word? No. You don’t owe anyone an explanation on why you’ve decided not to get married. While you’ll likely confide in your closest friends and family members, you may not feel inclined to rehash all of the details with your other guests and acquaintances — and that’s OK.
Decide what you want to say and stick to it. If you are pestered by family or friends for more info, you can always ask your mom, dad, sibling or best friend to talk to the guilty parties. Most people will back off if a parent or sibling tells them that questions about your break up are upsetting to you.