Cancelling a wedding – how to handle a broken engagement

how to cancel a wedding nz

The worst nightmare for many brides is having to cancel her wedding. Despite months of preparation, things can still go wrong – even at the moment of saying “I do.” From a family emergency, a cheating partner or an extreme case of cold feet, there are many reasons that a wedding gets canned. It’s not a very exciting or glamorous topic to talk about, but if you’ve found this post via a tearful Google search – then I’m sorry you’re having to think about it. Hopefully this advice can help in some way.

Telling wedding guests the wedding is cancelled

When calling off a wedding, the sooner you can call it off the better, as the closer you get to the wedding date, the harder it is to cancel arrangements, and the more stressful it will be for yourself personally. If you’re having second thoughts, consider attending pre-marital counselling together and bringing up your concerns or worries there.

Obviously, your first priority is to look after yourself. But you don’t want family and friends turning up on the wedding day ready for a party. So your next task is to notify all the wedding guests that the wedding has been cancelled.

Formal Wedding Etiquette For Cancelled Weddings

Of course, all this “informing guests” talk only applies if you’ve sent your wedding invitations out already. If you’ve got the time and inclination, a formal note or card to family and friends informing them that the wedding is off is the polite thing to do, and may be easier than ringing around if you were having a big wedding. Here’s some suggested wording:

(host names – usually the parents)
announce that the marriage of
Bride
to
Groom
will not take place

If it has been a rough breakup, rally friends and family to telephone around the guests for you, so you do not have to rehash stressful events and can avoid any awkward or rude questions. A broken engagement, especially when a wedding has been planned, is embarrassing enough for the couple, but as a guest, please, do not to question the couple about why they decided not to continue with the wedding. You do not have to explain why the wedding has been cancelled unless you want to.

Getting your money back after a cancelled wedding

The next step is to attempt to get some of your money back from the various wedding vendors you were using. However be aware than many of your deposits will be non-refundable – check your contracts to make sure.

If you’re postponing the wedding rather than cancelling it outright, then ask if you are able to transfer your deposit to a new date.

What happens with wedding gifts after the wedding has been cancelled?

All the wedding gift items should be returned, including any cash, appliances or vouchers. It will be hard to do and perhaps come with some awkwardness but at least the aggrieved party can not be accused of impoliteness.

Cancelling a wedding because of a death in the family

Not all broken engagements happen because of a cheating partner or cold feet. When a relative’s death occurs, it is proper wedding etiquette to cancel the wedding. This shows wedding etiquette in respect to the deceased’s family and expresses sincere sorrow.

Proper wedding etiquette is to allow six months to pass before attempting to walk down the aisle again. And even if the couple decides to wed two to three months after the death in the family, one must be ready to simplify the ceremony to observe wedding etiquette.

However some couples may feel that continuing on with their wedding is a good thing – a bit of light in a dark time for the families. It will really depend on the context surrounding the bereavement and most importantly – how you and your partner feel.

Cancelling a wedding on the wedding day

If the cancellation happens on the wedding date itself, the announcement must be made verbally and as soon as possible. The family should comfort the one left at the altar and make it a point to shield him or her from other people since this is a sad situation.

Bouncing back from the broken engagement

The first few weeks are the toughest to face. Be prepared to here the question “Why?” and “What happened?” a lot. Face these people with a smile and offer whatever level of detail you are comfortable. You will get through this. I’d suggest deactivating Facebook and focusing on yourself for a while, as whatever the circumstances, the break up of a long term relationship is hard.

4 thoughts on “Cancelling a wedding – how to handle a broken engagement

  1. Hello! I’m hosting an Engagement Party (tomorrow), for a wedding that just got cancelled tonight. Help! Any ideas on how to cancel the party without making it too awkward? I’d appreciate any ideas you may have, but I need them soon, as I have to send out an email tomorrow morning. Thank you!

    1. I’d just stick with the bare minimum in a case like this – “Due to unforeseen circumstances, the engagement party for X and Y has been cancelled.” Depending on if it’s a full break up you might add something about “We wish both X and Y the best as they navigate their future paths” or something to that effect? Gosh that’s a hard one Elizabeth! Let me know how you get on xx

  2. I’ve definitely been in this situation. As heartbreaking as it was, I’m so glad it happened at the beginning of the planning stage before we had sent out the invitations – that meant that while I had to let a few people know that we had told about the wedding verbally, we didn’t have cancel all our vendors etc.

    1. Oh boy 🙁 That sucks Meagan. You were def lucky to be at an earlyish-stage!

      The thought of cancelling everything (and any associated feelings like shame or guilt) puts people off canning the wedding, but it is better to feel stink about it now than have to deal with a divorce later (with an expensive wedding in between)

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