Canceling a wedding – how to handle a broken engagement

The worst nightmare for many brides is having to cancel their wedding plans. 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 a change of heart, there are many reasons and unforeseen circumstances where 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 going through this difficult time. Hopefully, this advice can help in some way.

Telling wedding guests the wedding is canceled

When calling off a wedding, once you are 100% sure, then the sooner you can call it off the better. Don’t leave it last minute. The closer you get to the big day, 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 counseling together and bringing up your concerns or worries there.

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

Formal Wedding Etiquette For Cancelled Weddings

Of course, all this “informing guests” talk only applies if you’ve sent your wedding invitations and Save the date cards 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, It is easier than making many phone calls if you were having a big wedding. Here’s some suggested wording:

(host names – usually the parents)

announce that the marriage of




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. This can avoid any awkward or rude questions too. A broken engagement, especially when a wedding has been planned, is embarrassing enough for the couple.

As a guest or even close friends please, do not press the couple about why they decided not to continue with the wedding. You do not have to explain why the wedding has been canceled unless you want to.

Getting your money back after a canceled wedding

The next step is to attempt to get some of your money back from the various wedding vendors you were using. In the best-case scenario, you get full refunds. However, be aware that many of your deposits will be non-refundable deposits. Check your vendor contracts to make sure, and your insurance policies if you have event insurance.

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

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

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.

Canceling a wedding because of a death in the family

Not all broken engagements happen because of a cheating partner or cold feet. When a close relative’s death occurs, a wedding cancellation may be needed with respect to the deceased’s family.

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. Most importantly, it depends on how you and your partner feel.

Canceling a wedding on the wedding day

If the cancelation 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 hear the question “Why?” and “What happened?” a lot. Face these people with a smile and offer whatever level of detail you are comfortable with. 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.

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