Postponing or Canceling a Wedding

Woman holding engagement ring


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There are many reasons a couple may decide to postpone or cancel a wedding—none of them are happy or easy. But once you have made that decision, how should you tell your guests, and what happens to all the gifts?

Etiquette When You Postpone Your Wedding

When a situation arises that causes you to postpone your wedding, you should make every effort to let your guests know as soon as possible. Many of them may need to cancel travel arrangements, which often have deadlines for refunds. Others will appreciate being kept informed. It is appropriate to concisely explain why the wedding is being postponed, such as "due to the Bride's illness" or "due to a death in the family."

Notifying Family and Friends

If the wedding has not yet been formally announced, you can tell your closest friends and family that you are postponing your wedding, who will then notify anyone else who asks
If invitations have not yet gone out, yet many guests already know of your original wedding date, send out a simple printed card, reading along the lines of:
Due to a family illness, the wedding of Anne Scott to Kamau Thomas will not take place on October 14 as originally planned. A new wedding date will be announced as soon as possible.
Or, if you already know the new date:
Mr. and Mrs. Jeffery Scott
announce that the wedding of their daughter
Miss Anne Scott
Mr. Kamau Thomas
which was postponed, will now take place
on December 20, 2004, at the Scranton Club.

When invitations have already been sent, you'll need to call each guest to let them know of the postponement. This may be too large or emotional a task for you to handle alone—your friends and family may help you make the calls.

Letting Guests Know When Canceling a Wedding

When you've made the difficult decision to cancel a wedding, you should notify your guests as soon as possible. As in postponing your wedding, you should send printed cards if invitations haven't gone out, and call everyone if they have.

Printed cards should read along the lines of:
Mr. and Mrs. Jeffery Scott
Announce that the marriage of their daughter
Anne Scott
Kamau Thomas
Will not take place as scheduled.

Explaining Why You're Canceling the Wedding

While many people may ask you why you are canceling, it is not required to explain. If pressed, say something like "we made the mutual decision not to get married right now." Of course, your support system of close friends and family will help you grieve the loss of a wedding and a marriage.

Notify All Vendors

If the cancellation is due to a death in the family, illness, etc., contact your wedding insurance carrier. (Unfortunately, if you canceled because of cold feet, you will not receive any benefits from your policy.)
Then start contacting your vendors, first by phone, then in writing. Check your contracts which should have a cancellation policy entitling you to a return of a portion of your deposit if you pull out by a certain date. The closer you are to the wedding, the less likely you are to get anything back. Still, it's good to cancel in writing so that no one will try to bill you for any more than you've already spent.

Don't Forget to Cancel the Honeymoon

Your ability to recoup any expenses, particularly for airfare or cruise tickets, depends largely on what kind of ticket you bought, and the airlines or cruise line's cancellation policy. If you bought trip insurance, it is only applicable in cases of illness, natural disaster, etc., not changes of heart.

Canceling a Wedding Dress

If you've special ordered your dress, you may not be able to get any of your money back. After all, they were making it especially for you and your measurements. Contact the dressmaker as soon as possible to see what options are available to you. If it's early enough, they may be able to stop production and refund some money. Some dressmakers may be able to sell the dress for you at an upcoming sample sale or discount rack. But if the dressmaker says they can't do anything for you, you still have options. Many brides sell their dresses on. While others turn to consignment shops, or simply donating their dress to charity. A few brides are even able to take their dresses to a costume shop to have the dress dyed so they can wear it to parties!

What to Do With the Gifts

You are supposed to return all engagement, shower, and wedding gifts you've received to the guests who sent them, along with a note thanking them for their generosity. Some people feel that monogrammed items are an exception, but since you probably don't need reminders of the wedding around, why risk offending a friend? You may have started using some of those early presents like kitchen utensils and linens; and in this case, it's probably okay to keep them.

What About the Engagement Ring?

If the ring was a family heirloom, it should go back to the family that it came from, no matter who called off the wedding, for any reason. If the receiver of the ring is the one to call off the wedding, it should go back to the giver. If, on the other hand, it is the giver of the ring who calls it off, then the receiver may opt to keep it, sell it, or return it. And, if the couple bought the ring together, then they should decide jointly what to do with it, along with any other joint property.