Ask Samantha: how do I cancel my wedding – and how do I tell my friends and family?

How do I cancel a wedding?

I’m not 100 per cent sure yet, but I suspect my fiance and I won’t be getting married later this year. I’m starting to suffer from some serious nerves and, frankly, I think I was mistaken in saying ‘yes’ as quickly as I did. But how do I go about cancelling my wedding? And how am I going to tell my friends and family?

Samantha says:

Oh, I’m so, so sorry to hear about your predicament. What a painful time it must be for you and your fiance. Having been there, I understand all too well, but I also understand it’s best couples address any issues before you both walk down the aisle.

As frightening and surreal as it may feel right now, cancelling a wedding is far less problematic than cancelling a marriage, which is not only a painful affair, it’s also a lengthy legal one.

Personally, I’ve never cancelled a wedding, though I did once cancel an engagement of many years – and it was a decision made after plenty of thought and lots of really honest conversation. Looking back years later, it was also the right thing to do.

There were oceans of tears on both sides but the short-term heartbreak paid off in the long term and we’re both really, really happy now with partners more suited to the people we have become! It may sound trite, but it’s absolutely true.

The thing is, you’re going to have to have that conversation. From the sounds of it, you know what you want or, more precisely, what you do not want, but does your partner feel the same way – or even know how you’re feeling?

Is it just pre-wedding nerves on your side or are your feelings indicative of a deeper problem with your relationship?

Before considering whether to cancel the wedding, you have to be 100 per cent sure that you want to call it off because, though I’ve heard of couples who’ve remained together after a cancelled wedding, such a move usually spells the end of a relationship.

So, the first step is evaluating your relationship and figuring out if you want to exit it or just postpone the wedding, and then talking with your partner about whatever conclusion you come to.

If you’ve already done this and you’re both in agreement that the wedding is to be cancelled, the next thing to do, of course, is to inform friends and family.

Who you tell and in what order depends on your relationships, but parents (or any children you may have together) are, typically, the first to be told, then close family, close friends and, of course, your bridal party.

Where possible, sit down with them face-to-face and just tell them – straight. Explain that it was a difficult decision, one you made together but didn’t make lightly.

Hopefully, being your nearest and dearest, they’ll understand and support you in your decision. After all, they’re only interested in your happiness and, if calling off the wedding is a route to that, they’ll support you all the way.

Both of you should be present for these conversations (again, where possible), just as both of you should help in the overall winding up of your wedding, which is too difficult and painful a task for only one of you to bear, so ensure it’s a joint effort.

That said, if one party isn’t happy with the cancellation, you may find yourself having to do it alone.

You’ll also have to tell your guests who may have booked annual leave or flights or paid for dresses and presents. This includes the guests who’ve RSVP’d ‘no’ to the wedding as they’ll probably still want to send you a wedding present and, well, if they’re invited to your wedding, they’re probably important enough to you that they should be informed.

Wording along the lines of what’s written below will suffice:

“We regret to inform you that John Nguyen and Jane Roteski have called-off their engagement and, as such, their wedding has been cancelled. We sincerely apologise for any inconvenience caused and we thank you for your understanding at this difficult time.”

Also, depending on how far down the wedding planning route you are – and what you’ve already paid for, you will need to contact any vendors you’ve hired, such as venues or photographers or celebrants and inform them of the situation.

Expect to lose your deposits, but this won’t always be the case. And, when it comes to items such as your wedding dress, you could ask for a refund, but, especially if it’s been altered or custom made, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to get any money back.

You’ll also need to send back any gifts you’ve already received. If you’ve not already sent guests the note above, you could include that with the returned gift. Just don’t forget to add a ‘thank you’ for the gift.

Informing the world your wedding has been cancelled can be quite a painful task, so be sure to enlist the help of someone close to you to help with the logistics if need be.

Be strong. You will survive this. You just need to get over the first few days and weeks without becoming too overwhelmed by what seems like a mountain of things that need doing. In a few months, you’ll look back and that mountain truly will look like a molehill.

And, on what should have been your wedding day, don’t be it alone. Spend it with your besties or your family, anyone who will hug you and tell you it’s all going to be alright – and that you will have your dream wedding… one day!

Finally, don’t hold back your tears. Cry, cry until you can’t cry anymore and one day, you’ll look up – and won’t be able to muster a single tear!

Are you considering cancelling your wedding? Why?

Can anyone else jump in and tell us about their experience?


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