Canceling the Wedding: Best Practices

Follow proven protocols to tie up loose ends and prevent a financial fallout

By Tiesha Whatley

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One thing that every bride has nightmares about is canceling the wedding. It's a very tiring and emotional experience, full of heartbreak and sometimes embarrassment. Even if you would prefer to just forget about all the formalities and sweep all the details under the rug, this is not the best way to officially cancel the wedding. Follow through with a checklist of items to notify all parties involved to finally put the whole experience behind you and limit financial losses.

  • What You Need to Know
  • A good wedding planner can help you collate all the information you need and create a list of things to do.

Step 1:

Notify family and friends. You will instinctually want to notify the people closest to you first. Make sure that the people involved in the wedding party are notified, because they have invested money and time in the event. When they get over the initial shock, they will be able to offer you support and help with the other details. If parents are paying for the wedding, they will need time to go through their own cancellation process and try to obtain as many refunds as possible.

Step 2:

Notify the officiant. The clergyman, registrar or officiant has blocked off a space on his or her schedule for your wedding, and will need to be contacted as soon as possible to open that time back up. If the cancellation happens on the day of the wedding, you will still need to pay the officiant for the time.

Step 3:

Notify the invited guests. To take some of the load off of you, have someone else send out these notices. Start any verbal or written notices with "Due to mutual agreement" or "Due to unforeseen circumstances," then go on to state that the wedding is off. You do not have to go into personal or specific details. Follow up any verbal notices with a written letter to confirm.

Step 4:

Notify the wedding vendors. Read over any vendor contracts you have signed to learn more about their cancellation policies. You may or may not be entitled to a refund for deposits for a canceled wedding.

Step 5:

Return any wedding presents you may have received. Although you may want to keep that expensive dishware, it is customary to return any wedding gifts you have received. You can choose to send the presents back with the cancellation notice or to return them in person. Either way, attach a "thank you" card with the returned present to let the giver know that you appreciate their efforts.

Step 6:

Decide what to do with the engagement ring. Wedding etiquette dictates that you should return the ring to your ex-fiance if you are the one to call off the wedding. If he is the one who calls it quits, you are allowed to keep the ring. However, if the ring is a family heirloom, it is in good taste to return it -- no matter how hurt you may be at the moment. Some brides choose to keep the ring if the groom doesn't offer to help pay some of the costs of canceling the wedding. Just try to be civil. Ugly court battles over the engagement ring are the last thing anyone wants at such a sensitive time.

  • Tips & Warnings
  • Before you begin the wedding cancellation process, select a few close friends and family members to help you through this difficult time.
  • Make sure you have someone helping you who is good with money and budgeting, and someone who is good at keeping things organized.
  • Avoid trying to sabotage or hurt your ex-fiancee in any way. This can ruin friendships and can even cause legal troubles. As painful as it may be, try to be cordial and get the cancellation process behind you.
  • Don't let the process drag out for too long. Save yourself the heartache and cancel everything as swiftly as possible.

About the Author

Tiesha Whatley is a contributor to

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