How to Cancel a Party

woman on phone
woman on phone

While planning a party is fun and positive, figuring out how to cancel a party can be challenging. Not only do guests need notification, plans regarding the location, food, beverages and entertainment need addressing. On top of all that, you have to deal with the reason for the cancellation and related fallout.

How to Cancel a Party with Finesse

Regardless of the reason, cancelling a celebration is never fun. Concoct a little speech in your head and try to anticipate what questions and comments invited guests will have.

Guest Notification

If time permits, cancel the event via email or regular mail. Last minute cancellations require phone calls or text messages. Regardless of the method used, call guests to be sure they have received the information to avoid people showing up for an event that doesn't exist.

What to Say

Brevity is best. Whether the reason to cancel the party relates to the personal life of the guest or host, lack of interest (not enough confirmed guests) or other extenuating circumstances, a simple cancellation announcement deters speculation and gossip.

How to Say It

The reason for the cancellation and the host's relationships with the guest of honor and guests dictate the pitch of the cancellation. Announce parties cancelled due to a minor illness or injury with a light tone and a comment regarding possible rescheduling. Conversely, those called off for family crises or other serious issues demand a reverent, respectful approach that empathetically and briefly tells guests the reason for the changed plans.

Inquiring Minds

At least one guest will probably ask probing questions about the cancellation. In this case, part of knowing how to cancel a party is being diplomatically evasive. Simply tell the inquirer you'd feel more comfortable not discussing the details, promise you'll get back to them later with more facts (whether you plan to or not) or use the tried and true, "Sorry, have to go, there's someone at the door," excuse.

Rescheduling Information

If the party is rescheduled before the cancellation is announced, include that information with the message. Positive information generally tempers bad news and discourages hearsay. Indefinitely delayed parties require no further details other than the cancellation notice.

Practical Concerns

After notifying the guests, the host has the unpleasant task of undoing all the party preparations. This can be overwhelming and costly if the party involves venue and equipment rentals, caterers or hired entertainers. Smaller events scheduled for home or office locations require less work to cancel.

Refunds and Cancellation Fees

Most rented party spaces, caterers and entertainers have cancellation clauses in their contracts. Consequently, the host may be stuck with paying the entire amount for the cancelled event or, at the very least, lose her deposit. Some vendors and contractors may provide an option to reschedule the event within a prescribed timeframe. Of course, a full refund is the best option but if the contract is binding, consider selling the contracted services to friends or co-workers or posting them for sale on local online bulletin boards. While the total loss may not be recoverable, getting back a portion of the investment is better than nothing.

Cancelled Home Parties

Always save the receipts for party decorations, food and drink. Most unopened decorations are returnable for full refunds. Packaged or frozen food is normally returnable, as are non-alcoholic drinks and mixers. Many retailers won't take back alcohol under any circumstances. The host can give the alcohol to friends as gifts or simply store them, usually indefinitely, for future use. A roomy freestanding freezer can accommodate food prepared in advance by the host and other guests. Distribute highly perishable items among friends and relatives or donate them to a shelter to feed the hungry.

The Next Step: Move On

Look forward and do something uplifting and positive after the party cancellation. If the cancellation was due to the honoree's sickness or serious family matters, channel your energy into helping them cope. Remember that parties cancelled due to less serious circumstances can always be rescheduled and-keep smiling-turn out better than the originally planned celebration.

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How to Cancel a Party