How to Cancel a Wedding

Click to customize and print the cancellation letter.
Click to customize and print the cancellation letter.

If you have to cancel a wedding, you should know how to use proper etiquette. By providing as much advanced notice as possible to all affected parties, you can soon put the unpleasantness behind you.

Notifying Vendors

The first task when cancelling a wedding is to notify vendors. Depending on the amount of notice you provide, you may be able to obtain a full or partial refund of any deposit or prepayments.

How to Access the Sample Cancellation Letter

The sample cancellation letter can be accessed by selecting the image or caption above. To download the sample, you will need to have Adobe Reader installed on your computer. Once downloaded to your computer, you can edit the sample to suit your needs and print.

Written Notification

It is usually advisable to notify vendors in writing and send the letter with delivery confirmation. Doing so assures that the vendor receives formal notice, which is many times required by a contract. However, to protect yourself, send written notice to all vendors, even if not required in the contract. Sending written notice prevents a vendor from later claiming lack of knowledge about the cancellation and attempting to obtain full payment for their services under the contract.

Vendor Notification Order

Start with the vendor with the highest cost - meaning the one that you pay the most. This is most likely your reception venue. You can then progress to those vendors which cost less, in the order of their expense. This will help you ensure that all vendors are notified and that your financial investment is as protected as possible. Double check the cancellation dates in your contract also, to avoid getting charged because you did not give them proper notice.

Provide the notice as soon as possible - no later than the week after you know that the wedding is canceled.

Notifying Guests

Once all vendors have been notified, it's time to turn your attention to notifying guests.

Who to Notify

The first guests to notify should be parents, siblings, grandparents, and other close relatives, followed by bridal party members and others who had special duties assigned to them on your wedding day.

Only notify every guest on your guest list if you have already sent out invitations. If you have not sent out invitations, you only need to provide notice to those guests with whom you have discussed the wedding. Provide notice as early as possible so that guests can cancel any travel plans they have made with as little repercussion possible.

How to Send Notification

Notifying guests can be done via regular mail in the form of a notification letter or by email. Notification via email may obtain more responses - both good and bad - from guests because of the ease in replying. Mailing a letter requires a slight investment in paper and mailing supplies, but usually leads to fewer responses. You do not need to send professionally printed cancellation notices on expensive paper; a letter printed at home on regular paper will suffice.

What to Say

Regardless of the method of notification, you need only tell guests:

  1. That the wedding on the date originally scheduled is cancelled
  2. That you are sorry about the cancellation and hope that the change in plans does not affect their schedules too much
  3. That guests will be notified if there is a rescheduling of the date

You absolutely do not need to state why the wedding was cancelled. That is private information that is yours to share as you wish. Additionally, you do not need to state that any previously received gifts will be returned to the giver, as this may make some guests feel badly about not having already sent you a gift.

Returning Gifts

Proper etiquette dictates that gifts received by a couple who later cancel their wedding are to be returned to the sender. You do not return gifts to the store for a refund of the giver's payment method. It is up to the giver to determine whether they would like a refund or what they would like to do with the gift.

Return gifts within one month of notifying guests of the cancellation. Send all gifts with tracking and delivery notification so that you are sure all packages arrived to the intended recipient.

For cash or other financial gifts, write a check to the giver from your account for the same amount. Send the check with tracking and delivery notification.

Last Minute Cancellations

When a wedding is cancelled at the last minute, it's not possible to give much notice. In this instance, you must still provide vendors and guests with notice of the cancellation, but you may do so over the phone:

  • For guests: Phone notification of a last minute cancellation does not need to be followed up with a letter. It is acceptable to leave a voice mail message if you do not reach the guest. You must still, however, return all gifts.
  • For vendors: Follow up a phone notification with a written letter, preferably within one week. Although in this instance it is unlikely that you'll obtain much or any refund from the vendor, it still might save the vendor from ordering products or engaging in other work on your behalf, which they'll appreciate.

Enlisting Help

Obtaining assistance with notifying vendors and guests can make the process easier. Of course, hopefully you can split the tasks between yourself and your former fiancé. If, however, the job falls solely on your shoulders, you may ask your maid of honor, other bridesmaids, or parents for help.

Assigning Tasks

Only you should notify vendors; this is because most vendors will not rely on notice given by a third party who is not a party to the contract. Therefore, you must notify all vendors.

Those you enlist for help can notify guests or return packages on your behalf. To avoid guests becoming confused about what is going on, only have helpers contact those guests that they know. Notice from an unknown person can cause confusion, leading to your phone ringing off the hook due to calls from guests wondering what is going on. Also, only ask that each helper only make about 20 calls to avoid taking advantage of them.

What Help Should Say

When acting on your behalf notifying guests, those helping you should remain courteous and to the point. They do not need to deviate from what you would say or explain. Therefore, you might provide a short briefing to all persons you engage to help you to ensure that what they say is appropriate and does not delve into private information. You may choose to create a short spreadsheet or list of bullet points as guidance.

Cancelling Your Wedding

Although unpleasant, the process of cancelling a wedding is quite doable. When undertaking the task, you may choose to enlist help from close friends or family, which can result in the job being completed faster.

How to Cancel a Wedding