Canceling a Wedding – Steps To Calling Off Your Big Day

Tom Pumford
Written by Tom Pumford · Posted in Advice Last Updated June 9, 2023 · minute read
In This Article

    Oh no! Not the type of article that a wedding blog, full of optimism, hope and of course, love, wants to write; but sometimes life throws a curveball. If you are getting married, no matter how much you want to deny it, there is a tiny possibility that you may have to go through the rigmarole of canceling a wedding. We highly doubt it will happen to you however, if you are reading the article, you could already be at that stage. If you are, you have our deepest condolences. We will get through this together.

    outdoor wedding ceremony set up

    Canceling a Wedding: Steps to Calling Off a Wedding – Photo by David Lindsley

    When we started Story Amour we decided on one major goal. Using our 15+ years of experience, we would provide information, advice and inspiration, to the absolute best of our ability and knowledge. This includes providing accurate and helpful information, should you have to go through the process of canceling a wedding.

    During this article we will navigate through everything you need to consider before, during and after the cancelation process. In addition, we will provide answers to the questions most frequently asked by our own REAL couples. Most importantly, we will be here to help in every way we can. Whether that’s providing a shoulder to cry on, offering advice on the best divorce lawyer, or just acting as a simple-to-follow guide through this unfortunate time.

    Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about canceling a wedding.

    What happens if I cancel my wedding?

    So, what actually happens if you cancel your wedding day? Well, first things first, it’s important to understand that this is going to be a difficult time for everyone involved. Not just yourself. Friends, family, loved ones are going to offer you emotional support, but remember, they may need it too.

    We also understand that there are many possible reasons for cancellations, whether that’s a break up, a family member struggling with health concerns, or you simply feel it’s best to cancel for another, more practical reason (Errr! Covid flashbacks haunting me right now).

    If you plan on calling off your big day, you will need to consider the following:

    • Take your time to think about the decision – First and foremost, don’t rush into anything, no matter what the reason for wanting to cancel. Take your time and try to think about all the possible outcomes. Talk to friends and family. Get outside opinions. Try to come to a reasonable and practical decision, over an emotional one.
    • Reason for canceling – The reason for canceling your wedding day will dictate what happens and the processes you need to go for. For example, canceling due to covid requires a lot of careful planning to arrange a new date. Canceling due to a break up requires a few personal tricky moments to be navigated.
    • Cancellation or postponement – There is a considerable difference between cancelation and postponement. For example, many wedding vendors will allow postponement without negative financial implications, however cancellation is much more likely to result in loss of deposits or cancellation fees.
    • Who you need to notify – You are going to have to notify both guests and wedding vendors. Including your wedding venue.
    • Financial Implications – Whether you like it or not, calling off your wedding day is likely to result in financial implications. Many vendors will keep the deposit, perhaps even require further compensation depending on how close it is to your original date. You will need to check the cancellation policies with everyone contracted to provide services on your day.
    • Future Plans (Honeymoon etc) – Remember, it’s likely not just your wedding day you will need to cancel. If you have booked future experiences such as honeymoons or post wedding parties, you will also need to cancel these.

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    Important considerations when canceling

    Generally speaking, the entire cancellation process can be broken down into two areas. Legally; the people and businesses you will need to notify. Personally; recovering and being adept to the needs of your family members, loved ones, and of course, yourself. Don’t forget yourself! You are going to need to find the strength to find a path through this impossibly hard challenge.

    There are both practical and emotional considerations you will need to make throughout the process.

    Money: Deposits, Refunds & Returns

    Money is going to be a major consideration you will have to make when proceeding through the cancelation process. Hopefully you’ve signed contracts and agreements with all the vendors and suppliers for your wedding day. The majority of the contracts will include a cancellation policy, more than likely to outline your deposit status, as well as any cancellation fees you may encounter.

    While the contracts should clearly communicate everything you need to know, many vendors will offer alternative solutions. It’s imperative you discuss the situation with them. Explain your scenario while trying to remain calm. You may be able to come out with an alternative to what you have already agreed to. As wedding photographers, we were able to adjust packages to help couples where we could. If a couple canceled a wedding we would often offer family portraits in a bid to ease the loss. Credits, refunds and amendments are commonplace so be sure to reach out to your suppliers.

    Furthermore, you may have made purchases with local stores or online. Return policies should be clearly declared on the website or receipt. Be sure to return these where possible in order to recoup some of your expenses.

    Wedding Insurance

    For the couples that opted to purchase wedding insurance prior to the wedding, well done! Shame on those that didn’t! Prepare to walk naked through the city as the people pelt you with tomatoes, GAME OF THRONES style! Ok, perhaps not the time for lecturing, definitely not the time for public shaming (sorry), but wedding insurance can go a long way to alleviating any financial burdens that may be coming your way.

    You can contact your insurance provider to see what’s covered under your policy. While there may be an excess that you need to pay, it’s unlikely that it will be more expensive than your deposit payments and cancellation fees. Investopedia [1] has a brilliant article explaining wedding insurance. It might be worth taking a read before getting in touch with your insurance company.

    Look after yourself

    It goes without saying, taking care of your emotional and personal needs is top priority. It’s likely you are going through a tricky period in your life and, as a result, it’s imperative you look after your mental wellbeing. Clarity of mind will allow the technicalities of this process to go smoothly.

    Remember that you are not alone, it’s completely normal to not feel your best, to get emotional, to feel like there is no way through the fog. Leaning on close friends and family will go a long way to providing clarity in this very tough situation. Feeling sad, down and not your best, don’t worry. Pick up the phone, or pop across to your friends and tell them how you feel. True friends and family will be there when you need it most.

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    Step-by-Step: How to Cancel a Wedding

    After careful consideration you’ve decided that the best option is to press ahead and cancel the wedding. From here we will explain each step you need to take in order to cancel effectively, with the least amount of stress and sorrow.

    Step 1: Tell immediate family and close friends

    Without doubt, the absolute first port of call should be telling your closest family and friends. Inform them that you plan to cancel the wedding day after taking your time to think about everything. Doing this early on is a crucial step in allowing you to get through this daunting task, with the support you need. Friends and family can be a brain to pick, or a shoulder to cry on. Both will be very important as you go about canceling your wedding.

    Story Amour Tip: Without doubt, this is a challenging time. Try to find a suitable place to meet up with your family/friends to notify them of your intention. Only you will know how close you are to them and the best way to inform them. Just be sure to have a sensible conversation while notifying them, this will ensure a strong base and support system is put into place for what lies ahead. If they understand the full picture (only tell them what you want to tell them), they should be in a better position to help you when you need it most.

    Step 2: Read over your insurance policy

    After 15 years of experience in the wedding industry, we actually think it should be right near the top of the list of jobs to do when canceling a wedding day. Understanding your insurance policy should provide clarity on many of the cancellations you will have to make.

    Step 3: Notify all wedding guests

    Once you’ve spoken to your family/close friends and looked into your insurance, it’s time to start notifying your wedding guests. The first place to start is by making a list of all the people you invited to your wedding. This way you will be able to tick off as you go along, ensuring no one is left out.

    There are many ways to notify your guests that you intend to cancel. From our point of view, we believe the best way is using digital methods such as email, social media and just simple text messages. While sending out more formal card-like notifications is a possibility, in our opinion it only adds to the costs. You may be about to experience considerable financial costs, so reducing expenses where possible is highly recommended.

    Suggested Cancelation Message

    Writing a message to your guests can be an emotional experience. It makes everything feel that little bit more real. Be sure to ask for help from your family and friends. Even if it’s just something as simple as proofreading your message.

    Take your time to write a message that clearly communicates your intention to cancel, while also being understanding of their situation and inconvenience you may have caused. Thank them for support and be courteous to their feelings. The last thing you want is to be getting into any heated arguments during this particularly stressful time.

    Finally, provide further information regarding refunds that the guests may be entitled to. As an example, many wedding venues offer a hotel service to guests of the wedding. If you know your guests have booked the venue’s hotel, it’s a good idea to provide clarity to them regarding the venue’s refund policy.

    Below is a suggested cancellation message however, it may be more applicable to provide custom messages to each guest, depending on your relationship with them. Nevertheless, the general format covers everything you need to include in your notification message.

    Subject: Important Announcement – Cancellation of our upcoming wedding celebration

    Dear [Insert Name],

    We are writing to you today to inform you that we have made the difficult decision to cancel our upcoming wedding celebration originally dated [Insert Date].

    While this decision has not been taken lightly, we have made the only decision we feel we could due to unforeseen circumstances that have led us to make this challenging decision.

    We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience and issues that this may have caused you and are both extremely disappointed that we are having to make this decision and share this news with you.

    Should you have any questions or concerns that you would like to raise with us, please feel free to get in touch. Please bear in mind that responses may be slightly delayed during this difficult time.

    We both thank you for your continued support and once again express our apologies at having to come to this decision.

    Kindest Regards.

    [Insert Names]

    You may find other versions online that are considerably longer or more wordy. That being said, the Story Amour team believes it is a better option to keep things short and sweet. Writing three page essays is not how you want to spend your time at the moment.

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    Step 4: Notify the venue, registry office and all vendors

    Next up it’s time to start contacting your wedding vendors, venues and registry officiants/offices. You should do this once you have checked your wedding insurance to confirm the type of cover they will provide for the cancellations. Once you’ve checked your insurance, it’s important to notify ALL suppliers as soon as possible. This may actually reduce your outlay as they may be able to fill your date with an alternative couple.

    As with wedding guests, it’s important to make a list of all the vendors you need to contact. This should go a long way to ensuring you don’t forget anyone, which of course, could lead to further financial implications.

    Another tip from our team would be to be open and transparent with your wedding partners. Explaining clearly the situation and the reasons that lead to the cancellation, may help create a better overall scenario for all parties. You should ask questions about the next steps and what to expect in terms of financial costs.

    Furthermore, you should remain calm. Getting angry about not receiving a refund for your non-refundable deposit won’t help improve your chances of an improved financial situation. Whether that’s through credits offered or the vendor’s generosity. Remember, for many of our vendors, your cancellation will have a major impact on their life. Most wedding vendors rely on your income to provide for their family.

    Step 5: Cancel future plans (Honeymoon, Parties etc)

    Once all the wedding vendors have been notified it’s time to move onto any future plans that you have locked in. Perhaps you had booked an all-inclusive trip to the Maldives to celebrate your marriage. Be sure to check your cancellation policy and take a look at what your travel insurance covers before canceling.

    If you have booked any future parties, such as a post wedding celebration or return from a honeymoon party, it’s also important to cancel suppliers and venues for these. Just like the wedding vendors, check your contract and be open and communicative with all your booked service providers.

    Step 6: Return unused items

    Depending on the time of cancellation, you may have also purchased other wedding related products including wedding attire, individual decorations, wedding favors etc. If you have purchased items from high street retailers, check the refund deadline and begin to return as soon as possible.

    More complex purchases such as wedding gowns, may need further contact with the company you purchased from. Custom made items are unlikely to be fully refundable however it’s always worth getting in touch to see any potential options the company may offer.

    Finally, for any items that can’t be refunded, make a note. Making a list of items that you could sell at a later date is a good way to recoup a little bit of money should you wish. Facebook Marketplace and eBay are great places to list unwanted items. The second hand wedding market is actually quite big. Heck, you may even make a profit! If ever there was a time for wishful thinking, it’s now!

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    FAQs About Wedding Cancellation

    Seems like we’ve mentioned it a lot just in this article, but with 15 years of wedding experience, we kinda know what the most popular questions are when it comes to canceling a wedding day. Below are real questions that couples have asked when making the tough decision to call off the wedding day. If you do have further questions, drop us an email and we will offer any support we can in regards to you and your situation.

    How to cancel a wedding due to a breakup

    Let’s be honest, this is arguably the toughest cancellation to go through. Baring the obvious. Canceling your wedding due to a break up is particularly sensitive. Emotions are raw, it’s extremely difficult to remain calm and composed throughout the process.

    Remember your partner is also going through the same situation and any decisions you make, should be made together. Both financial and emotional decisions will have a direct impact on you both.

    The actual process will remain the same as any cancellation process however it’s important to remain understanding to both sides of the party.

    Is it rude to cancel a wedding?

    It depends! Why are you canceling? Generally speaking, couple’s don’t cancel their wedding day willy-nilly. They have usually taken the time to consider all aspects, and made a decision that they truly feel is for the best.

    While canceling a wedding will of course have a direct impact on your wedding guests, it’s important they understand that any disappointments they are going through, will be ten-fold on your part.

    As long as you notify guests as soon as you can, and are respectful about their situation, it is not considered rude to call off your wedding day. Canceling on a whim however can be considered a little crass.

    Do I need to explain why we are canceling?

    No, you do not need to disclose the reason you are canceling. However, it can go a long way to offering understanding to those affected by your decision.

    This is your personal life, you only have to share it with who you feel need to know. No one should feel disrespected or upset if you haven’t given a precise reason to why you are canceling.

    What are some good reasons to cancel a wedding?

    “Good” seems an inappropriate word to use when it comes to wedding cancellations, however there are many suitable reasons to cancel a big day. Whether that’s a partnership split, health reasons or perhaps unexpected financial changes. After the last couple of years it seems only right to mention pandemics as a suitable reason… Scared for life.

    When is it too late to cancel a wedding?

    It’s never too late to cancel a wedding, however depending on when you cancel, may impact you financially. The earlier you can notify the required parties, the more likely you are to be impacted less. Many wedding vendors will have a staggered date policy meaning that the date of cancellation will dictate the level of refund you are able to receive, or the level of additional fees you may have to pay.

    Can a relationship survive a canceled wedding?

    100%. We have helped hundreds of couples, twice. If that makes sense. There are so many reasons for calling off a wedding and just because you are now longer saying “I Do”, doesn’t mean you won’t in the future.

    How to recover from a canceled wedding?

    There is no right or wrong way to recover from a canceled wedding. Much in the same way as the grieving process, losing a close friend or family member takes time to move on. It’s an emotional process that requires support from your closest. Look after yourself, both mentally and physically. Furthermore, if you are still struggling to come to terms with the decision, seek more professional help such as counseling.

    How to postpone a wedding?

    Postponing a wedding day is relatively similar to canceling a wedding day. You will still have to go through the same processes as with a cancellation. Let family know, inform guests, contact wedding vendors. All will need to be completed in order to successfully postpone your big day.

    As with a cancellation, you will need to fully review your agreements with your suppliers. You may not be able to rearrange without paying a fee. In some cases, it may be an entirely new agreement with the same fees. Remember, most wedding vendors have very limited availability, if you plan to postpone to a Saturday around the same time next year, the chances are high the vendor will lose out on future bookings. As we say, postponement fees may be applicable.

    Remember to openly discuss the situation with each and every vendor. Explaining your situation will go a long way to creating a more desirable scenario to all parties. Most importantly, remain calm throughout. Emotions will be running high and you shouldn’t say anything that could have a negative impact later down the line.

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    Tips for dealing with questions

    The nosey parkers are likely to reveal themself shortly after they have been informed of your plan to cancel. The inevitable questions about why, what, who are likely to follow. As with every part of this process, try your best to remain as calm as possible. Let them know directly if you are happy and comfortable answering questions. Don’t be rude, just try to steer them away from any further questions.

    Always thank guests for their concerns, remaining amicable with everyone at this difficult time will ensure everything runs a little more smoothly.

    Who gets the engagement ring?

    We are starting to get into more legal areas when it comes to possessions. While we can give spiritual advice on everything, we highly recommend contacting a legal provider for advice on situations such as engagement ring ownership.

    You may feel inclined to return the ring to your partner. You may wish to whack it on Facebook Marketplace immediately! Whatever you do, try to not rush into anything and seek professional help to reduce the chances of future implications.

    Do we have to return the gifts?

    Probably not, although it’s for the best and is the respectful decision to make.

    Guests will have likely spent considerable money on purchasing a gift for your day. If you plan to cancel you should return the gift as soon as possible as they may be able to receive a refund. It’s best to get in touch with the specific person and discuss the circumstances.

    What if guests have made travel arrangements?

    Always a tricky one! Try dealing with guests for a destination wedding! This is where things can get a little frisky!

    As with everything in this scenario, you need to get ahead of the curve and notify guests as early as possible. The more time they have to cancel their arrangements, the more likely they will receive a refund. Time is of the essence!

    If the guests have made specific arrangements with your venue, you are likely to be more informed about the cancellation policies. You should notify the guests of any information you have regarding the policies in place. Generally speaking, being upfront and clear with your understanding of the situation, can go a long way to putting your guests minds at ease.

    When notifying guests, it’s necessary to offer you sincere apologies as they may also be financially impacted by your decision.

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    When you have to go through the nightmare scenario of calling off your wedding day, you are going to need a heck load of support, a strong will and a clear mind. Canceling a wedding is a really tough decision to make, and an incredibly hard process to go through.

    Hopefully our steps to canceling a wedding go a long way to guiding you through the process. While there may be more you need to consider depending on your situation, it’s a great starting point to navigating this particularly tricky time.

    Remember to remain calm throughout and try to consider the situation from all points of view, whether that’s your partner, your wedding vendors, or your wedding guests. Everyone will be directly impacted by your decision.

    Furthermore, use your family as a leaning post. Ask for their help. Get their feedback. Be welcoming about any support they can offer. They will both help in the short and long run.

    Stay strong. You can do this.


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