How to Graciously Cancel or Postpone Your Wedding

While no one wants to think about making major changes to one of the biggest events in your life, sometimes life happens and unforeseen circumstances lead to the decision to cancel or postpone your wedding. You may be facing such changes due to a global pandemic, natural disaster, illness, or bereavement. In any case, these changes will affect a lot of people: your wedding party, guests, and vendors, to name a few. It can be difficult to navigate the responsibilities involved in canceling or postponing a wedding. That’s why the wedding professionals at Walter Knoll Weddings have created a checklist for you to follow, ensuring that you don’t forget anyone and can hopefully salvage at least some of the expenses already incurred.

Will You Cancel or Postpone?

This is the first major decision you’ll make once you see the need to change gears. If you still want to gather friends and loved ones together, but the timing simply isn’t working for you, postponement is the way to go. You’ll still have some work to do to rearrange your plans with your vendors and guests, but many vendors may be willing to work with you to reschedule, especially if the change is due to circumstances out of your control. Many couples are choosing, in the face of a global pandemic, to still have a very small ceremony with just two witnesses, then postpone the gathering of friends and relatives for a later date. However, if you’ve decided to fully cancel the wedding altogether, you’ll want to notify everyone quickly and efficiently. You’re more likely to lose deposits and will need to return gifts, so be sure this is the path you want to take before making this decision.

Outdoor wedding image

Notifying Vendors

  • Check your policies. As your first order of business, make sure you know what is covered and what isn’t for your particular situation. If you have wedding insurance, start there. Then move on to each vendor’s contract. Learn about their policies in the event of cancellation or postponement before calling.
  • Be honest. Once you know your vendor’s policies, give them a call. Be upfront and honest with them about your situation but be ready to lose your deposit or even incur a fee for changes. Depending on the reason for your changes, however, your vendor may be understanding and willing to work with you.
  • Timing matters. The sooner you can let your vendors know that you need to cancel or postpone your event, the better. Consider the situation from their business’ standpoint. They may have already ordered materials or ingredients, turned down other business and blocked out time for your event. While many have an “Act of God” clause in their contracts, most do not accommodate for a change of heart.
  • Be flexible. If you’re just postponing to a new date, certain things still may need to change. Different flowers will be in season in the fall rather than the spring. Your bridesmaids’ dresses might need to be a different color. Talk to your vendors about how to change your plans to fit the new season within your budget and be ready to think outside the box a little. What develops might just pleasantly surprise you!

Notifying Guests

  • Start with those traveling. For anyone who may have booked a flight, a rental car, or a hotel, it’s important to prioritize them as soon as you know your plans have changed so they can begin rearranging their own plans. Some airlines offer credit on future flights, and hotels can sometimes offer refunds or future credit. If you booked a block of rooms, talk to the hotel right away to save your guests one more thing they’ll have to do.
  • Be polite but be efficient. True etiquette in this situation calls for a formal announcement that the wedding has been canceled or postponed. However, if time does not permit the printing and sending of formal announcements, a well-worded email or text to all guests will suffice. Keep it brief and to-the-point: “Mr. and Mrs. So-and-so regret to announce that the wedding of their daughter, _ to _ will not take place.” There will be time to pour over the details later with those closest to you, but for now, work on informing everyone as quickly and politely as possible.
  • Know when to return gifts. If your plans are being postponed, it’s okay to keep the wedding gifts you’ve already been given. If you’re changing your plans to include a super-small ceremony and no guests, it’s polite to offer to return gifts (say, from your bridal shower a few months ago). Often guests will insist that you keep the gift anyway, in which case, simply accept and write a lovely thank you card. However, if you’ll be completely canceling the wedding, be sure to return gifts (even those that have been personalized).
  • Don’t feel the need to explain. It’s often tempting to want to make your reasons clear, but trust that these will come out over time. You’ll inevitably confide in your closest people, and they will help you explain to extended family, friends, and co-workers. At this time, however, you’re full of emotions and have a lot on your plate. You do not owe anyone an explanation or a long discussion.

A final word of advice if you find yourself canceling or even postponing your wedding, no matter the reason: ask for help. Find your maid of honor or other bridesmaids, a sister, mother, or close friend who are glad to step up and help. This is a hugely emotional decision and should not be handled alone. Make a list to prioritize the tasks to be done and print it off for a friend to handle. Be flexible with changes that have to occur and do everything you can to keep yourself calm during such difficult circumstances. For more tips, advice, and help navigating the uncharted waters of un-planning a wedding, talk to the wedding experts at Walter Knoll Weddings. We’ll happily walk through every step of this process with you.

Closeup of bridal bouquet with pastel flowers and greenery

If You Still Must Get Married – Go Virtual!

If the love is still there and it’s events out of your control which is causing you to postpone or cancel your wedding, then know there are other options available. With virtual streaming platforms such as Facebook Live, you can still have a wedding and have your guests share in the experience of it, too. Just have a dedicated computer or phone-person to stream the event. Whether it’s in a courthouse or your backyard, get everybody in attendance to dress their part, decorate with gorgeous flowers and table settings, grab your beautiful bouquet, and walk down an aisle of rose petals. Make sure the ceremony is recorded as well for you to keep and treasure, and when everybody can finally get together, then you can celebrate your nuptials with a big bash.

For help in creating the picture-perfect virtual wedding with stunning, fresh flowers (a must at all kinds of ceremonies!), contact Walter Knoll Weddings to help you make the day you get married extra special.