How to notify guests about a canceled wedding

Original photo by: katie chao and ben muessig - CC BY 2.0
Text credit: Diane Farr. Original photo by katie chao and ben muessigCC BY 2.0.
Sadly, we have decided to call off the wedding. We sent out the Save The Dates a while ago, and we're going to each notify our own "sides" of the guest list.

I can call my friends, but what do I do to notify the distant relatives and parents' friends? I know I need to send something soon because the wedding date is only 3 months away. In this state of mind, I can't think of what to say.

Any thoughts?

First: I'm so very sorry. This is one of those situations where simplicity goes a long way — you don't need to get into details with extended family. A phone call may work better than a mailed card, which could get lost in the shuffle.

If you're close with your parents and can ask them to call the distant relatives and family friends, that's the best bet. It's likely that they've got the contact information anyway, and they've got the relationships with these people and can field the possibly-intrusive questions that guests may have.

If you don't feel comfortable asking your parents, you can make the calls yourself. Be gracious but don't get into details:

I just wanted to let you know that we've decided not to move forward with the wedding. I hope I've caught you before you've made any travel plans.

If they ask why the wedding's been called off, simply say, "It was a decision that we put a lot of thought into. I don't really want to talk about it, I'm sorry."

No need to go any further.

Canceling a wedding is a deeply painful process — but less painful than a divorce a few years down the line.

Best of luck, and lots of love.

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  1. I am a flute player and I often get hired to play at weddings. I was hired to play at a wedding over the winter holidays one year for a summer wedding. About three months before the wedding her father called and told me that the wedding was called off. I think that having a parent call is best. I just responded with, "I'm sorry to hear that. Take care." And that was that. I felt bad for the poor girl – but it is better to figure it out before a big, expensive shin dig.

    9 agree
  2. Something similar happened to Diane Farr, an actress on Numb3rs.

    She sent out 300 engaged announcements and then sent back out 300 unengaged announcements that read:

    Single. Picked the wrong guy. Gave him the wrong finger. Thanks for your support.

    30 agree
    • Oh my god! Why didn't I know this 3 days ago, when I mailed out my cancellation letters!
      I will keep this in mind, perhaps for the facebook announcement.
      God, I hate that I have to first announce I'm getting married almost a year ago, and almost to the exact date (01/09/2013-01/09/2014), I have to announce that the planned wedding of 20/09/2014 is completely cancelled.
      But hey, I might as well use a funny saying, right?

      8 agree
  3. My boyfriend and I recently went to a wedding that wasn't. Apparently everyone had been notified and somehow we hadn't, so there we were, all dressed up, knocking on the door of an empty house with no cars in the parking lot. Awkward. Whatever you do, just make sure EVERYBODY knows.

    19 agree
  4. This sounds like a goooood opportunity to lean on your MOH or best-friend. I know personally my parents would NOT help make those phone calls, but my best friend absolutely would and she wouldn't rest until everyone had been contacted. She'd also punch anyone who gave her attitude about it.

    30 agree
  5. Also, good luck to you. I'm so sorry for the canceled wedding but that is a VERY tough decision to make and also a very responsible one. Good for you.

    4 agree
  6. Seems to me that a lot of people these days might be canceling weddings due to finances/layoffs, or military deployments. Maybe a few words should be said about that as well?

    Sounds like solid advice to me, and I sincerely hope the questioner has a good network of friends and family to help her out. That would be hard.

    3 agree
    • One of my cousins cancelled their wedding due to finances. They contacted close family (my grandma who then told everyone else) and also mailed out little cards to let everyone know. We're weren't sure if it was cancelled and never happening again or what, but we did know they were still together – though the card didn't specify that, only that it "would not be taking place". They then got married a few months after the scheduled wedding, albeit in a much, much smaller wedding.

      2 agree
  7. If you're mailing/emailing notes to people, I think it would be helpful to include a line or two as to the why – many of your would-have-been guests will probably be quite concerned or alarmed by the sudden change of plans. Even just a few words to let them know whether the relationship has ended, or if you're still together but have just decided for whatever reason not to get married.

    5 agree
  8. I was engaged about 8 years ago and the day before the bridal shower and the official invitation send day I decided to break it off. Unfortunately in the mess of it all I forgot to tell my MoH. Doh! She was a trooper though and got the word out to people that were expecting invitations while my mom called family members so I didn't have to re-live the break-up moment 100 times over while trying to explain.

    Enlist your friends and family, it is the best way.

    And best of luck to you! If I hadn't followed my instincts back then I would never have travelled the world, gone to college and met "my" mister right. Things happen for a reason.

    6 agree
  9. I am to get married this July, and my Fiance decided he dont want a wedding, he want to go to the Justice of Piece and then have a reception. So the wedding is OFF!!! I am numb to the situation. I dont see the difference, if he wants a reception then what's the problem with the wedding? I just dont know. I am going to let him know he needs to move out. I am worthy of a Beautiful Wedding Ceremony apose to a little room and a Pastor whom niether of us know. Now I have to send cancellation cards out. Am I wrong

    5 agree
    • Ava you are so very right. I have been marrying couples now for 20 years. The significance is in the ceremony, the words, the meaning behind the words. All this and more is so important.
      Any one – bride or groom – who only wants the party afterwards has missed the whole point of making a commitment in marriage.

      6 agree
  10. Hello Ava, firstly, I am sorry to hear about your situation, this must be a very difficult time for you. You are not wrong to feel the way you do, we all have expectations as to what our wedding day will be like and you naturally are disappointed that you partner does not have the same expectations. My suggestion would be to discuss the situation in depth with your partner, explain how important it is to you.
    perhaps make a compromise? if he is worried about or put off by the idea of a large wedding could you maybe compromise and promise to keep the wedding low key, at least in terms of the amount of guests? all i can suggest is keeping the lines of communication open.
    I hope this advice has helped, remember a beautiful wedding does not have to mean a massive ceremony and many couples are married by people they do not know. I believe that your feelings can never be wrong and that you must make sure you are happy with whatever decision you make. What I have had to constantly remind myself is that it is not all about the day but it is about the marriage that folllows it.
    I send you the fondest of wishes. x

    8 agree
  11. This has been mighty helpful to me. I read the comments and I don't feel so alone now. Mine was a bit different. Hubs is military & we did a quick courthouse wedding then have spent the whole year planning & all just to find out he is going underway & cannot get leave time so we are forced to wait on our vows ceremony. I am sending out a letter with a brief overview of what happened. You don't have to give them a lot of information. It is your choice to have a wedding or not. Also your choice to keep private about what led to canceling it. No matter what I wish you luck in the future.

    3 agree
  12. when I had to call off my wedding six years ago it was ugly. He got caught cheating. Anyway, I called my dad and begged him to handle the family stuff and I'd handle the friends. He used the same company we had sent our save the dates through and made similar post cards stating "due to unforeseen circumstances, the wedding is postponed." I don't know why he chose that wording., there was no way in hell I was going to marry someone who cheated six months before our wedding. Anyway, when I got engaged a year and four months later I had to explain the situation to many confused family members that had NO IDEA, I had split with the former fianc├ę and had fallen for my (now) husband.
    So my advice is to make sure everyone KNOWS, what is going on. They don't need details, but don't let them think it's "just postponed ".

    8 agree
  13. Keep in mind when you are canceling a wedding and canceling contracts with vendors, you can't get someone else to cancel on your behalf. This is in place to protect you from meddlers as well. No changes can be made to a contract unless it's by the person who signed it. I have had family members call up to try change the brides dress because they didn't approve and cancel it because they thought the bride was doing the wrong thing.
    Thankfully in my few years at the bridal store I only had 5 or so brides need to cancel due to breakup. Meddling family members on the other hand…. Those are stories for a different day, wine required.

    12 agree
  14. I had sent out save-the-dates digitally, so when my fiance left me and ran off with a coworker just a few weeks before our wedding, all I had to do was email our guests. Don't forget we live in a digital age! (And no, I didn't include any reasons in the email, just said we were no longer together & the wedding was off)

    3 agree

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