How to postpone or cancel a wedding because of Coronavirus: Step-by-step guide, plus copy 'n' paste wording

Updated Apr 28 2020
We think this glorious mask is pretty bridal looking, don't you? It's by Etsy seller RubberMasking

We're in the midst of a pandemic, and sadly a lot of folks have already answered the question "Should I cancel or postpone my wedding because of coronavirus?" (answer: yes) and are now moving on to this even harder question: "But HOW!?"

This post has some factors to consider in your decision about whether to cancel or postpone your wedding, but the vibe seems to quickly be shifting to CANCEL EVERYTHING… bridal showers, bachelor parties, the wedding, everything.

That in mind, here's our step-by-step guide about how to announce that you're canceling or postponing your wedding and associated events — we've even got copy & paste wording suggestions, and templates you can use for emails or wedding websites…

1. Talk with your family immediately

These are your closest folks, and even if they haven't been part of the planning process, chances are they're as excited about the wedding as you are… and they're going to be as disappointed as you. If you get any push-back, here's some wording you can use to hold your boundary:

I know you're disappointed, and we are too. Our top priority is protecting the health of our immediately family and friends, and this is the decision we think is best for us. We hope you can support our choice.

2. Communicate with your guests as soon as possible

Cute BRB wedding postponement announcement from GreenEnvelope

We're all watching this situation closely, and chances are that your guests have been wondering what's going to happen with your wedding. We recommend covering all your bases and reaching out by email and following up via phone if you don't hear back from someone.

There are lots of cute wedding postponement templates available, but here's some sample text you can use in your emails or on your wedding website, if you're postponing or canceling your wedding:

Dear family and friends:

We've been watching the coronavirus situation closely, and out of concern for the health of our loved ones, we've made the painful decision to cancel our wedding. This is a potentially lethal situation for certain people we love very much. We want them to be able to attend our wedding, and so we will wait until its a safer time. Sending you all love and wishes for good health.

Now isn't the time to get into the discussion about whether you're rescheduling or postponing. Keep the messaging short and simple.

If you don't hear back from folks via email, you may want to follow up via phone just to make sure people got the message. This may be too large or painful a task for you to handle all by yourself, so see if your friends or family may help you make the calls.

3. Talk to your vendors about rescheduling first before you cancel completely

Once guests are taken care of, start contacting your vendors. Phone is your best bet, but you should also email.

  • First, ask each vendor about their rescheduling policies. Canceling completely can be very expensive, so explore rescheduling options with vendors if you can.
  • If your vendors aren't able to accommodate rescheduling (remember: most vendors are tiny family businesses, and everyone's struggling with major financial set-backs from this pandemic — your cancellation could be their biz's bankruptcy), you'll need to look at your contracts carefully to see each vendor's policies about cancellations. Some vendors will give you a return of a portion of your deposit if you pull out by a certain date.

This much is true: The closer you are to your wedding day, the less likely it is that you'll get money back. If you do have to cancel completely, accept that most of the money you've already paid will not be coming back. Unfortunately, the longer your vendor holds the date for you, the less likely they are to re-book that date once you cancel. Again, your wedding vendors are small businesses that are being hit hard by this pandemic — everyone's human, and we're all struggling.

In addition to phone calls, it's smart to also communicate in writing to ensure that vendors will not try to bill you for any more than you've already paid them. Here's a sample wedding cancellation email you can send to vendors, with sections you can edit about deposits and cancellation windows.

Dear [Vendor name],

This message is to notify you that I am [canceling/postponing] my wedding on MM/DD/YYYY, due to concerns about coronavirus. I understand that my $XXX deposit for your services is nonrefundable. As required by our contract, this notification is more than [X weeks] prior to the event. My understanding is that no additional payments are required.

Thank you for your help,

[Your Name]

Who to Notify:

  • Officiant
  • Ceremony venue
  • Reception venue
  • Planner or day-of coordinator
  • Photographer
  • Musicians
  • DJ
  • Caterers
  • Florist
  • Any other vendors you may have contracted

Cancel all travel plans

Don't forget to cancel all honeymoon flights, hotel accommodations, etc. Airlines are being generous with cancellations these days, but it'll depend on what kind of ticket you bought, when, and their specific policies. If you bought trip insurance, check to see if Coronavirus is covered.

The wedding dress question

If you've already purchased your wedding dress, you can decide to either keep it, alter it, sell it, or give it away to a wedding dress charity. Some bridal shops may be willing to sell your wedding gown for you as an in-store sample.

Return the gifts (or don't)

Though there are no hard and fast rules in the case of weddings canceled for pandemics, we're pretty sure that no guest will be demanding their gift back.

We recommend you return the gifts you can, and keep anything that might be helpful.

Leave this decision for the last step since it's really the least important.

Moving On

Recognize your grief and allow yourself leeway. While taking the time to grieve the disappointment, use the pandemic as a reason to stay in… Socially distancing is smart, but don't let it isolate you from your support network. Call your friends and family — and your therapist, if you have one.

Practice self-care: Stay hydrated, stay active if you can, sleep as much as you need. Canceling a wedding is fucking depressing, and a pandemic is deeply frightening. This is a scary time. Stay safe out there, friends.

  1. Thanks so much for this great resource, Offbeat Bride! I'm a wedding coordinator in Portland, Oregon, and have been thinking a lot about how I correspond with clients and fellow vendors right now.

    I've had enough conversations with fellow vendors that I decided to start writing down resources that have helped me. Ariel of Offbeat kindly invited me to share those resources here: https://www.elisabethkramer.com/unwed/wedding-vendors-small-business-coronavirus

  2. My wedding is next weekend (March 20-21). My fiance and I are all in, and I feel both determined and ashamed. A lot of grandparents are cancelling their RSVPs, and we will celebrate with them at a later date when it is safe to gather with them. My fiance and can't justify the financial loss, and most of our friends were still planning to go. It feels irresponsible to still host the wedding, but it also feels irresponsible to cancel it. I'm so stuck.

    • The only comfort I can offer is this: in my experience with decisions like this, you'll feel a sense of relief once you decide either way. Even if you decide to cancel, you'll feel relief in the disappointment. Often, facing the decision is the most painful part… once the decision is made, a lot of the agony goes away.

      Big love to you.

    • Are you able to access wifi? Perhaps you can use YouTube or something to allow them to watch without being present?

  3. Not quite the same boat, but my boyfriend and I were planning on getting formally engaged in April. We went as far as ordering a ring from BBB Gem about a week and a half ago. Given the pandemic I have no idea when it'll actually be ready, but I've been telling him (and myself) that at the end of the day, it's not the ring itself that matters. We can use a ring I already own (or something like that), or just wait until things normalize a little. At the end of the day, all I want is for the two of us (not to mention our families) to be safe.

  4. We have decided to continue with our wedding plans for the end of April. Things are uncertain and not everyone will be there, but I think at that point (6 weeks from now) we may NEED a wedding for the good of all our spirits, ya know? It will be smaller. It will most likely be local only (several out of town guests have changed RSVPs already) and a younger crowd, but we plan on.

  5. Our wedding was scheduled for the first weekend of April, but yesterday we decided to postpone it; we spent yesteday and this morning sending out texts/emails to our guests. Most of his people are local, but alllllll of mine live in different parts of the country and none of us felt like traveling like that would be responsible. We'll start reaching out to our vendors tomorrow, since that's typical business hours.

    It's so frustrating. Now the challenge will be working with the venue on when we can reschedule, and hoping that the other vendors we've been working with can work with whatever new date we settle on. We'll see! Fingers crossed that this is only an inconvenience, and this caution pays off with few of our people getting significantly ill.

    • I just suggested that my daughter and FSIL go to the courthouse in the next week or two and jut get married. They have a $35k budget for the wedding, but being married (the important part) will tame a LOT of stress off of all the reschedulng/replanning.

      • I agree – it's a solid idea. My fiance and I were just discussing it earlier; I think we'll be getting the legal part settled soon and then worry about the celebration later this year…whatever that ends up looking like. We're both currently facing job insecurity because of the economic ripples so…it'd be one less thing to worry about.

  6. Our wedding was supposed to be March 21st, we decided Thursday that we were going to postpone. It just wasn’t worth the risk, now we are glad we did because my friends’ dad was supposed to perform the ceremony and they live in Canada and they are being advised to not leave the country. And many people were saying that they were going to cancel when we called to postpone. All the vendors were very understanding and we only lost maybe a couple hundred dollars because food and flowers had already come in.

    • Anything. Anything at all, just to let them know how important they are to you, and how much you understand and respect their decision. Right now they just need to know they have your support. A lovely, handwritten letter would be best.

    • A gift-voucher out to a nice restaurant or a spa. Something that will make your friend and their fiance feel pampered. After postponing our June wedding by more than a year, I am really hankering for a nice night out with my fiance to remind us that we are deserving of nice things and pampering.

      Plus, the present is a double-whammy – not only are you getting your friend a lovely enriching experience, but will ALSO support a business that will no doubt be facing hard times in this era of social distancing. They get the benefit of the money now, but your friend can use the voucher at a time when the pandemic has eased and they can really relax.

  7. We have our wedding booked for sept. Both my intended and myself are in our 70s so are having to think about self isolating, although we both are still in employment atm. My dilemma is whether the situation will still be ongoing . Do i cancel or wait, i really dont know what to do.

Join the conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

No-drama comment policy

Part of what makes the Offbeat Empire different is our commitment to civil, constructive commenting. Make sure you're familiar with our no-drama comment policy.

Biz owners & wedding bloggers

Please just use your real name in your comment, not your business name or blog title. Our comments are not the place to pimp your website. If you want to promote your stuff on Offbeat Bride, join us as an advertiser instead.