The reception hall’s booked, invitations are in the mail, and you feel like you’re strapped into a never-ending roller coaster. Take a deep breath; everything’s going to be okay. Really. Whether the doubts are mutual or one partner has cold feet, calling off your wedding may turn out to be the best decision you ever made.
The good news is that it’s not a divorce. It’s much easier to break off an engagement than a marriage. Don’t worry about what others will think. Would your friends and family really want you to tie the knot with Mr. Wrong just to avoid some minor inconvenience? You’ll be surprised to find how supportive others can be. Here’s how to handle the logistics, fend off gossip-mongers, and march on with your life.
- Immediately Cancel Reservations. Even waiting one day could mean a difference of thousands of dollars. For example, one hotel’s contract stipulates that if cancellation occurs after 89 days of the event date, full payment is required. If you cancel even one or two days after that deadline, you’ll find yourself out of luck in the refund department. Ouch!
- Inform Your Guests. You may be dreading this task, but it’s only fair to give your guests a timely heads-up. Try and contact everyone personally, rather than leaving it to the grapevine—although it’s acceptable to delegate the task of phoning 57 second cousins to your mom. It’s appropriate to offer to reimburse those who have paid for flights. Yes, you do have to return any wedding gifts (did you really have to ask?).
- Minimize Losses. Most bridal shops are willing to re-sell your dress on consignment. If your bridesmaids have bought hideous lilac frocks at your command, no fair bullying the girls into keeping them. The only thing more obnoxious than a bossy bride is a bossy ex-bride. Refund their money promptly and graciously, and then worry about recouping your own costs. If you’ve already printed invitations but haven’t mailed them, try selling the envelopes on craigslist or eBay.
- Forget About Excuses. If you’d run away at the altar, you might feel your guests deserve to hear a compelling excuse. But three months out is early enough that you shouldn’t be the butt of everyone’s curiosity. A simple, “We realized marriage wasn’t right for us,” is perfectly fine. To the nosy question, “Why not?” a firm “Because we realized marriage wasn’t right for us,” should do the trick. Remember to smile. Then change the subject.
- Activate Damage Control. If on good terms with your ex, make an agreement not to badmouth each other or play the blame game. Presenting a dignified exterior to the world will gain you both admiration and respect. Hurling public insults at each other will only prompt whispers that neither of you had very good taste. If you and your ex live together, separate your living arrangements as soon as possible. You may feel that you want to cling to each other for comfort, but ending your relationship means ending co-dependency.
- Be Gentle With Yourself. The ending of a relationship is never easy, and since you’ve invested so much time and effort into planning a life together, this may feel like a small death. Confide in your close friends, but avoid sour grapes towards other brides. (Thoughts like, “It’ll never work for you,” and “My dress was prettier” are best kept private.) Don’t dwell on the what-ifs. However, don’t immediately plunge into another relationship. Take advantage of singlehood to get to know yourself better and explore what you’re really looking for in a partner.
These tips won’t take away the heartbreak, but they’ll make it easier to navigate through this challenging time. You’re not alone—and you will get through this. Sooner or later, you’ll look back on the day you called off your wedding and realize it was the smartest decision of your life.