The Wedding’s Off !

I try to stay positive, in this column and in my life. But stuff happens. After all the years of officiating there have been a few times when I got the call: the wedding is cancelled. I feel so sad hearing this or reading the email alerting me to the news.T

Unfortunately, most of the deposits couples have put down, whether on the venue or other vendors, are non-refundable. And there are several reasons for that. The most important one is that another wedding could have been booked for that date. My deposit is ½ the total fee, so I am losing ½ my expected income for that date.  Additionally, I may have already put a lot of hours in and even have the ceremony completed. But honestly, I don’t care about that so much, at least compared to what the couple is going through. No doubt there was pain coming to this difficult decision. 

I’ve heard several upsetting stories, although I am not usually privy to the details, but one bride told me her partner simply informed her he didn’t want to marry her. She said, to her, it came out of nowhere. She was completely shocked and incredibly sad. More often when the couple comes to this decision, it’s not a surprise to them but a relief. Clearly it’s better to call of the nuptials than to go forward simply because you don’t want to disappoint people, or because, well… it’s all planned. 

The best reason to break it off, no matter how close to the wedding date, is violence, the threat of violence, controlling behaviors or other signs of abuse. Period. Get out!If he is showing those tendencies now (and it is statistically most often men who are the abusive partner in a heterosexual relationship) it will likely get worse once he ‘has’ you. Again, this is statistically true. Anecdotally I’ve heard many stories, back when I worked on the hotline, that back this up completely.

According to a survey conducted by WP Diamonds, who polled 1,000 people between ages of 20 and 60 acrossthe US, many more engagementsare called off than weddingscancelled. About 20% of engaged couples break it off, usually before their plans went too far and money put out. So, this happens more often than people might realize – just  not necessarily before the wedding day, or even at the altar. That ‘stood up at the altar’ is mostly the stuff of movies. Oh, it happens, but I could not find statistics on the frequency of this, and I suspect it’s pretty rare.

Etiquette experts tell us that you’re supposed to return all of the engagement, shower and wedding gifts you’ve received, even presents that’ve been personalized (like monogrammed towels). Obviously If you’ve used any of the gifts, it’s okay not to send them back, but everything else should go.

Cancelling a wedding at the last minute is the worse case scenario. In this situation each guest will need to be carefully contacted – probably called – because you can’t trust that they got your email. Many people spend a lot of money to attend a wedding, on clothing, gifts, and sometimes travel and accommodations. 

If you are cancelling the wedding you don’t have to tell people WHY you made this decision. It’s obviously a difficult one and you don’t owe anyone an explanation. Calling off a wedding in and of itself speaks volumes.

Conflicts might ensue about debt accrued. Depending on the circumstances this can go a number of ways. But if you’re not in high conflict mode, the debt should be shared, unless the person calling it off, is doing so because of a transgression by their partner. In this situation I think you could make the case that the transgressor should pay. 

Sometimes it isn’t even that you don’t love your partner. Love is complicated. It might be that you’ve come to realize you see life too differently and are headed in different directions. Marriage is about a lot more than love – its about all aspects of life – finances, children, careers, your world-view, and definitely friendship.

If you’re feeling doubt before your wedding, it may just be pre-wedding jitters. But if you’re feeling reservations based on significant differences on major issues, you should listen to those doubts.

If you went through this situation you probably got a lot of advice, especially that it’s not the end of the world. It isn’t, but it sure feels like it at the moment.

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