What to Expect When Canceling a Wedding

If you’re canceling a wedding due to the coronavirus outbreak (or for any other reason), you have your work cut out for you.

From figuring out refund policies to getting the word out to your guests, there are a lot of things to consider.

While the process depends on many factors, we’ll go over some of the most common considerations below.

Let’s get started!

Related: 6 Brides Share Bright Side to Postponing a Wedding

If you're canceling a wedding due to the coronavirus outbreak (or for any other reason), you have your work cut out for you. Find out what to expect!

Canceling a Wedding: Where Do You Even Start?

Canceling a wedding can be crazy overwhelming and stressful. It’s hard to know where to even begin!

Like all major tasks in life, it’s best to start with a list.

Make a list of vendors to cancel

Pull out your wedding planning book and go through every page.

Grab the names and numbers of vendors from throughout it and stick them all on one list.

I’d use a Google or Excel sheet and set it up like this:

  • First column- blank, so you can put an X or “done” when you complete each call.
  • Second column- Vendor name
  • Third- Phone number
  • 4th- notes from your call (what they said about refunds, etc).

Of course, you can do it however you want- pen and paper, a notebooks, etc. I just like sheets.

Get out your guest list, too

You’ll want to do the same with your guest list, except add a column to remind you how you contacted them.

For example, “Aunt Jennie- emailed on 3/17, confirmed receipt.”

Enlist help

Once you have your lists ready to go, call on your wedding party to help you out.

While you’ll need to cancel some things yourself (certain vendors, for example), let them take as much of the burden off you as possible.

This is a stressful enough time- regardless of why you’re canceling your wedding. Delegate as much as you can!

Now that you have your list and your support system in place, let’s talk a little about how to get the word out to your guests.

How to let guests know the wedding is off

If you're canceling a wedding for any  reason, you have your work cut out for you. Find out what to expect!

Guests should know as soon as possible that the wedding is off, especially if they’re planning on traveling

After all, they may have their own airline and hotel cancellations to make!

What to say to guests

While wedding etiquette dictates that you let your guests know as quickly as possible, there’s no rule that says you have to give them a long explanation.

So, keep it short. “Wedding is canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak,” or, “Wedding is off due to death in the family.”

If it’s off because your partner called it quits, too, then simply say, “We’ve decided not to go ahead with the wedding.”

That’s it. You don’t owe anyone a long explanation about the private details of your split.

How to get the word out

There are a few ways to get the word out, according to The Spruce.

For fancier affairs, I suggest mailing out printed cards letting guests know that the wedding is either off or postponed AND following up with a phone call.

I’d delegate the phone calls task to your wedding party, especially if you canceled due to a break-up.

That way, you don’t have to field 700 painful-to-answer questions about your relationship.

If you have a rescheduled date in mind, let them know when and where it will be held.

On the other hand, if your event is less formal, there are other ways to get the word out, like email.

While many wedding etiquette experts would faint at the mere suggestion of using email, when you’re down to the wire and need to get the word out fast, it’s fine.

Dealing with vendors when canceling a wedding

Letting friends and family know that your big day is off was hard enough.

Getting refunds from all those vendors is going to be even harder, I’m sorry to say.

If you hired a wedding planner, your first call should be to him (or her) to find out what they can do to help you “un-plan” the event.

Likewise, if you bought wedding insurance, contact them asap to find out what your policy covers.

Unfortunately, most policies don’t cover cancellations due to outbreaks, as many couples are discovering right now.

Call vendors asap

First, dig out all of your contract and read over the cancellation policy very closely.

I recommend highlighting the entire section in one color, then the points that refer to your situation in another.

It sounds OCD, but it’ll help you figure out exactly what to say to each vendor, especially when you’re feeling flustered.

It’ll also help you do a sort of wedding cancellation “triage” to prioritize your calling schedule.

Organize your calls based on financial impact. Here’s what I mean by that:

Say you put a $700 deposit down on your reception hall, but only a $500 deposit down on your caterer.

However, your reception hall will only give you back 30% of your deposit ($210), while your caterer will refund 50% ($250).

It makes sense to call the caterer first, since you’re almost guaranteed to get more back.

Other things you’ll need to cancel

Now that you’ve dealt with the vendors and contacted your guests, it’s time to start dealing with the “smaller” things.

The good news- they’re fairly easy to manage!

Here are the most common things to you’ll need to cancel and/or return if your wedding is totally off:

  • Your wedding dress- but only if you’re permanently canceling your wedding. If it’s just on hold, keep it!
  • Close out your wedding registry and/or return gifts that you’ve already received
  • Your honeymoon plans, especially since traveling is incredibly difficult and practically banned right now.
  • Wedding bands (but maybe not your engagement ring, see below).

Depending on the situation, you may also need to return that engagement ring.

States have different laws (yep, actual laws) regarding who gets the ring, so check those out.

For the most part,though, if it’s a family heirloom, you should give it back. It’s not just the law in some places, but the decent thing to do.

Special considerations for canceling a wedding due to coronavirus

While all of the above remains true and useful regardless of why you’re canceling, there are a few considerations that are specific to the current situation.

Does wedding insurance coronavirus-related cancellations?

One of the biggest questions on “soon-to-be-wed” couple’s minds right now- will my insurance cover it if I have to cancel because of COVID-19? Well, that really depends on your policy.

“The short answer is that if you bought insurance before the outbreak started, you should be fine. If you’re shopping for wedding insurance now, it won’t cover COVID-19.” Mitchell & Whale Insurance Brokers explains.

However (and it’s a BIG however), the policy may only kick in if you or your significant other actually catch COVID-19 OR if travel bans prevent “key” participants from attending.

If your wedding is in, say, Idaho and all of your guests are from your town and you’re all healthy, you may have more issues with your claim.

Then again, the situation is changing every hour, so you may be okay. Just call as soon as possible to find out.

What about my travel insurance for my honeymoon?

Unfortunately, this is where things get really tricky.

While some insurance agencies are covering honeymoon cancellations due to coronavirus, many just plain arent.

As Kasara Barto told Town & Country magazine:

“In order for an insured traveler to be covered to cancel their trip, the event that is impacting their trip must be explicitly listed within their insurance policy certificate.”

“Viral outbreaks, pandemics, and epidemics are typically not listed within a standard policy. Likewise, canceling a trip because they are too scared or concerned to travel won’t be covered,” Barto explained.

However, Town & Country explains that there’s still hope. If you sprung for the “cancel for any reason” upgrade, they will cover it.

Do I have to cancel my wedding?

Many couples are wondering if they even have to cancel their weddings and adopting a “wait and see” policy (or planning to just go ahead with their event).

That really depends on just how near (or far) your big day is on the calendar.

As I said earlier, the situation is rapidly evolving. We’ve gone from “just wash your hands” to “stand 6 feet apart” to “no gatherings of 250+ people” to “stick to groups of 10 or fewer” in just a matter of days.

Remember, the longer you wait, the harder it is to cancel (and even harder to get refunds). So, a “wait and see” policy isn’t really in your best interest.

Then again, if your wedding isn’t supposed to take place for another year, waiting to see how things play out isn’t such a bad idea.

I won’t sugar-coat it. Canceling a wedding for any reason is definitely a massive ordeal, both logistically and emotionally.

However, if you take the time to get organized, lean on your support system, and delegate as much as possible, it’s a lot more manageable.

Have you been through this already? Do you have any other thoughts on what to expect when canceling a wedding? Share below.

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