Here’s a quick guide of where to start:
1. Gather your army.
Depending on how far along you are in the wedding planning process and how emotionally attached you are to your ex-fiancé, you’re going to need support. This is tough territory. Even the strongest of people will require help from family and friends. Whether that’s to physically take on tasks to get the wedding plans canceled or just to be great listeners, you will need an army of supporters. Figure out who will be there for you and treat them well. You’ll need them for the long haul.
2. Make a list of your wedding vendors and gather up the contracts.
Start reading the fine print. What happens if you cancel? Look at the “Termination” section of the agreement. Is there a reasonable way out of the agreement? Will you be entitled to your deposit back if the vendor finds a replacement? Do you owe the entire balance of the services upon canceling? Get ready to be your own best advocate and don’t be afraid to escalate to the owner/manager if you’re not getting what you want. Referrals are everything in the competitive wedding industry and wedding businesses cannot afford to have someone spreading negative press to potential clients. The smartest vendors realize that treating you well during your time of need is in their best interest as it will guarantee them more referrals and your business in the future.
3. Start giving notice to your wedding vendors.
The earlier, the better. Many will refund you the deposit and won’t hold you responsible for the balance if they can find a replacement or if the wedding is far enough away. If you can’t get in touch by phone, send a written letter either by snail mail or email so that you have an official date on record of the notification. You may want to divide and conquer for this one as it takes an emotional toll to have these conversations repeatedly. If you are on speaking terms with your ex-significant other, give him or her some of the work to do. You can contact the venue, band and photographer. They can deal with the florist, canceling the honeymoon and wedding cake.
4. Figure out your living situation.
It’s never a great idea to live with an ex-fiancé, even if you’re willing to take on the current or new housing costs on your own. The first step in picking up the pieces and moving on is to physically separate yourself from your ex. Find a family member or friend with an extra room or couch if you have to or tell your ex, it’s time for him/her to do the same.
5. Who gets Fido?
If you’ve got a pet together (or other living creatures), it’s time to do some true soul searching and come up with a solution that you can both live with. Is sharing a pet really a great idea once you’ve both moved on to separate lives? If you love your pet beyond measure, then fight for it tooth and nail. Think about your life style and who is primarily doing the legwork for taking care of the pet. Do you work long hours? Will you be home to walk and feed the pet? Do you travel often? Consider these questions and figure out what’s best for you and the pet.
6. Get the word out.
Telling people that you’re wedding is no longer happening may seem like ripping off a band-aid multiple times, but it’s only news for a little while before there is something else to focus on. People will ask you a thousand questions. Be prepared for all sorts of statements: “I thought he/she was gay,” “You really dodged a bullet,” “Are you keeping the ring?” will be the most common. Just smile when you’re hit with, “Everything happens for a reason.” There should be a very good reason for getting your heart smashed to a thousand pieces, spending countless hours planning a wedding that’s never going to happen and wasting your time with someone who is not going to be your future mate. Friends don’t know what to say so they blurt out nonsense like this. If you do meet your soul mate and eventually get married and settle down, it will be because you were ready, lucky and made it happen. It certainly won’t be because you went through hell calling off a wedding in your past life. You may want to call upon your army (Item #1) to help you inform people. It’s much easier than making 100 phone calls and having to explain the break up and answer the silly questions over and over.
7. Consider returning any engagement gifts.
You’ll be thankful to have them out of your home as they’ll be a constant reminder of the relationship. The ones on your registry should be easy enough to return, particularly if unused. Cash or checks should be sent back to their senders. For any used gifts or personalized items that can’t be returned, consider compensating the person who sent them either by determining their cost and sending a check or figuring out how to fairly compensate the gift giver. Some may refuse to accept a returned gift, which is generous and understanding. Remember that and take this into account when determining how much to spend on a gift for such friends’ future celebrations.
8. Talk to your Ex about your joint belongings.
How do you split a television down the middle? You can’t. So figure out who should keep what and stay firm in your decisions. Remember that if you’re living together and suddenly decide to find a new place, there will be double the living expenses. Take that into account when keeping or parting with furniture, dishes, electronics, paintings, linens, etc. People have fuzzy memories about what belonged to them prior to the relationship, so get ready to stand firm on the things that truly matter.
9. Keep your composure at work.
Your co-workers may soon wonder why all the wedding talk suddenly stopped. Or why your engagement ring is missing. Don’t get distracted and if you have to cry, find a place to do it privately. It’s best to pull yourself together and notify a small number of trustworthy individuals. Let the word trickle down through them and stay as busy as possible. You may find that work is the best place to keep your mind distracted from the insanity of wedding cancellation blues.
10. If you’re the bride, use the engagement ring as a bargaining chip only if the groom isn’t willing to split the costs of the canceled wedding (not just vendors, but living expenses).
Consider selling the ring to cover the groom’s portion. It’s best to talk these issues out first and see what can be agreed to, if anything. If the ring is a family heirloom of the groom’s, think about whether it’s worth the hassle of dealing with the haggle. Sometimes it’s best to cut your losses and simply return the ring.
If you’re the groom, it’s best to communicate early about the fate of the ring, if you want it back.
11. Get creative with your wedding gown.
Wedding dress vendors can be tricky. Many will not return the deposits or balance once the order has been placed. Try utilizing a pre-owned wedding dress website for selling the dress. Or find a great tailor and turn the wedding gown into a fabulous cocktail dress. There’s always Ebay and Craigslist. Or Halloween. Or pick a random weekend and wear your wedding gown to brunch. You’ll be sure to meet lots of new people that way.
12. Consider reimbursing your bridesmaids for their bridesmaid dresses.
It’s not their fault that the wedding got called off. If the store won’t take back their dresses, it’s fair to offer them reimbursement if they don’t think they would wear them to another occasion.
13. Stay busy.
Once your wedding planning is behind you, you’ll need new ways to stay busy, particularly if still heartbroken. There’s never a better time to hit the gym, sign up for a class, reunite with old friends or volunteer.
14. Get an “I’m single” outfit.
Or maybe two. Store them in your closet even though you’re not quite ready to get back out there. One day you will be and you certainly don’t want to be held back by having nothing to wear.
15. Once you make the decision to call off the wedding, end the relationship as soon as possible if this hasn’t happened.
Otherwise, you’ll be stuck in this gray area of one person trying to convince the other that they’re still worthy of being their life partner. Which is hurtful and frustrating considering that at one point, this was already the case. It also delays the ability to get back out there and finding someone more suitable for you.
16. Once final wedding details have been canceled, your housing situation has been resolved and mutual belongings have been divided, it’s time to cut ties.
This means deleting your ex significant other’s details from your phone, unfollowing them on social media feeds and potentially cutting off their friends as well, if they are not mutual.
17. Do some bridal/groom housekeeping.
Cancel your wedding registry. Unsubscribe from the various wedding related newsletters, websites and Pinterest boards you’ve been navigating. Remove all bridal magazines. Discard all brochures and paraphernalia obtained at any wedding related events or vendor meetings.
18. Pamper yourself.
Whether that means booking a massage or getting a new haircut, it’s time to make sure that you’re taking care of yourself amongst all of the madness. This includes buying new, luxurious sheets that make you excited about cuddling up in bed alone (or with someone new!).
19. Be prepared for curve balls.
Like finding out that your ex-fiancé is suddenly in another serious relationship. Or late night phone calls of regret from your ex. Or feeling like you suddenly made a huge mistake. You may break down and call him/her after resolving not to speak for several days. These things happen. Going from planning a wedding with someone that you’ll be spending your life with to suddenly being single can seem very lonely. It makes people feel and do crazy things.
20. Know the difference between pre-wedding jitters and true confusion.
It’s normal to feel nervous before getting married. It’s a huge commitment and it would be wrong to go into it blindly expecting that every single issue will resolve itself. Best to get all major subject matters settled and agreed upon (religion, to have kids or not to have kids, financial issues, addictions, unresolved romantic relationships, etc.) before getting married. It’s another thing to be truly questioning whether a person is right for you. Know yourself and whether red flags are dropping all around you. Be brave and do the right thing before walking down the aisle.
21. Remember that not all relationships must result in marriage.
In fact, most of them will not and that’s a GREAT thing. And many, many people call off weddings every year. You are NOT alone. It’s just not publicized in the wild, crazy, billion dollar wedding industry. There’s no magazine for brides and grooms that have called off their weddings. No trade shows. No glorified princess day. Everyone is supposed to be planning the magical party of their dreams. Forget about what marriage is. It’s all about the wedding.
The sooner you can get through these steps, the sooner you get a clean slate to find someone better. While it’s completely torturous in the immediate aftermath of calling off a wedding, take comfort that ending things before a marriage, kids and other more serious commitments can be far more complicated.