Letting guests know when cancelling a wedding
When you've made the difficult decision to cancel a wedding, you should notify your guests as soon as possible. As in postponing your wedding, you should send printed cards if invitations haven't gone out, and call everyone if they have.
Printed cards should read along the lines of:
Mr. and Mrs. John Doe
Announce that the marriage of their daughter
Will not take place as scheduled.
Explaining why you're cancelling the wedding
While many people may ask you why you are cancelling, it is not required to explain. If pressed, say something like "we made the mutual decision to not get married right now." Of course, your support system of close friends and family will help you grieve the loss of a wedding and a marriage.
After notifying family and friends, the next step is to notify all vendors.
If the cancellation is due to a death in the family, illness, etc., contact your wedding insurance carrier. (Unfortunately, if you cancelled because of cold feet, you will not receive any benefits from your policy.)
Then start contacting your vendors, first by phone, then in writing. Check your contracts which should have a cancellation policy entitling you to a return of a portion of your deposit if you pull out by a certain date. The closer you are to the wedding, the less likely you are to get anything back. Still, it's good to cancel in writing so that no one will try to bill you for any more than you've already spent.
Don't forget to cancel the honeymoon
Your ability to recoup any expenses, particularly for airfare or cruise tickets, depends largely on what kind of ticket you bought, and the airlines or cruiseline's cancellation policy. If you bought trip insurance, it is only applicable in cases of illness, natural disaster, etc., not changes of heart.
Cancelling a wedding dress
If you've special ordered your dress, you may not be able to get any of your money back. After all, they were making it especially for you and your measurements. Contact the dress maker as soon as possible to see what options are available to you. If it's early enough, they may be able to stop production and refund some money. Some dressmakers may be able to sell the dress for you at an upcoming sample sale or discount rack. But if the dressmaker says they can't do anything for you, you still have options. Many brides sell their dresses on ebay, while others turn to consignment shops, or simply donating their dress to charity. A few brides are even able to take their dresses to a costume shop to have the dress dyed so they can wear it to parties!
What to do with the gifts
You are supposed to return all engagement, shower, and wedding gifts you've received to the guests who sent them, along with a note thanking them for their generosity. Some people feel that monogrammed items are an exception, but since you probably don't need reminders of the wedding around, why risk offending a friend? You may have started using some of those early presents like kitchen utensils and linens; and in this case, it's probably okay to keep them.
What about the engagement ring?
If the ring was a family heirloom, it should go back to the family that it came from, no matter who called off the wedding, for any reason. If the receiver of the ring is the one to call off the wedding, it should go back to the giver. If, on the other hand, it is the giver of the ring who calls it off, then the receiver may opt to keep it, sell it, or return it. And, if the couple bought the ring together, then they should decide jointly what to do with it, along with any other joint property.
It's written that if a gift is engraved or personalised, you don't have to return it. Don't speak poorly of your ex because somewhere down the line you might get back together. You should inform out-of-town guests first so that they can change or cancel their travel and lodging arrangements.
If you're postponing your wedding, of course every guest has to be contacted. Etiquette pros say that you have to send another invitation with the new date.