There’s no question in anyone’s mind that planning a wedding is a lot of work, from the vendor meetings to the discussions over menu fonts and tablecloths. Most couples, however, are happy to take on the task because they know it will culminate in a beautiful wedding and the start of their “happily ever after.”
But what do you do when “happily ever after” never happens? What do you do if a few months, weeks, or even days before the wedding, someone calls it off? Here are a few suggestions to help you manage a broken engagement effectively (and with your sanity intact).
First Things First: Take Care of Yourself
Whether you are the one who leaves or the one left behind, calling off an engagement can be immensely stressful and emotionally draining. You may feel like there’s a lot to deal with, from canceling with the vendors to explaining the situation to your guests, but the most important thing on your list should be ensuring you’re OK.
What’s going to make you feel better? Honestly, I can’t tell you. But take a little time for yourself to process your emotions before you do anything else. Get a massage, write down your feelings to get them out, treat yourself to some retail therapy—do whatever works for you!
This is also a great time to invest in the other relationships in your life. Instead of isolating yourself from everyone, spend time making new, happy memories with your family members and your closest friends (but if you need a little time alone, feel free to take it). The people who care about you will be happy to cheer you up, offer advice, or just listen to you vent.
Even though I listed this as your first step following a broken engagement, it’s really a continuous one. Dealing with a broken engagement is never fun, and the emotional healing doesn’t happen overnight. So, make sure you are constantly checking in and being compassionate with yourself—and taking time for self-care when you need it!
Talk to Your Vendors
Part of planning any wedding is drawing up contracts with lots of vendors, from the florist making your bouquet to the banquet hall you booked for the day. Even when there’s no more wedding, those contracts are still in place—and that means it’s time to do a little renegotiation.
In this situation, honesty is the best policy. While it may not be fun to tell your vendors you’re not getting married after all, telling the truth will make your vendors more likely to work with you. You’re probably not the first couple they’ve worked with who’s called it off, and they may have some suggestions that will save you some cash.
For example, some vendors will be happy to repurpose your contract for another event. Sure, you won’t need catering for your wedding, but you’ll have a holiday party at some point, right? Repurposing services like catering or photography will help your vendor get some business and prevents you from losing money on a contract you didn’t use.
Can’t think of any way to repurpose your vendor services? Consider asking them for a special exception to their cancellation policy. One option is asking your vendors to refund all or part of your deposit if they are able to book a new client for your wedding date. If there’s enough time for your vendor to rebook the date before the big day, this cancellation policy can be a win-win for both of you.
However, sometimes getting a deposit back just isn’t an option (particularly when a wedding is canceled days or even hours before). Make sure to read your cancellation policies carefully, understand the options available to you, and advocate for yourself as you negotiate—but also know that sometimes it’s best to cut your losses and lose your deposit.
Let Your Guests Know
Your vendors aren’t the only ones who need to know about the breakup; you need to let your guests know, too. These conversations can be especially difficult, as your guests are people who care about you and your ex-fiance and want to see you both happy. It’s very important to practice self-care as you share this news and find a way that works best for you.
If you haven’t yet sent out invitations, but you have sent save-the-date cards, you can break the news with a simple postcard in the mail. A simple card that says “The wedding of [blank] and [blank] will not take place” is all you need to do—just be prepared for the phone calls from guests that will inevitably follow.
If you’ve already sent out your invites and if the wedding is a month or so away, it’s important to call your guests and let them know as soon as possible. If you’re worried about becoming too emotional over the phone, write a script for yourself or ask a friend or family member to help with the calls.
If you’re currently dealing with a broken engagement, know that you’re not alone. In fact, 10-15% of engaged couples in the United States end up canceling their weddings each year! Your situation may feel heartbreaking now, but if you take care of yourself and have a strong support system at your side, you’ll make it through this tough time—and probably feel even better on the other side.