How To Call Off a Wedding

Photo of melancholy bride

If you still think there may be hope for you and your intended, then it's a good idea to check out Save Your Relationship so that you can learn how to improve communication and intimacy before making the decision to call off your wedding.  However, if you're certain that this is the right path for you then it's critical that you address the situation now.  Read on to learn how you can call off your wedding and do the least possible amount of damage.

What you are about to do will be stressful, awkward, embarrassing and hurtful, and one of the hardest things you've ever done. But it will be good for you. How can calling off a wedding be good for you? Because you are listening to your inner guidance. Finally. Somehow you had convinced yourself that marrying your fiance was the right thing to do and for months now, you've squelched that inner voice screaming "no."

But you came to your senses. Before the wedding! Many women hear that same voice but choose not to listen because they're scared-scared of what people will say, scared of hurting feelings, scared that they won't meet another man-scared, scared, scared. In store for them and their families are years of unhappiness that could have been prevented if only they'd had the courage to listen to themselves.

That being said, these next few weeks won't be easy. Here are a few pointers to get you through them intact:

  1. Have compassion for your fiance. Of course your intended deserves special consideration right now. From his point of view, you calling the wedding off is the worst case scenario. Although your decision and the reasons for it are probably not entirely foreign to him, right now he is so overwhelmed by shock, anger, hurt, fear and humiliation that he can think of nothing else. Odds are that family and friends, in misguided efforts to help, are only stoking the flames of his already intense emotions. Your job is to do everything possible to prevent the experience from becoming any more dramatic than it already is. Easier said than done, I know. Remain compassionate, sensitive and available. Try not to become defensive. Though it's unlikely that your fiancé will want to continue a relationship with you, if he does, do him the favor of being clear that although you intend to be available for emotional support, the romantic relationship is over.
  2. Take the high road. Above all else, you will need to live with yourself once the storm blows over. As gracious, polite, and sensitive as you can be will make the aftermath much easier. Thank everyone for their understanding, acknowledge how much you have put them out, and apologize. Refrain from badmouthing your fiance or his family. Though the reason for your decision to call off the wedding may be the elephant in the living room, keep the elephant under wraps.
  3. Have a thick shell. There will inevitably be mean-spirited conversations both in front of you and behind your back. Remember that people who gossip expose more about themselves than about the person they gossip about. If it makes you wince to think about what they might be saying, force yourself to stop thinking about it. Your job is to rise above the pettiness. Be as gracious as you possibly can under the circumstances. You got into this situation by not heeding your inner voice-commend yourself for hearing it in time and having the courage to be true to yourself.
  4. Do the legwork. You're the one who called the wedding off. You're the one that needs to cancel the reservations, from the minister to the cake to the venue to the flowers. Remember to cancel everything: You don't want the classical musicians showing up at your door a few weeks down the road. If the invitations have already gone out, you're the one responsible for informing the invitees regardless of who invited them. Every single one. A printed announcement should be sent if time allows but if it is one month or less before the wedding, you need to call or e-mail as well. Under no circumstances are you allowed to ask your fiance or his family for help in making the calls-girlfriends, yes, fiance, no. Voice mail and e-mail messages are acceptable but everyone should still receive the printed announcement (from the hosts of the wedding, usually the parents). Have someone under less stress at the moment double-check your list to ensure that you have contacted everyone who needs to know. 
  5. Eat the costs. This may be an expensive decision that you're making. Odds are that you (or your parents) will have to forfeit a significant chunk of change once you cancel your reservations. If it helps, think of the cost as an investment in yourself, and less expensive than a divorce!
  6. Give the booty back. From the engagement ring to the shower gifts, give all the booty back. (Hopefully you knew not to use these gifts until after the wedding!) Even if that matching set of sheets would put some order into your chaotic world right now, it is simply the right thing to do to return them. These gifts were intended for you two as a married couple, and as it turns out, you are not going to be a married couple after all.
  7. Take care of yourself. Most people will be focused on the stress and upset being experienced by your fiancé. That's as it should be. But you, too, are under enormous stress, and chances are you're receiving far less sympathy or support. Be sure to take time to do the things that relax you and give you a sense of well-being. You'll need it to pull you through the next few weeks and months.
  8. Don't second-guess yourself. Odds are that your friends and family may try to talk you out of your decision. Thank them for their interest in helping you and assure them that nothing they can say will change your mind. With the stress you're under, it may be hard not to second-guess yourself, so once you've decided for certain, avoid the heavy discussions with everyone and his brother-in-law.
  9. Seek support. You'll know pretty quickly which friends and family say all the right things and which don't. Surround yourself with those that know how to support you-you deserve it. You are still a good person-you were simply a little late in making the right call. And for the record, if you didn't want to marrry him, it is the right decision for both you-and your fiance!-to call the wedding off. If after a few weeks, you are still experiencing overwhelming guilt, sadness, fear or other intense emotions, seek professional help. No, it doesn't mean you're crazy-it means that you know how to take care of yourself!

Since you won't be getting this reaction from many, I'll say it for you: Bravo. Years from now when your friends are all mid-divorce, you can give yourself the secret high five for knowing better and speaking up in time. As much of a stew as you're in right now, it's not as a bad as it would have been had you gone through with the wedding. Many women spend years in an unhappy marriage because they didn't have the guts that you do. Calling a wedding off is an incredible learning experience that will inform your future decision-making in all arenas of your life. Congratulations to you for listening to yourself. Be gracious, kind, and compassionate to yourself and others, and you will not only survive but thrive.


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