Wedding planning is such a stressful journey that no one wishes to start it, go far and hit a roadblock that requires the wedding to be postponed or cancelled. But like life itself, wedding planning is full of uncertainties, in some cases leading to pausing the wedding or totally calling it off.
If faced with a situation when her wedding can no longer hold, any bride would be confused about what to do, and how to go about cancelling or rescheduling their wedding. If that sounds like what you’re going through, I am here to help you. I’ll walk you through our 10-step process for postponing or cancelling a wedding. Read on.
If you’re hit with the decision to cancel or postpone your wedding, I feel your pain. I can imagine that you’ve spent months or weeks on wedding planning, sent out invitations, made deposit payments on vendors and a venue. Then something happened, and the wedding can no longer hold.
This is exactly the situation that one of our readers (a man) was in two years ago when he sent me a distress message asking for steps on how to go about cancelling their wedding and how to tell guests (I’ll share the story at the end of this post).
If your wedding can no longer hold as planned, don’t worry, you’ll rise about it. Let’s dive straight into our 10-step process of postponing or cancelling any event or wedding.
What to Do: Next Steps When Postponing or Cancelling a Wedding or Any Event
First, let all the emotions out: It’s okay to cry and feel frustrated. Go on and let out all the emotions – I understand how you feel. Next, accept that the uncertainty has happened. After all that, you need to DO SOMETHING ASAP, and that’s what I’ll show you.
Don’t worry, it will be well (again). Know that, you’re not alone – it happens, and if other couples have risen above it, you too can. Once you’re done with crying and venting anger, it’s time to take action. Now, follow our steps below on what to do if you have to postpone or cancel your wedding.
1. Decide Whether to Postpone or to Cancel?
If you have not broken off your engagement and still want to get married to this same person, it is best to postpone the wedding (steps are down in this post). On the other hand, if it’s a broken engagement, that means a wedding cancellation (steps also down this post).
2. Review the Venue and Vendor Terms and Conditions
Some venues and vendors operate a policy of no refunds on deposits, and some don’t. Before contacting them, it’s a good idea to find the receipts for all vendor and venue deposit payments you made. Read/ review the fine prints in each contract/ payment receipt for the terms and conditions regarding postponements or cancellation.
What is their postponement or cancellation policy saying? Will they refund all your deposits? If they will refund part, how much? If you hired a wedding planner, you won’t need to worry as they’ll do all that on your behalf and give you feedback.
3. Choose a New Date
Come up with a new date or a few potential dates. If you do not yet have a new date, that’s okay, go ahead with the rest of the steps. Don’t worry, you’ll figure out a date along the way. Or better still, use our guide on how to choose a wedding date.
4. Contact Your Wedding Planner Immediately
If you hired a wedding planner, that is the first person to contact immediately. They will listen to you and handle the rest, which is, contacting your wedding reception venue and each vendor involved, and also rescheduling the wedding. On the other hand, if you didn’t hire a planner, we’ve got your back – just follow the steps below to DIY (to it yourself).
5. Contact Both Your Wedding Ceremony and Reception Venue ASAP
To postpone your wedding or event, your (church/ reception) venues should be your first port of call. Inform them that you are cancelling or postponing your wedding. If you’re postponing, tell them the new date you’re looking at and ask if that day is available with them.
You don’t have to commit to any particular date for now. Ask them what new dates are open for availability for rescheduling/ postponing to a future date (within your month of interest), and let them know you’ll confirm the one that works for all of your vendors and venue.
Ask them to hold your deposit until you get back to them with a confirmed new date as soon as you contact all the other vendors and work out a common date that will work for all involved (photographers, hall decorator, caterer etc.). Remember to ask for a new invoice or receipt that reflects your new wedding date.
HINT: If you live in the same city/ town as your wedding venue, I highly recommend that you go there in person, and not phone them about the situation. That will make a whole lot of difference when arriving at a solution.
6. Contact All the Vendors and Suppliers Involved
Next, you’ll have to contact each vendor/ wedding service provider you hired – one by one. Tell them that you’re cancelling or postponing your wedding. Find out what new dates are open for availability for rescheduling/ postponing, and let them know you’ll confirm the common date that works for your venues and all vendors involved.
Ask them to hold your deposit payment until you’ll confirm a new date that works for all parties involved (the venues, photographers, hall decorator, caterer, rental store, etc.). Be sure to ask for a new invoice or receipt that reflects your new wedding date.
When discussing with your vendors, keep your ears on the ground to pick up useful advice on how to navigate through this with any difficult vendors. Being in the wedding business, they must have experienced this type of situation many times before, and know what works.
HINT: If you live in the same city/ town as your wedding vendors, visit each one in person and not phone them about the situation. It helps them to ‘feel’ your pain and makes a big difference in how well and how quickly they resolve it your way.
7. Inform All Your Guests (Not Just Some of Them)
Someone asked me, ‘when is the best time to inform guests?’ I say, immediately. You don’t have to wait until you get a new date. Tell them as soon as you decided you’re cancelling or postponing your wedding.
Let’s continue with our steps on how to cancel or postpone your wedding or event.
Let’s say you’ve got your venues and vendors out of the way, it’s time to tell all your guests about the changes in your wedding plan. It’s important because they’ve made plans to attend your big day, some may have made travel arrangements (like booking a flight and hotel accommodation), or rushing to have their wedding guest aso-ebi outfits sewn. Courtesy demands that the same way you invited/ told your guests is the same way you tell them this time.
You need to inform the parents (bride’s and groom’s) and close family members. You also need to inform your bridesmaids and groomsmen. You need to send out a message to inform every single guest that you sent invitation cards to, or invited via phone, text/ Whatsapp or email. If you first wrote a guest list before sending out the invitation cards, it will be easy to use that list to know who to message about the wedding postponement or cancellation.
8. Cancel or Reschedule any Honeymoon Travel Bookings
If planned to travel after your wedding for a honeymoon and had already booked flights and hotel accommodation in advance, you also need to reschedule or cancel the booking.
9. Still Celebrate on Your Old/ Former Wedding Date
Yes, you have postponed your wedding, but it’s not the end of the World. Life continues. So, what do you do (when that old wedding date arrives)? Here’s an idea, and what some fun couples do to mark it – still celebrate low-key, just the two of you. Go out on a date, pop a bottle of champagne, dance and be merry. Maybe, go have a pampering spa and massage treatment. Just do something wildly fun on that old wedding date.
10. Look on the Brighter Side
One thing I tell brides is that they should plan to have a better wedding plan this time. Some brides have used their wedding postponement to re-work and re-plan their wedding to be more organized, more elegant. Finally, relax, because you’ve lost nothing – you still got your man of your dreams, your pretty bridesmaids, the wedding gown, a team of kickass venue and vendors that will deliver a wedding party better than you dreamed of. To plan a better wedding and also stay on top of your to-dos, here are some helpful resources:
- How to Guarantee Planning a Perfect Wedding with No Ugly Surprises
- Complete White Wedding Checklist with a 12-Months To-Do List
- Nigerian Traditional Wedding Checklist
- How to Plan a Nigerian Wedding in 6 Months or Less
- How to Plan a Nigerian Wedding in 3 Months or Less
Will You Get a Refund on Your Deposit?
Vendors and venues are more accommodating if instead of asking for your deposit to be refunded to you, request that they hold it as a deposit for the future rescheduled wedding date. If you want a refund, have in mind that you will not get your full refund. Some in-demand venues and vendors operate a non-refundable deposit and usually make it known during booking. But then, you may be lucky to give you a part-refund of your paid deposit.
When negotiating refunds, I always tell brides to try and understand that these vendors and venues have this sort of policies in place to keep them from going out of business. Besides, they denied other events to book yours and may have put in some amount of work and time towards your wedding (which needs to be paid for). Instead of shouting, beg them – and accept the outcome.
Whether or not you will get your deposit back will generally depend on the venue or vendor’s cancellation or postponement policy, which you signed to during booking. You can check this out in your vendor/ venue contracts or discuss it with them. Some vendors and venues are more flexible and do not charge a postponement fee out of your deposit, especially when you’re postponing with them.
How to Tell Your Guests
SAMPLE SIMPLE WORDING:
- Dear friends and family, we are postponing our wedding and will be in touch with new details, as soon as possible. We will let you know of the new date, as soon as it is confirmed. We apologize for any inconvenience and hope you can make it on the new date.
- Due to unforeseen circumstances [MENTION THE EXACT SITUATION, IF YOU PREFER], we have decided to postpone our wedding. It was not an easy decision for us. We apologize for any inconvenience. Please bear with us we confirm a new date with our vendors and venues and will let you know soonest.
- Dear _____, due to unforeseen circumstances, we have decided to cancel our wedding. It was not an easy decision to make. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you.
When informing guests, here are 7 wedding postponement etiquette to keep in mind:
a. Be brief. Do not say much. No long story needed. Just tell them it’s postponed or cancelled (sample wordings later, down below). There’s no need to explain anything or provide details of why/ what happened if you don’t feel like doing so. You can if you like.
b. Keep it simple. No need for fancy wording or fancy means of notification. Tell them as soon as possible, so that they can adjust their calendar.
c. Ensure Your Messaging Won’t Get Delayed or Lost: If your wedding date is near, you’ll want to be sure that the information reaches everyone. You shouldn’t be sending an email to someone that does not read emails frequently. In a situation like that, I advise that you call or send SMS text messages to each guest you had sent invitations to. It won’t hurt if you use multiple messaging mediums to ensure your message reaches every guest.
d. If your wedding is far away, inform guests with any/ all of these: email, text, call, WhatsApp. Be sure to use the messaging type they usually use, to be sure they will get it. Better still, you can use multiple mediums to inform every guest.
e. Send Handwritten Notifications to Older Guests: Nigerian elders may feel disrespect if you do not send them handwritten/ paper notifications, so do that for your older guests who you know would not accept digital messaging.
f. If You have not sent out wedding invitations yet, you don’t have to inform any guests. In this case, the only people to inform are those in the know, such as your family members, close friends, bridesmaids and groomsmen.
-For wedding cancellation due to breakup: Be polite and respectful by returning any donations and/ or gifts that you already received.
g. When to Get Someone to Help: Postponing or cancelling a wedding is something that should be done as soon as possible, to avoid losing more money from deposits already made. Let someone help you do it if you absolutely cannot contact your vendor: Examples include a heartbreaking situation such as a recent loss in the family, a bad breakup, your fiance or one of your parents is hospitalized or bedridden, or for any serious reason you are not in a position to personally contact your wedding venue and vendors.
In such a situation, ask a trusted friend or family member to quickly contact your venue, vendors and guests for you. Just give them the notebook or document containing your venue and all vendors contact information, as well as a notebook containing your guest list with their names and contact information.
WHAT YOU CAN DO IN THE MEANTIME, BEFORE YOUR NEW WEDDING DATE
If a postponement is not an option for you, consider going for it now with the most minimal number of guests, and host a big reception party for everyone at a future available date. After your wedding is postponed, here are 5 optional things you can do to move your relationship status forward before your new wedding date comes.
i. Go MICRO WEDDING If you don’t want to postpone the date. Postpone the wedding reception party. Get less than 10 or less than 20 guests together for a tiny, micro wedding and postpone the wedding reception party where you can invite everyone you know. This way, you still get legally married on the date you planned. Micro weddings like this can be arranged at a courthouse/ registry or a quiet church, without you telling everybody.
ii. Have the Traditional wedding including bride price payment before the rescheduled white wedding date arrives. A traditional marriage, in Nigeria, is legally recognized. For ideas and expos on how to go about planning and budgeting for a traditional wedding, including an expo on different customary engagement lists across Nigeria, check out our Marriage Introduction and Trad Wedding Guides.
iii. Have the court registry wedding while you take your time to plan a white wedding and reception;
iv. Elope to get married in a faraway state/ country without any guests, and have a reception party later.
v. Zoom weddings are now a thing. Have your wedding with less than 20 guests and have it live-recorded and also live-broadcasted to those who cannot be there. Many couples, especially millennials, all over the world are having micro weddings live-streamed to ‘remote guests’ using video conferencing and meeting apps such as zoom, google meets, skype or other. You can google ‘zoom weddings’ or ‘micro weddings’ for ideas or just to see this cool new wedding trend that is on the rise.
When Rescheduling to a New Wedding Date: What to Consider
1. Be Flexible If there’s a Date Clash: Your vendors and venues have many other clients booked aside from you, and there is likely to be a clash with your new date when rescheduling your wedding. My advice is that you be flexible and open to other dates and weekday dates if you are bent on having a specific month.
2. Be Patient When Rescheduling: Canceling or postponing a wedding is not what any venue or vendor is happy to do, as they have denied other events or weddings to book your own, and may also have already put in some work and logistics towards planning your big day. Therefore be understanding when talking with your wedding service providers and be patient when they try to re-work or work things out while rescheduling your wedding.
3. Do Nigerians Have Weddings on a Weekday? Yes, Nigerian couples, such as Akah and Claire’s classy Lagos wedding have shown us that weekday weddings are as fun, maybe more, as Saturday weddings. Besides, you can book big fancy hotel venues a lot cheaper on a weekday (plus other benefits I shared here). Therefore, if Postponing and available Saturdays are far away, consider available weekdays.
Finally, if you decided to postpone (not cancel) your wedding, you should not stop planning. No, no. Even if there’s a pandemic and everyone is on lockdown (such as during COVID-19) and businesses, including wedding service providers and venues, are temporarily closed, there are still some wedding planning tasks you can do while waiting to reschedule your wedding date.
If you’ll still go ahead with the wedding, be sure to read that post (link in above heading) on how to re-plan your wedding after a postponement or during a lockdown.
TRUE STORY: Unbearable Planning Stress Forced this Nigerian Bride to Cancel Her Wedding
Two years ago, a Nigerian bride called her groom, who lived abroad, that she was overwhelmed and overstressed from planning their wedding, and was losing her mind. Their wedding was only a few weeks away – they had sent out invitation cards, the venue and all vendors had been paid for. She said she was losing her mind and could no longer go on planning the wedding.
She just wanted to cancel the wedding until she could regain herself, and didn’t know how to ell their guests and vendors. This freaked out her groom, who was living abroad at the time. He was confused, and consulted me, asking for what to do, how to cancel, the implications and how to tell guests. In his own words, he asked ‘We have sent out invites and now she wants us to postpone the wedding. Is that done? Is it possible?’
Part of the advice and tips in this post is what I shared with this couple that helped them deal with postposing their wedding. I thought that expanding on it and publishing it here will help more Nigerian couples deal with cancelling or rescheduling their weddings.
Uncertainties are Part of Wedding Planning
Uncertainties are inevitable when planning big projects such as weddings, and some can lead to postponement or cancellation. Maybe it’s a death in the family; maybe you broke up while planning the wedding; maybe your partner or very important family member suddenly gets hospitalized for a life-threatening health situation.
It could be a natural disaster struck in your state/ country (earthquake, etc.) or maybe a pandemic (like COVID-19/ Coronavirus) that forced the government to put the country/ state on a stay-at-home lockdown and ban mass gatherings/ public events such as weddings.
When things like any of those happen in the midst of planning a wedding, it’s normal to be confused about what to do next, and that’s why I am making this post for you. If you have a wedding planner, they’ll make the process easier, but if you’re planning it yourself, the tips explained above will help you handle it.
Recap: How to Postpone or Cancel Your Wedding or Any Event
That’s a wrap on our guide on how to postpone or cancel your wedding. I gave you the 10 things to do if you want to postpone or cancel your wedding. I also showed you how to tell your guests, with an example wording/ script that you can simply copy and paste, and the 7 wedding postponement etiquette to follow.
Most couples ask if they will lose their deposit with vendors – I answered that in the above. After rescheduling your wedding date, what next? I gave 5 things you can do to move your relationship status forward. Finally, I shared 3 tips to help you make postponing your wedding easy (with your venue and vendors).
If after much planning time and efforts, for some reason, your wedding can no longer hold, or you know anyone that’s going through the situation, this post will you through how to deal with or go about postponing or cancelling a wedding in Nigeria or anywhere at all.
I hope you found this post helpful and took notes. Thanks for reading, and please help us share this post on social media to help more people find it. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Comment below to let me know what you think.