Canceled Wedding Gets Donated (Plus Calling It Off Etiquette)

Having to call off a wedding your isn’t an easy choice, but one bride’s parents turned their daughter’s canceled wedding into an opportunity to help others in need. When their daughter canceled her wedding a  little over a month to go, the catering and venue plans were already booked and the Fowlers faced losing their reception deposit either way. So they took the generous route and called an Atlanta-area non-profit called Hosea Feed the Hungry.

On the day their daughter would have gotten married, more than 200 homeless families enjoyed an amazing four-course meal at Villa Christina, an Atlanta restaurant. “All the plates were empty and there wasn’t any leftover food at all. It was an eye-opening experience,” said Quisa Foster, who works for Hosea Feed the Hungry. “You go to weddings sometimes and you see a lot of people really waste food. We take so many things for granted. These clients or guests, as we call them, they don’t.”

While it’s not a hugely common occurrence, weddings do get called off from time to time. If you (or a close friend) finds themselves in that position, there are few pointers to keep in mind. Here, the most common calling-it-off wedding questions and answers.

Q. What do we do about the dress?

A. We asked Michelle Roth for Michelle Roth & Co. in New York City to undress the options. “When you order your wedding dress and accessories from a bridal salon, the outfits are often backed by your binding signature to a non-refundable, water-tight contract,” she explains. “Remember, you are not the first bride to cancel her wedding dress order — professional bridal salons have dealt with this issue before. However unpleasant, keep a perspective on the fact that a dress can be canceled and unraveled much more easily than complications in your life.” Michelle recommends having a family member make your arrangements for you, if the situation is too raw.

Some ways to make the best of discarding the dress:

  • Cancellation Policy: Ask if the special order dress has been cut yet. If not, you might be able to negotiate a cancellation fee.
  • Sample Sales: If the bridal shop is having a sample sale anytime soon, ask the manager to put your dress on sale. Agree to a minimum price and make it unbeatable, so you can cut your losses and put closure to the situation.
  • Consignment Shops: They may enable you to recover some of your investment. Check their policies, and make sure you are in constant contact with the shop you’ve chosen — this will help keep your dress top-of-mind with the consultants.
  • Charity Donation: You can obtain a well-deserved tax deduction while doing something great for a person in need.

Q. The honeymoon, too?

A. Unless you requested a waiver (a fee you pay in advance which exonerates you from all or some of the cancellation fees up until 24 hours before the departure date) from the cruiseline or tour office you booked your holiday with, you’re up a creek. Cancellation fees can price at one hundred percent of the cost. Travel insurance is a safety net in most circumstances, but according to Bob Chambers of CSA Travel Protection, “We aren’t able to provide coverage if there is a change of heart.” Bob advises always knowing what the cancellation fees are before booking the travel arrangements, and always ask about waivers. Penalty fees are usually subject to the amount of notice given (3 months vs. 3 days makes a big difference).

Q. Will we be able to get refunds on deposits?

A. That depends on how diligent you’ve been about your vendor contracts and how close to the wedding date the cancellation happens. Good contracts have a refund policy — i.e., you should be able to get back a certain percentage of any deposits you made if the party is canceled by a certain date. The closer it is to the actual wedding date, the less likely you are to get your money back — establishments and other wedding professionals are simply protecting their own business.

Get more tips to handling a called-off wedding.

Still want more? Right here!

> Calling off the wedding: Etiquette Q&A

> 5 ways your wedding can give back

> Charity registry 101

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Escort cards are extremely easy to personalize and an excellent way to bring in your wedding day colors -- from calligraphed seating cards set atop a textured linen to apples tagged with each guest's name or small personalized bundles of lavender tied off with string. Other ways to display escort cards: Pin them to a clothesline, post them on a board covered in color-coordinated ribbon, or incorporate them into your cocktail hour using personalized stirrers tagged with guests' names.
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