A Postponed Wedding is not a happy event at all. You’ve received the invitation and happily replied that you’ll be attending. You’ve already purchased them a gift from their registry list and had it delivered. Maybe you’ve even participated in some of the pre-wedding festivities — an engagement party or bridal shower. You’ve booked a flight for the big weekend, reserved a rental car and a room at a local hotel. It’s their big day, and nothing will keep you from being there!
And then you get the word: The wedding has been postponed. There are probably a million questions running through your mind. If you aren’t particularly close to the couple, it may be some time (or forever) before you find out what has happened. What should you do?
Here’s some advice.
Don’t rush to the phone and start calling the bride, the groom, their families. This is an interruption of your plans, for sure, but whatever the reason for the postponement, it’s a far greater problem for them than for you. Give them room to deal with things on their end.
Receive the news quietly.
Odds are, you’ve received notification by mail although the news may come in a phone call, especially if the date is near. A phone call will require you to be on your best behavior. Listen. Don’t ask questions. Don’t gossip. The person who calls you (whoever it might be — maybe a wedding attendant) is probably doing their best at a difficult job. They’ve probably been told what to say and don’t want to have to deviate from the script. Don’t ask them to.
If you receive the news by phone, all you need to say in response that you are sorry to hear the news. Perhaps ask the caller to extend your best wishes to everyone involved, and thank the caller for letting you know.
Read between the lines.
Even if a wedding is canceled altogether, etiquette may prompt the decision to be discreet and say that it has been postponed. So you’re probably going to have to decipher the facts beyond that.
In all probability you’ll receive a subtle indication that one of several scenarios is transpiring:
1) If the wedding has been postponed and a reschedule date has not been indicated or suggested in any way, this is probably a cancellation. In other words, the marriage is off.
2) If it is indicated that the wedding has been canceled by mutual consent or will not take place, then the marriage is most definitely off.
3) If a reschedule date has been indicated, then in all probability the date had to be moved due to a logistical problem, an unexpected illness, or possibly a death in the family. Whatever the reason for the delay, it’s not your place to demand an explanation.
If in fact, the marriage is off
Needless to say, this is the most unhappy scenario. Your next step will be largely determined by your association with those involved with the wedding. If you have been notified by phone, you have already officially acknowledged that you have received the news, and are not required to respond in any other way. If you were notified by mail, it probably came in the form of a note or card from the hosts of the weddings.
You should write back to them very simply indicating that you received the regrettable news and that your good wishes are with them all. This is also a good tactic to employ if you received word via an answering machine (unless you were asked to call back an acknowledgment), so your hosts will know you got the message.
If you are personally acquainted with the bride, the groom, or one of the family members involved, you may wish to write to him or her a more personal note of friendship and support. Be oblique, don’t presume anything, and avoid the temptation to suggest that it’s all for the best.
If the bride or groom is a close friend, a phone call is not inappropriate, but tread carefully. Your friend may turn to you for solace, but don’t expect him or her to confide every detail. A canceled wedding is a difficult matter for everyone involved. The old advice to not disclose the specific reasons to anyone is actually a smart way to go.
If you are close to both the bride and the groom, you may feel in a spot. If their break up is acrimonious, you may be asked to take aside. There’s no easy way out of these situations. Do what you can to maintain both friendships, if that is your preference, but don’t push too hard. The healing will take time, and until it is complete, you may find them putting your friendship on the back burner. Try to understand, and be patient.
Etiquette says that, in the case of a canceled wedding, the bride and groom should return any gifts they have received, with the exception of engraved items. So in all likelihood, the item you sent the couple will be returned to you.
Keep in mind, however, that this may not happen for several weeks. If months have passed and the gift has not been returned, it may be that it may never be returned. Don’t press the issue.
If the wedding is merely postponed and a new date has or will be announced.
The notification may very possibly indicate the reason for the delay. If it isn’t indicated, don’t ask. If the delay has been caused by an illness or a death in the family, the best response would be to send the appropriate note or flowers.
In the case of death, the new wedding date will likely not fall until at least six weeks after the funeral. Once you are told the new date, check your calendar and do all you can to make it to the event. The couple will be especially disappointed if a guest who was a yes for the original date has to be a no for the reschedule.
Whatever the circumstances, if you need to change your travel plans.
Call your travel agent, airline, hotel, etc., as soon as possible. Explain what has occurred and see if you can cancel or change your reservations without penalty. Policies vary, but you may be pleasantly surprised to find the airlines somewhat accommodating. If you can’t cancel or change your travel plans without a substantial penalty, consider taking the trip anyway, for fun.
If the couple’s wedding was to be held a city you enjoy, you can do some sightseeing and make the best of a bad situation. Do not, however, initiate plans with the newly separated couple during your visit if the wedding has been canceled. They were probably looking forward to their wedding weekend, and playing host to you or showing you around town is, frankly, a poor substitute.
The unfortunate truth is that if a wedding is canceled or postponed, it’s probably going to inconvenience you and perhaps cost you money. Still, that’s a small burden compared to what the bride, the groom, and their families are enduring. This is the moment to give them the gift of your compassion, your sensitivity, and your discretion.