It's always sad to hear about an engagement, or a wedding, that has been cancelled. Postponements make everybody nervous for the couple. But hearing that "the wedding is off" is just tragic.
You know the couple is hurting, and probably embarrassed. If they were far enough down the wedding planning road, they've lost a bunch of deposits, adding insult to injury. Just because, for whatever reason, brides and grooms decide not to get married, doesn't mean that vendors will be sympathetic to their pain. They've been holding the wedding date for months (or years) and have turned away other clients for that date. You may get a little wiggle room with a postponement, but be prepared to give the vendor a new date at the time the wedding date is changed, and to pay a penalty fee up front.
As a destination wedding planner, I don't usually see - up close and personal - the aftermath of a breakup, although I've had a few weddings cancelled over the years. Generally speaking, I get an email with an explanation, or the occasional tearful phone call. Except once. When it happened right in front of me. And I pray that it never happens again.
Several years ago, I planned a small Caribbean destination wedding for a couple from California. They'd rented a ginormous villa for their entire family who would be traveling with them, all the way from the West Coast to Puerto Rico. We planned a lovely wedding and made all the arrangements for other fun wedding activities for the group during the week they'd be visiting the island.
The groom didn't participate in the planning, but that's not terribly unusual. It's only in the past few years that more grooms are taking a really active roIe in wedding planning. I looked forward to meeting him when they arrived because I'd heard so many good things about him from the bride.
Two nights before the wedding, the bride called to cancel the wedding rehearsal the next day. She said the groom didn't feel like they needed it because they only had a Best Man and Maid of Honor. I had no problem with that, but we still had some general wedding housekeeping to attend to before they could get married. We agreed to meet for breakfast to review final details, and to visit the demographic office together afterwards to get their marriage license.
We met at a local coffee shop for breakfast burritos and coffee. It was such fun to finally meet the bride I'd been chatting with for months, and the groom I'd heard so much about. I admired her ring, chatted with them about their villa, and tried to get to know the groom a bit better. Then we got down to businesses.
We reviewed and agreed upon the game plan for the ceremony - everything we would have ironed out at the rehearsal - pretty quickly. But when I pulled out the folder to get signatures on the marriage license paperwork, the whole vibe at our table suddenly changed. The bride signed everything and passed it to the groom, who studied it closely as though he had the slightest idea what it said. Everything was in Spanish, and the groom no habla. After a few minutes, he pushed the papers back to me, unsigned.
"I'm not sure we're ready to take this step," he informed me. "We're not ready to get married yet." Go ahead and imagine the sound of bombs dropping - wheeeeee BOOM!
My jaw dropped - I was speechless. The bride's face mirrored mine, but she didn't say a word, either. We both looked at the groom like he'd lost his mind.
He then went on to list multiple reasons he didn't think they should get married - to me, not to bride - justifying his decision. As though he needed to convince me. Finally, I stopped him.
"You hired me to plan your wedding. But whether you get married, or not, is entirely up to the two of you," I said, implying that he should be discussing this with the bride, hopefully in private.
That didn't stop him. He was talking to me, the wedding planner, like he should have been privately talking to his fiancé. He listed the reasons it wasn't the right time in their lives to seal the deal, his concerns about her "stability," and a lot of other issues that were absolutely none of my business. I could have died. What an asshole!
Finally, I asked him to stop. The bride's face was whiter than white, and I was afraid she might be ill. We were in the middle of a busy restaurant surrounded by other people. Breakfast was clearly over, so I excused myself and I packed up the paperwork we wouldn't be needing, preparing to go. I didn't know what to say to the bride - she still hadn't uttered a word. I wanted to hug her, but it didn't feel appropriate with the groom sitting there like everything was just hunky-dory.
Unfortunately, the groom wasn't finished humiliating her. He stopped me, and asked for a refund of their wedding fees. For a completely-planned wedding that was supposed to happen the next day. I told him it was too late. He was not happy.
"Then could you deliver the cake to our villa anyway?" he asked. "And maybe make a flower arrangement out of her bouquet flowers - I think that would look nice." He said something about how his mother would enjoy them - not even kidding.
Totally unprepared, I mumbled that I was sure we could work something out, and that I would text the bride to arrange delivery. She made eye contact with me and shook her head "no." I got the message, loud and clear.
I texted the bride a few hours later to check on her - I knew she wasn't okay. Who would be? She didn't reply. I texted her on her wedding day to ask what she wanted me to do with the flowers and cake. Her reply was two words: "Burn them."
I cancelled (and paid) the vendors, and the cake sat in my fridge until I knew they'd left the island, just in case he contacted me to complain that he hadn't received what he'd paid for. Wisely, he did not. I never heard from either one of them again.
If you must cancel your wedding, never do it with an audience. That's cruel. An engagement is a promise to marry, and if either the bride or groom changes their mind and wants out before the wedding day, that's fine. Probably better than going through with a wedding if they don't intend to keep the vows they're exchanging. Divorce hurts worse than a breakup, although you might have trouble convincing a bride or groom who has been left at the altar of that fact.
That's basically what happened in this case - the bride and groom had travelled thousands of miles and brought their families along, at significant cost for both travel and time off from work. Everybody was there for the wedding the next day when this bonehead decided to destroy his fiancé in front of a wedding planner. The time to have had this conversation was before 20 people boarded flights for their destination wedding. It was obvious the groom had been thinking about ending things for a long time before he dropped his bombshell. And after he cancelled the wedding, they were still supposed to spend another five days with their guests enjoying their honeymoon. I can't even imagine how the bride felt. I would have left.
Doing the right thing means taking the timing, and the audience, into consideration when you deliver bad news. Waiting until the guests are seated in the church, or in this case, the guests have travelled cross-country and are all staying with you for the next five days after you deliver the death blow, is not an acceptable way to back out of your promise to marry someone.
Until next time, happy wedding planning from Sandy Malone Weddings & Events!