TIME Marriage

Yes, There’s a Right Way to Cancel Your Wedding

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Rory McIlroy and Caroline Wozniacki at Augusta National Golf Club on April 10, 2013 in Augusta, Georgia. Andrew Redington—Getty Images

Golfer Rory McIlroy and tennis player Caroline Wozniacki ended their engagement days after sending out wedding invites. An etiquette expert weighs in on how to cancel your nuptials.

Just days after sending out wedding invitations, top golfer Rory McIlroy and famed tennis player Caroline Wozniacki called off their engagement. Canceling a wedding is always awkward, but it’s especially problematic when the couple is in the public eye. What do you do? How do you notify your guests? And more importantly: Do you owe them an explanation? Should you offer one?

Jacqueline Whitmore, founder of EtiquetteExpert.com, weighed in on the best way to cancel your nuptials, even if you’re not celebrity.

First, she said, you must notify guests immediately, ideally in writing. The most formal way to go about it would be getting cards printed up. The ex-couple doesn’t have to offer an excuse, but it’s paramount they let their guests know immediately. “The faster the better, like ripping off a band-aid,” Whitmore says.

If the couple is in the public eye, like McIlroy and Wozniacki, they may have to make a statement to the press. “I think it’s best to just be honest and keep it brief and not go into detail about why the wedding is being called off.”

McIlroy employed a slightly different strategy by taking responsibility for the breakup in a statement: “The problem is mine. The wedding invitations issued at the weekend made me realize that I wasn’t ready for all that marriage entails. I wish Caroline all the happiness she deserves and thank her for the great times we’ve had. I will not be saying anything more about our relationship in any setting.”

Whitmore says McIlroy’s emotional explanation isn’t necessarily a social faux pas. “It’s mighty big of him to assume that responsibility,” she says. “I don’t think it’s necessary to stay. But it’s an extra step he’s taking probably because he feels bad not only about breaking his fiancé’s heart but also for the families involved. I think it’s courageous of him to take that responsibility.”

The next step is to return any gifts that have already been received. And the former bride must return the engagement ring.

Finally, there’s the matter of the venue. Most venues have cancellation clauses, and there’s usually a hefty fee for canceling last minute. The would-be-bride and groom must decide between themselves who pays these fees. “It can be a lot, but it’s a minor cost compared to marrying someone you don’t want to be with and paying for a divorce later on,” says Whitmore.

 

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