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What to do when 'I do' becomes 'I don't'

Victoria had Saturday, October 6, 2018, circled on her calendar for the better part of a year. That was the date she and her longtime boyfriend, Rick, were supposed to walk down the aisle and commit to spend the rest of their lives together in front of 250 of their closest friends and family. (Note: Names have been changed to protect the former couple’s identity.)

With nine weeks to go before their big day, 34-year-old Victoria had this sinking feeling. “Ever since Rick proposed to me 13 months ago, I felt he really wasn’t on board with the wedding,” she said. Rick didn’t want anything to do with the planning, from picking out the venue to coming up with the invite list. He seemed distant. “It’s like he just stuck his head in a hole, and didn’t want to come out,” she said.

Victoria finally worked up the courage to ask Rick the question she had been dreading to hear the answer to: “Do you really want to get married?”

His answer confirmed her suspicions. Rick didn’t want to be married, and not just right now – ever!

Hurt, angry, and confused, Victoria quickly realized that she not only had a broken heart to mend, she might also have an empty pocketbook if she didn’t try to recoup some of that wedding money, and fast.

Bride and groom close up saying their vows

According to TheKnot.com, 1 in 10 couples pay for their weddings entirely by themselves, and that was Victoria and Rick. They had agreed to split the cost of their $27,000 wedding in Mahopac, New York.

What’s a lovelorn bride or groom to do? The first order of business, according BitchlessBride.com founder, Deborah DeFrancesco is to inform your guests that the wedding is off.

She says if a “save the date” or actual invites have already gone out, you need to let your guests know the wedding is not happening.

“Enlist a friend or family member to call or send a note,” DeFrancisco says. “They don’t have to go into the ‘why’ of the cancelled wedding, but they can let guests know that their support during this challenging time is appreciated.”

If words escape you, Zazzle.com has a good assortment of canceled-wedding notices that can take the edge off having to make a phone call.

Next, DeFrancesco says it’s time to contact the venue. Whether it’s an elegant hotel ballroom or a trendy barn on a farm, the wedding space is usually the bride and groom’s biggest ticket item, averaging about $16,000.

The 90-days-prior mark is critical, since that’s when many reception spaces require 50% of their fees.

“Appeal to their softer side,” advises DeFrancesco. She says be prepared to lose part or all of your deposit, and don’t go in with demands.

“Let the venue manager know that this is a very difficult time for you emotionally, and anything they can do to help mitigate the financial pain is much appreciated.”

DeFrancesco says if you can find a “replacement event” for the day your wedding would have been held, you have a much better chance at getting all or most of your money back.

And that romantic getaway you’d planned? Sites like Canceledweddings.com allows registered users to buy or sell discounted weddings or honeymoons.

When it comes to the wedding dress, DeFrancesco says, “Price to sell.” In addition to the usual suspects, such as eBay and Facebook Marketplace, DeFrancesco recommends sites such as BravoBrides.com and Tradesy.com.

You may also want to consider donating the dress to a non-profit organization. You’ll be doing something good for someone else and get a tax deduction.

DeFrancesco cautions not to expect much back from smaller businesses, like the photographer, makeup artist, or band. You may get them to agree on offering you a credit, but they typically work for themselves and may have passed up other work opportunities on what would have been your wedding date.

Should you give back the engagement ring? While it is a personal decision, the legal answer depends on which state you live in. In California and Texas, the recipient of the ring is expected to return it, unless the giver called off the engagement. If you’re in Montana, the engagement ring is considered an unconditional gift.

Victoria decided to give her engagement ring back to Rick. She also managed to get 60% of the deposit back from the venue and her photographer gave her a credit for a future photo shoot. She donated her $1,800 wedding dress to Brides Across America in support of military brides.

On Saturday, October 6, 2018, her would-be wedding day, Victoria drove to New England with a couple of close friends for some leaf peeping and stayed at her favorite bed-and-breakfast.