REAL TALK. Thinking about how to cancel your wedding to elope isn’t easy. The wave of emotions that likely hits you as you think about how to actually do this is very real….
For some, it might be guilt or shame about how the decision could be viewed or for walking away from money already spent. For others, it could be fear or worry about how others may feel about the change. And for some, it is the grip of uncertainty about if it is even worth it, and if it’s easier to just suck it up and stay the course…
If any (or all!) of those hits you in your soul, regardless of where in the wedding planning process you are, know it is ok to feel these things AND that it is a brave and acceptable choice to consider elopement.
Whether you find yourself here because something in your life changed like health, world uncertainty, or, a desire you’ve started to feel for something more from your wedding experience… EVERY reason is valid, and ZERO reasons require any justification to anyone else.
If you take nothing else away from this article, know that:
How and when you marry is an intensely personal decision. At the end of the day, you and your partner alone are empowered to decide what’s right for you.
Elopements today have the potential to be everything you’ve dreamt of and contain the freedom to marry in way that is authentically you.
So, while eloping might be the magic ticket to wedding bliss for some couples, it may not be right for all couples. The key is deciding what that magic ticket is for you and your partner!
If you’re truly thinking on the idea of diving into how to cancel your wedding to elope, the guide below will help decide –and then action!– accordingly…
Maybe you’re tempted to cancel your wedding to elope but you’re not completely convinced?
Here are my steps to confirm if an elopement is what you and your partner want:
- Make a list of what you and your partner want for your wedding experience.
- Add everything you want: laughter, a better venue, lemon-flavored cake, quiet time together, great food…anything your heart desires!
- Next, make a list of all of the “to-dos” for your current wedding day.
- Be sure to include the things that have been added by loved ones. Add all the things you feel like you two “should do.”
- Finally, compare the two lists. Are they the same? Are they different?
My hunch is that those two lists are definitely different and that your second list feels majorly overwhelming.
If that’s the case, think honestly about what would make you feel better? Would crossing off some of those “shoulds” from your list help?
If you do feel better by prioritizing your first list and crossing off some unnecessary items from your second, that’s great!
In this case, maybe you don’t need to figure out how to cancel your wedding… BUT… you do need to adjust your priorities, shrug off those “shoulds”, and stick to your priorities as your intentional focus.
And while defending your decision to stop doing some things may feel hard, try the conversation seed below to start the ball rolling:
“As we’ve gotten deeper into planning and reviewing our priorities for the wedding, we decided that [XYZ thing] didn’t really help us achieve what we wanted for our day. So, we’re taking it off our list for planning. The decision feels good and we are excited to refocus that energy elsewhere!”
Not feeling better yet? Dig deep. Hard choices might be needed…
If you don’t feel better after crossing things off your list, don’t worry. It’s common for people planning weddings to find themselves in this spot… Societal norms and tradition put a heavy hand on the expectations of what a wedding “should” be, and it’s 100% o.k. if that’s not what YOU want.
But you deserve to have a wedding experience that makes you and your partner happy. I encourage you (and support you!) to take a pause, dig deep, and make some hard calls…
When deciding what you are going to change, identify what about your current wedding plan doesn’t feel right. What bugs you about how it’s coming together? Then, really think about what could you do to make it feel way less “yuck.”…
Even when it feels scary, share your choices OUT LOUD with your partner or trusted friend.
(It builds bravery, I promise!)
If you breathe a sigh of relief when the words escape your lips, you know pivoting away from a “traditional” wedding is what’s right. Refocusing on what you want your wedding experience to feel like is how to make your experience begin to feel more you.
Okay…now you’re sure…you want to cancel the wedding so you can elope. Now what?
The first thing to do is feel excited about this new choice and recognize you are making a new choice. Regardless of what happens once the choice is made, this decision is about you and your partner (no one else).
By choosing to elope, you now get to create the wedding experience that is right for you two and making it as real, honest, and intentional as possible. You can build the adventure that feels authentically you.
Now it’s time to share your decision with your people!
This may feel overwhelming or scary, but start slow. Start with someone you know loves you deeply, so you can feel the comfort of knowing those who matter most support you. (See here for tips on how to explain your choice to elope)
Then, I would recommend talking with your inner circle (but this could happen at the end if it’s better for you!)
PRO TIP: Before you do tell your people, it can be helpful to know if you want guests with you at your elopement, and if so, who those treasured few are. (Don’t feel like you have to have all the other answers, though! “We don’t know yet, but we will keep you updated” is allowed!)
If you do want a crew, when you’re talking to those people you can present this change as just that…a minor change in location and event expectations.
But for everyone else, or if you have no guests planned, this is your opportunity to manage those expectations for participation!
Special mention: Make note of anyone who contributed money to your wedding planning (especially if it’s already been spent). When sharing your decision, this would be a good time to chat about the details of that money. If the money has already been spent, do they want it repaid? If it hasn’t been spent, do they still want to contribute that money towards the new plan?*
*Keep in mind that this is a moment of consent. You should be deliberate in making it okay for someone to opt out of donating to the new plan. You will need to be ok with whatever choice they make.
How to cancel your wedding vendors
Next, you’re going to want to talk with your wedding planner.
I’m going to be straight with you…they may not like that you’re cancelling the wedding for an elopement. BUT an experienced planner will most certainly have had this come up before (especially given our hellish years recently with COVID!), but they may still try to talk you into postponing or just tweaking current plans. And if that’s not what you want than remember…
You aren’t asking them. You’re informing them that you’re choosing to cancel the wedding in order to elope. This is about you doing what is right for you two.
Your planner can help you review contracts from current vendors, and help coordinate change. If anything specific came from your discussion with family that might impact how your planner can advocate on your behalf with vendors, be sure to let them know the details…
If you don’t have a planner, you are still going to be ok!
The best thing you can do to prepare for these vendors calls is to review your contracts. Read cancellation, reschedule, and refund clauses very carefully, as you might be able to adjust your outcomes to avoid losing money or minimize your losses.
For example, you may be able to adjust your floral contract to receive a different bouquet/boutonniere for your elopement and then a floral delivery at some cadence or for another special event to use up your invoice.
Work to change your cake to something small for your elopement and something bigger for a backyard reception party on a different date.
Perhaps you can adjust the date and location for your DJ, too. Maybe instead of a full wedding ceremony and reception you do a backyard party to celebrate your love.
If you already have a traditional wedding photographer booked, think carefully about asking them to photograph your adventure elopement (unless that’s something that they specialize in!)
With everything from location scouting, to location permitting, and, from experience with outdoor safety/first aid, to leading your adventure with Leave No Trace outdoor ethics in mind, photographing an adventure elopement –and, the skill it requires to do it well– is not the same as a traditional wedding.
Perhaps you can shift your non-refundable retainer fee to pre-book a 1yr anniversary photo session!
Ultimately, in canceling your wedding you may have non-refundable retainers and payments you can’t re-coup or reuse. But, if moving to elope is what feels right for you, it is money appropriately invested.
But What if I’ve Already Sent Save the Dates?!!
If you’ve already sent save the dates, do a pivot! Send an un-save the date! (You can even make it an inexpensive, custom piece from Shutterfly!) Write a little postcard or card and share your news. (Pro tip–the conversation seed below also works for one-off conversations in the instance you’ve not sent save the dates!)
“As we’ve been planning, we realized we wanted to welcome our love with something a little different that is more true and honest to who we are as a couple. We’ve decided to cancel the wedding and instead have decided to elope!!”
You have so many options on how to end your un-save the date…
- Maybe you’re asking them to save a different date for an after-party reception.
- Maybe you want to take things virtual and have a virtual party.
- Or encourage them to make a donation to their favorite charity in lieu of a gift!
- Or maybe you just want to ask them to spend that day outside and send good vibes to the sky as a way to honor your elopement.
- Maybe you’ll plan to share some images after the fact, or send a “We Eloped” announcement card…
…the choice is yours!
The key is to share your choice, express that they should be excited for you two, and emphasize that this change doesn’t mean they aren’t important to you!
Next, shift to planning your authentically you elopement!
Getting started on this updated path can feel daunting, so truly take a moment to learn what’s fact and fiction regarding a modern elopement, and, some thoughts on how your elopement can be set up. This way, you aren’t limiting yourself to what’s possible (or not!) unintentionally!
But ultimately, at the core, there are really only 4 things that you really need for an elopement:
- A Date — *When* you want to marry
- A Location — *Where* you want to marry
- A Plan to get “official” — *How* you want to make your marriage official outside of a full traditional wedding!
- An Elopement Photographer — Because memories *matter* and your adventure elopement deserves the same quality, capable coverage you would have had at your traditional wedding. And, as a bonus, some elopement photographers, like me, help with planning and will provide you with information and a plan for Steps 1-2-3 above! So, you really only have one step to tackle on your own! 😊
The final step in changing your wedding plans…
Not to sound harsh, but honestly, people might say some bullsh*t when they learn about your reprioritization for your plans. Annnnnnd, know that they may or may not mean it😒. But, at the end of the day, these possible naysayers won’t have the regret you would if you follow through on a plan–ANY plan–that doesn’t speak to your heart.
So what is the final step if you do choose to cancel your wedding to elope?
Keep laser focus on planning an intentional elopement experience that truly reflects what matters most to you and your partner.
To do this, make decisions about what you do, where you go, what you wear, and what guests (if any!) you’ll have based on the experience you two want to have, resisting any pressure to build this new plan for others.
Cancelling your wedding to elope isn’t an outcome you and your partner came to lightly, and in doing so, you determined it is what is right for you. Feel confident in this change and hold firm in your decision.
You’ve got this, and I’m in your corner, cheering you on! Reach out and I can help show you how you can adventurously marry instead❤️