Should a bride or groom decide not to go through with the wedding, call back the invitations as soon as possible. Send a formal note if there is time; if not, phone the guests or send telegrams. Etiquette experts agree that there is no need to go into detail. Simply explain that the wedding has been canceled by mutual consent.
All gifts should be returned, experts say, with the possible exception of those that are monogrammed. Again, there's no need to go into detail; a simple note and warm thank you should suffice.
When it comes to the engagement ring, experts differ. Some say if the groom calls off the wedding, the bride may keep the ring. Others say the bride should offer to return it, and it's honorable to do so if it's a groom's family heirloom.
Gayle Labenow, of the Babylon, N.Y.-based company "You Are Cordially Invited" and New York metropolitan coordinator for the Association of Bridal Consultants, says that, heirlooms excepted, the bride is entitled to keep the ring under any circumstance as a gift. In essence, common sense and consideration for all parties prevails.
As for wedding expenses, the closer to the scheduled time, the less the likelihood of recouping deposits. If the alterations on the wedding dress are complete, for example, or the caterer has ordered the food, you may be liable for the supplier's costs, if not the whole bill. You may even have to compensate the musicians or the photographer if they are unable to rebook that time. However, if you were working with a bridal consultant, you may have more bargaining power since the consultant has some leverage in terms of future referrals to often-used services. Also, in some cases, it's possible to apply lost deposits to a subsequent event -- for example, a relative's or a friend's wedding.
For couples who are still on track about getting married but worry about how the stress of planning the wedding will affect them, New York City stress consultant Myrna Ruskin offers an audiotape recommended by the Association of Bridal Consultants, "How to Get Married Without Feeling Harried," that can be ordered for $9.95 by calling (212) 355-0538.