In many ways, it is a harder to cancel plans than to make them. Canceling or postponing a major event can be difficult, disappointing, and sometimes very costly.

Right now due to COVID-19, many people are in the process of calling off their summer weddings and gatherings. Others are still choosing to wait and see. When is the right time to make the call, and how do you do it without hurting relations? Here are my top cancellation courtesies:

Think About Your Guests

Not sure whether to cancel now or wait? Consider how much time your guests need to change their plans. If it is a formal event like a wedding, where guests are expected to buy a gift and perhaps a new outfit, then you want to cancel at least 4-6 weeks in advance. If many of your guests are traveling, consider how long it will take them to change their itinerary without penalties. Customer service lines are extremely busy right now, so you want to give your guests even more warning than usual.

Only Cancel Once

Cancel twice in a row and people may not take your next invitation seriously. Before you set a new date, make sure it is going to work out. Because we do not know when things will completely return to normal, it is best to wait until all restrictions are lifted. It is also important to confirm the availability of your venue and vendors before announcing a new date.

Make it Personal

It is important that you cancel plans personally rather than by text or through another person. For large events where it may take a long time to contact everyone, send an email ASAP. Confirmed guests who don’t acknowledge your written cancellation message should receive a phone call to ensure they don’t show up to an empty venue.

If you have already sent paper invitations prior to canceling, you don’t have to send them again once a new date is set. A digital version in the style of your original invitation will suffice.

Keep it Short

During these times, it is pretty obvious why many events have to be canceled. You do not need to include a long explanation to justify your decision. Let your guests know you are doing it out of consideration for their health.

Similarly in non-pandemic times, canceling as a host or guest doesn’t require a long explanation. If it is a long story, let the other person know you will share with them at another time. Giving too many excuses makes you sound defensive and fishy.

Keep Your Cool

This is a stressful time for vendors too. Many are uncertain about the future of their own businesses, and simply aren’t in a position to offer refunds. Before contacting your suppliers, read the fine print of your agreements to see whether what you are asking for is a favor or an obligation. Act accordingly.

Keep the Gift

If you have already received a gift in advance of your wedding or party, there is no need to return it unless the event is definitively canceled.

Keep in Touch

This is especially important for weddings. Periodically checking in with your guests lets them know that your big day has only been postponed, and not called off!


What are your COVID-19 etiquette questions? Send me an email, and you’ll get answers!

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