How Much Does a Broken Engagement Cost?

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Jeffrey Dean Morgan might play Mary Louise Parker’s deceased husband on Weeds, (CBS) but it looks like their real life romance will never make it to the alter.

According to recent reports, the on-again off-again couple who became engaged in February, are officially kaput, for now. This is far from the 41-year-old star’s first unlucky attempt at love. (In 2003, Parker grabbed headlines when actor Billy Crudup said sayonara after eight years together, not only leaving the actress solo, but seven months pregnant as well.)

Deciding to say ‘au revoir’ rather than ‘I do’ is never a casual decision. Still, there is truth to the saying goes it’s “better a broken engagement today, than a broken home tomorrow.” So when is the best time to break an engagement? Sooner than later. Putting the kibosh on your nuptials as early as possible will save you the most time and money. That is because with each month you wait, the chance that you will lose your wedding-related security deposits increases.

A wedding this year will cost an average of $28,800, according to The Wedding Report. About 35% of the total wedding cost is the reception, and usually at a venue that requires a hefty deposit. Reception sites generally fall into two categories: the all inclusive package (typical of hotel fetes) that include the space, food, tables, linens and silverware and the singular room rental charge, for which you are then responsible to coordinate and pay-for all of the details yourself.

If you are cancelling your reception it is best to do it six months in advance. After the six month mark backing out usually costs you more. For example, the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy, a popular waterfront wedding venue in New York, will give you a full refund six or more months in advance (minus a $500 cancellation fee). Cancel between two and six months and you'll get half back. Pull the party plug with less than two months to go and all you’re left with is a broken heart. “Getting a decreasing percentage of your deposit is more common with venues than vendors,” says Barbara Clark of An Elegant Affair, based in Raleigh, N.C.

If you are in Mary Louise's situation and you have a wedding planner, he or she should do the un-planning for you. If not, individually call each vendor (florist, caterer, photographer) and then write a formal request for your deposits to be returned. But don’t bank on vendors to refund the deposit. “A wedding recently got cancelled that the bride had gone all out on, hired a $10,000 to $12,000 photographer. And she didn’t get her $6,000 deposit back, regardless of when it was cancelled,” says Clark. “Most of the time, you’re not going to get your deposit back, because [the vendor] puts that date in their book.”

If invitations are printed, then they’re paid for. Generally couples mail invitations two to three months in advance, and printers recommend placing an order six to eight weeks before the intended mailing date. “If someone is cancelling a wedding, the best time is before they’re printed,” says Kelly Braun, of Hello! Lucky, a specialty letterpress studio based in San Francisco and London. Hello! Lucky requires a 50% deposit on the entire order to start on a proof. The rest is due when it is sent to printing. If you can cancel before printing, you will get your deposit back, less a proofing fee for whatever the studio has already done. “It depends on whether the client used one of our templates, or chose a custom design,” says Braun. “There’s an applicable design fee charged for custom design.”

If you’re using a wedding planner, you might be able to put her services towards a future event. “If you decide at a future date to go forward with the wedding, I’ll credit you the amount you’ve paid and bill you for the remainder,” says Clark. And what if there’s a different fiancé the second time around? “That’s okay, I guess,” she says. “Assuming they’re not doing something totally different, then I’ve already done some of the leg work.”

If you’re going to cancel your wedding, your finances will thank you if it’s at least six months before your scheduled ‘I dos.’ But that kind of logic is hard to adopt. “Break ups don’t happen like that,” says Clark. “I hear the awful stories when the groom cancels two days before, and everything is all paid for. Just went out for cigarettes, and never came back.”

 

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