So what do you do when you know you want to call off your wedding? Well, it depends on how close you are to the wedding, of course! If you’re like me, you already have booked your wedding vendors, you already have purchased your wedding bands, and you already own a house together and share a bank account. So breaking up ain’t easy.
Step 1: Keep a Roof Over Your Head
For Monsieur P and I, one of the blessings was that we had a 3-bedroom house, and spare bedroom furniture, because we had kept both of our bedroom sets when we moved in together. So after the breakup, we could at least sleep in separate rooms and neither of us was relegated to the couch. But yes, living with someone when you just crushed their world is, you guessed it, preeeeeeeeeeetty awkward. Oh, hey, thanks for ruining my life, are you done in the bathroom yet? Needless to say, I spent as much time as I could with my friends instead of at home in that awkward situation. And actually, even before the breakup I had been feeling pretty uncomfortable when I was at the house, which ruined any positive feelings of home for me. I was anxious to get out and started looking for apartments as soon as I could.
It took almost 2 weeks to find an apartment, but I was able to sign a lease and get my keys the same day, so I moved into my new apartment just 12 days after the breakup. Now, that wouldn’t always be doable in bigger cities, but I was fairly flexible as fair as what I was willing to pay and what kind of place I was looking for. I ended up with a cute good-sized studio apartment that is so “old Pittsburgh” style (it used to be a hotel), and though my rent is higher than my share of the mortgage, I cut out my commute, so I haven’t had to dip into my savings in order to keep a roof over my head. So what does that mean? Monsieur P could cover the mortgage on his own without my contribution, and the market isn’t great for sellers in our area right now, so he kept the house (we refinanced to take my name off of the mortgage). And with the house, he also kept the dog. My adorable little Josie pup, my Frenchie love, the dog that I pined over for months and jumped through hoops to adopt. Yep, he kept her, he won’t let me see her, and I’m not at all bitter about it. </sarcasm>
Step 2: Who Keeps the Ring(s)?
In our case, there was no doubt in my mind that I was giving the engagement ring back to him. Some friends told me “oh no, that’s a gift, you should keep it,” but I knew I would never feel right taking the ring. Besides, what do you do with an engagement ring? Keep it and wear it? Of course not. Trade it in/sell it? I wouldn’t feel right doing that. To boot, I work with a number of lawyers, who told me that technically it’s not a gift, per se, and it’s a representation of a promise… a promise which I voluntarily broke. Good enough rationale for me, since I didn’t want to keep it anyway. So that one was easy: Monsieur P gets the engagement ring. As for our wedding bands, well, those were purchased with his line of credit and paid from our joint account, so he took them back to the jeweler as well. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.
Step 3: Let’s Settle This Amicably
We actually had a really easy go of it, all things considered. Splitting up our furniture and “things” was pretty easy. I kept my stuff, he kept his stuff (all of the things we had going into the relationship), and we split up the others. We had kept our old couch from our original apartment together, so I took that with me to my new apartment. He kept the new living room furniture that we bought for the house, since it fit the house. He kept the dining room set because I wouldn’t have space for it at my new place, and he kept both nice tvs, because he cares a lot more about that than I do. I took my old tv, which had been in our spare room, and I haven’t even used it since being at my new place, because I don’t even watch tv. So really, it was pretty easy and painless to divvy up our “things.”
Step 4: Let’s Fight Over Money
Because that’s how it always goes, right? Everything’s moving along smoothly, and then you add money into the mix, and BOOM. Everything blows up in your face.
“Hurry up and find a place, get out of the house and take all of your stuff with you, before things turn ugly.”
That’s what one of my coworkers (who is divorced) kept saying to me. I said, “oh, no, we both agreed we want it to be amicable, so it’ll be fine.” Famous. Last. Words.
In the end, it all got sorted out, but there were definitely moments where things got a little ugly. People act a little (or a lot) irrational when emotions are involved, and do some crazy things. Thankfully, I have rational thought and a few lawyers on my side, and our joint account was closed out and separated without further issue.
We decided on the numbers based on a few things – money put into the house (down payment, % of monthly mortgage payments), and contributions to our “wedding fund.” Once that was sorted out, there was a little gray area, over some house things and ring things and so on. In the end, we agreed on a number (I still think I lost in the financial deal, but counted it as a win in life, so whatever) and that was that. I took my portion of the joint account, he took his, and then when we closed on the house refinance, we closed the joint account altogether.
The last step of the messy money stuff was to wait on the escrow and insurance checks to come back from the refinance. Thankfully, that happened the other day, so everything is now finally squared away and we are fully separated.
Step 5: While Juggling All of This Nonsense, Maintain Your Sanity and Contact All of Your Vendors
Needless to say, if you were an emotional wreck over a breakup, this would be THE WORST THING to go through. Having to deal with all of these logistics was definitely unpleasant, and that’s coming from someone who was not emotionally devastated over the breakup. However, it was a huge pain to juggle moving into a new place with no time to pack with working full-time and part-time, and trying to handle all of the communications between Monsieur P and all of the vendors. I slacked a little (or a lot) and spread out the communications over a period of time. Once the immediate things were handled, I combed through the vendor contracts looking for cancellation clauses.
When we initially received our contracts, I made sure to read over all of them and even made notes in my wedding spreadsheet about particular clauses that stood out as different or important. One thing I noticed in our contracts, but didn’t pay particular attention to, was the cancellation details. Because, really, if you go into booking your vendors concerning yourself with the cancellation details, you’re probably going about the marriage thing wrong. 😉 I noticed they were there, but that was the end of it. So when I was talking about cancelling the wedding, I had to try to sort out who was going to charge us additional (beyond the deposit), who would give us back money, and how much money we were losing from deposits.
Well, I am pleased to report that our loss was not as great as it could have been, though it was still significant. We were lucky to be calling off the wedding before our final payments were due, so we really had only paid deposits. None of our vendors charged us an extra payment for cancelling, but had we paid extra beyond the deposit, a couple of them would have refunded that payment, which is nice. I don’t want to add up the amounts of the deposits because it’ll probably make me sick to think about how much money just went out of the window, but it definitely could have been worse. We lost our deposits to both venues, the photographer, the DJ, and the bakery. We lost a few thousand dollars in costs to refinance the house (to remove my name), which was another bitter pill to swallow. Other losses came from the various other expenses, like the save the dates, wedding app, and all of those little things that only you bees really understand. 😉
Monsieur P found a work contact who had ties with our reception venue, and they offered to potentially refund our deposit if they were able to book our venue for that day. It didn’t end up panning out, but it was nice that that was even a possibility for us to potentially get our deposit back.
If you find yourself in the unfortunate (or fortunate, in that dodged-a-bullet kind of way) circumstance of un-planning a wedding, comb your contracts for those cancellation sections, and cross your fingers that your loss can be mitigated! Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask your vendors if there is anything they can do to possibly refund your deposit/payments if they can rebook someone for your date, either in full or a partial refund. Every little bit helps!