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Couture, Cash & the Canceled Wedding

By Amalah

Please, I need help. My fiance and I just called off our wedding–not the getting married part, the wedding part. We’re going down to the courthouse with our parents and then going to dinner instead. We just can’t go through with all of that big wedding stuff–we cut it down as far as we could and we still had 90 guests and it was more expensive than we could afford. My maid of honor and mother both bought expensive dresses though. Should we offer to reimburse them? We’d have to take it out of our savings-to-buy-a-house, since we’re talking over $1000 put together. (Seriously–both of their dresses were more expensive than mine. Everyone was making a bigger deal of this than we wanted.)

I don’t know what to do. My mother is furious with me. Help?

OK, first some too-late-for-you advice for everybody else: ladies! pretties! The minute you get engaged, go out and buy a guide to wedding etiquette. A big fat one. Trust me, it will be your BIBLE during the planning process and help you with everything. Who pays for what! How not to be tacky with your registry! Seating charts for families who hate each other! And what to do if your wedding gets canceled or postponed.

So. Back to you, Q. On a strictly picky-picky level, you are not obligated to pay for the dresses. Even bridesmaid’s dresses, which the bride generally dictates the purchase and price of, are usually absent from the bridal responsibility checklists after a canceled wedding. (Most wedding forums suggest that bridesmaids simply sell the dresses on eBay and chalk it up to one of those things, and hey! It was probably ugly anyway and now you don’t have to wear it.) Since it sounds like you did not drag these women to a store and tell them to buy $500 dresses, it technically isn’t your problem.

But like all things family and etiquette, it sort of IS your problem, if the cost of the dresses is becoming a Thing with your friend and your mother. I couldn’t tell from your email whether they’ve actually asked you to reimburse them or if it’s just a general sort-of harping and whining about it. Either way: TACKY. If neither of those things are happening and you just feel guilty, then you have my permission to let this go. If they are whining or asking for money, you also have my blessing to ignore them and move forward with your plans AND your $1,000. But…if you want to be the bigger person here and attempt to make peace with a sort-of childish situation, offering to pay for the stupid dresses wouldn’t hurt.

And I’m guessing a $500 check isn’t the real source of your mother’s anger…your wedding was an important event for her, and now she isn’t getting the event she probably always dreamed for you. Such is life. And motherhood. You can’t make her get over it, although with time she probably (hopefully?) will. I don’t know your mom, obviously, but perhaps offering to pay for her dress might snap her warped priorities back into line, because in the end, the cost of her dress is So Not The Point. You and your fiance have chosen to build a LIFE together, instead of a big-ass party. What irresponsible airheads you must be! (Heh.)

Or she might take the check and continue to be furious. Which in that case: Get married at the courthouse and then buy that house in a whole other city.

More Wedding Advice from Alpha Mom:

  1. A Wedding Do-Over?
  2. The Case of the Blown Off Wedding
  3. Motherzilla of the Bride
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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I agree that you can offer to pay for the dresses, or maybe just half, to help smooth things over. But you shouldn’t feel obligated to do so. Can’t your mother still wear the dress to the courthouse ceremony? And the maid of honor could just wear the dress at another event. You didn’t tell them to buy a specific dress so it was their decision to spend that much money. And my hat’s off to you for changing your wedding plans. Too many people go ahead with stressful wedding plans because they feel like they can’t back out. You… Read more »


Neither of these women can return the dresses they bought? I don’t know, can you even do that with a $500 dress? I’ve never bought a dress over $100, so maybe I’m just being naieve(sp?) here. My whole wedding cost $1000…the whole damn thing. 70 guests and we held the reception buffet style at my parents’ house and it was the best day. It’s sixteen years later and I still wouldn’t have had it any other way. I applaud you Q for choosing to use your savings for the MARRIAGE and not the wedding.


I second the idea of checking to see if the dresses could be returned. It might also be possible to take them to a consignment shop to recoup some of the money or sell them on Ebay as Amalah mentioned.
This is a touchy subject and I think I would probably offer to reimburse them for the dresses, just as a peace offering.


I imagine that a store that sells dresses in that price range must have some kind of return policy, at the very least for store credit. Since these two chose dresses on their own from the store(s), perhaps store credit would be of use to them. If they can be returned for store credit, but the women don’t want that, you could offer to buy the dresses from them, return them for store credit, and then turn around and sell the store credit on Craigslist for a bit less than the actual value. (“$500 dollars store credit for just $425!… Read more »


Gasp! You answered my question! Thank you, Amalah, thank you thank you! I swear I did buy an etiquette book back when I got engaged, but it didn’t have any information regarding canceled weddings where the marriage was not also canceled. My fiance and I then spent an evening flipping through every book at our local Barnes & Noble–nothing. Combined with my mother’s near-apoplectic rage, that was a low point. I really was worried we were making a terribly rude decision. You are correct in saying that I didn’t tell either woman what to buy, by the way. I told… Read more »


My thoughts before and after reading qweneth’s follow-up post. At first, I figured that while you might not have picked the exact dress, you did approve it or ask them to buy some sort of bridesmaid-type dress that they’d never wear again. Then, you and your fiance decide not to get married, for financial reasons. But at the same time, you’re asking others to take a financial hit for your wedding. So it seemed like you were saying “We not doing to wedding in order to save money; too bad it’s already cost you a good chunk.” That is, you’re… Read more »