How To Deal With Last-Minute Wedding Guest & Vendor Cancellations

Planning by Blush & Bowties. Photography by Nikki Mills as seen in this real wedding.

Whether it’s a good friend or loved one cancelling just days before you’re set to walk down the aisle, or one of your vendors falling through, last-minute cancellations can be incredibly stressful to deal with. However, keeping a few things in mind and having a plan to move past the issue can help immensely. Alexandra McNamara of Toronto-based planning company Blush & Bowties says that last-minute guest cancellations are almost always inevitable. “Normally, it’s not too much trouble to take a few names off the guest list last minute, so it’s nothing for the bride and groom to worry about—it just takes a quick update to the floor plan,” McNamara says. “Couples should be prepared to pay for last-minute cancellations as venues and caterers normally ask for a final guest count at least a week in advance.”

Anticipate around 4-5 guests having to cancel last-minute. Instead of stressing about these cancellations, know that your loved ones have valid reasons for not attending and would have loved to make it if they could. And don’t even try to fill their seats with last-minute invitations. “Last-minute is not the most tactful approach to inviting someone,” McNamara advises.

But when it comes to having vendors cancel last-minute, that’s a different story. One of the pluses of working with a seasoned wedding planner, McNamara says, is that they’re able to recommend top-notch services and reliable vendors. “Most vendors I work with, in the event of an emergency, would have a backup plan in case of unforseen circumstances,” she says. “For example, last year I was working with a makeup artist who had a terrible family emergency happen at 10 p.m., the night before my couple’s wedding, and she couldn’t make it. But she had artists lined up who could take over, so there were no issues,” McNamara recalls. “The same goes for my team—if I had an emergency, I have several people on my team who could step in. I would advise couples to have this conversation with their vendors before booking.”

Make sure your vendors have a plan in place, and that you know exactly what will happen if they cancel. Contracts vary between vendors, but there will likely be a cancellation clause that lets you know what to expect in terms of refunds and deposits. If your vendor hasn’t given you this information already, ask them to recommend other vendors who can provide the same service and are available on the same date of your wedding. If you have a wedding planner, this takes a lot of stress off your plate as they will put a plan in motion to ensure that the vendor will be replaced.

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