Newport Manners & Etiquette: Breaking Up Is Hard to Do, Calling Off Wedding + Turning Off Phones

Wednesday, May 03, 2017


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Is there an etiquette to breaking up, for calling off the wedding, and calling order to a meeting? What about save-the-date cards as wedding announcements? All questions this week to Didi Lorillard at NewportManners.

Calling if off

Q.  My ex-fiancé and I are calling off our same-sex wedding. We've canceled the priest, the caterer, the banquet hall, florist, makeup artist, etc., but we sent out save-the-date cards six months ago. What we're having a hard time doing is letting our hundred plus friends know that we're not getting married. Can you help? Wedding presents are already arriving.  Names Withheld

A.  Assuming you have a wedding website, as soon as possible post an announcement that goes something like this:

                        By mutual agreement, Michael Ogden and

                       Phillip Waterson have decided not to wed  

                   and their June 10, 2017 wedding is cancelled. 


                       Your generous gift will be returned

                         to you with heartfelt thanks. 


Through word of mouth, the word will get out either through your wedding website, emails or phone calls. Additionally, you can have a card printed up with the same sort of wording that can also be used as the thank-you card when adding your handwritten words of thanks on the backside. The card can also be used when sending back engagement or wedding gifts.

You do not have to furnish family and friends with reasons as to why you are calling off your wedding. There is no obligation to divulge the details so refrain from overdoing it. Clean and simple, "By mutual agreement, we're no longer planning on getting married."

Breaking up is hard to do

Q.  How do I breakup with my boyfriend of many years? We live together. We've been through so much as a couple and he's always been there for me. I don't want to break his heart. He's pressuring me to get married, but I really don't want to marry him.  Name Withheld

A.  Whether you're breaking up with a lover or someone who once was a very good friend, obviously some ways of ending the relationship are better than others. In order to preserve the friendship, you will have to be calmly compassionate without the appearance of condescension.

  • Being deceitful or blaming a third person on the dissolution of the relationship are the two worst ways of manipulating a breakup. How about lying about why you didn't come home the other night and blaming it on your mother?
  • Avoiding the person by ghosting them is sheer cruelty and immature.


Research on breakups in intimate relationships found that using a positive tone while openly communicating with the person is the most honest approach.

  • Arrange a stressless time and place to meet face to face, such as a park bench on a sunny Saturday. Do not meet on your lunch break or over drinks after work -- unless you're looking for breakup sex.
  • Make an effort to show that you value the time you've spent together. How much fun you had on a trip or working on a project.
  • While keeping eye contact gently describe the reason for the breakup. It could be that you're not feeling the same enormity of love that you once felt deeply. 

If that's the reason, you can say something such as, "I can't hide my true feelings any longer..." 

  • If the reason for the breakup is that you're gay, tell her or him. 
  • If the person doesn't turn you on, be honest and say you're just not that into him any more.


Put yourself in the other person's shoes knowing that the worst feeling in the world is thinking you did the best you could (if this is the case) and it still wasn't good enough.

Once you have feelings for someone, they'll always be there. You may not love that person any more but you still care how the breakup will affect him. Learning that someone you love has lost interest in you is probably one of the worst feelings ever. So:

  • Never blame the other person for the breakup.
  • Verbally explain the reason you don't want to be a couple any longer.
  • Try to prevent the conversation from ending on a sour note.
  • Try to convince the person that the breakup will serve you both.  For instance, if you work in different cities.


How to break up with someone effectively:

  • Realize that this is going to be uncomfortable for both of you. Ending a romantic relationship without drama, pain, or guilt should be the objective.
  • Talk about ways to end the relationship that meet your needs and those of your about to be ex-partner. Such as, compromising about the custody of the dog, putting leases in one name or the other. Helping them visualize that things will be different by talking about diving up the goods, which seems frightfully materialistic, but is realistic. Who gets that expensive new mattress?
  • You want to avoid bitterness and move forward in a healthy way, and perhaps even consider staying friends.


Lastly, never invest deep feelings for someone unless you're ready to face the consequences. I know. Easier said than done.

Save-the-date cards

Q.  My daughter insists on sending out the save-the-date cards now for her wedding in eleven months. Not only that but she's asking people to let her know - prior to the invitation being sent - through their wedding website who thinks that they can attend. Who knows what you're doing so far in advance? Seems a bit pushy to me.  Mother-of-the-Bride, Houston, TX


A.  Who doesn't like receiving an invitation or save-the-date card? They make us feel special knowing far in advance that there is a command to make an appearance at a wedding, milestone birthday or anniversary, or favorite charity event.   

Nevertheless, in all fairness and considering that life happens, the save-the-date should be an announcement and not a command to attend. In fact, a guest isn't expected to respond to an invitation until six weeks before the wedding.

Except of course when there is a cutoff asking for a reply by a date that is usually two weeks prior to the wedding day. That cutoff is mainly for the caterer, because he has to know in advance how to plan for the food and beverages, as well as for how many waitstaff to hire. Hosts have to pay for no-show guests.

Curbing phones during a meeting

Q.  How can I assure a no-phones meeting?  I ask that phones be turned off but then I see eyes elsewhere and attentions not focused on the topic at hand. Sometimes they make me feel like an elementary school teacher looking for note passings.  KW, Providence


A.  It is not enough to ask people to turn off their phones, because they probably won't do it. Like travelers on a plane: who, whoops, forgot to turn off their phone. 

  • Ask if anyone is expecting a time sensitive phone call that might happen during the forty minute meeting, because if they are, you want to know about the distraction before the meeting begins. 
  • Suggest that the person leave the room to take the call.
  • At the start, let attendees know how long you expect their undivided attention. Let them know how long you're asking them to stay focused.
  • Suggest that anyone not waiting for a call should, please, turn off their phone.


Didi Lorillard researches manners and etiquette at NewportManners.


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