While hundreds of Canadian brides and grooms laboured over tiny wedding details such as the attributes of roses versus lilies, Nicole D'Amato was helping her former fiancé move out.
In January, the two mutually agreed to call off their wedding, less than four months before the scheduled big day.
"I had to basically un-plan everything we had planned," says Ms. D'Amato, 29, who lives in Milton, Ont.
"You're sad, you're upset, you're angry. For me, it was the fear of telling my family and my friends," she says, explaining that she found it even harder to handle well-meaning, but curious co-workers.
"It can be awkward and emotionally draining."
Not to mention financially crippling.
Ms. D'Amato says she and her ex-fiancé lost $12,000 to $15,000 in non-refundable deposits from wedding vendors such as the owner of the venue and florists.
While many couples obsess over details such as chocolate fountains or invitation fonts, others who cancel their nuptials and are left emotionally and financially hurt have few places to turn for help.
Googling "cancel wedding" brings up either tongue-in-cheek or Miss Manners-type links, and no real tips on how to cope with the fallout.
Ms. D'Amato says that is why she is launching a business this month called Alternate Ending, with the goal of providing emotional support while taking care of the dirty work such as cancelling vendors, notifying guests and tying up other loose ends.
She says it was support from her family and friends that helped her get through the difficult period, but they couldn't help with everything. "With cancelling vendors, there was just a lot on the go and I found I wasn't able to allow myself time to breathe and to mourn and to heal. I had to put my feelings on hold to deal with the un-planning process," she says.
Because she has gone through the experience herself, she says she can act as a sounding board for any concerns someone who cancels their wedding may have.
Though mental-health experts say family and friends can help with emotional healing, the monetary pain will linger, especially when the odds of getting a refund on deposits shrink as the wedding day creeps closer, says Monica Yau of Blueprint For Love wedding planners in Vancouver.
She said vendors might give back deposits if the people cancelling their wedding find someone to take over their contract. "Try to get another couple or another party to substitute so that particular vendor won't lose money. It doesn't have to be on the same day per se, but it can be used on a future day," she says.
Some women who ended up not getting hitched complain that starry-eyed brides don't want to buy what they see as an "unlucky" dress or one that is made to someone else's measurements. Ms. D'Amato said it took nine months, but she managed to get back about 40 per cent of the cost of her gown through a consignment shop.
But when a wedding is cancelled for a death or illness in the family, extreme weather, venue bankruptcies or double bookings, insurance may help to cover the costs.
Insurance companies say wedding coverage is becoming more and more popular as people seek peace of mind against disaster on their special day.
Amelie Berube-Chanda, a spokeswoman for Pal Insurance Brokers in Simcoe, Ont., says demand for wedding insurance has increased 50 per cent over the past five years. She says the company receives about 10 requests per week and more during peak wedding season in the spring and summer.
"Sometimes people are getting married a month away and they're still interested because they're getting a little bit nervous and just want to make sure everything goes well," Ms. Berube-Chanda says.
Nancy Wells launched Wedensure in Vancouver a few weeks ago and says couples should protect their investment, considering the average Canadian wedding costs $30,000.
Insurance packages with either company typically cost $100 to $500 and cover up to $50,000, including lost deposits, damage to clothes, lost gifts or no-show vendors.
"I don't think there's anything I would purchase for $30,000 without getting it insured," Ms. Wells says.
She says buying insurance would protect couples in cases such as an untraceable cabbie driving off with their wedding gifts, or cancellation due to deployment to Afghanistan for a couple in the military.
Ms. Wells said Wedensure also covers up to $1-million in general liability, including liquor liability for serving alcohol to guests.
But both insurance companies say that although they give couples a backup plan in case of extenuating circumstances, one thing they won't cover is a change of heart.
Covering a change of heart is not cost-effective for the company, Ms. Berube-Chanda says.
"There's too much risk there for fraud," Ms. Wells says.
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