This is truly an unfortunate situation and I’m so sorry to hear that things haven’t worked out for you.
When dealing with something as heartbreaking as, well, heartbreak, it’s terrible to have to be practical and think about such proper and sensible things as etiquette but it must be done.
When it comes to seating your guests will you...
In this case, doing the appropriate thing will probably be extremely sad and uncomfortable for you and your former fiancé: you do, indeed, have to return all the gifts.
Wedding gifts are traditionally given in the hope that the couple will use the money or items towards starting their new life together. If there is no couple, no wedding, and no new life to be started, the gifts are, unfortunately, not required.
When returning the gifts, you should also explain why you are returning them. You won’t need to go into the gory details, but perhaps simply say that unfortunately the wedding has been cancelled and that though you love their thoughtful gift, you feel it best to return them. Also, don’t forget to thank them. You don’t need to say any more. Not only will most of your guests be absolutely sympathetic, the fact is that some of them will already know.
You should also get in touch with guests who are yet to send gifts to let them know that their generosity is no longer necessary.
To lighten the load of this difficult and extremely hurtful task, perhaps you could split the task of contacting guests down party lines: the groom contacts his guests and arranges for the return of their gifts and and the bride does the same for her side.
Though it may seem like a daunting task now, you will be glad to have wedding gifts cleared from your home and sight. Returning the gifts will also act to update everyone in your life that the wedding is no longer going ahead without having to bare your heart to them.
Believe it or not, the entire process will actually be a cleansing step towards the next phase in your life.
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