How to Graciously Decline a Wedding Invite

A wedding invitation suite in light blue and coral.

Every now and then you might receive a wedding invitation that you unfortunately have to decline. It happens to the best of us, whether we want to or not. Sometimes it’s a destination wedding we can’t afford, or you’re simply not available that day. It doesn’t make you a bad person—just a regular human being with a life. Whatever the reason, there are a few things to remember when you need to graciously decline a wedding invite.

Don’t Ignore It

As much as we would all love to attend every event we’re invited to, it’s just not possible. Declining a wedding invitation, however, may feel more difficult than declining other events we can’t attend.

While you might be tempted to just ignore the invitation and not respond (because, let’s face it, ignoring things often seems easiest at the time), you really shouldn’t. Some people are worried they’ll hurt the couple’s feelings, but not responding at all is quite rude and inconsiderate. So, push past those feelings and the difficulty of saying “no” and continue on to graciously decline this wedding invitation.

Don’t Procrastinate

Weddings are largely planned around the number of guests that will be attending, so getting your response in sooner rather than later will be much more appreciated, even if it is a decline.

Therefore, you must respond to the RSVP as soon as possible! The bride and groom will be anxiously awaiting the official guest count so they can continue on with the rest of their planning. If you take too long to reply, this will make it very difficult for them and they’ll probably be ticked off with you, whereas receiving a ‘no” won’t be the end of the world.

Send the Response Card

A woman mailing a letter in a silver mailbox.

Regardless of how you choose to let the couple know you can’t attend, you still have to send in the official response card with your final answer. Response cards are sent out for a reason, and the couple hopes to get them back regardless of whether it’s a “yes” or “no.” It can be really difficult for the couple to keep track of who responded in-person, by phone, text, email, etc., which is why having response cards is so important. It makes their job of tallying the guests a lot easier.

Give a Short Explanation and No Excuses

There could be any number of reasons as to why you can’t attend a wedding including a sick family member, no vacation time from work, existing plans, etc. Everyone is busy with their own lives, and things come up. That’s okay. However, you should give at least some sort of explanation as to why you can’t go, especially if you’re close to them. But keep your explanation short and to the point. Don’t list off a bunch of excuses as to why you can’t go. A long, elaborate story will make it seem as if you’re just making excuses, as opposed to having a real reason.

And while it’s most likely they’ll miss your presence from their special day, the main point of the RSVP is to get a final headcount. Don’t overthink your reason, but be polite and prompt in your response.

Keep it Formal

The response card should be written in a formal format, regardless of how close you are to them or not. Always start with a formal introduction, such as, “Dear (name),” followed by your explanation that’s one paragraph, short-and-to-the-point, with no excuses. Then, end it with a sincere enclosure such as, “sincerely,” “best regards,” or “wishing you the best,” (your name).

Send a Card

A wedding present wrapped in kraft paper with a purple ribbon.

Just because you can’t make it to the wedding doesn’t mean you shouldn’t send them a sweet congratulatory card, or even a gift—especially if you’re really close with the bride or groom. While this is not a requirement, it’s a nice sentiment that will be greatly appreciated.

Give Thanks

No matter what the situation is, you should always give thanks for the invitation. It’s an honor to be invited to a wedding—big or small—and you should be grateful that they thought of you.

Call Them

People at a dinner party with wine glasses.

Even after you’ve mailed off your response card and possibly a gift, it doesn’t hurt to ring them up and let them know in advance of your choice. This doesn’t have to be a long conversation, but being able to actually congratulate them with your voice will feel much more intimate and genuine than just a card. If you live nearby and are especially close, offer to set a date to get together some time as your own personal way of congratulating them and celebrating this big moment.

Don’t Change Your Mind

Once you’ve sent your response card, your decision is final. Don’t change your mind a hundred times as to whether you can or can’t go because that will only frustrate the couple as they try to plan around their guest list. So, think long and hard about your decision before you (promptly) mail your response card back to them.

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