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9 Ways to Politely Decline a Wedding Invitation

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Getting to every wedding is often challenging, especially when many people get married in the summer!

If you come from a big family or have a large network, you’re likely to get wedding invites that are impossible to attend. So how can you tell people politely without causing any bad feelings?

There is an etiquette to declining wedding invites. It may not matter so much for distant friends or acquaintances, but you’ll want to do things right if it’s someone you care about.

Politely declining is a subtle way to let someone you care about know how much you’d like to be there. It’s also an excellent way to convey your love for them even though you won’t be there for their big day.

Following up with personalized messages, sending a gift, and offering congratulations can smooth over any disappointment you won’t be there.

Unfortunately, schedules and other family commitments sometimes get in the way.

If you can’t make a wedding, here are nine ways to politely decline a wedding invitation.

woman holding a wedding invitation card and bouquet of flowers

Not All Wedding Invites Are the Same

Many weddings these days have digital invites and online ways to RSVP. The invitation, whether it’s digital or paper, guides guests to a website to let the hosts know who can attend.

Clicking a button online can seem a bit impersonal, especially if you’re declining an invite from someone you love.

For example, declining a wedding invite to your niece’s wedding is a bit different than declining an invite to a prior work colleague’s child across the country.

They’re probably not counting on you coming but are sending the invitation in the hopes their network will give gifts to get the new couple started. It’s a perfectly fine tradition.

Here are strategies you can use to decline an invitation politely.

A Handwritten Note

woman writing a letter on white table

One way to politely decline is by giving your RSVP a personal touch. This is best done with a handwritten note on the invitation or on a piece of paper you send to the wedding couple.

In the note, tell them how sad you are to miss their event and how happy you are about the prospect of them spending a life together.

Call Them

lady with pink dyed hair having a conversation on smartphone on wrist strap outdoors

The wedding couple will be busy planning all the ceremony and reception details, but they’ll still be happy to take a call from you.

Although it may feel nerve-wracking to call someone and tell them you can’t come, a phone call is among the politest ways to let people know you can’t make it.

Send a Gift

Smiling woman sitting on the sofa with gift in hands

Wedding gifts are important, particularly for young couples who may not be as established as older people getting married.

If you can’t make it to their wedding, send them a nice gift to celebrate the union and smooth over any ruffled feathers about you missing the ceremony.

Be Transparent About Why You Can’t Go

close friends meeting and talking at a restaurant

One way to politely decline a wedding invite is to let the couple know why you can’t make it.

Don’t make an excuse, and don’t leave them hanging about why you won’t be there. Instead, be open with them.

However, you should always avoid telling them a reason if it makes them feel bad.

Don’t, for instance, tell them that you can’t afford the tickets, or it’s because you didn’t get a plus-one on the invite. In those cases, stick with something generic to be polite.

Go to Other Wedding Events

Bridesmaids and bride having fun at bachelorette party

You can ease the pain of declining a wedding invite by going to other parts of the wedding celebrations. For example, if you’re invited, you can do your best to attend a bachelorette party, shower, etc.

Perhaps you can’t make the wedding because of some massive work conflict. Or you could be invited to two weddings on the same day.

Split the difference and attend one wedding and the other’s preceding events.

Send Flowers with the RSVP

Bride holding invitation card with a bouquet of flowers

Sending flowers with a wedding RSVP declining the invitation is always a nice touch.

The bouquet will cheer them up despite knowing you can’t make it to their wedding.

Choose flowers in light colors that are more appropriate for weddings. Include a personal message of regret and wish them all the best!

Give the Couple Plenty of Notice

Please make your decision and live with it. Don’t leave the couple hanging or make them follow up on the invite to finalize the guest list.

If you know that you’re not going, RSVP early and get it over with.

Declining a wedding invite close to the day when you knew you weren’t going is very rude. You’re making the couple deal with changes and occupy brain space when you shouldn’t have.

Use the RSVP Card

The wedding couple may not be the ones reading the RSVPs. They may have asked the planner or someone else to tally the RSVPs to create a final guest list.

It’s most polite to use the RSVP card included in the formal wedding invite. The same goes for a digital RSVP.

Please stick to the prescribed RSVP method, whatever it is. When you decline a wedding invitation, please don’t make it more work for the people who invited you to discover whether you’re coming.

Wedding Invitation Cards Papers Laying on Table Decorate With Leaves

Use the Same Formality as the Invite

You can politely decline casual wedding invites casually. Likewise, formal invites should get the same respect the couple showed you when they sent them.

Try to stick to the same formality level as the invite. If it’s a black-tie wedding, you should use formal language, especially if you’re not very close to the couple who is getting married.

Final Thoughts

Declining a wedding invitation politely is a fantastic way to show respect for the couple and appreciation that they thought of inviting you.

Making every wedding is impossible, so don’t beat yourself up if you can’t attend all of them.

Instead, reply politely and send a gift or use some of these other tips based on how close you are to the couple and their families. They’ll understand, and your polite response will smooth things over perfectly.