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How to Decline a Wedding Invitation Without Hurting Feelings

Declining a wedding invitation can be awkward. If you’ve never had to RSVP “no” to a wedding before, you may not be sure how to best tell your loved ones that you can’t attend their wedding. 

There are various reasons why you made need to decline an invitation: perhaps you can’t afford to travel for the wedding, you have a prior commitment, or maybe you just don’t know the couple that well and don’t want to attend. Whatever your reasons, it is fair to say no to a wedding invitation: that’s why RSVPs exist. 

Follow wedding RSVP etiquette to ensure that you don’t offend the happy couple and politely let them know that you cannot attend their wedding. Learn how to decline a wedding invitation without hurting anyone’s feelings. 

How to Politely Decline a Wedding Invitation

If you can’t make it to a wedding, follow these steps to decline your invitation and RSVP “no” for the big day. 

Consider Your Options 

check schedule

First, consider your options when it comes to attending. You should also consider your relationship with the happy couple. The closer you are to the bride and groom, the more likely they’ll be hurt that you can’t attend their special day. 

Sometimes, guests simply cannot attend a wedding. If you have a work retreat that you can’t miss, a family affair that is more important, or another vital commitment, you may have to RSVP no even if you really do want to attend the wedding. 

In other cases, you may be searching for excuses to say no to a wedding that you aren’t interested in. Whether you don’t know the bride or groom well enough, you have interpersonal conflict that you don’t want to face, or you don’t care to waste a Saturday night out on this specific wedding, it’s fair to say that you can’t attend. 

If you are still unsure about your RSVP status, take some time to consider how you can make it work. Try changing your schedule if possible, and consider whether or not you really want to go.

While declining an invitation is difficult, it would be much more inconsiderate to RSVP “yes” and then fail to show up on the big day. 

 

RSVP on Time 

rsvp

Even if you are nervous to tell the happy couple about your decision, it’s vital that you RSVP on time. You shouldn’t make your engaged friends or family members chase you down for an answer. 

Be sure to send your RSVP before the RSVP deadline so that the bride and groom can get a headcount for wedding planning purposes. 

Follow wedding RSVP etiquette by responding however the couple requests – whether it be via email, their wedding website, mailing in your response card, or otherwise. Make it as easy as possible for them to receive your RSVP. 

 

Don’t Make Up Excuses

If you have an easy, obvious reason to miss the wedding, you won’t need to come up with an excuse. Your work trip, family vacation, or other commitments are perfectly valid.

For those without a solid reason for missing the wedding, it can be tempting to come up with a fake excuse so that you don’t have to tell the couple “I don’t want to attend”.

While we don’t recommend being brutally honest, you shouldn’t lie about why you’re declining the invitation. Don’t make up a fake excuse – the couple may eventually find out, making for an even more awkward situation. 

If the wedding is taking place during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is okay to tell the bride and groom that you cannot attend due to health concerns. Many couples are postponing or downsizing their weddings in light of the pandemic, so it’s understandable that you may not be able to risk socializing during this time. 

It’s unlikely that the bride and groom will quiz you on your reason for missing their wedding, so if you don’t have an obvious excuse, just keep it simple and say that you cannot attend. We’ll offer RSVP wording below for examples of how you can keep it vague but honest when declining your invite. 

 

Stick to Your Decision

invitation and response card

Once you’ve declined your invitation, stick to your decision. It would be rude to bother the bride and groom again and shift their guest list numbers back and forth. This is why we recommend considering all of your options before your RSVP no. 

Don’t call up your friends weeks after the RSVP deadline and ask if you can change your mind – it’s inconsiderate to the happy couple and all the time they put into planning and organizing their wedding. Once you’ve made your decision, stick to it. 

The only exception to this rule is if you are extremely close with the bride and groom and you somehow manage to get out of another commitment. In this case, your change of mind may be a welcome surprise. 

Don’t assume that your seat is still open, however. Contact the bride or groom and explain your situation and ask if it’s possible that they still have room for you on their big day. Respond graciously if they don’t. 

 

Thank the Couple & Offer Congratulations

When you decline your wedding invitation, don’t forget to thank the happy couple for inviting you in the first place. You can also offer congratulations and well wishes for a happy marriage! 

Creating a wedding guest list is no small feat, and if you are invited then it shows that you are important to the bride and groom. Make sure they know that you are grateful for the invitation, even if you have to decline it! 

 

Consider Calling 

man on phone

It’s a given that you should respond however the couple requests RSVPs in their wedding invitation. If you’re close with one or both members of the couple, however, you should consider calling to let them know that you can’t make it. 

Let the bride or groom know personally that you can’t attend if you are close and you think they may be surprised by your RSVP response. This will probably make them feel better about your choice to decline, and can give you a chance to explain your reason, if you choose to share it. 

 

Send a Gift 

Sending a gift to a wedding you can’t attend is optional, but it’s a nice gesture if you are close with the bride and groom. Follow wedding gift etiquette when considering a gift. You can usually send a smaller gift than you would if you had attended, but the couple is sure to appreciate the gift. 

 

Celebrate Another Time 

cheers over food

Again, this is optional, but if you’re close with the engaged couple then offer to celebrate with them another time! Offer a night out to dinner together or some other means of celebrating their marriage. 

 

How To Say No to a Wedding Invitation: RSVP Response Wording

Finding the right words can be difficult, especially when you’re trying to decide how to decline an invitation to a wedding. Use some of these common phrases to politely RSVP no.

  • “Thank you for thinking of me. I’d love to attend, but unfortunately I have a prior commitment on that date.”
  • “Thank you for the invitation, but I cannot attend the wedding due to a conflicting commitment.”
  • “We would love to celebrate with you, but unfortunately we cannot attend due to another commitment.”
  • “Regrettably, I cannot attend due to a work conflict, but please accept my warmest congratulations”
  • “Thank you for the invite!  Unfortunately due to a family commitment / work conflict / financial commitment I will not be able to make it. Sending my congratulations to the happy couple!”
  • “Thank you so much for including us in your special day; unfortunately, we have a prior commitment. We’ll be thinking of you and send our love!”

Tweak these as needed to word your RSVP response!

Final Thoughts 

Declining a wedding invitation doesn’t have to be awkward or stressful. Simply follow the proper etiquette, RSVP on time, and send the couple your best wishes for a lovely wedding and a successful marriage! 

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