What to Say When You Can't Attend a Wedding

Declining a wedding invitation can feel awkward. If you’re looking for the right words to break the news, we have you covered.

By Anni Irish

What to Say When You Can't Attend a Wedding
Photo by Zola

If you’re not able to attend a wedding you’ve been invited to, because you’re short on money, don't know the couple getting married very well, or have a prior commitment, breaking the news can be a little stressful. Don't worry, though, several wedding etiquette tips can help you let the happy couple know in the nicest, most polite way possible.

Think It Through

Take a few days and consider your options. Is there a way to make it work financially? Can you possibly attend the event you’ve already committed to, as well as the wedding? Being thoughtful about declining the invitation will make you feel better about it and is also something the couple getting married will appreciate.

Consider Your Relationship With the Couple

What to Say When You Can't Attend a Wedding | Zola Photo Credit // Unsplash

Filling out the wedding RSVP card stating you can't come isn't enough. When it comes to declining a wedding, a call, or even an in-person meeting is the best way to approach it. Depending on how close you are with them, thinking about the best way to deliver the news is also important. If the couple getting married took the time to invite you and send an invitation, give them the courtesy of a call—and possibly more. Whichever route you go, remember to congratulate them on this new and exciting chapter in their lives.

Don’t Explain Too Much

When it comes to the larger reason why you can't attend, remember not to overshare. The couple doesn’t need to know every detail as to why you can't attend their wedding. Get to the larger point of why you can't attend, and try to keep it short and sweet. Simply stating that you have a prior commitment or your finances are a bit tight right now is more than enough information. Being straightforward can also help cut back on potentially awkward follow-up questions.

Say Thank You and Be Polite, But Don’t Apologize Profusely

What to Say When You Can't Attend a Wedding | Zola Photo Credit // Unsplash

This is essential etiquette: Remember to thank the couple for inviting you. It’s important to be gracious and polite in this kind of situation. Saying no is hard enough. Doing it with tact and grace helps the situation go more smoothly for all parties involved. Saying your sorry is the right thing to do, but try to avoid over-apologizing. Repeatedly saying sorry can just make things more awkward for everyone involved. Say your peace, let them know you’ll be thinking of them, remember to thank them for the invitation, and try to move on.

Be Timely

Another thing to keep in mind when declining a wedding invitation is to do it on time. Every wedding invitation comes with a deadline, so pay attention to what it is and meet it. Although telling a close friend or family member that you are unable to attend their wedding is difficult, it has to be done if you aren't able to come. The sooner you're able to let them know you can't attend, the better they can plan accordingly.

Send a Gift

Another polite gesture is to send a wedding gift. Even though you aren't able to attend in person, sending a gift also lets them know you thought of them and want all the best for them on their special day. Remember to take a look at their registry, and pick something out that makes sense for you.

While there is no concrete road map to properly declining a wedding invitation, the sooner you can let the couple know, the better. It will take the pressure off everyone, and you can breathe a little easier after you deliver the news.

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