How to Graciously Turn Down Any Invitation
It’s about what you say and how you say it.
Last year, my friend was invited to 15 weddings. She went to 14 of the 15; and she only missed the one because two of the weddings were scheduled for the same day. Were teleportation an option, I know she would have made it to that 15thwedding, too. For a social butterfly like Sally, this stacked calendar was something of a dream come true. But for those who don’t get the same kick from a full itinerary, saying yes to 15 wedding invitations may feel more like a nightmare. For those of you in that camp, here’s the good news: You don’t have to accept every invitation that comes your way. But declining an invitation requires a generous helping of thoughtfulness and a healthy dose of tact. Here’s how to graciously turn down an invitation of any kind.
Of all invitations, a wedding invite requires the most thoughtful response. When it comes to declining a wedding invitation, it’s best to return your response card as soon as possible, then follow it up immediately with a note and gift to the couple. This handwritten note is your best opportunity to extend gratitude for the invitation, express sadness and regret for missing the occasion, and to share well-wishes for the bride and groom. Of course, if you are close to the couple and they’ve assumed you would be in attendance at their wedding, it’s best for them to hear the news from you before they receive your response card. In these scenarios, it’s best to pick up the phone and call them as soon as you’ve realized that you won’t be able to attend.
Whether you’re accepting an invitation or not, the general rule is that you may reply to an invitation in the same medium you received it. If your friend reaches out about a birthday party via email, it’s fine to reply via email. If there is a phone number listed on a shower invitation, it’s best to call. Regardless of the medium, your “no” response should include three or four things: thanks for the invitation, regret for missing the occasion, well-wishes when applicable, and hope that you’ll see the host soon. Easy!
The Greatest Faux Pas of Them All
The only thing you should never, ever do is not respond. It’s far better—and far more polite—to let your host know as soon as possible that you won’t be able to attend, rather than leaving him waiting for an answer, or worse, having to chase you down for a response. Not cool.
A General No-Excuses Rule
One rule that applies to declining nearly all invitations is simple: When turning down an invitation, you don’t have to provide an excuse. Hear me on this: Not wanting to go to a birthday party/baby shower/backyard barbecue is a perfectly valid reason for not going to a birthday party/baby shower/backyard barbecue; and a polite host will never ask whyyou will not be in attendance. If your nosy host presses you for an explanation, a simple, but vague, “I’m tied up with a prior commitment” should suffice. Pair your deflection with sincere thanks for the invitation. (It’s always nice to be included, even if you don’t go.) Of course, if you have a valid reason for missing an event that you otherwise would have happily attended, it’s best to share it with your host, assuming your giving this explanation doesn’t reveal someone else’s private matters (like a health issue). Prior commitments and existing scheduling conflicts, like two weddings that fall on the same day, are certainly legitimate excuses, and a gracious host will always be understanding.
So the next time you receive an invitation that you don’t want to accept, just say no … but nicely.
WATCH: 50 Most Popular Quotes for Wedding Invitations
For couples who want a little something extra for their wedding invitations, a sentimental quote written in beautiful calligraphy can be a special and personal touch. And while there are plenty of romantic quotes floating around out there, it can be hard to narrow them down to determine which ones are wedding invitation-worthy. Here, we've collected 50 of the most popular.