How to Decline a Wedding Invitation Properly

by Claire Valenty on November 22, 2010

in Wedding Etiquette

wedding decline invitation etiquette

Everyone loves a wedding, and if you are invited to one, you know you are in for a good time full of good food, fun and dancing.  However, sometimes schedules clash and it may be that, unfortunately, you are unable to attend a wedding celebration.  If that is the case, following our tips below will help you stay on the bride and groom’s good side.

  • If you know when you receive the invitation that you are unable to attend the wedding, use the reply card included with your invitation to notify the bride and groom right away.  If a reply card was not provided with the invitation, a handwritten note to the couple simply stating “I am unable to attend”.   When planning the wedding, the couple may be limited by size and budget restrictions; if you free up your space right away, they may be able to invite someone else that they were sad they had to cut from their final list.
  • On the reply card, a brief note should be sent the couple explaining why you will not be able to attend their wedding.  If no reply card was enclosed with the invitation and you have already handwritten “I am unable to attend”, your reason can be listed on that same note – this should be centered on the page and not crowded against the margin.   Keep it simple – there is no need to gush about how much you would love to be there or numerous details about what is keeping you away; just state your reason and your regret.  Something like, “due to a prior commitment” is fine.  It is also a good idea to repeat the date in your regrets, just in case there is a misunderstanding which may be cleared up once your regrets are received (you may have read the 18th, but the wedding is actually the 19th).
  • Address the note to whomever the reply card is addressed to.  Even if the parents of the bride are hosting the wedding, and technically, the invitation is from them, if the reply card is addressed to the bride, direct your note towards her.
  • Don’t forget to congratulate the couple while giving your regrets!
  • If only certain members of the invited party are able to attend, it is appropriate to write on the reply card, “Mrs. X accepts, with pleasure, the invitation to so & so’s wedding.  Mr. X regrets that he is unable to attend due to a prior commitment.”

My advice, though, is to change your schedule so you can attend; who wants to miss out on a wedding?!

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Omolara Harris March 21, 2012 at 3:52 am

The person works in my office and she is a subordinate. I am not close to her although at Christmas I do give out gifts to all the staff. I do have a prior engagement but to be honest I was not interested in attending the wedding. My question is am I obligated to give a gift since I received an invitation or would is it just proper etiquette to give a gift. Thank you.

kurt August 15, 2013 at 12:07 pm

I received a wedding invitation from a good friend but cannot attend. Is it expected that I should reply that I cannot make it and also include a gift/money? Or is the reply enough?

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