Your No-Regrets Guide To Declining Wedding Invitations
Declining wedding invitations should be done with politeness and tact, so read on to discover how to send regrets without sacrificing your friendship.

Declining wedding invitations should be done with politeness and tact, so read on to discover how to send regrets without sacrificing your friendship.

After checking your mail, you find a beautifully decorated wedding invitation addressed to you. Or maybe you received the invite in your email. Yet you find yourself in a predicament. You can’t attend due to schedule conflicts, distance, or matters that take priority in your life. You need to let your friends know, but you don’t want to sound rude. How do you communicate your regrets with finesse? Read on to find out.

Reasons for Declining an Invite

You may naturally be concerned about hurting or offending your friends by not attending. As you’re mulling your decision, an August 2014 Brides article may offer some guidance. It’s important to weigh the impacts carefully when it comes to declining an invite from a close family member or friend. Of course, he or she will probably understand if you can’t attend a destination wedding due to travel or financial concerns. The same holds true if the wedding conflicts with events that you can’t cancel, such as a prepaid vacation or critical school and work obligations.

These are somewhat cut-and-dried situations, but it can get a little sticky if you’re considering opting out for other reasons. For instance, you may wish to steer clear of a volatile ex or an abusive family member. It’s easy to feel obligated to attend in these cases, but you should offer regrets if encountering those individuals would compromise your mental health.

How To Deliver the Regrets

Etiquette guidelines are good resources to follow. The Knot urges readers to fill out their RSVP cards and drop them in the mail as soon as possible. If you received an e-invitation, you should observe the couple’s guidelines. With the available wedding-related services and technologies, that means you can likely use their wedding website’s online RSVP feature.

At the same time, you need to use your best judgment when determining how to convey your regrets. The level of your relationship to the engaged couple should dictate your response. With a wedding of your closest loved ones, Brides suggests that you deliver your explanation in person if at all possible. This is especially true if you’re citing emotional issues as your reasons. The Knot recommends including a politely worded note with your RSVP or calling the couple. Wedding Wire’s Alice Prendergast echoes this advice, then adds that emails and texts are too impersonal to use in these cases.

No matter how you communicate the bad news, all experts agree that a simple and concise explanation is enough. In this way, you’ll avoid making the couple uncomfortable and casting a shadow on their special day. Venus Wong also emphasizes the importance of a timely response in her Refinery29 piece. It’s important to meet the couple’s RSVP deadline so you don’t add to their last-minute stress.

However, make sure you call or meet with them in person around the same time you send your regrets. Both Wong and The Knot recommend getting together with the couple either immediately before or after their wedding to spend some time with them. You’ll not only keep the friendship going, but you’ll also help them celebrate in your own way.

Don’t Forget To Follow Up

You’ve done your due diligence by getting in touch with the happy couple. Your next step now is to send them a gift. Prendergast stresses that what you select needn’t be expensive or fancy, but you can’t go wrong with items on their registry.

Turning down a wedding invite may not be an easy decision, but you can handle the situation with savoir faire. It’s wise to RSVP immediately and explain your regrets in a polite, concise way. Meanwhile, let them know you’re thinking of them. Their wedding may be a one-day event, but your relationship with them can last a lifetime.

Responsibilities of a Wedding Guest
A great wedding guest can make or break your wedding experience.

To be a great wedding guest, make sure that you are polite and courteous.

April showers bring May flowers, but for brides, April showers bring June flowers. Summer is a popular time for weddings, so you might start getting invitations from your friends who are getting married. To survive wedding season, be the best wedding guest you can. Here are a few tips to help you:

  • RSVP by the date requested. Do not put the invitation aside for a few days, because you’ll forget. Don’t make the couple track you down for an answer.
  • Look at the invitation to see who was invited. Do not invite anyone yourself. If your children aren’t mentioned on the envelope, they are not invited to the wedding. It is customary to invite partners, but if you aren’t married or in a long-term relationship, you may have to go single.
  • Show up if you RSVP “yes.” Barring an emergency, don’t change plans at the last minute. The caterer will charge the couple for your plate, whether you show up or not.
  • Do not talk about the wedding with friends who may not have been invited. This means on social media too. You don’t want to come off as boasting or make others feel bad because they were not invited.
  • Be on time for the ceremony. Better yet, be there 10 to 15 minutes early to get the lay of the land. When you arrive late, you disrupt the flow of the ceremony. If you do arrive late, wait for a break in the action to sneak in.
  • Dress appropriately. If the invitation says “semi-formal,” don’t wear jeans. For a beach wedding, dress more casually. Don’t wear white.
  • Put your phone on silent during the ceremony. Let your babysitter know your phone will be off for a half-hour to forty-five minutes and promise to check immediately after.
  • Don’t take pictures during the ceremony. Respect the wedding photographer.
  • Ask the couple if you can share pictures on social media before you do.
  • Send the gift, if you do, to the home of the bride or groom. Don’t make them deal with more stuff at the reception.
  • During the reception, sit where the bride and groom have placed you. Make conversation with those around you. It’s only for a couple of hours. Your phone will wait.

What About the Rights of a Wedding Guest?

Wedding guests also have rights that come with their invitation:

  • You can expect to receive an invitation if you received a save-the-date card.
  • You have the right to decline the invitation if you cannot attend. No explanation needed, just say, “Thank you, I’d love to be there, but I can’t.”
  • You can ask the couple if you need clarification about your invitation. Maybe you want to make sure you understand the dress code or are confused about the plus one.
  • You have a right to not send a gift at all. You also have up to a year to send a wedding gift.
  • If you do send a gift, you have a right to expect a timely thank-you note. You might want to give the couple a few weeks after the wedding to wrap up all their duties, but if you don’t receive a thank-you note within three months, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask if they received your gift.
  • You should take advantage of the open bar, but don’t overdo it.

Have a Good Time

A wedding is a celebration, and you should have a good time. Thank the host and hostess, typically the bride’s parents, before you leave. Don’t be offended if you don’t get a few minutes with the bride and groom. One of the best things you can do as a wedding guest is to be flexible and gracious, no matter what happens at the ceremony or reception.

Wedding Invitations: Tips and Ideas
Retro Floral Elements- illustrations for wedding invitations.

Getting your wedding invitations in the mail with plenty of time for family and friends to respond is key to having a good turnout at your wedding.

If you’re one of the many couples planning a summer wedding, you’re probably thinking about getting your wedding invitations and save-the-date cards out after the first of the year. The invitations set the stage for your wedding. It’s the first opportunity you have to share the style of your celebration. You’ll want to have an idea of what type of ceremony you’re having, classic or modern, elegant or casual. When you order your invitations, you’ll want to consider other wedding stationery, such as menu cards, ceremony programs and thank-you notes, that carry your motif and colors throughout the event.

Making Your Wedding Invitations

Here are some tips and ideas you’ll want to keep in mind when you make your invitations:

  • Choose your wording carefully. Learn the rules of how your invitation should be worded. Traditionally, it’s the host of the celebration who is listed first. If you are dealing with multiple sets of parents, you may choose something different to honor everyone. Don’t put too much information on the card. Print separate enclosure cards for directions to the venue and travel information.
  • Don’t include registry information in your invitations. Put it on your wedding website and tell your family for when guests ask.
  • Order invites and other stationery together and early. This saves you time, money and stress.
  • Double or even triple check everything that is printed. Have two or three different people look at the proofs to ensure nothing is missed, misspelled or incorrect.
  • Get creative with fonts and coloring, but make sure the invitation is readable.
  • When ordering invitations, count mailing addresses, not guests. But remember to add a few extra invites to avoid having to run a reprint later on.
  • Send an invite if you’ve sent a save-the-date card. Even if you know the guests cannot attend, send the invitation, because not doing so implies that the guest is no longer invited.


  • It’s recommended that you send invitations about six to eight weeks prior to the wedding, but 10 weeks is becoming the norm in these busy times. You have to remember not to send invites too early, because people forget to RSVP. Sending invites too late doesn’t give you enough time to get responses to tell your caterer an official head count.
  • When putting an RSVP deadline on the card, give yourself a few extra days between the real date and the date you tell people. For example, you have to give your caterer a head count on June 1. Make the RSVP deadline on May 24, a full week earlier. If you have to spend time calling people, you won’t be so stressed. Giving people a short time to respond makes them take care of it quicker. You might even choose to move the date up even more.
  • Help your guests respond to invites with all the information that you require. You might be surprised how many people forget to write their names on the reply cards or just forget to respond at all. Discreetly number the reply cards to correspond to the list of guest names, or consider pre-printing a label for the reply card.

Making Your Wedding Invitations: Outside the Envelope

  • Don’t use address labels on the envelope. Hand write them yourself or ask your bridal party to help. If you’re concerned about making mistakes, just get a few extra envelopes. The hand-written address makes the invite feel more personal.
  • Get a glue stick to seal the envelopes without damaging the invites.
  • Be careful about the outside of the envelope. Use a dark-color ink to address the envelopes to make sure it can be read.
  • Check the correct the postage before you mail. Take one envelope with the reply cards inside to the post office and have it weighed and examined. To be sure that the clerk got it correct, mail an invite to yourself before you send out the others.