How to say no to a wedding invitation


Denise DiStephan

Denise DiStephan

Blog author Denise DiStephan

Denise Di Stephan is a freelancer writer based in New Jersey. Her work has also appeared in, The Nation and many local and regional outlets in New Jersey. She previously worked as a full-time editor and reporter at and several daily newspapers. Twitter: @DeniseDiStephan

Published May 20, 2019|3 min read

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It arrives innocently enough in the mail. Then you notice the heavy envelope, the calligraphy and, upon opening, the multi-colored confetti wafting to the floor screaming, “I will not be ignored.”

You only wish you could.

It’s an invitation to a wedding you don’t wish to attend because: You don’t feel close to either of the betrotheds; you have other priorities for spending your money rather than a wedding; it’s too far away; you don’t like weddings … the list goes on.

But you’re worried your reason for missing the wedding will sound lame or possibly even hurt their feelings. This is the most important day of their lives and the worst thing you can possibly do is RSVP no, right?

Wrong. The worst thing you can do is RSVP close to the date, which would be seen as showing a lack of courtesy and could even cost the couple money.

RSVP early without making excuses

Many venues insist on final payment 24 to 72 hours in advance, said Ellen Kostman, party planner and owner of Sidekick Events.

So if you’re going to decline do it ASAP, she said.

A declined invitation a few days before the wedding likely means the couple will wind up paying for your dinner and the cost of printing menu cards, among other expenses. Those costs can easily run into hundreds.

Declining early affords the engaged couple time to invite someone else or to allow someone already invited to bring a plus one.

Kostman said there’s no need to agonize about what your excuse will be.

“That’s the easiest piece of it. You just say you can’t attend. But sending an RSVP early makes you thoughtful,” she said. “So rip the Band-aid off and RSVP as soon as you can. I don’t think you should feel any guilt at all.”

Personalize the rejection

If you still feel like you need to offer up more, include a note with the RSVP, said Jennifer Spector, Director of Brand at Zola.

“If you can’t make it because of a prior commitment, definitely include that. But something as simple as ‘Wish we could be there’ will do,” she said. “If it’s a close friend, or someone you see often, I would recommend telling them in person before sending in your RSVP and be ready to share your excuse.”

Kostman recalls a wedding she planned where the engaged couple, “who were very witty,” provided a list of potential excuses tucked in with the invites.

“There were excuses like ‘I just don’t feel like it’ and ‘I have to wash my socks that day,’ “ she said. “It was really funny.”

If you think your excuse may lead to hurt feelings, you don’t have to share those details. But don’t feel as though you need to provide a reason.

“Don’t lie, because that just causes more problems,” Kostman said.

Send a gift anyway

While many people who decline wedding invitations don’t send wedding gifts, wedding etiquette suggests sending one. But keep in mind there’s no requirement to do so.

Spector said the average gift from a guest, attending or not, is $100 per person.

“But you should consider your relationship with the couple when choosing how much to spend,” she said. “Family and close friends should choose something special in the $150 to $200 range, while work friends should spend around $75.”

Don’t change your mind

The only thing worse than a late no is an even later “never mind, yes.” It’s inconsiderate and will mean the hosts have to scramble to revise plans, which creates more stress for them.

Even if the couple is overjoyed your situation has changed, it doesn’t necessarily mean they can accommodate you. And, whatever you do, don’t show up to a wedding after saying no unless you clear it with the couple first.

Getting married yourself? Here’s how to save on wedding costs.

Image: Michele Henderson