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March is upon us, and folks all across the USA are receiving perfectly formatted save-the-dates in the mail from their favorite couples. Everyone seems to be gearing up for the bash of the year! These lavish celebrations are unforgettable starting points where newlyweds begin their life journey together. Likely, you’d be more than happy to witness the vows, sip a bit of bubbly, dance with your friends, and eat a slice of cake.

But, there’s just one thing…

You can’t make it to the wedding. As the couple anxiously awaits RSVPs to flow in from their dearest friends and family members, you may be worrying about how to tell them that you will not be in attendance. Follow these simple guidelines to decline the couple’s invitation with class.

Photo by Arshad Pooloo

Determine how to deliver the message.

Weddings may be one of the most universally stressful events to plan. The couple’s families will be shelling out quite a bit of money and time to make sure that everything goes smoothly, and this includes finalizing a guest list. You were lucky to make the cut, and they deserve a tactful response that leaves them feeling respected and dignified.

RSVP means, “répondez, s’il vous plaît,” right? They have asked you to please respond, which means silence is never an option. (I don’t make the rules!) I’d recommend writing and sending a personal card, similarly to how they invited you. Whether you decide to call them up or pay them a visit afterward, it will be important to explain why you’re missing the big day.

Photo by Lanty

Be honest.

No matter the case, you should certainly outline a sincere reason for missing out on the celebration as soon as possible. Here is one good way to frame it:

  • Apologize.
  • State your conflict clearly and concisely.
  • Express appreciation.

Let’s say you have your son’s college graduation or your sister’s wedding on the same day. (True story! This crisis is happening in my family on June 15 of this year.) These are completely understandable and unavoidable, and no feelings will be hurt if you are upfront about what’s going on. If it’s another issue, like a financial inability to fly to a destination wedding, your honesty will still be appreciated. Even if you’re simply uncomfortable with an individual on the guest list, tell them. You never know what could happen.

Always remember to say thank you for the invitation, in any circumstance!

Photo by Logan DeBorde

Follow up.

After they have received your card, stay in contact. They will most likely send you a message back saying they wish they could have you there, and if you are polite and genuine, there should be no hard feelings. The couple has a lot of planning to do before the ceremony, so the sooner you act, the more courteous it will be. Be sensitive.

I missed my cousin’s wedding because I was a bridesmaid in my best friend’s wedding on the same day. No big deal! I wasn’t the only guest invited, nor was I the only guest who couldn’t come. In the end, it is their day. It wouldn’t matter if 4 or 400 people showed up, they would still find a way to make every moment matter.

Photo by Lanty

Give them a wedding gift.

If you were planning on getting them a wedding present before, that definitely shouldn’t change because of your absence. In order to avoid adding any possible insult to injury, order that 12-piece set of pots and pans from their Target registry. They will miss you, of course, but at least they can remember your generosity and kindness.

And as always, attach a card and wish them all the best.

Photo by Annie Spratt

Madeline Goldman

Madeline Goldman

Portland, Oregon / Music / Arts / Humanities

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