It's OK to RSVP No to That Wedding Invite
Guests are more excited than ever to celebrate weddings (and we certainly understand why). Years of postponed gatherings and limited access to social events later, the wedding boom is now upon us with 2.6 million couples exchanging vows in 2022. For some, the ballooning volume of weddings is directly correlated to the number of invitations. It's a happy dilemma and the truth is, sometimes you're simply unable to attend a wedding—and that's completely fine.
Responding yes to an RSVP means having to book travel and setting aside your expenses and time in support of the couple. It's a lovely gesture and one that shouldn't come as an expectation on the part of the couple. Statistically, future spouses should anticipate for 10 to 20% of RSVP cards to be marked with "regrets."
That said, declining a wedding invitation shouldn't be a lightly-made decision. The to-be-weds have specifically requested you to be present on a significant day, so your "no" is more than nothing. Read our list of common scenarios where it's OK to RSVP no to a wedding; plus, tips for how to decline a wedding invitation tastefully.
Common Reasons Why People Decline Wedding Invitations
It's up to the invitation recipient to deduce whether they'd like to attend a wedding or decline with regrets. However, there are common situations where someone may RSVP no—without hard feelings.
Social and personal calendars are suddenly teeming with activity, meaning you may have already committed to prescheduled getaways or gatherings far in advance. If you find yourself in such a predicament, consider whether you can change your plans (including flights and hotel stays). If not, gently decline the invitation.
Other Weddings (And Events)
An uptick in weddings means more events for wedding party members. It's possible you're serving in a wedding (or several) this year. This naturally means you're committed to more prewedding events, including bach parties and showers. If you fall within this category and want to prioritize your duties as a maid of honor or bachelorette party coordinator, gently decline the invitation with regrets.
If your values are centered on family, it's only natural to place emphasis on spending time with your loved ones. You may have agreed to be there for your dad's 60th or emergencies arise. Declining an invitation to celebrate an important family event or to be there for, say, a procedure are understandable circumstances. You can safely RSVP no in such instances.
Most friendships and relationship dynamics will evolve. While you may have been close to a to-be-wed at some point, there are situations where people drift apart. If you're invited to a wedding where you hardly share a relationship with the couple at present, it's OK to prioritize the dozens of other things you're likely juggling in life. Of course, you'll want to consider the memories you've shared and the future of your friendship before making this decision. Again, most couples know to expect roughly 15% of responses to come with regrets and that's 30% for destination weddings. To decline, express gratitude and well wishes to the couple (especially by sending a gift).
A Last-Minute Invitation
Sometimes, couples may want to backfill their original anticipated guest count due to last-minute dropoffs. Depending on the dynamics of your relationship (whether you're a friend, colleague or neighbor), they may extend an invitation to you. In such instances, it's perfectly fine to decline the invitation.
If you're burrowing into debt to attend weddings, it's time to reconsider your financial wellness. While there are simple hacks to budget in advance for events, exceeding your monetary threshold to travel and attend weddings beyond your means isn't serving you. Be mindful about your budget and again, prioritize your relationships and time accordingly.
The peak season for the wedding boom will arrive in late summer to fall. By then, many invitees may have exceeded their allotment of vacation days or they have other professional duties to consider. With a rise in weekday weddings too, some may simply have to decline an invitation–and the couple should be understanding in this scenario.
Wellness and Health Reasons
Weddings require stamina and a presence within large group settings. Sometimes, this may not be the best option for you and your well-being. If you're privately grappling with personal anxieties or health issues, declining a wedding invitation might be challenging as you won't be compelled to share why you can't attend. However, you don't need to fill people in on your condition or current state. If indeed, you're facing mental or physical health concerns, it's more than OK to decline an invitation.
How to Decline a Wedding Invitation
If you plan to RSVP no to a wedding, there are ways to decline the gesture thoughtfully and tastefully. Read our tips below.
If you can't make it to the wedding, you still have to RSVP by the deadline. Are you close to the couple, or do you share a special friendship with one of their families? In addition to sending back the RSVP card, consider including a brief, hand-written note (these never go out of style) including your thoughts and best wishes. Wedding etiquette suggests you do your best to include the reason(s) you can't come. In this situation, don't focus solely on bad news when there's so much to be happy about. Use the opportunity to congratulate the happy couple and send regards to their families.
Avoid Making Excuses
We all know things come up, and like we mentioned, it's okay to decline an invitation. But when explaining why you won't be there, use good judgment. If you can't attend because the wedding conflicts with a long-scheduled appointment with a hard-to-book psychic, it might be better to decline without details. Sometimes it's better for the couple not to know.
Pick Up the Phone
Get personal and give the couple a ring. Please don't leave this chat to the last minute, though—like 15 minutes before they exchange vows. Give your loved ones a call as soon as you know you won't be attending (usually between four to six weeks before the event). It's always nice to hear the voice of a good friend, especially at such an exciting time.
Be There in Spirit
We love this idea for anyone very close to the couple. Write the couple a sweet toast, then mail or email it to a designated wedding attendant. At the reception, the best man, maid of honor, or one of the newlyweds can read your sentiments aloud. You'll forever be a part of this special moment, even if it takes place on another continent.
Make A Date
Spend a day or evening with the couple before their wedding. Treat them to dinner, drinks, a show—whatever they enjoy. No promises it won't spark some wedding day FOMO, but you'll definitely see more of the couple than you would've at the reception. That's consolation, right?
Send a Gift
While sending a gift is not technically a requirement, it's always a thoughtful gesture to choose something from their registry or contribute to their cash registry fund. While it's always wise to gift from the registry, you could also send flowers, a bottle of wine, a specialty spirit, a gift certificate and more. Experiences are the new norm and even if you couldn't make it, the couple will appreciate this added step.
Don't Change Your Mind
It's okay, you can admit it: You can sometimes be a little flaky (you're not alone). But when it comes to wedding RSVPs, friends and family should respond on time and stick to it. You can't imagine how difficult it is to plan a wedding when someone keeps changing their mind. Make a decision, however difficult, and go with it.
How to Decline a Wedding Invitation Message
If you're looking for the exact words to tastefully decline an invitation, here's a suggestion of what you might say.
Dear Jonathan and Michael,
We are so excited to hear about your upcoming wedding. Thank you both so much for including us in your event. Unfortunately, we won't be able to attend, as we will be traveling to Vermont the same weekend to attend the graduation of our niece. If we could only be in two places at once!
We will be thinking of you on June 24, and sending our love and best wishes your way.
Emily and David Smith