shabby chic wedding invitation suite

Photo: Lena Mirisola Photography

There will likely come a time in your life when you’ll receive an invitation to a wedding or wedding-related event (think shower, engagement party, or bach party) and you won’t be able to attend.

Whether it’s due to budget constraints or a previous conflict, here are a few etiquette tips on how to let the couple know you can't attend their wedding.

Call the couple
If you can’t attend the wedding or a pre-wedding event, don’t text or email them. It’s proper etiquette to pick up the phone and personally let them know that you won’t be able to make it. It may be easier on you to shoot a text or send an email in case they have an unpleasant reaction but at the end of the day this isn’t just another party, it’s their wedding day! It’s important that you give the couple the respect they deserve.

Don’t overshare
Your reason for not attending a wedding doesn’t need to be broken down in full detail to the couple. If you’re not going because you can’t afford it or you’re attending a lot of other weddings around the same time, it’s best to keep something like that to yourself. Saying something along the lines of, “I have a prior engagement that I already committed to” is a polite and formal way to say you’re busy. It won’t invite too many follow-up questions and you won’t have to divulge all the details about what you’re doing instead.

Send a gift anyways
RSVPing no to a wedding or a pre-wedding event doesn’t mean you’re excused from buying the couple a gift. They were kind enough to invite you to their celebration, so it’s important you return the favor by sending them something from their registry. They’ll definitely appreciate the gesture and it’s a great way for you to congratulate them despite not being in attendance.

Do it in a timely manner
If you know right away that you have a conflict, don’t delay in RSVPing. You might be dreading the thought of having to tell them no, but waiting longer to do so will only create more hassle for the couple. There’s typically a date the couple asks you to reply by, so make sure you make note of that when you receive the invitation.

Don’t over-apologize
Once you’ve said you’re sorry for being unable to attend, move on and be done with it. There’s no use in bringing it up every time you see or hear from the couple. The couple has dozens of other things to worry about besides your attendance, so chances are they’ve already moved on to their next task pretty quickly.

Don’t change your mind at the last minute
Keep in mind that once you say you can’t attend, that’s your final answer. Don’t call the couple up a few days before the wedding saying your plans changed and now you can attend. Most venues and caterers ask for a final headcount about a week or so before the wedding so they can prepare accordingly. Adding guests to the list at the last minute is a major headache for the couple and the vendors involved.