Etiquette for Not Attending a Wedding

An invitation is not a compulsion, but if you decline a wedding invitation, do so politely.
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While it is an honor to be invited to someone’s wedding, you may not be able to accept every invitation. It is not rude to decline a wedding invitation, as long as you do so promptly, politely and personally. It is “unacceptable” to accept an invitation and then not show up, warns the Emily Post Institute’s invitation guide.

1 The Timing of a Refusal

Respond to any wedding invitation as soon as you can, and, in any case, respond by the deadline requested by the host. The Emily Post Institute suggests replying within two days. Don’t assume that not replying will convey to the host you won’t attend; on the contrary, Kate Wood suggests in MSN Living that hosts often count a non-reply as a “yes,” to ensure they have plenty of food, drink and seats for any guests who do show up.

2 The Form of a Refusal

Wood recommends including more than a blunt “no” when declining an invitation; jot a note on the back of the reply card, she suggests, or include a short note in the same envelope. Such explanations soften the refusal and personalize the reply. If you are close to the bride or groom, give them a phone call, try to arrange a social date, or make a connection in some other way as an alternative to not attending the wedding. If you are not especially close, a simple note with your refusal should suffice.

Jennifer Spirko has been writing professionally for more than 20 years, starting at "The Knoxville Journal." She has written for "MetroPulse," "Maryville-Alcoa Daily Times" and "Some" monthly. She has taught writing at North Carolina State University and the University of Tennessee. Spirko holds a Master of Arts from the Shakespeare Institute, Stratford-on-Avon, England.