Modern Etiquette: How Do I Turn Down a Wedding Invitation?

I love weddings. I love the free food, the free booze, the dancing, the excuse to put on a poufy dress. But not every wedding is so lovable. Occasionally you get invited to a wedding that is far away or costs a lot of money to attend, which makes it not worth the cash or extra vacation time for you. But how can you take a pass on the wedding without offending the couple?

If your friend’s wedding is in Barbados, the South of France, or some other place an expensive plane ride away from where you live, odds are good that they will expect a fair number of “no”s. In fact, they may even be hoping for a certain number of declined invitations in order to keep costs down. Many couples having destination weddings will hold some kind of party or reception when they come back, so you can attend that in order to celebrate the couple. If they’re not planning an event, you can offer to organize one on their behalf. You can also choose to give the couple some sort of experience-related gift that they can use in their far-flung location, such as luxury travel gear or a care package of their favorite foods from home.

If the wedding conflicts with another big, immovable event in your life – a graduation, an already-booked vacation, a relative’s wedding – then you should speak up as soon as you get the invitation or save-the-date announcement. You should communicate your scheduling conflict as soon as possible, because if you wait too long it will look like you’re making up an excuse. While your friend will possibly be hurt that you are attending another event instead of theirs, most people will understand that you want to honor a prior commitment.

Then there’s another thing to consider: not wanting to attend a wedding because you disapprove of the person your friend or relative is marrying. That’s a much more difficult situation to finesse. You can certainly decline the invitation without mentioning your opposition to the groom – using the reasons listed above is a good place to start. But if the wedding is five minutes away from where you live and doesn’t interfere with any major life event? You have two choices here. You can suck it up and attend the wedding, drink a whole lot of free booze and try to make the best of things, or you can state your moral opposition and not have to sit through a wedding you disagree with. Just keep in mind that choosing the latter is a very clear decision that you do not necessarily want anything to do with this couple in the future, and that you may risk losing them from your life. Depending why you oppose the wedding, this may be the best option for you, but keep in mind that many people view not attending a wedding a statement on par with a slap in the face.

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    • Kelly

      I think you could just check the “regrets” box on the RSVP card and be done with it. You don’t have to explain why you’re not going. Just say that you can’t make it. Done.

    • FaFi

      You forgot another reason that has been mine too many times – you don’t know the couple *that* well and you won’t really know anyone at the wedding aside from the couple. How do you politely decline without offending the bride & groom?

    • Party Pooper

      What about if you just hate weddings in general and the couple is (well one of the persons in the couple anyway) is a blood relative? I have never liked weddings, graduations, showers or any of those kinds of parties, never. I wish the couples would would just elope and not try to involve everyone in what I feel should be a personal celebration. I don’t enjoy the weddings nor the receptions. I don’t like having to purchase new clothing (including shoes) just so I can attend a one day event that I don’t even want to go to. Then there is the issue of having to purchase a present for the ‘happy couple.’ It was one thing back in the day when couples moved directly from their parent’s house into a place of their own when they married and needed everything. Now a days most of them have been living together for a while before getting married, so they already have an established household. They send out registries telling you what they expect you to buy for them ~ things that I can’t even afford to purchase for myself. Its just a lot of stress and cost that I would rather not have to deal with.