How to Decline a Wedding Invitation
Declining a wedding invitation can be a delicate task, and wedding invitation etiquette dictates that how you go about it can hinge directly on what the wedding invitation you received looks like. The one standard rule is that you reply promptly, regardless of the date of the wedding. It’s considerate to let the wedding host know as soon as possible if you won’t be attending. If you plan on attending but something comes up send the host a note immediately.
Typically, wedding invitations will be sent with additional RSVP stationary in which you can check the appropriate box regarding your ability to attend the event. Some will even come with an additional blank note card that you can write a message of regret about your absence. You should not feel obligated to explain why you cannot attend, although if you feel so inclined, you can include a separate note to include a more personal explanation and/or congratulations. If the wedding invitation doesn’t offer this option, then it is expected that the guest (i.e. You) should send a written note of regret to the wedding host. Again, this note does not need to include an explanation and the formality of the note should be dictated by the formality of the wedding invitation.
If the invitation you received is formal, your reply should be formal, written with blue or black ink on white or cream colored notepaper, in which it is proper to include the date of the wedding but not the place or time. For example:
Mr. Jennings regrets that he is unable to accept the invitation of Mr. and Mrs. Leroy Gilbertson for Thursday, the first of August.
If the wedding invitation you received is not as formal, your note of regret doesn’t have to be either, and can read like a regular letter. For example:
Monte and I regret that we will be unable to attend on the first of August, as Monte’s brother will also be getting married that weekend, and we’ll be traveling out of state. I wish we could be in both places at the same time. We send our love and sincerest congratulations, and we look forward to celebrating with you and Allen when you return from your honeymoon.
Regardless of the type of invitation that you’re declining, remember to keep it short, sincere and to the point. You’re probably not the only person who can’t attend - it happens! There’s no need to be overly apologetic. The next best thing to being there is a prompt reply that you’re unable to attend.