Wedding Guest Cancellation Etiquette

Guest Resources / Thursday, December 14th, 2017

You’ve marked your calendar, replied to the invitation, and even marked your entree of choice. As a wedding guest, you’re looking forward to celebrating the day with the bride and groom, and probably busy buying gifts, getting a final haircut, and finding a perfect outfit.

But, as the saying goes, life happens. You come down with a nasty bug and don’t want to be coughing on the couple. Or maybe there’s an important event you simply can’t miss, something you forgot, or something completely unplanned.
The difficult situation arises: you’ve responded enthusiastically to the invite, but you know you simply can’t make it to the wedding.

The question remains: What should you do?

Wedding guest cancellation etiquette is a touchy topic, but by following these tips, you can avoid offending the bridal party:

  1. Be Honest: The simplest piece of advice, but it’s also one of the most important. Can you or can’t you attend the wedding? Many guests might be tempted to try to fit the wedding into their schedule, even when it’s not realistic. You’ll want to consider a number of factors, including travel time and how important your other obligations are. Also ask yourself how close you are to the bride or groom: if you’re a part of the family, that is, the bridal party, you should be there unless there is absolutely no way–and in this case, communicate with the bridal party as soon as possible. If you are a distant friend or distant relative, weigh your options. You can’t be in two places at once, and the sooner you accept that, the better for all.
  2. Know You Aren’t Alone: While it’s ideal to decline an invite right away, and even more ideal, of course, to be able to attend, know you aren’t alone. In fact, The Knot suggests that brides and grooms plan on about ten to twenty percent of invited guests declining.
  3. On the Other Hand, Don’t Wait: That said, don’t cancel casually (see point “Be Honest”). Cancelling as a wedding guest too late down the line does cost the bride and groom money– especially if they are paying on a per-plate basis for their catering. Letting the couple know as soon as possible is essential. The sooner you notify them, the more likely the couple can plan for unexpected cancellations, and perhaps get at least a partial refund.
  4. Let Them Know Your Regrets: Be human, and be personal. Let the couple know how much the original invite meant to you, and how much you wish you could be a part of their day. If you feel comfortable, you can share your reason for cancellation; regardless, do so in a polite, apologetic tone. And it wouldn’t hurt to send a card along, and maybe, if your budget allows, an extra nice gift. If you’re close to the bride or groom, suggest getting together with them after their honeymoon: it will let them know you really do care, and give you a date to look forward to.
  5. Call, Email, Text? Exactly how should you send your regrets? If you’ve already sent a RSVP confirmation in the mail, your best bet is probably to call. While doubtless the couple is busy planning, calling is a more personal, direct, and quicker way to notify the couple. Whatever you do, don’t send a casual text: they took the effort to invite you formally, and you owe them the same courtesy.

For future weddings you can make it to, Guestboard is here to help. Post questions about anything from flights, details, or things to do nearby. It’s your online resource to anything and everything about weddings: and you don’t even need to ask the bride or groom for help!

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