Invited to a Wedding but Cannot Attend?


There can be a number of reasons why you are unable to attend a wedding, from a prior commitment, to the expense due to it being a destination wedding. Whatever the reason, there are some common questions that come to mind in this situation, like whether you still need to send a gift to congratulate the happy couple. If you are invited to a wedding and cannot attend, there are certain etiquettes of which you should be aware, so you can handle these situations with the utmost consideration.

Can’t Attend a Wedding, What Should You Do?


Send a handwritten note with the RSVP

Most often the happy couple will not take your decline to the wedding personally but sending a personal congratulatory note can be greatly appreciated. It doesn’t have to be anything complex. Simply express your deepest regrets for having to miss their joyous occasion and wish them well in their marriage. It may not seem like much, but for the couple, it will not go unnoticed.


Simple let them know you can't attend the wedding

It can be really awkward and cause more problems to lie about why you are not attending the wedding. If you simply are not attending the wedding, then just say you have a prior commitment or previous engagement. Lying about not being able to afford the flight or finding a sitter can lead to the couple trying to solve the problem for you. Simply thank the couple for the invite and show that you regret not being able to attend. You do not need to give any further explanation if you are invited to a wedding and cannot attend or just don’t want to.


If it is a close friend or family member, you’ll want to be honest

The only time you should ignore the previous rule is if it is the wedding of a close friend of yours or a close family member. Be honest about your financial troubles if you are unable to attend your best friend’s or close cousin’s destination wedding. Most couples are completely understanding that not everyone can afford to attend a wedding in the Caribbean.

You can probably work out some other way to make it feel like you are there in spirit at least. Consider writing a toast or a letter to the happy couple and give it to someone to read in your honor during the reception or simply hand it off to the happy couple.


Be prompt with your reply

You’ll want to let the couple know as soon as possible that you won’t be able to attend the wedding. Although this can lead to some awkward conversations, you don’t want to put it off or worse, completely ignore replying at all. This can lead to even more discomfort for you, especially if the bride is the type of person who is meticulous when planning things. Receiving a phone call personally from the bride, if you are invited to a wedding and cannot attend, it will be much more awkward than simply returning the RSVP.


Send a gift

Whether you are attending the wedding or not, it is proper etiquette to send the couple a gift in either instance. You should send the gift prior to the wedding date, but it does not have to be as expensive as it would be if you were to actually attend. Most gifts from guests invited but unable to attend the wedding are about half the price of a gift they would have given if they were attending the wedding. Simply finding a more thoughtful or personalized gift can be an ideal way for you to let the couple know you regret missing their big day but you are wishing them well.

There is, of course, a few exceptions to this rule. If you are not close with the couple or have not had much contact with the couple over the past few years, then a gift may not be necessary. You will, however, want to make sure that you do send a handwritten note wishing them well and congratulating them. If you are close to either the bride or groom or you cannot attend a close family member’s wedding, you may want to consider spending a little more on the gift. Typically for close friends or family members, you will spend as much as you would if you were attending the wedding.

See Others' Suggestion on If You Are Invited to A Wedding And Cannot Attend


When there is a wedding I cannot attend, I always send a gift. If it is someone I am not close to, I tend to just send a gift card to a home décor store. If it is someone I am close to, then I will choose something from the registry list.


I have gotten a number of wedding invitations over the years where I barely know the couple, if not at all. It’s common to get invited to business associates children’s weddings, where the guest list is over 200 people long. For these wedding invitations, I will send a small gift, something simple like a candy dish or vase.


I hate having to decline a wedding invitation to a close friend or family member, and I will always send them an appropriate gift from their registry. When I cannot afford to spend the additional money on the gift and travel arrangements, I at least make sure I let them know I wish them well and regret deeply not being able to attend.