If you’re a wedding guest and can’t attend at the last minute, you may be wondering what to do. What is proper etiquette to inform the couple you cannot attend their wedding?
In this blog post, I’ll tell you what you need to know to gracefully bow out of a wedding as a guest even at the last minute.
What to Do When You Can’t Attend a Wedding at the Last Minute
Although it is not polite to cancel your original RSVP as a guest, sometimes things come up. Plans change. Life happens! As a result, it is quite common for approximately 1% to 2% of wedding guests to cancel at the last minute.
Proper etiquette dictates you should inform the couple of your change in plans as soon as possible. It’s one thing to cancel and inform the couple, but another to cancel and be a no-show as a wedding guest — without an explanation. That would be considered rude, so avoid doing it at all costs.
In this short-and-simple blog post, we’ll show you exactly what to do if you need to cancel as a wedding guest at the last minute — gracefully.
• DON’T call the bride on the morning of the wedding.
• DON’T bail on the wedding and never give a reason.
• DON’T post about your cancellation on social media.
If you can’t attend a wedding at the last minute — it happens — here’s what to do to alert the soon-to-be weds with grace and proper etiquette.
1. Update your RSVP.
You’ll want to update your RSVP as soon as possible.
The best way to update the response is through the person handling the RSVPs, which may be the wedding coordinator, the mother of the bride, or someone close to the couple. In many cases, the couple is handling the RSVPs. You can reach out to the couple ahead of the wedding but do not do it close to or on the wedding day itself.
If you know you cannot attend weeks ahead of the nuptials, great: you can probably update your response via the couple’s wedding website.
• Wedding Website: If you’re able to update your RSVP online via the couple’s wedding website, do it now. If not, head to the wedding website and find a contact number or phone number to reach the couple.
If not, or it’s almost the big day, try to locate the person who is handling the RSVPs. This is usually the wedding coordinator, the mother of the bride, or someone close to the couple. In most cases, you’ll want to avoid reaching out to the couple personally if the wedding is days away (and certainly not on the big day itself). What bride wants to hear about a couple canceling as she’s getting her hair and makeup done?
• Email/Text: If it’s the day of the wedding, or days leading up to the wedding, consider a quick note to explain your absence.
2. Explain your cancellation.
You don’t need to go into great detail, but you should explain why you cannot attend the wedding as a guest, as you originally planned.
Be sure to include any plus-ones who will not be in attendance as well, so the guest list can be updated accordingly.
Close Family Members: Reach Out Directly
For family members with whom you are close, reach out and be personal. Call them if possible or reach out to his or her parents and explain your cancellation so they can pass on the word.
Extended Family or Friends
If you’re an extended guest, it’s acceptable to reach out via email or text to explain your absence, although it’s best to reach out via phone first.
Here’s an example of what to say and how to say it when you need to cancel as a wedding guest at the last minute. And give yourself some grace: it happens!
Unfortunately, I/we are unable to attend and must update my/our RSVP to your wedding. I/We are truly sorry to miss out on your beautiful day and regret doing so at the last minute. We need to cancel due to __________________________.
Your wedding day will be a beautiful celebration and we wish we could be there to witness it. Best wishes during this exciting time for you both!
If you have a few weeks’ time, reach out to the couple via phone, text, or email and explain that you cannot attend, but be concise.
3. Send a gift.
You should always follow up with a canceled RSVP with a wedding gift.
Even if you cannot attend a wedding, etiquette dictates you should send the couple a gift.
Once you explain that you can’t attend the wedding at the last minute, send a wedding card with a gift of money or a wedding gift directly to the couple’s home.
READ: Last-Minute Wedding Gifts That Ship Fast
It is unfortunate when you cannot attend, but plans change and we can’t predict the future. We can, however, use proper etiquette and grace when bowing out of a wedding as a guest, even if it is at the last minute.
Don’t feel bad. These things happen! And remember, by doing your best to inform the couple of your absence, they may be able to make changes to the plate number, final guest list totals, etc. so they do not pay for you as a guest when you can’t attend.
Hope it helps!