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How to Politely Decline a Wedding Invitation Right Now

Large tables set up for a sizable outdoor wedding.
Mambographer/Shutterstock

So, you were invited to a wedding this year and, due to the pandemic, you expected it to be canceled. But the wedding is on and your attendance is expected. How do you politely say no without hurting your friend and staying healthy and protected at the same time?

Not an easy question to answer, as weddings tend to be one of the happiest and most wonderful moments in every person’s life, when they want all of their friends and family to be there and share their joy. Not being able to attend someone’s wedding and having to RSVP “No” is a bummer in any situation, but this year definitely made the whole thing that much harder.

With so many cancelations and postponement, it’s surprising to see some people still going forward with it, especially as the local authorities all over the world seem to be bringing new orders and issuing new statements all the time.

So, what are you supposed to do if you’re afraid of spending hours and hours with a large number of people whose whereabouts you know nothing about, and how do you politely decline the invitation? Let’s figure it out.

Be Honest

Honesty is always the best policy, at least that’s what they say. Before you consider constructing an elaborate story to give you an excuse to not attend, just got straight to the truth and tell your friend you’d love nothing more than to be at her wedding, but you’re afraid of spending the entire night with a bunch of people who have no idea if they’re positive to the virus or not, and that this whole situation has you worried for your health (and theirs!)

Don’t overcomplicate it and honestly explain how you’re afraid of contracting it, spreading it to your friends and family, and especially transmitting it to those who are in the highest risk group, like the elderly and those already immuno-compromised. If you have members of your family who fall into those categories, you should definitely play that card and say how going to a wedding full of people is simply too much of a risk for you.

Call, Don’t Write

When it comes to tricky and sensitive situations, always call or talk in person; don’t write texts or emails. Listening to another person’s voice or seeing their face at the same time you’re trying to explain your point of view and convey your message is much more intimate, personal, meaningful, and trusting than typing it out in a message or writing it down on a piece of paper.

This also gives the other person the opportunity to hear the tone of your voice and trust you’re making a decision that’s not easy for any of you, but that you’re doing it for the right reasons.

Have a Plan B

A couple having dinner with their friends to celebrate their wedding.
bbernard/Shutterstock

If the person whose wedding you’re trying to get out of is a very dear friend, have a Plan B in mind, and tell them you’ll make it up to them in a different way as soon as the pandemic is over. Surprise them with a fun dinner, plan a getaway weekend, organize a picnic, or come up with any other kind of celebration that shows them you care and you really wanted to be there on their big day.

Even a little gesture goes a long way, so don’t fret about organizing something grand just to showcase how sorry you are for missing out. Be yourself and your friend will appreciate it.

Send a Gift

Whether the person getting married is your friend or not, it’s always a good idea to send some kind of gift their way. Even though it can’t replace the fact you still didn’t show up, it’s the least you can do to show them you share their joy and feel their happiness, even from afar.

It can be anything, from flowers and a bottle of good wine, to something for the house, their baby, to a gift card or a gift coupon for a spa. It doesn’t matter what you choose, as long as you choose something.

Hold Your Ground

If the person doesn’t seem to understand or respect your decision, it’s time to take a breath and be okay with it. Weddings are emotionally supercharged and more often than not, people seem to overreact when things don’t go according to plan.

Deciding to go through with the wedding at this time of worldwide crisis means the happy couple had to get prepared for potential cancelations and people being uncertain if they wanted to spend their time partying when they should be social distancing. If they haven’t, that’s on them, and you have to hold your ground.

The reason you’re declining their invitation is real and honest, and there’s no real reason you should ever allow them to guilt you into coming or make you feel bad you’ve decided not to.


Declining a wedding invitation is never an easy task, but this year everyone has a very good reason to avoid large gatherings. If you’re struggling with this situation, know you’re not alone, and it’s perfectly fine to decline.

Karla Tafra Karla Tafra
Karla is a certified yoga teacher, nutritionist, content creator and an overall wellness coach with over 10 years of international experience in teaching, writing, coaching, and helping others transform their lives. From Croatia to Spain and now, the US, she calls Seattle her new home where she lives and works with her husband. Read Full Bio »

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