Etiquette for Sending Regrets to an Invitation

Young woman writing postcard in pub
Be polite when sending your regrets to an invitation to something you're unable to attend. Justin Pumfrey/Taxi/Getty Images

Have you ever needed to send regrets to an invitation to something you're unable to attend? When you do, are you worried that you'll upset the person who sent it to you?

Turning down an invitation makes a lot of people uncomfortable, but it doesn't have to. The person who invited you to a party or event understands that there are other pressing things in your life. The key to doing it correctly is to follow proper etiquette guidelines in a matter-of-fact way.

RSVP

Most of us enjoy a good party, wedding, high school or college graduation, dinner out, or an evening with friends, but it's not always possible to do everything we want to do or go everywhere we want to go. It is essential to let the inviter know as soon as possible that you won't be there in the form of a regret letter or note, even when an RSVP isn't requested.

Tone

You'll want to match the tone of the invitation when you send the regret. If you receive a formal invitation on linen stationery, your regret should have a more formal tone. You can be much more relaxed when the invitation is less formal, sent via email, or verbal only.

Example of a Formal Regret


Ms. Susan Hendricks
Regrets that she will not be able to accept
Marsha Blalock and Tim Yale's wedding invitation
On Friday, June 12.


Examples of Informal Regrets


Dear Claudia,
I'm sorry I won't be able to attend your thirtieth birthday party on Saturday.

I'll be out of town that weekend, visiting old friends during our class reunion. I'm disappointed because I would love to celebrate with you. I'm sure everyone will have a fabulous time. Maybe we can celebrate later after I get back. I'll call you.
Enjoy your special day!
Love,
Eileen

Dear Paul,
Congratulations on your promotion!

I was excited to see that you finally got the position you've been wanting. You certainly deserve it after all the hard work you've put into your job. Unfortunately, I already made plans for the evening of the celebration and won't be able to attend your promotion party. I hope you and the rest of the group have a blast. 
Talk to you soon,
Ed

Change of Plans

If something changes after sending your regrets, and you're able to go, it's up to you whether or not you should contact the host. What you don't want to do is appear wishy-washy or demanding.

If you see that you are able to attend after you've turned down the invitation, contact the host immediately. Be willing to accept the possibility that someone else has filled the slot and be gracious about it. Never act as though you're hurt because, after all, you were the one who turned down the invitation to begin with.

What Not to Say or Do

Here are some things not to do or say when sending your regrets:

  • Don't lie and say you have plans when you don't. If you don't want to go to the event, simply say that you are unable to attend.
  • Don't make rude comments, like saying you'd rather be anywhere but there.
  • Don't say, "You didn't come to my party, so why should I go to yours?" Holding a grudge is very unbecoming and showing it is rude.
  • Don't say you don't want to go because someone you dislike will be there. You're an adult. You should be able to handle situations where your least favorite people are present.
  • Don't say you'll go and later change your mind because a better offer presented itself. Once you commit to being there, you should go unless there is a sickness, death, or another family emergency.

  • Don't make your attendance contingent on anything superficial, such as what will be served or other guests who will be there.