How To Respond To A Wedding Invite: The Ultimate Guide

How To Respond To A Wedding Invite

Did you know that an estimated 6 out of 10 people will turn down an invitation to attend their friend’s wedding? That’s a lot of awkward silences, cringe-worthy moments, and hurt feelings. If you’re reading this blog, it means that you’ve either recently received a wedding invitation yourself or are about to. What are your options when responding to a wedding invite? How can you make a safe but memorable statement? How should you respond if the guest list is capped at a certain number? If none of these questions have answers that feel right to you, then read on. Whether you are contemplating marriage yourself or just want to be well-informed in case something changes for friends who just got engaged, we’ve got tips from experts on how to respond to a wedding invite.

How To Respond To A Wedding Invite

1. Respond in a timely manner.

The first step to responding to a wedding invitation is to send a reply back in a timely manner. Wedding etiquette dictates that you respond within two weeks of receiving the invitation. If you are not able to attend the wedding, do not wait until the last minute. It is always better to respond sooner rather than later so your friend can make other arrangements for your spot.

2. RSVP via email or phone call (but never via text).

Before you send back your RSVP card, first check the response card for an alternative way of responding. If there is no response card attached or if the response card says “RSVP by phone” or “RSVP by email,” then respond with one of those methods instead. The bride and groom want to know how many guests they will be expecting and whether they should plan accordingly, so it is best that they have an accurate head count as soon as possible. Calling or emailing also leaves less room for error than sending back an RSVP card through snail mail. 

3. RSVP by the date specified.

If you do not have a response card and the invitation says “Regrets Only,” then you must respond by the date specified on the invitation (usually two weeks after receiving it). If you are unable to attend, this is your only opportunity to decline an invitation. You can also use this method if there is no response card attached and you want to decline an invitation. The bride and groom will appreciate knowing your decision as soon as possible so they can make other plans accordingly.

4. Be honest when responding with regrets (or acceptances).

If you are not able to attend a wedding, be honest about why when responding to an invitation—even if it is just because you do not like the bride or groom! The couple will appreciate knowing why they are being declined so they can understand why and perhaps even fix whatever might be bothering you about their relationship or wedding plans. If you cannot attend for financial reasons, let them know that too; in some cases, an alternative solution may be available for help with travel expenses or gift costs that will allow both parties to get what they want out of the situation.

5. If you decide to give a gift, send it promptly.

Whether you are attending the wedding or not, you should send a wedding gift in a timely fashion if you decide to give one at all. It is very important that your gift be received by the bride and groom within a reasonable time frame of the wedding itself; this means sending it at least two weeks before the event and preferably sooner than that. If you are unable to attend and have already declined, then make sure to send your congratulations and best wishes along with your gift as soon as possible after receiving an invitation.

Accept The Invitation

  • Accept, but with a gift that says something about you.
  • Accept, and write your own vows.
  • Accept, but only if you can bring your plus one.
  • Accept, and make a donation to a charity in the bride’s name instead of buying a gift.
  • Accept, but only if you can bring a date of the same sex as your partner.
  • Accept, but only if you can bring someone who is not dating anyone else in attendance (ex: Someone who is married).
  • Decline and offer to help with planning the wedding (or baby shower) instead of attending it yourself (if that seems like something you’re up for).
  • Decline because of prior commitments or family obligations (if this is true).
  • Decline because it’s too expensive for your budget right now (if this is true).

Decline The Invitation

1. Only attend if you’re certain you can be there.

If you are already in a relationship or have a history of canceling plans at the last minute, then it is best to decline the invitation. Although this may seem like an obvious decision, it is one that many people fail to make when invited to a wedding. The bride and groom want to feel confident that their guests will attend the ceremony and reception and not leave them feeling disappointed. So unless your job is flexible or you have someone who can watch your children for the day, then it’s best not to accept an invitation without having confirmation of your attendance.

2. Address your letter with “regrets only”

If you are unable to attend but still want to send a gift, then address your envelope with “regrets only” on the outside so that the bride and groom know not to expect anything else from you but a gift. If they read something other than “regrets only” on the outside of your envelope, they may expect more from you than just a present. If you choose this method, be sure that it is very clear in your letter that this is what you are doing as well as why (i.e., due to illness or another family obligation). If your presence is truly missed by the bride and groom, they will appreciate knowing why they didn’t get to see you on their special day.

3. Be specific about why you can’t attend

If you’re unable to attend due to your own illness or another family obligation, then be sure to mention this in your invitation response. If you are unable to attend because of the weather, make sure that this is a condition that you have control over. If it is a situation outside of your control, then it is best not to mention this in an invitation response.

4. Don’t send a gift

Although many people feel pressure from the bride and groom to send a gift for their wedding day, it is best not to send one if you aren’t able to attend the ceremony and reception. Although most people won’t be offended by receiving anything in the mail from you on their special day, the bride and groom may be upset that they didn’t receive anything from you on their big day.

Respond By Offering An Alternative Date

  • If you do not feel comfortable attending the wedding, or the date does not work for you or your family, then be direct and let them know.
  • If a wedding is being planned in the next 6 months or less, offer to attend another time instead.
  • If a wedding is planned within 6 months and you have been invited as a guest, but it does not work for you to attend at that time (for example, the date of your wedding), then suggest another date that works (for example, a month later).
  • If a wedding is being planned in the next six months and your current schedule won’t allow you to attend at all times during that period (such as having to fly out of town on business), then suggest an alternative date that works.
  • If a wedding has been planned for less than six months and it’s likely that you will be able to attend at some point during this period (such as just before or after), then suggest an alternative date that works (for example, one week later).


One of the biggest things to remember when responding to a wedding invitation is that you don’t have to respond right away. These things take time to organize, and you definitely don’t want to respond too soon – but you also don’t want to feel rushed. If you want to attend the wedding and you’ve received a wedding invitation, then don’t stress. There is plenty of time to respond, and the couple will understand if you take your time. If you have any questions about responding to a wedding invitation, feel free to ask someone who is knowledgeable about this kind of thing, like an etiquette expert.

Frances Umstead

Frances Umstead is a health & fitness writer with a passion for helping others reach their fitness goals. She has been featured in magazines and online publications such as Shape, Self, Huffington Post, and more. When she's not sweating it out at the gym or writing about health & fitness, Frances can be found reading a good book or spending time with her husband and pup.

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