Etiquette for a Wedding Invitation Regret

Updated April 17, 2017

The day a guest receives a wedding invitation, they become part of the planning process for the event and have a responsibility to participate in the form of a response. An RSVP is required whether the invitation is to a lavish formal reception or casual outdoor picnic. If unable to attend, invitees should be mindful that a "no" response is just as important as a "yes" to the planning process, and a few guidelines should be followed to ensure prompt and proper delivery of their regret.

Time Frame

Wedding invitations are traditionally sent out six to eight weeks before the date of the ceremony when time is of the essence. Pay careful attention to exactly who is listed as invited on the envelope and respect that decision, whether it affects the ability to attend or not. Responses, including regrets, should be sent as quickly as possible; ideally within two or three days of receipt. If a respondent has already confirmed they are attending, and an unavoidable personal or work emergency arises, they should let the wedding organisers know immediately of their unavailability even if it is last minute.


Most invitations arrive with a response card enclosed that is pre-filled with options such as, "Declines with regret" and, "Accepts with pleasure." To turn down the invite, be sure the complete the name field and select the appropriate response. There is no need to fill out any additional information that may be requested, such as food preferences, if not attending. It is a nice gesture to write a personal note on a blank area of the response card with an explanation or kind sentiment.


Invitations for a very formal event may include a blank response card or none at all. In this case, a reply is still expected and it is appropriate for the guest to hand write a response on nice stationary. The verbiage should match the tone and formality of the wording on the invitation and mailed within two to three days of receiving the invitation.


The wedding couple often delegates the receipt and tracking of the responses to a family member, such as the mother of the bride, or a wedding planner. It is important for respondents to be aware of whom they are sending the regret to, and mindful that weddings are a special occasion. Humorous or inappropriate responses are never in good taste.


Emily Post explains that guests should send a gift if they are invited to the ceremony or reception, regardless of if they are attending or not. Sending the gift before the date of the ceremony also allows another opportunity for the invitee to express their regrets, and choose from a larger variety of registry items available. Presents should either be sent to the address on file or to the bride's home.

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About the Author

Val Reilly started her journalism career in 1995 and has contributed to both print and television including "The Argus-Courier," “State of Events” and the “580/680 News.” She has also worked in the newsrooms of CNN, KRON-TV and KFTY TV-50. Reilly graduated with a journalism degree from San Francisco State University, where she received an award for Promise and Creativity from the faculty.