Wedding RSVP decline etiquette

Updated April 17, 2017

Couples often ask guests to RSVP to their wedding invitations. The acronym "RSVP" represents the French phrase, "répondez, s'il vous plaît." In English, this means the bride and groom would like to know whether you will be able to attend their wedding. If you need to decline a wedding invitation, you should follow certain etiquette rules. Use tact--let your friends know you won't be attending, while being respectful and maintaining the relationship.


Before you turn down a wedding invitation, make sure you have a good reason not to go. You may already have plans for the day of the event. If the wedding is out of town, you may not have sufficient funds to travel. If you know you have a reasonable excuse for not attending, you'll feel better about declining.

Response Cards

Don't wait until the RSVP date to send in your response card. Reply to the couple's invitation as soon as possible. The bride and groom need to know how many people are attending. The couple will use the guest list to make such important decisions as how much food, drink and cake to serve, as well as how many wedding favours they should provide.

Invitations often include a response card with a self-addressed stamped envelope. Send this back to the couple so they will know you can't attend. You also may receive a wedding invitation that says "Regrets" or "Regrets Only," according to If you don't send the bride and groom your regrets, they will assume you plan to attend the wedding.

Personal Touch

Call or visit the couple, even after you send your regrets. This is a polite and considerate gesture when you need to decline an invite. Thank the bride and groom for the invitation. Explain why you will not be able to attend their special day. Express how much you wish you could be there, and let them know they will be in your thoughts on their wedding day.


Even though you won't be a guest at the wedding, it's customary to send a gift. Check with the bride's friends or relatives to see whether she has a gift registry. Send a wedding card with a check, cash or gift card the couple can use toward their home or honeymoon. Send the couple your gift before the wedding day.

Follow Up

Once the wedding has come and gone, call or visit the couple. You also can invite them out for coffee, lunch or dinner. Ask the couple to tell you about their wedding, reception and honeymoon. If they have photos, ask to see them. This idea works well for close friends or family members. Such thoughtfulness will let them know how much you regret not being able to attend such a momentous occasion.

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About the Author

Erica Morris has six years of journalism experience, working for publications in New York, London and South Florida. She has served as associate editor for a Jewish lifestyle magazine in Florida for the past two years, and worked as both a news and features writer for a number of weekly newspapers.