8 Things You Can Do If You Can’t Attend Your Friend’s Wedding

by in — Updated February 15, 2021

When all your friends decide to get hitched, you can find yourself overwhelmed with invitations. Even though you’re happy and excited for them, you only have a few hours to give, and other obligations take priority. Lets face it, your friend probably didn’t even take the time to send a proper invite and instead sent a mass email to their wedding guests. So what can you do if you can’t attend your friends’ wedding?

Quite a bit. By exercising proper courtesy, you can avoid hurt feelings and still help your friend celebrate her big day. By letting her know why you can’t attend and doing all you can to make her feel special, anyway, she’ll feel as if you did show. Here’s what to do.

1. Inform Them Immediately

Few things show poorer manners than beating around the bush. This leaves your friend lingering under the impression you may attend. If you know you cannot make it on her wedding day, give her a call as soon as you receive the invite and let her know. Apologize sincerely and offer to make it up with her some other way, perhaps by treating her to dinner at your fave restaurant or coming over to spend a girls’ only sleepover to binge-watch Netflix.

2. But Still Send Back Your RSVP

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Even though you’ve called your friend to let her know, proper wedding etiquette means returning the RSVP. Brides count on these when they order everything from the food to the party favors. Don’t delay in returning it, either — pop in in the mail right away, even if you have to run to the store for the return postage she forgot.

3. Avoid Being a Waffle

Planning a wedding takes a lot of work, and it’s important for the bride to prepare the caterer, the reception venue and the sommelier how many guests to expect well in advance. Brides who arrange shuttle services for their guests need to know how many riders they’re booking for as well. Don’t torture your friend by playing the, “Maybe I’ll make it, maybe I won’t,” game. Once you check “respectfully declined” on the invitation, consider the matter signed, sealed and all-but delivered.

4. Offer an Honest Explanation

If you and your friend are close, inform her as to why you’re unable to attend. Make your explanation straightforward and be as honest as you can. For example, if you’ve divorced recently and the thought of attending someone else’s nuptials will trigger bad memories, a true friend will understand. Of course, if you really do need to be in Toledo on business that weekend, say so.

5. Go to Their Bridal Shower

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Missing the wedding proves less hurtful if you show up for the bride’s shower, so if you received an invite for this event, go. Take the time to select an especially thoughtful gift to make up for missing the big day. If your friend is young and wants to go clubbing all night, try to hang if you can — assuming you don’t have a 5 a.m. shift the next day.

6. Send Flowers to their Hotel

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No doubt your newlywed friend has flowers aplenty at the wedding and reception venue, but who makes her, and her spouse feel welcome when they reach the honeymoon suite? Consider sending your friend a bouquet to her hotel room to greet her and her new hubby or wifey. Make certain to contact the concierge as well to ensure the flowers get to the right room — or even are waiting inside to greet the happy couple.

7. Include a Heartfelt Note with Your Gift

Even though you can’t make it, it’s a good idea to send a gift off the registry if budget allows. Most brides select items for those with smaller pocketbooks.

You can make any gift, no matter how small, more meaningful by including a heartfelt letter with it. Tell the story of how special your friend and her new spouse are, and how happy you are they found love with each other. You need not write a novel — a short paragraph is enough if you’re not close.

8. Get Together Later to Celebrate

Finally, offer to get together with your friend after the big event to celebrate. You can treat her and her new spouse to a ball game or a movie — whatever the couple enjoys. Or you can plan a special day for you and your friend only to get mani-pedis and hit some stores. If you lacked the funds for a wedding gift but have them now, you can let her select her own present.

Letting Your Friend Know You Care

It’s hard to miss a friends’ wedding, but sometimes, life makes it impossible not to. If you find yourself in this position, follow some of the tips above. You’ll avoid hurt and conflict and keep your friendship strong. If you feel inclined to do more, you can always offer to pay for something that you know they’ll need, like pre-marriage counseling. You can check out BetterHelp for ideas and suggestions near them.

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