How to Decline an Invitation Gracefully

How to decline and invitation
Sarah Sherman Samuel

An RSVP to a dinner party, holiday celebration, or other social event is not only a polite thing to do but also invaluable information for the party's hosts. How is a host or hostess supposed to determine how much champagne to chill, salmon to cook, and plates to set if they don't know the number of guests who will be attending their party?

The RSVP (also known as the good old headcount) is key, but before you ignore the invitation because you're afraid of saying no, know that it's perfectly acceptable to decline an invitation—just do so gracefully and in a manner that does not offend the host. To encourage you to make an effort to RSVP, we'll walk you through how to decline an invitation gracefully—no lame excuses necessary.

The Situation: You're Just Too Tired

Gracefully declining an invitation
Broma Bakery

What Not to Say: "I'm too tired. I'm just exhausted."

What to Say: "I really appreciate the offer, but I'm taking the night off. I need some quiet downtime. I hope you understand!"

The Fine Print: No hostess wants to hear that you prefer sleep over attending their Friday evening wine-and-cheese pairing, so make it sound like you already have a night off scheduled on your calendar—even if you don't. After a long week, almost everyone is tired on Friday nights, so it's not the best excuse for declining. If you just say, "I'm too tired," the hostess could suggest that you go home, nap, and then come over. Make it a firm, clear no, and they won't be able to try to convince you to come.

The Situation: You Want to Spend Time With Your Significant Other

Your guide to how to decline an invitation
Sarah Sherman Samuel

What Not to Say: "I miss my spouse."

What to Say: "That sounds like so much fun, but unfortunately, I have a date night scheduled. Please keep me in mind for the next book club party!"

The Fine Print: When you say that you miss your partner, the hostess could reply with a suggestion to bring them along. If that happens, then you have to make up another excuse. Avoid it altogether and say that you have a special evening planned for just the two of you. Then go ahead and schedule that date night.

The Situation: You Have Another Commitment

How to decline an invitation when you have another commitment
Sarah Sherman Samuel

What Not to Say: "I'm not feeling well."

What to Say: "What a bummer—I have another commitment. Hope the party is a success!"

The Fine Print: Lying about your health is never a good idea. Four hours later when you're out playing pool, five drinks deep, it's way too easy to forget the little white lie you made over a text. The hostess will see your drunken Instagrams and wonder why you lied to them.

The Situation: You've Been Traveling

How to decline an invitation when you've been traveling
Half Baked Harvest

What Not to Say: "I've been traveling a lot and can't face doing another thing."

What to Say: "I already have plans at that exact time. Can we schedule a hangout for another date soon?"

The Fine Print: Acting like the event is a chore may offend your host. Say you already have plans—they don't need to know that your other plans are catching up with The Crown at home. Ask for a raincheck and mean it. Schedule another hangout time and then follow through.

The Situation: You Have Another Event to Attend

How to decline an incitation from a friend
Sarah Sherman Samuel

What Not to Say: "Little Caleb had a cold last week, and I'm so behind on everything."

What to Say: "I would love to catch up with you, but I'm committed to something else at that time. Therefore, I am unable to attend. I hope it's fun!"

The Fine Print: Don't make up an excuse that is related to someone else's health or your own (see above). Yes, a sick child is a great excuse, but it's so good that the hostess could decide to postpone her event until Caleb is better. Or for example, they can also alter the menu of their Mexican fiesta to cater to your new avocado allergy or say it's perfectly fine for you not to participate in the salsa lesson because of your cramps. Great hosts are naturally accommodating; if they want you at their party, they will do everything they can to convince you to come. Another commitment is the only surefire way that you're guaranteed a pass.

The Situation: You've Over-Committed Yourself

How to decline an invitation when you've over-committed yourself
Broma Bakery

What Not to Say: "I've been to a bridal shower every weekend this month. The thought of having to sit through another bride-to-be opening her gifts makes me want to cry."

What to Say: "I'm so excited for Nikki. She is going to be a beautiful bride. However, I'm out of town that Saturday and won't be able to make the shower. I'm sending a gift off the registry to your house."

The Fine Print: If you have multiple weddings in a season, for example, practically every weekend can be booked up with a wedding-related event. When you've got back-to-back wedding showers, it's easy to experience shower fatigue. Don't badmouth the occasion. Instead, say you are out of town. Then book a stay at a nearby spa or make plans to visit your parents or another friend who isn't involved in the wedding. Or come that Saturday, take an easy day trip that involves doing something relaxing and fun.

The Situation: You're Just Not Invested in the Event

How to decline an invitation from a family member
Broma Bakery

What Not to Say: "I'm so not into kids and don't understand why anyone would want to have one."

What to Say: "I wish I could come to the shower, but I'm busy that afternoon. I know Jen will be the best mom and am sending a gift."

The Fine Print: Not everyone is into baby showers, but don't bash those who are. Say you're busy, and leave it at that. To ensure that you don't end up on anyone's bad side, politely decline the invitation to attend the baby shower, but always send a gift. It's the easiest way to let your friend know you care.

The Situation: Your Budget Is Tight

How to decline an invitation when your budget is tight
Half Baked Harvest

What Not to Say: "I'm not spending my hard-earned vacation time on your destination wedding."

What to Say: "Unfortunately, I won't be able to attend your wedding in the French Rivera. I would love to take you out to dinner here to celebrate before you go. Can we set something up?"

The Fine Print: You don't have to say yes to every friend's wedding. If you don't want to go, tell her as soon as possible. They may be hurt at first, but if she is a good friend, she'll understand. A destination wedding is not only a significant time commitment but a financial investment as well. Make it up to the couple by offering to take them to dinner, or something else closer to home.