The Right Way to Skip a Wedding

Gertrude & Mabel Photography/ The KnotBeen invited to 10 or more weddings this season, or already have plans that particular weekend? There are times when you don't want to or can't be there for a wedding, so here are the dos and don'ts of uninviting yourself.

By Kate Wood for

Sometimes a wedding just falls on the wrong weekend - you already had plans to go out of town, you have guests staying with you, or you already RSVP'd yes to another wedding. Don't worry - it's okay to decline a wedding invite. Here's how to be a gracious nonguest.

Do: Return Your RSVP
If the bride and groom don't hear from you, they won't automatically assume that you're not coming to the wedding. Quite the opposite: They're more likely to include you in their final count just to be safe, especially if they're too swamped to call all the nonreplyers. Save them some unnecessary stress and return your RSVP card on time.

10 ways to ruin a wedding

Don't: Just Say No
Obviously, you're going to check the "will not attend" box. But that has about as much personal touch as filling in the circles on the SATs - it's polite to say a little bit more. Even if you don't know the bride or groom very well, give them a little explanation for why you can't attend. You can write on the back of the RSVP card or slip a note into the reply envelope. You don't have to give exhaustive detail, just a decent explanation: "So sorry we won't be able to make it! Traveling to see John's parents that week." For closer friends or relatives, consider following up with a phone call to ensure there aren't any hurt feelings.

Don't: Pass Up the Parties
Just because you can't be there the day of the wedding doesn't mean you have to skip any prewedding parties you're invited to. If you've been included in any of these, chances are you're closer to the bride and groom than the average guest - they may be bummed that you won't be at the wedding, so it's good form to show up for any of the other parties if you can. Just remember to RSVP separately for each party invitation. This means a "no" for the wedding doesn't translate to a "no" for the shower too.

The only exception would be wedding invitations that include events taking place on other days (for example, the rehearsal dinner or a postwedding brunch). In cases like these, the reply card will often list the separate events so guests can indicate which they can attend. If they are not listed separately, clarify your intentions in your note (for example, "We are so sorry we won't be able to make it to any part of your wedding weekend.").

Do: Send a Gift
It might not seem fair, but it's a hard-and-fast rule of wedding guest etiquette: You got an invitation, you get the bride and groom a gift. This is true whether you attend the wedding or not.

One thing you don't need to worry about is having the gift actually show up at the wedding. Most couples opt for online registries, so wedding gifts are more commonly sent to the bride and groom at home instead of being displayed on a table at the reception.

Don't: Change Your Mind
Once you've RSVP'd that you will not be able to attend the wedding, you need to stick with your choice. Even if your other plans get canceled (if weather problems kept your flight grounded, for example), it doesn't make attending the wedding Plan B. Brides and grooms generally have to give a precise head count to caterers and other wedding pros, and unexpected guests can create chaos (not to mention a lot of additional charges for the couple). Arriving at the wedding unexpected definitely won't endear you to the bride and groom - once you've declined, it's best to just stay home.

More from The Knot
10 wedding rules you can break
Secrets to a fun wedding reception
The worst wedding advice ever!
Top 8 wedding tips for moms
12 most embarrassing real wedding moments

© 2013 The Knot. All rights reserved.