My friends have been saving for their big family filled wedding for a couple of years and just sent out invites this week, in mid-May, for an August 2020 wedding. With everything going on (pandemic) and large gatherings seemingly prohibited for the foreseeable future, I assumed they were going to elope or postpone.
Now that this wedding is still “on” for August, my partner and I have decided that we won’t feel safe being at a gathering that large even if restrictions are lifted by then. I should also mention that this wedding isn’t local (to us), involves travel by plane and requires a hotel stay. So now we’ve come to the conclusion that we need to RSVP ‘no’, but how do we do that without being total jerks?
How do we politely decline and let our friends know we’re excited for their marriage, whether it’s on their original date or not?
—I Am Telling You I Am Not Going
Dear Not Going,
First things first, let’s be very clear that I fully agree with you. You are not going to this wedding. I think we all need to be accepting that weddings this summer that involve flying and large gatherings are a) not happening and b) not something anyone should be considering going to. If this wedding were local and small I could see it. I think by August it is entirely possible that 25 people gathering outside to witness a wedding will be possible in some areas. But regardless of what social distancing measures the couple puts into place, air travel seems like something we should only be undertaking if it is absolutely necessary.
I am not personally terribly sympathetic to this couple having hurt feelings over you RSVPing no, because I think that response is obvious, and that they shouldn’t be going ahead with asking folks to fly, or do various other unsafe things. But I will concede that if it is possible to avoid hurting feelings, we should certainly try!
Politely declining a wedding invitation is actually usually very simple. If they sent an RSVP card, fill it out promptly, write a message of “wish we could be there,” and send a card congratulating them on the marriage. If they didn’t specify how to RSVP you get to indulge your Victorian fantasies and handwrite a note of polite regret.
Here, I suggest a few things. When is there RSVP date? If it’s in late July (when it should be), I think you can wait several weeks before responding. Give them the next month to realize on their own this isn’t happening. (Also, it’s entirely possible they know this and are just still inviting you to be polite themselves!) When you do RSVP, I would not include anything about social distancing or air travel or the possibility of another date. They are well aware there’s a pandemic on. So stick with the traditional “we so wish we could be there to celebrate with you in person and will be thinking of you on the big day.” And then send them a very nice card and a generous gift.
It’s a sad time for everyone, so if their response isn’t great, try to be understanding without actually considering changing your mind.