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How to Politely Decline a Holiday Invitation There is nothing better than spending time with family and friends during the holidays. However, they can also be a time of stress and anxiety, mainly if social obligations are...

By Deanna Ritchie

This story originally appeared on Calendar

There is nothing better than spending time with family and friends during the holidays. However, they can also be a time of stress and anxiety, mainly if social obligations are involved. A survey of 2,000 Americans found that the average person will attend five different gatherings this winter.

That might not seem like much. However, packing in these gatherings with other personal and professional obligations and holiday-related tasks like shopping and decorating isn’t always possible.

If you cannot attend a holiday party or gathering, here is how you can politely decline the invitation.

Why Might You Need to Decline a Holiday Invitation?

The reasons for declining a holiday invitation can vary. However, among the most common reasons are:

  • Work or travel obligations. Attending the event is impossible if you are traveling or working during the holidays.
  • Health concerns. You may not want to attend an event if you are sick or have a sick family member.
  • Financial constraints. You may not be able to afford to attend holiday parties.
  • Personal commitments. In addition to volunteering or caring for a loved one, you may have other obligations that prevent you from attending.
  • Simply not wanting to go. If you don’t want to attend, it’s okay to decline an invitation. What’s more, it’s not necessary to give an explanation.

How to Decline a Holiday Invitation Gracefully

Whatever your reasons, it is important to decline politely and graciously. The following tips will help you:

  • Be sure not to ignore the invitation. If you put the invitation aside for later, neither you nor the person who sent it will benefit. It is important that the host knows whether or not you will be able to attend. In addition to showing poor manners, you might not be invited to the next party if you ignore the invitation.
  • Respond promptly. In order for the host to plan accordingly, respond as soon as possible after receiving the invitation.
  • Be direct but polite. If you will not be able to attend, inform the host in advance. The reason for your decline doesn’t need to be very detailed.
  • Offer your apologies. If your absence is causing any inconvenience, please send your apologies.
  • Express your gratitude. Always thank the host for the invitation.
  • Feel free to send something. Go ahead and send something with a card if you would typically bring a gift to a holiday party. Add that you look forward to seeing them soon and mention how you wish to be there.
  • Suggest an alternative way to connect. Perhaps you can suggest an alternative way to connect after the holidays, such as grabbing coffee or lunch.
  • The invitation should be declined the same way you received it. The general guideline is to respond like you received an invitation. Therefore, you would respond via email to an email inviting you to a work holiday party.

Declining a Holiday Invitation From an Acquaintance

Here are a few tips you can use when declining an acquaintance’s holiday invitation:

  • Express appreciation. Let the person know how much you appreciate their invitation.
  • Keep it brief. Do not over-apologize or go into too much detail.
  • Explain your situation. If you have plans or another engagement, you can say so.
  • Keep your tone upbeat. If you are excited to hear about the event, say it sounds great.
  • Use polite phrases. You can say, “I am sorry,” “I appreciate it,” or “Thank you.”

The following are some examples of declining a holiday invitation:

  • “Although I was delighted to receive your invitation, I was disappointed to see the date since I have plans for that evening.”
  • “Thank you for the invitation. I am honored, but I will be unable to attend due to another engagement.”
  • “It means a lot to me to be invited, but I’m just unable to make it. Thanks so much!”
  • “I’m sorry, but I cannot attend this event due to personal reasons.”

Declining a Friend’s Holiday Invitation

You may not want to hurt a friend’s feelings when they host a party you don’t want to attend. Rather than giving a detailed explanation for why you cannot attend their party, you can be diplomatic.

“As excited as I was when I received your invitation, I am disappointed that I have plans for the same night. I know your party will be a huge success, and I regret I cannot attend to enjoy it with you.”

In contrast, close friends usually know a lot about your personal life. Being diplomatic when declining a close friend’s holiday invitation is important.

  • “I apologize, but I am unable to attend. Let’s talk tomorrow.”
  • “Thank you for inviting me, but my brother invited me to a family dinner that night.”
  • Hey! Thanks for inviting me. I’m sorry I can’t make it. Work is hectic; I’m just crashing when I get home. Let’s plan something for the weekend.”

Declining a Holiday Family Gathering Invitation

There is no easy way to decline a family invitation. After all, if you decline a family holiday invite, there’s a good chance that they’ll take it personally.

With that said, be as honest as possible. This holiday season, you might be hesitant to travel or socialize because you have some financial constraints, health concerns, or someone in your family is more prone to illness. For example, “If I were feeling better, I’d certainly love to join you, since we always have a good time. But after getting over the virus going around, it’s probably best for me to rest and recuperate. I’d love to get together once I’m feeling better.”

Declining a Business Holiday Invitation

Declining a business holiday invitation can be accomplished in a variety of ways:

  • Keep it polite. Keep a positive attitude and thank the person for inviting you.
  • Give a reason. You can excuse your absence if you have prior commitments, a scheduling conflict, or personal reasons.
  • Avoid specifics. If you already have plans, you can say so.
  • Offer understanding. It is okay to say that you hope to meet up again in the future.

At the same time, it depends on your relationship with the person inviting you to a business holiday party and how you decline. Your response should reflect a strong personal relationship, even if you’re responding professionally.

Here are some examples:

  • Business acquaintance. “My apologies for being unable to attend your holiday party. I hope you have a wonderful event and a very happy New Year!”
  • Close business relationship. ” Thank you for the holiday invitation! It sounds like great fun, but unfortunately, I have plans that evening. Perhaps we can catch up over lunch later that week?!
  • An invitation to a holiday party from work. Declining your company’s holiday party is an unforgivable business mistake. You can decline your work holiday party only if there has been a death in a family, there has been a wedding in a family, or you are hospitalized.
  • Coworker. “Although I would like to, I have plans with friends.”

Declining Holiday Invitation for a Club or Organization

Regarding social clubs, you can phrase your regrets according to the club’s purpose. In a book club, for instance, you could use a wordplay to make your decline less painful.

“Unfortunately, I’m booked for that afternoon, so I can’t attend this year’s holiday party. Please accept my apologies since I won’t be spending another holiday with you. [insert appropriate greeting].].”

Declining a Neighborhood Holiday Invitation

Declining a neighborhood holiday invitation is tricky, as your neighbors will know you stayed home instead of attending. Fortunately, there are a few ways to decline a neighborhood party invitation.

  • The simple, understated excuse. “Unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend this year’s neighborhood holiday party. I am sure everyone will have a lot of fun, and I wish all of you, [insert holiday greeting].”
  • The non-specific holiday season excuse.“Thank you for the neighborhood Christmas party invitation. Since Christmas is such a busy season for us, we’ll be unable to attend. Have a wonderful Christmas, everyone!”

If you need to decline an invitation, it’s perfectly okay. There’s no need to feel guilty about it. Keeping a gracious and polite attitude is the most important thing — especially during the holiday season.


1. How soon should I respond to a holiday invitation?

Responses to holiday invitations should be made as soon as possible, ideally within 24 to 48 hours. By doing so, the host will be able to make necessary adjustments to their plans if necessary.

2. What should I say when declining a holiday invitation?

The first thing you should do is thank the host for inviting you. Then, briefly explain why you are unable to attend. While there is no need to go into great detail, it is always polite to provide a brief explanation.

3. How can I decline a holiday invitation without hurting the host’s feelings?

It is important to respond politely and honestly. Express your regret about not being able to attend the event and thank the host for inviting you. Wishing the host a happy holiday season is also a good idea.

4. Is lying about why I can’t attend an event okay?

Regarding attending events, it’s generally not a good idea to lie. Lies can damage your relationship with your host if you’re caught. You should also remember that your host will likely find out the truth eventually — especially if you are declining an invitation from someone close to you. Just tell the truth and let the chips fall where they may.

5. What if the host is pressuring me to attend the event?

When the host presses you to attend the event, you can politely decline again and explain why you cannot make it. Alternatively, you can change the subject or excuse yourself from the conversation.

Image Credit: KoolShooters; Pexels

The post How to Politely Decline a Holiday Invitation appeared first on Calendar.

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