Not giving enough notice, or failing to turn up at all, is considered one of the biggest faux pas you can make. It is one of the few things that will end any relationship instantly. But, whatever your need to cancel, there are some things you can do to help avoid burning any bridges.

Give as much notice as possible and give an explanation

Whatever the occasion, time, energy, money and a ton of stress will have gone into organising the event. You may not think your absence won’t have much of an impact but I guarantee it will if you committed to attending- yes, even if you’re ‘just’ an evening guest.

Venues and caterers will want final numbers 3-4 weeks before the event date. If you let your hosts know before this time there is a chance, and it’s a slim chance, that they may be able to recover any money they’ve paid or have committed to pay for you to attend. If you cancel any time following their deadlines, they’ll lose this money – it’s not like they can give your space to someone else, that would be an equal faux pas for the hosts to invite anyone at the last minute.

Did you know the average cost for food per guest in the UK is £65? This excludes any additional costs for you to attend such as favours, cost of hiring furniture (if applicable), cake, etc.

Not everything comes down to money of course and if you have a genuine emergency (like illness or injury and possibly even childcare issues), your hosts will understand and it won’t impact your relationship. However, if you flake out at the last minute, don’t provide an adequate or reasonable explanation for not attending, or fail to show up at all, don’t expect your hosts to be so forgiving- I mean, would you, after months, possibly years of saving and organising?

William Hanson, the UK’s leading expert and coach in etiquette echoes this:

“Unless there is a legitimate health or family emergency on the day, not attending a wedding when you have said you will attend is the height of bad manners and usually a crime committed by as-yet-unmarried folk who don’t truly appreciate the cost and effort it takes to stage a wedding.  It’s unlikely the friendship would recover if this dark path is chosen by the guest and it is totally understandable for the couple getting married to leave the snubber out in social Siberia.”

an empty seat at a wedding won’t go unnoticed

Somethings are unavoidable but prepare for the unexpected as much as you can

Weather, childcare problems, breakdowns etc. can all cause you to be late or put you on the brink of missing the event altogether. It’s always best to consider potential issues and do your best to prepare a backup plan just in case; you need to consider a plan B for your plan B, just in case.

Consider how any of these things may impact you getting to the venue on time. If the occasion is held in winter on a remote country estate, there is a chance it could snow and make for very hazardous conditions. Is the wedding taking place over a bank holiday weekend? If you’re not familiar with the area and how this could impact traffic, make a plan to arrive the day before. But, if you don’t want the expense of a hotel, be sure to leave plenty of extra time, just in case. If you’re reliant on childcare, do you have a backup in case your babysitter can’t make it?

If you’re running late and are worried about it, don’t be! Your hosts would rather you get there as soon and as safely as you can, than not turn up at all.

It’s the day of and you’re not going to make it

It’s a worse case scenario: you’re ill, a close relative is ill, your child is poorly, you have been let down by your sitter, or you can’t get there safely. What do you do?

Contact the venue, a close relation or friend of the bridal party and let them know, if you can. They’ll be able to take care of seating plans and charts and notify the catering teams on the day. This approach ensures all the stress and worry is taken away from the bridal party.  

Some emergencies mean you can’t get in touch. As soon as things have calmed down enough, reach out to the bridal party and let them know what happened. They’ll always be understanding and forgiving of a genuine emergency. Don’t be afraid to make that call or send that message.

Do you send a gift or card?

If you provided ample opportunity for your hosts to alter the plans with the venue and caterers, a gift is not required. It’s as if you responded to the invite to say you wouldn’t be attending. However, if you’re negating on an invite at the last minute, the consensus is that you should still send a gift and card with your well wishes if you intended to arrive with one- especially as you have likely already bought it. This gesture will be regarded as a sincere expression of your apologies and will let the couple know you were in their thoughts.  

Alternatively, try and make it up to your hosts in another way. You could invite them over or out to dinner, for example.  

If you’re the hosts…

Don’t be too disheartened reading this. Although this is likely to happen to you (hopefully only one or two guests), it is best to prepare yourself for this eventuality. You may have been very considerate with your guest list to avoid this, but it will only be really disappointing if you keep this mindset. In fact, it’s best to prepare yourself that there is a likelihood someone will let you down one way or another. If you keep this in mind, I guarantee it won’t tarnish your day.

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