Under normal circumstances, getting a wedding invite would instantly give you a rush of excitement — after all, witnessing someone’s vows, toasting to their new chapter, and crushing the dance floor with them is a special experience all around. Unfortunately, the current circumstances are anything but normal due to the coronavirus outbreak — which means now, a wedding invite may be more likely to stoke your anxiety. If you don’t want to attend a wedding during the pandemic, don’t stress. Your health and safety should always come first, and while you may very well wish to see your loved one say their “I do’s,” there are any number of super legit reasons why you may need to sit this one out. Fortunately, there is a compassionate way to decline a wedding invitation — and I spoke with several friendship experts to get their step-by-step guidance on exactly how to pull this off.
First off, don’t avoid the inevitable. If you’ve decided you just don’t feel comfortable attending the wedding, Irene S. Levine, PhD, psychologist and friendship expert, advises letting the person who invited you know ASAP. If you delay, the couple may mistakenly assume you’re coming — and not only that, but Levine points out that they may be more stressed and less capable of accepting your disappointing news closer to the big day.
From there, which mode of communication you use to break the news will depend largely on the nature and strength of your relationship. If it’s a distanced contact (like a coworker or second cousin), then psychologist and friendship expert Dr. Marisa Franco says it’s fine to send them an email or call them on the phone. However, if it’s a close friend, then experts agree you should consider a FaceTime or Zoom call. Levine recommends texting your friend, coworker, or family member first to find out when would be a convenient time to chat.
Once you’re on the phone or video chat, experts stress that the most important thing is to remain honest and upfront about your decision.
“An excuse will sound like an excuse, but being vulnerable in sharing your concerns and guilt for missing the big day will come across as sincere,” explains Pricilla Martinez, founder of Regroop Online Life Coaching. “If you were planning to attend the wedding before, be clear about what has changed and why it's enough to stop you from attending even though you want to go.”
Dr. Franco adds that it’s also worth reassuring your friend/family member that you love them despite not being able to attend, and that you would be there in a heartbeat if the circumstances were different.
“Don't give them a chance to interpret you declining the invitation as a sign that you devalue the relationship,” she tells Elite Daily. “You might say something like: ‘I am so happy for you but am going to have to root for you both from afar because of COVID-19.’”
Just because your loved one understands your concerns doesn't mean they won’t be disappointed. In some situations, they may even take it personally.
“It’s likely that many other people feel just as uncomfortable as you do,” explains Levine. “They may just be reacting to that.”
If that’s the case, and they seem offended, resist the temptation to get defensive. Instead, Dr. Franco advises hearing them out and validating their feelings by saying something along the lines of, “I totally get that. It's really hard to not have people you love to be there for such an important day. I hate that I won't be able to show up for you in this way.” Then, Levine advises reiterating your feelings and explaining that your decision has nothing to do with not valuing your friendship or wanting to be a part of this milestone, but rather, protecting yourself and your other loved ones right now.
If you are able, Levine and Franco recommend sending a thoughtful gift in lieu of attending — and if you’re already having FOMO regarding the big day (but still don’t want to go), there are so many other ways to participate while still ensuring your safety.
For example, why not ask if there’s any way you can contribute to the process in hopes of making the couples’ lives a little easier? Dr. Franco suggests seeing if they need help finding a florist or a DJ, and Martinez proposes commissioning a piece of art, hiring someone to put together a tribute, or make something yourself.
If you’re really close to the person who’s getting married, Dr. Franco says you may want to find out if they’re open to having you attend virtually. She also recommends recording a heartfelt video message conveying your love and support — then, you can reach out to the maid of honor (or someone else in the wedding party) to coordinate when and how to share it before or during the reception.
You can also see if there’s any way to celebrate from afar after the wedding is over. Ask your loved one if you can schedule a Zoom call to look through photos from the big day, get filled in on hilarious memories from the reception, or even watch the wedding video together.
Telling someone you care about that you can't attend their wedding certainly is no easy feat. However, if you can be honest about your concerns, validate all of their feelings, and get creative in finding ways to participate from afar, there's no reason why your absence has to negatively impact your relationship. Remember: these are unprecedented times, and as much as your loved one may want you to be there, they'll hopefully understand that your health comes first.
Irene S. Levine, psychologist and friendship expert
Dr. Marisa Franco, psychologist and friendship expert
Pricilla Martinez, life coach