Invitation turned down

Turn Down an Invite with Grace: 20 Phrases to Use

With the holiday season beginning, is your social calendar choking up with dinner, drinks, weddings and casual get together invitations? Well, it can be overwhelming to present your smiling self at all such events and have enough time for the very self too. This brings us to the problem of navigating the right words and language to use to turn down an invite.

Most often we really don’t know what to say,  too much information may land you in trouble or hurt the other person. If you are too vague, you can sound rude and indifferent. A language that you and the host can understand well, is difficult to strike.

Here are some tips and tricks to help you sail through the awkward state of affairs. We have also shared our two cents on the psychology that goes along in such situations so that you can convey just what you want without displeasing anyone. Do read till the end to know what we have shared on the trending COVID-iquette.

Declining a hangout invitation

There are different ways to decline an invitation. The tone and words are chosen depending on the occasion and whom the invitation comes from. Let us see a few phrases you could use to decline an invitation from friends for a casual hangout,

  1. “I’m so sorry I won’t be able to make it. I’m sure it will be a wonderful occasion. I’ll be with you in spirit and maybe we can get together on a future occasion.”
  2. “Unfortunately I can’t make it to your dinner. Have a lovely time!”
  3. “I’d love to join but my partner is not accustomed to big gatherings. Perhaps we can have a quiet dinner with you another time?”
  4. “That sounds really fun and interesting, but I’m going to pass so I can focus on a couple of other things I really want to do this week.”
  5. “It sounds wonderful, unfortunately, I have other plans.”
  6. “I’m afraid I can’t make it. I’m available next week, though.”
  7. “Sorry, can I take a rain check?”
  8. “Thanks for thinking of us, but I have something else going on that day.”
  9. “I’m not sure right now if I can go, but I can tell you later.”
  10. “Oh I’m so sorry but I can’t make it. Have a great time!”

Declining a formal invitation

While informal invitations are easier to turn down, when it comes to professional gatherings it gets a bit tricky. The nature of the invitation is obligatory, however, we have some commonly used phrases to help you navigate through it.

  1. “Thank you for extending the invitation to me, but I’m not available that day. I’m really caught up with work. Can we plan a meeting later this week?”
  2. “I’m very busy that day/week, so I won’t be able to join you.”
  3. “Sorry, I appreciate the invitation, but I won’t be able to go. I have a big project that I have to complete. Let’s talk later this week about how the event went.”
  4. “I appreciate the invitation, but I cannot confirm right this moment.”
  5. “Let me look over my schedule. I’ll let you know shortly.”
  6. “I should have a good idea by [date] whether I can accept it. If something changes before then, I’ll reach out to you immediately.”
  7. “I can confirm my acceptance at a later date.”
  8. “Congratulations on your …. ! I wish I could attend your party, but I’ll be out of town that weekend.”
  9.  “I must decline your invitation owing to a subsequent engagement.”
  10. “Wish I could, but it is not possible for me to attend.”

The Etiquette

When you receive an invitation that you don’t really want to accept, there are 3 options that you can choose from,

  • Accept it and regret later
  • Ignore it and hope for it to go away unnoticed.
  • Decline it and express yourself clearly

There is no harm in saying ‘no’ if you are really pressed or find yourself completely out of place for the gathering. Accepting an invite must never be an obligation. But if you have the TME (time, money and energy) to invest in a gathering go for it. Being socially active goes a long way in building relationships that count.

Party guest etiquettes start to play even before the actual party. The first and foremost one is acknowledging an invite. It is considered very rude to not respond to an invite. Whether or not you accept it is secondary. Ignoring reflects poorly upon the guests’ basic mannerisms. Even if you are not in a situation to confirm, it is always best to respond and let the host know of a later date of confirmation. It’s always more polite to not give excuses.

If an invitation feels more like a burden than a pleasure, go ahead and turn it down. Though you want to really attend the gathering but are preoccupied, do let your host know the truth. A genuine friend or colleague will surely acknowledge your honesty and understand.

Declining an Invitation


The unprecedented times we are living in call for unprecedented etiquettes in the wake of social distancing. While restrictions on social life are easing up across the globe, it has become a matter of personal choice for people. Some are comfortable resuming back to near to normal lives while others are still concerned.

If you are someone who is considering attending a social event, it would be advisable to consider the following,

  • Be informed: While you may receive a persuasive invitation, it would be good to know the guest count, social distancing norms being followed, venue type (indoor or outdoor), etc.
  • Let the host know your decision upon consideration of the response received to the above-mentioned checkpoints
  • If you do find it appropriate to accept the invite due to your health concerns and risk of exposure, it is simpler to raise your concerns and tell the truth.

Host Psychology

A friend once hosted a get together for office colleagues. He is very meticulous with his planning and has it all sorted well before it is due. It so happened that 5 out of 10 guests pulled out of the plan at the last minute. I imagined him blowing up but surprisingly as organized as he was at work he was emotionally balanced too. He took the situation sportingly and hosted the remaining guests with all his heart.

In reality, such people are difficult to find. Most of us would panic at declined calls. We would lose our nerves on so many for turned down invitations.

When we have spent hours or maybe even days preparing for the gathering, we sure want everything to go our way. But it’s true that there are different ways to handle things when they go the other way too.

What kind of a host are you?

  • The chilled-out kinds or ‘I want it picture-perfect’ kind.
  • Have your invitations ever been turned down?
  • Are you understanding when your invites are declined or
  • Do you scare away people by death stares?

If you are answering the questions, either way, you probably know how difficult it is to frame the right response to turn down an invite

Guest Psychology

You received an invitation to hang out with friends, you really want to go but can’t make it due to a prior engagement? There are indeed some situations that are more panic-inducing than the actual moment of being surrounded by a group of strangers.

Finding the correct words to turn down an invitation from friends is one such situation, especially when you don’t want to. If your reason just boils down to ‘I don’t care’ then it gets even more difficult

In reality, however, there should not be a reason to lie. Dishonesty has never been successful in fooling anybody. People are soon able to figure out if you fake a response. Another advantage of not faking a situation is that people will not try to solve the issue and you can be done with no follow-ups. The rather better way is to not give a reason. Maybe just say ‘Sorry. I can’t come’ or ‘ I have other plans’.

Expressing gratitude for being invited and regret not being able to make will seal the deal if you are drowning in guilt. Moreover, it will psychologically do the trick of not annoying your host.

What kind of guest are you?

  • Always obliging kind?
  • Introvert and happy within my cocoon kind?
  • The adamant unsocial kind?
  • The indifferent one? or
  • The party animal?

Start exercising your freedom to escape the web of obligations and assert your wishes and opinions.

Learning how to politely decline an invitation will:

  • Make others value your TME (time, money, and energy).
  • Help you prioritize what’s important
  • Keep you honest with yourself
  • Free up your mental energy from the fatigue of decision making.

What’s more?

Once you make the decision, you can finally be guilt-free and channelize your energy towards things that actually matter.

Here are some quotes that will keep you on track while RSVPing for your next invite:

The truly free man is he who can decline a dinner invitation without giving an excuse – Jules Renard

An invitation to a wedding invokes more trouble than a summons to a police court – William Feather

A good metaphor can make any bad idea sound good – Scott Adams


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