Wedding Wednesdays: Regretfully Declining

By 300 Sandwiches

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RSVP4I had to tell my best friend I couldn’t make her wedding. She didn’t miss me.

But that’s a good thing. And a valuable lesson for anyone who has to decline a wedding invitation.

My friend’s wedding was to be held in Napa Valley, since she and the groom love wine. In May, I was verbally committed to attending.

Then, my father passed away, which sent me into an emotional tailspin. I withdrew from friends and avoided social outings. And I felt any travel I took should be to see my mother, now grieving the loss of her life partner. I had to decline the wedding invitation. Feeling riddled with guilt about bowing out, I avoided telling my friend the news for weeks.

Summer went by, and she and I spoke via e-mail and phone as if I were still attending, because I didn’t have the courage to fess up. As days went on, I felt more stressed about not going. Just three weeks from the wedding, I gathered up the courage to tell my friend the news over breakfast at our favorite West Village spot. I sobbed through the entire meal, apologizing profusely. I don’t know if I was more upset at missing the wedding, or sad thinking about how my father would miss my own wedding, but I could not stop crying.

You know what she said? “It’s okay. I’m okay. I understand.” And smiled.

I was surprised at her reaction. I thought she would be angry, or disappointed. Her compassion made me more upset. Did she not care? Maybe I wasn’t that close of a friend anyway.

“Don’t be upset based on how you think I should feel. I’m fine. What’s important is taking care of yourself.”

It was that moment I realized not going is the best thing I could do. Clearly I was still upset about losing my dad. I didn’t want her to look over at me during the ceremony and wonder if I was okay. She is the type of friend who would think that as she walked down the aisle. The worst thing I could do at her wedding is be a distraction. “Take care of you, and we’ll celebrate when I get back.” I wiped my tears, hugged her, then paid for breakfast.

She got married last month in a lovely ceremony surrounded by dozens of friends and family. We exchanged texts that morning, so she knew I was thinking of her. We planned on celebrating on the East Coast once they settle in from their post-nuptial travels.

What I learned from this exchange is that declining a wedding invitation—particularly of someone who is very close to you—can be for the best. The bride will get married that day with or without you. She will have the best time of her life, with or without you. If you must miss it, tell her honestly, in person if possible, and make an alternative plan to celebrate her union. Don’t fear the reaction—if she’s a good friend, she’ll understand. If she’s upset, tell her it’s one less worry she’ll have on her big day. Any bride will be grateful for that.

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