How to Decline a Holiday Invitation (the Most Polite Way)

Published October 7, 2020
woman opening holiday invitation

Knowing how to decline a holiday invitation allows you to choose which invitations you accept without fear of offending the host. While you aren't obligated to accept a holiday invitation, you certainly want to decline in the most polite way possible.

How to Decline a Holiday Invitation

You can decline a holiday invitation by email, personal phone call, handwritten note, or text message. The type of method you choose to decline a holiday invitation depends on the requested form of RSVP. You can politely decline a holiday party invitation with any of the following examples.

Decline Holiday Invitation From Acquaintance

An acquaintance may only have access to your social life through your social media postings, so be careful with the reason for your invitation decline. You don't want photos showing up on your social media that could contradict the reason for your decline. Play it safe and don't reveal much information when you respond with your decline.

"I was so happy to receive your invitation, but very disappointed when I saw the date since I have plans for that night. I know your party is going to be the event of the holiday season! I hope you'll be posting photos on social media! Happy Holidays!"

Decline a Friend's Holiday Invitation

A friend may be hosting a party you know isn't your scene, but you don't want to hurt their feelings. You can be diplomatic while not giving a detailed reason for not attending their party.

"I was excited to see your invitation in my inbox, but I'm disappointed since I have plans for the same evening. I know your party will be a huge success and truly regret I can't be there to enjoy it with you."

Decline a Business Holiday Invitation

How you decline a business holiday party depends on the type of professional relationship you have with the person extending the invitation. While you always want to respond in a professional manner, if you have a strong personal relationship, your response should reflect it.

Decline Holiday Invitation From Business Acquaintance

If you don't know the person very well, you can keep your response formal. You want to be friendly, but professional.

"Thank you for your holiday invitation. Unfortunately, I have previous plans and must send my regrets. I wish you a fun and successful event. Happy New Year!

Decline Holiday Invitation From a Close Business Relationship

A close business relationship should remain professional, but you want to add warmth to your response. You can always make plans to meet after the holidays.

"I received your holiday invitation, and it sounds like great fun! Unfortunately, I have plans for that evening. Perhaps we could meet for lunch later that week to catch up and you can tell me about all the great fun I missed. [Insert appropriate holiday greeting]!

Decline for Holiday Party Invitation From Work

It is considered an unforgiveable business faux pas to decline your company holiday party. Your absence will be noticed and remembered. As a company employee, you're expected to show your support for coworkers and the company by attending the company holiday party. The only acceptable reasons to decline your work holiday party are a death in your family, a family wedding, or hospitalization.

Decline Holiday Invitation From a Coworker

Your coworkers will probably know your holiday schedule as well as you do, so declining an invitation from one of them can be difficult. You can politely decline without creating hurt feelings when you are diplomatic.

  • "I wish I could, but I've made plans with friends."
  • "I'm so sorry, but it's the same night as my extended family holiday celebration."
  • "Oh, that sounds like great fun, but I've already made plans for the weekend with my husband." If pressed, simply respond, "Sorry we can't come. We have so little alone time together. I'm sure you understand."

Follow-Up Inquiries

If you are questioned the following week, just say it was a great time and don't elaborate. You aren't obligated to answer questions about your private life if you don't wish to share.

Decline Holiday Invitation for a Club or Organization

If you're a member of a social club, you can phrase your regrets to fit the purpose of the club. For example, if you're a member of a book club, you can do a word play to take the sting out of your decline.

"I have been looking forward to this year's holiday party since it is always such a novel event. Unfortunately, I'm booked for that afternoon and must pen my regrets since I won't be turning the page of another holiday spent with all of you. [insert appropriate holiday greeting]."

friends discussing a book

Decline a Neighborhood Holiday Invitation

Declining a neighborhood holiday invitation can be sketchy, since your neighbors will know if you remain home instead of attending the holiday event. If you don't have a conflict with the event, yet don't wish to attend, there are a couple of ways to politely decline the invitation. These include the following.

Simple Understated Excuse

This type of decline should prevent anyone from prying into your reasons. Frankly, you don't owe anyone a reason for your decline, and it is considered socially rude to inquire further when receiving this type of decline.

"I regret I won't be attending the neighborhood holiday party. I know everyone will have a lot of fun and wish you all, [insert holiday greeting]."

Non-Specific Busy Holiday Season Excuse

This decline is non-specific, but it conveys a family that is going in many directions during the Christmas season. It is the type of decline that most families can relate to.

"We received the neighborhood Christmas party invitation. With Christmas being such a busy season for our household, we regret we won't be attending. Please extend our best wishes to everyone for a wonderful Christmas! The Kellys."

Decline a Holiday Family Gathering Invitation

Family invitations are difficult to decline. Your family expects you to want to be with them and often take it personally when a family member declines an invitation. If you make your reason about yourself and something they can't contest, you shouldn't ruffle too many feathers with your decline to their invitation.

"Thank you for the invitation to the family holiday party. I want to see everyone, but I'm declining all social invitations this year due to personal health concerns about the COVID-19 virus. I will miss all of you and hope we can makeup with some Facetime or Skype time later on. Much love. Merry Christmas or [insert appropriate holiday greeting]!"

family holiday gathering

Decline a Holiday Invitation From a Close Friend

Close friends tend to know many of the details of your personal life. If you want to decline a holiday invitation from a close friend, you need to be diplomatic or risk damaging your relationship.

  • "Thanks for the invitation, but I can't make it. Let's talk tomorrow." This tactic gives you time to think of a good excuse to give your friend so you don't hurt their feelings.
  • "Thanks for the invitation, but my brother asked me over for a family dinner that night."
  • "Thanks for the invitation, but I'm sorry I can't make it. Work is a bear and right now, I'm just crashing when I get home. Let's plan something for the weekend instead."

How to Politely Decline Holiday Party Invitation

There are many ways you can politely decline a holiday invitation. When you put yourself in the other person's position, you can easily gauge how your words will be received.

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How to Decline a Holiday Invitation (the Most Polite Way)