10 polite ways to decline an invitation (without feeling awkward)

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We’ve all been there, wondering how to decline an invitation to something we don’t want to or can’t attend.

Saying no isn’t always easy, especially if you worry about hurting other people’s feelings.

Honesty is always the best policy, so it’s usually best to decline an invitation and give an honest (but polite) reason for why you can’t make the event.

For example, if you couldn’t care less about watching a show a work colleague has invited you to, telling them that is not generally a good idea.

But being honest with them and telling them that it’s not really your thing is much more polite and won’t hurt their feelings.

When politely declining an offer, it’s usually best to use one of these reasons listed below, followed by a “thanks for the offer though!” or a “but thanks for thinking of me!”.

This makes the polite decline even more respectful and shows another level of care for the person whose invitation you’re declining.

Let’s take a look at 10 polite ways to decline an invitation without feeling awkward.

1) “I’d love to some other time!”

This is a great one to use if you’re interested in the event itself, but don’t want to (or can’t) engage in it just yet.

Or if you won’t be seeing the person again, so you have no chance whatsoever of being invited ever again!

Or if you want to think about the invitation before going ahead with it.

For example, if a friend invites you to an ice hockey game, but you want to do some research before deciding if it’s for you, you can use this excuse.

2) “That sounds fun, but it’s not really my thing.”

If you don’t want to go because the event is not for you, it’s better to just be honest about it.

This is especially important if it’s a friend, partner, family member, or colleague inviting you to the event.

Otherwise, they’ll keep inviting you and you’ll keep having to find new excuses, which can become even more awkward than it needs to be.

Plus, the person may start to get suspicious or offended if you keep giving them excuses, rather than just being truthful with them.

3) “I’m trying to save money so I can’t right now, but I hope you have fun!”

Wanting (or needing) to save money is a perfectly valid reason for not being able to go to birthday celebrations, weddings, or work Christmas parties.

Telling people you’re trying to save money and therefore can’t attend is a polite way of declining an event.

You can offer a reason if you want to (like if you’re saving for a house deposit or buying a new car), but it isn’t necessary.

This is especially important to remember if you want to keep your private life private, and if you don’t want people to know why money is tight right now.

4) “I have some life admin to catch up on.”

Everyone is busy living their lives and needs to do the “mundane” things every now and then.

Telling people you need to get your life admin in order is a perfectly valid and polite reason to decline an invitation.

Life admin could mean that you need to run errands or simply put your washing away.

The great thing about this excuse is that you don’t need to specify what you’re doing that day, just that you have important things you need to do.

5) “It’s a bit out of the way for me.”

This is a polite way of declining an invitation if the event is far away and requires a lot of planning to travel to.  

Like if the venue is several train journeys away or takes more than an hour to get to.

6) “The travel is too much for me.”

This is a similar way of declining an invitation to the one above.

However, it’s best reserved for events that are very far away, rather than just a short (but still long) distance.

Like a wedding abroad of a distant friend. Or an event in a different state that requires you to get flights to attend.

Not just one that takes more than 30 minutes or two subways.

7) “It’s too late for me with [insert reason here]”

You can tailor this reason with whatever you need if you already know the time of the event won’t work for you.

For example, if the event takes place at 10 pm or finishes at midnight.

The reason it’s too late for you could be because it’s a work night, or because you need to get up early for another event.

Or you have kids that you need to put to bed, or that getting home will be difficult with the trains, or any other reason why it’s too late for you!

8) “I’ll let you know if I can make it!”

This is a good one to use if you’re already feeling awkward and want to decline the invitation over text later, once you’ve decided on a good excuse.

Or if you want to genuinely check whether you can make it, whether that’s because you need to see if you’re free or if anyone else you know is going along.

9) “I’ll only go if [insert reasoning here], but I’ll let you know!”

This is another polite way of declining an invitation if you already know you might not be able to make it and want to set people’s expectations around your attendance.

For example, I’ll only go if I can organize childcare/if I’m not working/if I don’t go to this other event instead.

10) “I need some downtime to myself, but how about [insert alternative date]?”

This is a good way of declining an invitation with a close friend, partner, or family member.

Should it be true that you’re free that day, but you’d like an evening to yourself to relax, a person you love should be more than understanding about this.

When declining an invitation from a partner you don’t live with, it’s a good idea to offer an alternative date after saying no.

Or tell them you’ll give them other dates you can do tomorrow.

Otherwise, it can lead them to question when they’ll next see you, if at all. This is especially true if it’s someone you’ve recently started dating.

Final thoughts

There’s nothing impolite about being truthful with someone about why you can’t attend an event.

There’s also no reason to feel awkward when declining an invitation for genuine reasons (even though we all do it sometimes).

But, at the same time, it’s better to word things carefully and politely if you don’t want to hurt the invitee’s feelings.

Provided the person genuinely cares about you, they shouldn’t cause a fuss if you’re working, saving money, or simply don’t want to attend because it’s not for you.

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Tina Fey

I'm Tina Fey, the founder of the blog Love Connection. I've extremely passionate about sharing relationship advice. I've studied psychology and have my Masters in marital, family, and relationship counseling. I hope with all my heart to help you improve your relationships, and I hope that even if one thing I write helps you, it means more to me than just about anything else in the world. Check out my blog Love Connection, and if you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter

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