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Ask Louise: How to decline a wedding invitation last minute

In this column, Louise Fox, founder of The Etiquette Ladies, answers all your social conundrums and questions about modern manners.

Wedding guest list tips: wedding cake, reception

Photo, Masterfile.

Dear Louise,

My friend is getting married in a week, and it’s a two-day event out of town. Several months ago, my girlfriend’s mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and over the last two weeks, her health has been declining rapidly. I’m worried that she may pass leading up to the wedding. In the event that my girlfriend can’t make it to the wedding, how should I let the groom know? As it’s a formal function, I worry that he may incur costs and I’m not sure how to address the matter. Also, in the unlikely situation that there’s a funeral on the same day of the wedding, what do I do then? I would feel guilty missing the wedding, but I also want to be a support for my girlfriend and her family during this trying time. Is there a good approach in declining an invite, last minute?

When deciding which would be the best course of action for you, it depends on a number of factors. How close is the relationship with your girlfriend, her family and particularly her mother? Is yours a long term relationship? How close are you to your friend getting married? If the relationship with your girlfriend and her family is a close one and you are considered to be part of the family, then you should definitely support your girlfriend, attend the funeral should there be one and decline the wedding invitation. If your girlfriend is a new person in your life, your presence at the funeral might be seen as intrusive. Grief is a complex emotion and responses to it not always predictable. Discuss the situation with your girlfriend. Would she wish you to miss the wedding to be there for her? She may be busy attending to the needs of her father, siblings or other family and your presence would be additional pressure.

Regardless of what you decide to do, you should explain the situation to your friend getting married as soon as possible. If the funeral happens to fall on the same day as the wedding it is possible that you could attend both depending on the timing. Also you could choose to attend the viewing, usually a day before the funeral and not the funeral itself and still attend the wedding.

Waiting to the last minute to decline an invitation is rude. Give them the heads up right away with a personal phone call.

Have a question for Louise? Email askaneditor@chatelaine.com.

Louise Fox, recognized as Canada’s Etiquette Expert, is the owner of The Etiquette Ladies and MannersTV.ca. She has over 20 years experience in hospitality and special event planning industries, and is Director of Eastern Operations of Civility Experts Worldwide and Certification Panelist and Master Trainer for the International Civility Trainers’ Consortium . She is a frequent guest on Breakfast Television, Entertainment Tonight, MTV, Business News Network, Global News and many others.