Receiving an invitation for a dinner party you cannot attend may occasionally make for an uncomfortable situation. If you legitimately cannot attend the dinner or do not want to go, you must let the host know in a polite and timely manner.
Always excuse yourself from an event using the same method by which the invitation was extended. For example, if the host emailed or called you to invite you to the dinner, decline the invitation by email or phone. If you received a formal invitation containing an RSVP card, fill out the card to indicate that you cannot attend and return the card promptly. When the host uses a formal invitation, declining via email or phone is unacceptable.
Provide an honest reason for why you cannot attend the dinner party. An honest reason gives the host the feeling that you might have attended if you had been able. For example, if you are sick or have a prior engagement that evening, say so. When indicating that you have a prior engagement, however, avoid making it sound as though the other event is more important. Instead, stress that you already made a commitment to someone else before you received the invitation to the dinner event.
Use polite phrases when declining a dinner invite such as, "I'm really sorry to miss the dinner and I hope everyone has a wonderful time," to convey your disappointment about not attending. If you decline by phone or email, take a moment to politely say you're sorry you're not able to attend. With a formal RSVP, add a term such as "regretfully" to the box labeled "cannot attend."
Suggest a Future Meeting
If you are legitimately sorry you cannot attend the event, contact the host after the event is over and express interest in getting together. Avoid making this sort of plan prior to the event, as the host might be busy planning the dinner. Suggesting getting together for coffee, a movie or a walk in the park shows the host that you enjoy her company and feel bad about missing the dinner event. If her feelings were hurt when you didn't attend, following up with a future get-together is ideal.
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