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How to Turn Down a Dinner Invitation You’ve Already Accepted

What is the best way to reject a dinner party invitation without upsetting the host?

We’ve all been there: hastily accepting a dinner invitation, excited at the thought of an evening with friends enjoying delicious food, fabulous wine, and wonderful company. But as the date gets closer, that dinner we were once so looking forward to now approaches with a sense of dread. Our schedules have packed up around the date, we’re totally exhausted and just want to climb into bed, we need to catch up on work, we want to spend an evening with the kids, or we’re feeling totally run down. We don’t have to be bed-bound with the flu or totally rammed and pulling an all-nighter at work to want to change a dinner RSVP from yes to no.

But what’s the best way to go about undoing your decision? No matter the reason, whether there is one or not, there’s definitely a best way to get out of attending this dinner party. Here are the steps to go through.

First, don’t overthink it. Don’t stress about upsetting your friend, annoying them, or ruining their week, month, or year. There’s no need to worry about turning down an invitation you have already accepted, as long as you give sufficient warning and have a valid excuse.

Second, clarify your excuse. If you’ve been invited with your partner and are now both not attending, make sure you’ve got your story straight. And keep your excuse simple. A long, convoluted story about why you can no longer attend will look suspicious, will be hard to repeat when questioned, and will only make your host think you simply don’t want to attend. Even if that’s the truth, you obviously don’t want your friend to think that. One simple explanation for your change of RSVP, such as “I’m sick,” “I have a work event,” or “I have a family thing,” are all great reasons. And remember, if you are telling a white lie to get out of going, you need to be invisible and silent during the dinner party evening. Don’t start sharing what you’re actually doing all over your Facebook profile.

Third, try to blame someone else. It’s always best if you can pass the buck on to a colleague/boss/parent/child, so the host can’t be annoyed with you, can’t do anything to persuade you to change your mind, and can hold nothing against you for your behavior.

Fourth, apologize profusely. No apology is too much. If these really are people you want to remain friends with, invite them over to your place for dinner sometime in the not too distant future, to make it clear that this was just a one-off blip. And if they’re clearly still annoyed, upset, or disgruntled by your change of RSVP, send a gift: Flowers, wine, or chocolate will always go a long way in rectifying the situation.

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