How To Politely Decline An Invitation To Hang Out or Dinner

We often feel obliged to honor an invitation even when it is not forced on us. The guilt of letting someone down is too much especially when our reason is not valid enough. It is okay to decline an invitation if you don’t want to go or you are unavailable. The challenge is how to do it in such a way that the other party is not disappointed.

To politely decline an invitation to hangout or dinner, you need to be appreciative, state the reason, use an apologetic word, and wish your host well. Refrain from over-explaining as it displays you as someone who is covering their tracks. Unless you had already committed to attending or you are part of the planners, your apology should be accepted. You shouldn’t delay it though; a delayed apology feels like an after-thought. In case you are not certain, you should indicate that from the beginning.

If the hang out is with a special person, ask for a re-schedule.  Let the person know you are not available but you can plan for next time. If you are not sure about ‘next time’, make them aware. You can say for instance, “sorry I can’t manage, my schedule is usually crazy.”

Here are a few rules to follow when declining an invitation to hang out

1.     Show respect

Whether this is your kind of party or not, avoid bluntly saying it. Maybe you are an introvert and you don’t drink or appreciate that type of party. Do not say it so plainly, be polite. Say “thank you for the invite but I doubt if I will make it tonight.” Using the words ‘thank you’ and ‘I doubt’ eases the moment.

2.     Do it sooner

Avoid delaying your apology; let the person know early enough. They may have budgeted already and this will help them minimize wastage.

3.     Appreciate the invite

Treat it like a pleasant gift, invites don’t come daily, appreciate the person for the invitation. Let them know the invite made you feel honored.

4.     Wish them well

Always end your message on a positive note. For example, ‘you guys have fun’, or ‘enjoy every bit’.

Examples of polite responses to decline an invitation to Dinner.

Once you know the rules, the next thing you need to know is how to say it. We have a few examples to help you craft your response.

“That’s so kind of you but I’m going to have to pass, my sister is coming over tonight. Have fun”

One thing stands out in this response, it’s not overly explained. You pass the message with ease while still following the rules. The only challenge here is if you do not have a valid reason to miss the invitation. You will need to think of what to say without telling a lie.

You know I would love to but work won’t let me. Thanks for the invite anyway

This is almost like the previous example, only it doesn’t end with a well-wishing message.

Thanks for the invite, I will need to confirm those dates though, I may be engaged

When you are not sure whether you will be there or not, don’t assume the person inviting you knows. Let them know as early as possible. You can keep the invitation open but don’t delay the response.

Oh thanks for the chance, I’m so sorry my night looks real tight but if I finish early, I’ll let you know

This is almost similar to the previous response but with a hint of what could be the reason. This is a perfect reply if you are not sure whether you want to go. You leave the invitation open, you are not lying but you don’t reveal the details either.

I wish I could but I had prior plans

The last time I used this one, I responded to someone who had pissed me off. It’s not rude but depending on the tone used, a sensitive person will know something is not right. Here you are missing the opportunity to say thank you and also wish them well.

That sounds like so much fun, I wish I hadn’t committed to something else

In this response, you are not revealing why you are not available but because you express the eagerness to be there, you almost sound like you are the one who needs an apology for missing out. You may choose to add the appreciation message or not. The same goes for the well-wish message.

Oh, so sad I have to miss this one, I will be out of town, I hope I will manage to attend next time

If you are being invited to an event that happens regularly, you can craft a response that recognizes that there is a next time. Depending on how important it is, you can add emotions as we have done on this message. This way, it makes your response sound personal and genuine. If you don’t have a particular reason for not attending, use ‘I will not manage’ in place of ‘I will be out of town’.

How kind of you to invite me, unfortunately, I have an early flight and I need to prepare

If ‘action’ was happening right under your nose, what would you say? Let’s assume your roommate is having a pool party that you can’t attend. You will most probably need to tell the truth. Just find a way to make it polite and genuine.

Final note

I’m yet to come across a person who appreciates a silent decline. Usually, when you send out an invite and the person does not decline, you expect them to show up. That’s why it’s not just inconveniencing to decline, it’s rude.

You may find it difficult to say but if you tweak just one of the examples we have given in this post, you will have something to say. If the invite comes from a close relation like a friend or a relative, checking with them after the event goes a long way to show you care. Make a call and ask how it all went down. If need be, apologize again for not managing to attend.

See How To Tell Someone To Leave You Alone


Am a graduate sociologist and a regular contributor to national publications such as the American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Journal of Applied Social Science and the Annual Review of Sociology.

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