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Oct 31, 2012 06:22 AM

Declining a dinner invite tactfully

Bit of background.

We have a friend - let's call him Dave, who celebrates his birthday every year by inviting his friends to join him in a fine dining experience. Well, when I say invite, he pays for his dinner and his "guests" pay for theirs plus a share of the drinks.

My OH and I get an invite most years - but it is normally about two weeks before the event, so I have a strong suspicion that we are after thoughts when others have dropped out.

Every year we have come up with a plausible excuse, but to be truthful for us the rule of diminishing returns applies. We just can't spend what would be the price of a new iPad on one meal/evening out. Plus neither my OH or I are big drinkers, so we tend to end up overpaying our share.

So with the birthday date being the end of November, we are expecting that email in the next few weeks.

Question is - should we just come up with another excuse or be honest and say that we can't justify £400 plus for a evening out. It is not that we can't afford it, we just prefer to spend our money on other things.

If honesty is best - can I have some wording suggestions please.

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  1. I don't think anything more than "I appreciate the invitation, but we won't be able to make it" is necessary. You shouldn't have to explain yourself no matter what your reasons are.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Kontxesi

      I agree. Learn with power of "no" without explanation.

      1. re: Janet from Richmond

        + 3 [It's a lesson (the power of "no") I'm getting better at executing.]

        1. re: pinehurst

          +4!! I'm recently getting better at it, too. It's very freeing.

        2. re: Janet from Richmond

          Agreed - for a lot of people, when you give an explanation, it seems to mean to them that you can be convinced otherwise. Which is not really what you want in this case.

        3. "We can't make it" usually works.

          7 Replies
          1. re: beevod

            Think I would be offended if someone just said "sorry, we can't make it". And I would actually quite like to celebrate this friend's birthday with him - just not at a place I don't see as good VFM.

            1. re: PhilipS

              Then, this is more of a "you" problem than a problem with your friend, right?

              Sometimes our friends are not perfect, but we like them -- and like their company -- nonetheless.

              It's like with everything in life -- sometimes you just have to take the bad with the good, as long as the good is worth taking the bad for.

              1. re: PhilipS

                This is a bit of a contradictory message. If you indeed wanted to celebrate his birthday with him, the "Value for the money" bit wouldn't come into the picture, would it? The birthday comes just once a year, after all.

                Why would you be offended by the "Sorry, we can't make it?"

                1. re: pinehurst

                  I don't see it that way. One can sincerely wish to celebrate but not in such a grand manner.
                  OP, I would just say you can't make it on that date due to another commitment, but you would love to get together soon (at your place, for lunch at x place, or drinks as suggested below - whatever suits you). And since you are extending an invitation on your terms, you should pay the total bill IMHO.
                  Oh and FTR - I used to regularly host an open-house style birthday party for my young kid (but with alcohol, good food, etc). There were certain people who could never make it. I never asked why. I did assume they were not interested in such an event (kid's bday party! crowded, lots of kids, not a lot of quality time to catch up) and was not offended in the least. I would much rather get a gracious no than no RSVP at all or worse, resentful attendance.

                  1. re: julesrules

                    I agree with you, but am not sure that OP "sincerely" wanted to celebrate "Dave's" birthday. If OP had, he would have suggested a low-key alternative (or low cost alternative) that you and other posters have suggested.

                  2. re: PhilipS

                    Seems like you're putting too much thought into your friends actions and his response... "strong suspicion that we are after thoughts ..." and the feeling that you would be offended without a good made up excuse. One reason you may not be getting the invite immediately is that you two usually come up with an excuse not to go every previous year.

                    Maybe we're just not as polite here in the USA, but most people here would accept "Sorry, we can't make it."

                    If you want to celebrate your friend birthday, you can add, "Sorry. We can't make it that day, but allow us to take you out on xxx."

                2. You don't need to give an excuse. Just politely say that you won't be able to make it.

                  1. I whole heartedly agree with you. You can specific the reason why you cannot make it (i.e.: the cost). Or you can simply say "Sorry, I won't able to make it" as many have suggested. If your friend ask why, then you can tell him why. In other words, let him decide if he wants to find out. This way you don't have to come up any excuses. Sometime excuses (especially the bad and obvious ones) make the other person feels worse. For one, the person may think of worse reasons. He may think you dislike him or that you dislike his friends or something worse. A truthful reason is often less hurtful -- like the one you have.

                    Like Dave C said, maybe we Americans (aka U.S. Americans -- for those who are following another thread) are less polite.

                    1. I like just saying "I'm sorry we can't make it" but you'd like to take him out for drinks (pick a place you can/want to afford so if it segues into dinner you have no problem) at a later date.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Linda VH

                        That's what I would say. No reason to give an explanation. If he asks for one OP can either lie or tell the truth.

                          1. re: Linda VH

                            Exactly the right response, thank you for the invitation, but we just can't make it. I hope we cab di something else with you out sometimes soon.

                            You certainly can't suggest that he change his birthday plans to something else. You either accept an invitation to a group event or reject it. if it were just the 3 or 4 of you it might be different.