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How to Write an Apology Letter for Not Attending an Event

How to Write an Apology Letter for Not Attending an Event

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You promised to attend a friend’s birthday party, your brother’s open house or the neighbor’s baby shower, and then you didn’t go.

Or maybe you’ve received an invitation to an event that you already know you won’t be able to attend–or you don’t want to.

Do either of these scenarios sound familiar? If so, keep reading to find out how to navigate this awkward social situation.

What should be included in an apology letter for not being able to attend an event?

Of course, the first thing you should put in this kind of letter is an apology.

Next, you should offer an explanation for missing the event.

Depending on your relationship with the person, the nature of the event and the reason you missed it, your approach to this part will vary.

For example, maybe you had a family crisis that you don’t feel comfortable sharing details about.

In that case, you could say something like “A family emergency came up that I had to attend to.”

On the other hand, maybe it was good news, like your sister unexpectedly went into labor and you had to rush her to the hospital and now you are an aunt!

If you have missed an important event through your own carelessness, you should acknowledge the gravity of your error.

If you have or hope to have an ongoing relationship with the person, you should also suggest a remedy for you are taking to prevent this from happening again.

Finally, if it is appropriate, you should sign off with best wishes related to the event that you missed.

Your tone should be contrite.

It should not be overly formal unless you don’t know the person well. For people that you do know well, make an effort to convey warmth and friendship or love.

Examples of apology letters for not being able to attend an event

How you approach this apology letter will vary somewhat based on the situation, so let’s take a look at a few different examples.

Example of an apology letter for missing an event beforehand

For most types of events, you can either simply let the person know ahead of time that you can’t make it or the invitation comes with an RSVP that simply gives you the option to check “yes” or “no.”

However, if the person is a family member or a good friend and the event is one that is important to them, writing a letter explaining your absence would be particularly kind.

Here’s an example. This is a letter that you might send to a good friend who is having a launch for her first book:

Dear Anna,

I’m so sorry I won’t be able to attend your book launch on April 23.

As you know, I’ll be out of town then on a family vacation. But I know how important this event is to you, and I’ll be thinking of you that evening!

I hope it all goes great, and I know it will be the first of many for you! I can’t wait to attend the next one.


The use of exclamation marks, the good wishes for the future and the signoff all give this note the casual warmth that you would want to convey to someone close to you.

Example of an apology letter for missing an important event

Sometimes, no matter how important an event is, something comes up that makes it impossible for you to fulfill your obligation even if you said that you were going to attend.

If something very serious or even tragic happened, like being hospitalized or a death in the family, it’s okay to mention it, but try to keep the focus on the person you are writing to.


Dear Mark and Holly,

I’m so sorry that I missed your wedding. As you know, my dad died the night before, so I was unable to attend.

I really wanted to see the two of you tie the knot, especially since I introduced you in the first place! I know it was a beautiful ceremony and I loved seeing all the photos online.

I hope we can get together soon. Let me know when you are free.



Notice that in this example, Sarah acknowledges the very sad event that kept her from attending the wedding, but she quickly switched the focus to the couple and her good wishes for them.

Example of an apology letter for missing an important event when you were in the wrong

In the above examples, people missed events for good reason. Unfortunately, sometimes, you just mess up.

Whether you forgot an event or missed it for some other reason, the best approach is usually to just acknowledge that you did something wrong and apologize.


Dear Joel,

I’m so sorry that I missed your play’s opening night. I misplaced the tickets, and by the time I found them, it was too late for me to get there in time.
I realize that this was really careless and inconsiderate of me and that my presence at the event meant a lot to you. I’ll be at the next showing on Friday, but I know it won’t be quite the same. Please let me know how I can make it up to you!
I saw the great review you got in “The Star,” and I know it’s well-deserved. I’m looking forward to the performance on Friday.
All my best,

Notice that in this letter, the writer gives an explanation but acknowledges her thoughtlessness.

Notice too that while she conveys her understanding that this was an important event for Joel and that she shouldn’t have missed it, she strikes the right tone with her apology without going overboard.

If you over-apologize to a person, you leave them in a position where they have to end up saying something like “It’s okay, it wasn’t that bad!”

Instead of going on about what a bad friend you are, think in terms of acknowledging your fault and moving on.


Excuse letter for not attending an event 

Invitations and RSVPs are both becoming more informal. It isn’t uncommon for people to send an invitation via text rather than post. However, there are still some events for which it is customary to invite people using good, old-fashioned stationary. 

Whether you are responding to an invitation for a wedding, a christening, or a formal birthday celebration, it is polite to respond by letter, even if you can’t make it. 

When you are excusing yourself for not attending an event, you should be tactful. After all, you don’t want the friend or family member inviting you to think that you don’t value your relationship. 

Of course, the easiest way to explain your non-attendance of an event is to say you have a prior commitment. 

If you don’t have one, here are some other great excuses for not attending an event: vacation travel plans, a work trip, having no more annual leave days, a commitment in your partner’s schedule, illness, inability to get childcare, relocation, distance from the location. 

Here is an sample letter you can adapt to excuse yourself for not attending a party or other formal function.

Example: Excuse letter for not attending an event


Dear Joanna and Phillip,  

I just received your beautiful invitation! It is so touching to see your names inscribed beside each other above a wedding date. 

Unfortunately, Jasmine and I won’t be able to attend your big day because we have already committed to attending Jasmine’s sister wedding in Florida the day before. 

I am so sad that we won’t be able to see you two tie the knot, but I know that you will have a wonderful day. 

Can’t wait to see all the pictures!

Wishing you a long and happy life together.  


Daniel (and Jasmine)


Formal apology letter for not attending an event

When you are excusing yourself from an event that is being thrown by close friends, you find yourself in a relatively comfortable position. 

After all, you can make your apologies and give your reasons for not attending an event using the same kind of informal language that you normally speak to them in. 

However, when the occasion you’re on the provisional guest list for is a formal event, you’re in a trickier position when it comes to declining the invitation. Your tone needs to match that of the invite. 

Most of the time, events that are preceded by a formal invitation are either weddings, christenings, momentous birthdays, awards ceremonies or work functions. Each of these contexts requires a slightly different approach. 

Example: Formal apology letter for not attending an event 


Dear Mr. Bridgers,  

Please accept my humble apologies, but I must decline your generous invitation to attend the polo match on Saturday as your guest. 

Due to a prior family commitment, I am unavailable on the day in question. 

I shall be rooting for the Blues in absentia. 

Yours sincerely, 

Miss Emma Halifax


Apology message for not attending a function

When you have to send an apology message for not attending a function, model your email or letter on the tone and style of the invitation. 

The best place to start is to figure out whether it would be most appropriate to write an email or a letter.

How do you know which to compose? It is safe to assume that if you receive an invitation for a work event by email, you can respond by email. 

However, if the person requesting the pleasure of your company has sent you an ink and paper invite, you should respond in a handwritten letter. 

Once you know what your method of communication will be, you should scan the invitation for details. 

Work functions include everything from small office gatherings to professional fairs or trade shows.

The invitation will probably include information about the schedule for the event and will explain what costs are being covered by your employer, or the union or association you belong to, and which will be at your expense. 

Because the RSVPs for formal functions are normally read and logged by an administrative assistant and not by a friend or family member, you can keep your apology for non-attendance concise. 

Use a formal tone to thank the host for the invitation, explain briefly why you can’t attend (if necessary), extend your best wishes for the event’s success, and sign off appropriately. 

You don’t have to make yourself sound too sorry. After all, you aren’t writing an apology letter for being late to work

Here is how to decline an invitation to a formal function in an email. 

Example: How to write an apology message for not attending a function  


Dear Mr. Doberman,  

Thank you for the kind invitation to attend the VB trade show on Monday, February 22nd


Unfortunately, I will be unable to attend due to a prior professional commitment. 


I wish you every success for the event. 


Kind regards, 


Ben Parsons


Sorry message for not being able to get together 

A sorry message for not being able to get together with friends can usually be sent as a text or a WhatsApp message.

There’s obviously no need to email your close friends or family members, and it would be even more unnecessary to send them a letter. 

If your friends have organized a little weekend get together, such as a wine and cheese night, a board game extravaganza, or a summer BBQ, you’ll need to make your excuses if you’re going to miss it. 

Of course, if you’ve said from the get-go that you won’t be available at the suggested time, you’re in the clear.

All you need to do when the event first comes up is say something like: “Aw that sounds so fun! Wish I could come…unfortunately, I’ll be in Boston then.” 

However, if you initially responded in the group chat with an enthusiastic, “I’ll be there 🎉” and then change your mind and pull out, you’ll need to be very diplomatic in your cancellation text. 

Here are some sample sorry messages for not being able to get together. 

Examples: “Sorry I can’t get together” texts

  • I can’t make this one, but you all have a wonderful time!
  • This sounds like a brilliant evening. I have so much work to do, so I’m going to be responsible and sit this one out…rain check though? 
  • I won’t be around then, so I can’t make it. 
  • Oh no, I won’t be in NY that weekend because I have to go back home to Georgia for my mom’s birthday. Can we do this again some other time? 
  • I’m so sad that I won’t be there that weekend. I’m sure you’ll all have a blast!
  • This sounds great. If I wasn’t heavily pregnant, I would be there in a heartbeat. 


Examples: Last-minute sorry message for not being able to get together 

  • I’m so sorry to cancel last minute, but something has come up and I won’t be able to make it this evening. Hope you have a great time!
  • I’m sorry, but I’ve double-booked myself and I won’t be able to come to the party after all. I’ll make it up to you, I promise!
  • I’m stuck at work and won’t make it to our get together…rain check? 
  • The kids are sick…I don’t think I’ll be able to make it out tonight. Have a blast for me!
  • I’m really not feeling well, so I’m going to pull out of this evening’s shenanigans. Don’t have too much fun without me!


Sorry for not coming today message

If you’ve already missed an event that you were supposed to go to, you’ll have to send a message saying, “I’m sorry for not coming today.” 

Of course, it is always better to let people know in advance when you aren’t going to be attending an event where you are expected.

However, sometimes life gets in the way, and it just isn’t possible to keep all your scheduling ducks in a row. 

Here are some great ways to say sorry after the fact for not attending an event. 

Example: Sorry for not coming today email 


Dear Mr. Bernstein, 

I just wanted to get in touch to apologize for missing the team meeting today. I got stuck in a lunchtime conference with a client that ran overtime. 

I will give you a call tomorrow to ask what the outcome of the meeting was. If there is anything I should know in the meantime, please don’t hesitate to let me know. 

Kind regards, 

Ilse Lawrence


Why even write an apology letter for not attending an event?

Whether you said that you would go to something and didn’t turn up or you simply plan to decline the invitation altogether, you risk insulting the host.

The former is generally worse than the latter although it depends on the formality of the event and the invitation.

Not showing up for drinks with your coworkers after work is not such a big deal, but not going to a wedding is, especially if there was a meal involved that cost the family money.

However, emergencies and errors do happen to the best-intentioned among us, and most people understand this.

While you could and should apologize in person, writing a letter demonstrates that you are truly sorry that you missed or are going to miss the event.

Of course, such a letter should generally only be written for more formal events that come with an invitation.

Writing an apology letter for missing a casual get-together like the aforementioned drinks after work with office mates would be strange!

Writing an apology message (be it via email or maybe on Whatsapp), though, would certainly be appropriate in this case!


Frequently asked questions about apologizing for not attending an event 


What to say when you miss an event?

If you miss an event that you were supposed to attend, you should send a message apologizing: “I apologize for missing the event,” “I am sorry that I couldn’t make it to your talk,” “My apologies for my non-attendance,” “Due to circumstances beyond my control, I could not attend. My apologies.”  


How to apologize for not attending a party? 

If you RSVP’d and then didn’t attend a party, apologize by email or text. Explain the reason why you didn’t make it, say sorry, and then say you hope the host had a wonderful time. If you are close to the person whose party you missed, suggest making it up to them by getting together another time. 


What is a good “sorry” quote for not attending an event? 

Some good quotes for not attending an event are: “I never meant to cause you any sorrow” by Prince or “I’m sorry that I was such a fool” by Brenda Lee. Alternatively, you can make a joke with Justin Bieber’s, “Is it too late now to say sorry?”