Coronavirus Etiquette: How to RSVP ‘No’ During the Pandemic

Typically, summer is a time filled with social gatherings, from weddings to backyard barbecues and holiday celebrations. But this year, things might look a little different in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. For some, suddenly, that annual family reunion may seem less like a great afternoon picnic and more like a potential health hazard. But how should you RSVP ‘no’ to a celebration you’d typically attend?

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According to Sharon Schweitzer, an international etiquette and culture expert, you can be honest in your regrets. In the same manner you were invited to the gathering, have an exchange with the host. Thank the host for the invitation and convey that while typically you’d love to attend the event, you won’t be at this time because of COVID-19.

Of course, it’s a classic rule of etiquette to respond to an invitation as soon as you receive it and know whether or not you’ll be able to attend.

If the event is a larger-scale event or a more formal affair like a wedding, Schweitzer recommends writing a heartfelt letter along with your not-attending notification.

“I would say something like, ‘John and I are hunkered down right now and don’t see any travel in our plans in the foreseeable future. We wanted to let you know as soon as possible that we won’t be traveling to your wedding,’” Schweitzer suggested.

Schweitzer also recommended following up with a phone call, especially if it’s a wedding you had previously committed to attending, and still sending a wedding gift to the happy new couple if you can afford to do so.

As the world keeps changing and practicing social distancing, it’s not only important to know how to politely decline an invitation, but it’s also important to know the new rules of etiquette during the coronavirus pandemic.