How to Decline an Invitation to a Funeral
Not all funerals are held at convenient times or convenient locations. Unlike weddings, which can be planned months in advance, funerals crop up unexpectedly regardless of the time, date, weather conditions, or other plans you might already have.
When this happens, attending the funeral might be a problem. For example, if you do not have the vacation time to get away from work in the middle of a week, or if a funeral is scheduled at the same time as a long-planned vacation, it might not be feasible to rearrange your itinerary. Along these same lines, the costs of attending might be prohibitive. Last-minute plane tickets (even at a discounted bereavement fare) can cost thousands of dollars, and there are also issues related to funeral attire, transportation, or lodging to consider.
It is also possible that you simply might not wish to attend the service. Funerals are not the most socially comfortable occasions, and if you didn’t know the deceased very well—or if there was a strained relationship—you might be hesitant to attend.
Why Attend the Funeral?
If you are on the fence about attending the funeral, it is usually best to put your reservations aside and go anyway. In fact, it is fairly common for people who don’t know the deceased personally to attend a funeral. This is usually done in the name of support. For example, when someone like a best friend’s parent or a spouse’s long-lost aunt dies, going to the funeral is your way of showing your love and concern for the grieving family—not for your actual feelings toward the deceased. Although no one wants to judge a person’s value based on the number of people in attendance at a funeral, there is no denying that a large turnout brings comfort. Most family members want to know that their loved one touched so many lives.
So, too, might your presence help with another person’s grief. A good friend who is hurting might need a friendly and familiar face to turn to. By attending the funeral for their sake, you are committing your time and energy to support them, which can mean a lot during this difficult period.
How to Politely Decline the Funeral?
If you cannot attend the funeral, you should send a polite message extending your condolences and regrets. Ideally, you should send funeral flowers or a sympathy card if you cannot personally attend the funeral, as these are traditional alternatives to your physical presence.
For personal invitations (even if they were just sent online or via text), it is best to send a brief message stating why you cannot attend. Although you can—and should—personalize this message, a suggestion might be:
I’m so sorry for your recent loss. I remember (your father, mother, etc.) as a generous person who always had a smile and a warm welcome. I am unable to attend the service but will be thinking of you and yours during this difficult time.
In almost all cases, this information is more than sufficient. There is no need to go into lengthy explanations, as the family is likely to be preoccupied with other thoughts. Simple regrets and a wish for their peace and comfort is usually enough.