There can be valid reasons for declining a wedding invitation. For example, that you used to be married to the bride or bridegroom and would have trouble keeping a straight face while listening to that person reciting lifetime vows.
Or that you don't recognize any of the names on the invitation.
Or that attending a "dream" wedding in an exotic location would require more money and time than you are able to spend on your own dreams.
Or that it will be a show without substance -- a rerun -- because the couple is already married.
Fortunately, such excuses do not have to be stated. The proper negative response to a formal wedding invitation is simply that those invited "regret that they are unable to accept the kind invitation"
Nor, since Miss Manners knows what you are thinking, is it strictly necessary for those declining the invitation to send a present. A wedding invitation is not an invoice, however much some who send them contrive to make them appear so.
But she is disturbed at reasons Gentle Readers have given her for feeling that they must decline invitations to weddings that they would dearly like to attend.
The most common is from single people who complain that they wouldn't enjoy themselves if they are not allowed to bring their own guests, because they won't know anyone there. Miss Manners is not sympathetic, as she believes that wedding guests should be people who are invited, and who want to attend, because they actually care about the families being joined. And while the established partners of such people -- meaning spouses, affianced spouses and para-spouses -- must be included, caring or not, a wedding is not a dating opportunity.
She does, however, feel sorry for people who feel incapable of socializing with the friends of their friends. This is especially true for single people. Many a subsequent wedding resulted from meetings among wedding guests; weddings were considered prime occasions for single people to meet.
"I am 39," writes one Gentle Reader, "and have been invited to the wedding of a couple with whom I've been friends for three years. I helped the bride shop for her wedding dress and was told to put their wedding date in my diary as soon as it was decided upon. I really would love to see them get married, but the prospect of spending the day largely alone, having to make polite conversation with total strangers, is really not appealing."
Why not? Can today's singles, who commonly arrange to have coffee with total strangers -- without recommendations other than ones that are self-supplied -- honestly be wary of meeting people in an open and safe social situation through their friends and relations?
Then there are those who decide not to attend when they find a wedding is to be black tie. "I have enjoyed discussing my friend's wedding and have been eagerly looking forward to receiving her wedding invitation," writes another Gentle Reader. Yet she wants to know how she can decline that invitation because "a black tie affair can be very expensive for those who never engage in them. I haven't worn dresses in at least 15 years. My husband wore black tie for our daughter's wedding, and I wore very dressy separates. I suspect my husband will only ever wear black tie again for our son's wedding."
This breaks Miss Manners' heart. Please -- cut back on the money spent on a wedding present, but don't skip a friend's momentous event. Surely she would rather have you there -- or overlook your faking it with those dressy separates and a dark suit for your husband. Wouldn't she?