Birthdays are great. Everyone takes a moment to wish you a happy birthday; some people might even send a present your way! The fact that they happen once a year makes them even more special.
But what if someone wishes you a happy birthday on the wrong day?
There’s no need to panic – and no need to be rude either. The first thing you do is thank them and politely tell them your real birthday right after. There’s no need to be disrespectful – because it’s the thought that matters!
Now, you might think it’s better not to tell the truth and enjoy the wrong birthday wishes for a day. That might seem like the easy way out – but opening that door might lead to trouble.
If It Happened near the Right Date
It’s not that bad if someone wishes you a happy birthday on your birthday week – so there’s no need to act as if something terrible happened.
You should, no matter what, thank that person and explain that your birthday isn’t happening for a couple of days.
Lying about it, being so close to the actual birthday date, is bound to create trouble.
You can say, for example:
“Thank you so much! But my birthday isn’t until…”
That’s it. It’s not that hard.
You can also add a little joke, such as:
“I know you wanted to be the first one to congratulate me but you’re a little early!”
As long as you keep it light and fun, you can do no wrong.
If you have room at your party, you may even be able to invite the person to join you, and in the best-case scenario, you will have one more guest at the table.
If It’s Not near the Right Date
The same happens when someone wishes you a happy birthday six months in advance.
You can spin that into a joke, for example:
“I know I look old, but I’m not that old yet. I’ll be my age for a couple more months.”
If it happened way before or way after your birthday, you could try to clear up the confusion.
Maybe someone else’s birthday is around the corner – and you two should try to figure out who it is. There’s no need to push for this angle, though.
Remember to be honest. You might think your birthday is so far away that nobody will notice when the day comes. You never know what’s going to happen, so it’s better not to risk it.
A Close Friend or an Acquaintance – It Makes No Difference
This is an important point. Many people think you should correct a close friend but not an acquaintance you don’t know very well. And that’s wrong.
Here’s the entire point of this article: it’s not about you getting away with something, it’s about being polite – and that implies being honest. There’s no such thing as politely lying to someone.
So, whether Bob (your best friend) or Frank (from the office) wishes you a happy birthday on a wrong day, be thankful and be honest.
The generic template for either occasion is something akin to:
“Thanks, man. I appreciate it. But my birthday is actually on…”
and finish it up with a
“No biggie, though. I get birthdays wrong all the time!”.
Truth, humor, and a little compassion get the job done.
How to Be Polite When Someone Wishes You a Happy Birthday on a Wrong Day
Always be honest about things. If you take anything from this article, let it be that. As long as you’re honest and respectful, you can do no wrong.
By lying about it, you can turn a no-harm-no-foul situation into something a little bit trickier. There’s no reason to do that, so don’t do it.
When things get tense, a little humor can smooth things out. Keep in mind you shouldn’t overplay your hand. One joke works best, two jokes are okay – but making three or more jokes might feel like you’re trying too hard, up to the point of being (or being perceived as) rude.
People don’t usually think about birthdays at random. There’s a slight chance whoever wished you a happy birthday was confused.
You might have a friend in common who is having his birthday that day. Try to think about it for a little while. Maybe it’ll ring a bell.
Remember: It’s the Thought That Matters!
Even if you are a little bit hurt because someone was wrong about your birthday, try to reframe your mindset.
Try not to think about someone making a mistake. Instead, look at it this way: someone remembered you and cared enough to wish you a happy birthday.
Maybe they weren’t 100% sure, but they decided to take a shot instead of missing your birthday. And that’s what’s important.
Maybe the person wasn’t sure and just quickly picked up the phone and wished you well.
If doing that doesn’t help you feel less hurt, think about this other thing: do you remember every birthday? That’s hardly possible! So, sure, someone got your birthday wrong – but isn’t there a big chance you’ll do the same someday? Maybe you did already.
Wishing someone a happy birthday on a wrong day is a crime of caring too much. Let’s not throw the book at the culprit – and, better yet, show some leniency.
What to Do If You Receive a Birthday Present on a Wrong Day?
The cardinal rule of correcting someone is politeness. There’s no need to be rude, crude, or act like a brute. And there’s no need to beat around the bush either. Simply say “I appreciate the gift – but my birthday is not until…” and add the right date at the end.
There’s no need to be too serious about it either.
You can add a joke into the mix to keep things light, for example:
“I know you want to party but my birthday is not until…”
Always try to remark how thoughtful the gift is and how much you like it – and also make sure you remember to explain it’s not your birthday yet.
The importance of being honest cannot be stressed enough.
Let’s say you didn’t correct that other person. Instead, you thank him and keep the gift. What happens when he realizes your birthday is in six months?
And you better believe he’ll hear about it one way or the other. We’re living in the age of social media – everyone hears about everything sooner or later.
Lying about something is always the impolite thing to do. And it’s also the not-so-smart thing to do – because you’ll get caught.
Don’t tempt fate with a gift that doesn’t belong to you. It’s not worth it.
Do the right thing
Now, you should return the gift. Or, at least, talk to whoever sent it to you and figure out the logistics of it all. You might get a gift guilt-free if you ask!
On the other hand, if that person wants it back, you shouldn’t argue or try to fight.
Neither should you try to act like you have no time to return the gift to try to keep it.
Do keep in mind you shouldn’t go out of your way to return the gift if you can’t afford the time or the money to do so. If neither one of you can make this part work, you can wait until the time is right.
You shouldn’t use the gift until you return it unless told otherwise. That’s pretty self-explanatory.
The same applies to gift cards, of course.
What If You Were the One Who Said Happy Birthday on the Wrong Date?
Imagine this scenario: you remember someone’s birthday on your own (instead of relying on social media), so you decide to tell that person happy birthday right away via text.
Here’s the catch: today it’s not his birthday! That’s why you saw nothing about it on social media!
So, after a little while, that person responds to your text thanking you and also correcting you.
Would that be so awful? Not really. Or, at least, not as long as that other person treated the whole situation with respect and a little humor. You promptly laugh it off and carry on with your day.
In situations like these, you need to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and wonder: how would I like to be treated if I made a similar mistake?
You’ll soon realize it’s not that hard to be polite.
Birthdays Are a Big Deal – but It’s Not a Big Deal to Get Them Wrong
Simply put, there’s no need to get upset if someone wishes you a happy birthday on the wrong day. People make mistakes – and, sometimes, these mistakes have good intentions behind them.
Let’s put it this way: someone thought of you on a random day and, for some reason, they thought it was your birthday. And it all happened because you’re important in their lives!
So, sure, mistakes were made. The good thing is, now someone knows for certain when your birthday is – and you might get a big present when that day comes. Or a birthday card. Either way, it’s the thought that matters, though.
How to Reply to Late Birthday Wishes
A simple reply to a belated birthday wish is enough: “Thank you! Nice of you to think of me”.
You don’t have to emphasize that their birthday was a few days earlier. The other person thought of you, which is the most crucial thing in a situation like this.
After all, there can be quite a few reasons for the delayed congratulations. For example, the person may have been very busy at work or had a lot to organize in the family. The fact that he or she still thought of you should be appreciated in any case.
If for some reason you still want to point out that their birthday was a while ago, please do so discreetly and as politely as possible.
Note: We also have a complete article on how to respond to the question “How was your birthday”.
Sophie Hammond is a journalist, psychologist, and freelance speechwriter for people in politics and business. She lives on the edge of the Rocky Mountains with her dog and a lifetime supply of books. When she’s not writing, she can be found wandering through nature or journaling at a coffee shop.