You’re undoubtedly familiar with the maxim to “never invite someone at the last minute.” While it’s true that an invitation issued at the eleventh hour can be a slight, there are some circumstances where this may not be the case.
It would be best if you had a really good reason for why they weren’t on your initial guest list-like maybe there was an emergency with one of their guests who had RSVPed, yes, forcing them to back out at the last minute and leaving you with one fewer place setting than anticipated.
Is It Rude to Invite Someone Last Minute?
Our survey of 102 people found that 34% of respondents feel a last-minute invitation is rude, while the remaining 66% feel it is fine and would rather receive a late invitation than none at all.
People are often concerned that they might offend their friends by inviting them at the last minute, but an invitation is an invitation – and people can choose whether or not they want to participate.
Sometimes, these parties can be fun because it makes you go with the flow. Other times, if you find yourself with no plans when your friend invites you at the last minute…it’s up to your discretion!
Planning parties and events can be a lot of work (and stress) for the host. If you’ve been invited to a lot of things in your life, then you probably know that it’s reasonable for someone to forget an invite at first-forgetting to ask someone isn’t necessarily a sign of rudeness on their part.
How to Politely Invite Someone Last Minutes
It’s important to be upfront that it’s a last-minute invite. Give them some idea of what went wrong or why you didn’t invite them earlier.
After all, if you were expecting lots of advance notice from someone else and then they invited you to an event last minute, you’d probably want to know why.
You should also apologize for the short notice and offer a sincere excuse for why things are happening so fast. For example:
“I’m so sorry this is happening at the last minute; my roommate bails on me all the time.”
If you have some history with this person, remind them what it is:
“I’ve been thinking about you since we met in Chicago!”
Be clear on what the event is and what they can expect:
“We’re going to be taking a tour of the museum followed by drinks at the bar downstairs.”
Make sure they understand when and where things are happening:
“The party starts on Friday at 7 pm at our place.”
Possible Reasons for the Last-Minute Invitation
You only just decided to have the event. This sometimes happens, particularly if you’re one of those people who gets a burst of motivation at an odd hour – say, 3:00 am on a Tuesday – and decides that you need to celebrate your upcoming move to Birmingham with a housewarming party on Sunday night (it’s going to be the best party in Birmingham, obviously). It’s unfortunate for your poor, unsuspecting friends that you didn’t decide on it sooner, but no one can fault you for being spontaneous!
You’ve only realized that you need one more person to make the numbers work. Sometimes you don’t have enough people for your ideal get-together ratio – maybe it’s a dinner party, and you want an even number of guests so they can sit around the table in pairs.
Maybe it’s an all-female birthday party, and there are currently 15 women coming along, but 16 would be better because then there would be two groups of eight, or maybe it’s a huge outdoor event where chairs are limited. People will have to sit on the floor unless there are exactly 90 guests instead of 89.
Whatever the circumstances, don’t stress about breaking convention when making last-minute additions. This is quite common, and everyone understands the importance of keeping things fair (plus, everyone wants things to go smoothly)!
You’ve had this event planned for ages now but only just realized that you haven’t invited someone important! This isn’t very good! But also incredibly easy to fix with some last-minute invites…don’t worry too much about timing here because as long as no one gets left out (and they know how much they matter), everything will work out fine!
To Issue a Last-Minute Invite or Not?
There are many factors to consider here, including;
How important is this person to you?
Is this person important to you? If so, it may be best to send them a last-minute invite.
The more important the person is, and the more important you consider the occasion itself, the better your odds of getting a positive response from someone if you invite them on short notice.
On the other hand, if it’s someone you don’t know well or an event that’s not socially significant (say, a Sunday night movie rather than New Year’s Eve), they may have plans that they would prefer to keep instead of bailing on them at the last minute.
Do they have other things going on in their life?
You might think you’ve checked everything off your list, but have you considered if your friend or a family member has something else in their life that may stop them from attending your event? Have they just had a high-profile project at work that they need to finish? What about any personal conflicts that are demanding all of their attention?
If you’re not sure, it’s always polite to ask.
If it’s been only a week since they said no and nothing major has happened in the interim, then, by all means, invite them again. I’m sure they’d love to come so long as their life isn’t too crazy.
How easy/hard would it be for them to make time to attend?
If you know that the event is an important one that can’t be rescheduled, then it’s probably better not to ask someone last minute.
If you think they will decline the invitation because of work or other obligations, go without them, rather than asking and having them decline.
On the other hand, if they have told you in the past that they often have last-minute free time then, by all means, invite them at the last minute!
Example Phrases to Use for the Last-Minute Invite
There are a few phrases you can take inspiration from for your own last-minute invitation:
“I hope you don’t mind me asking last minute, but I’d love it if you could join me?”
“Sorry I didn’t ask sooner, but I’d like to invite you to [event] on [date].”
“Please come if you’re free!”
Actionable Tips to Remember When Giving a Last-Minute Invite
Set the tone of urgency
A well-planned event has a successful outcome because everyone involved knows what to expect and how to get there. When you’re making a last-minute invitation, it’s important to set an expectation that things are happening very quickly – it shouldn’t seem like this is a “good idea for next week.” 
Instead, pretend there is an exciting opportunity and you need your friend’s help to take advantage of it.
Provide information about the event
In addition, you should make sure that your friend knows what they are getting into. If it was a dinner party for six people, no problem but if it was a semi-social gathering with dozens of people in attendance and some formal obligation involving entertaining other guests, then that might be more than what your friend wanted or expected when agreeing to attend your event on such short notice.
Be honest about the situation leading up to the invitation
Finally, while setting expectations and providing the information is good, they won’t do much help without honesty behind them! You’ll want to honestly communicate why you’re inviting your friend so late to the game: were they not on your radar before? Did something unexpected happen today?
Did something terrible happen with another guest that led you to be suddenly desperate for someone else?
Explain yourself honestly, apologize for inconveniencing them (if necessary), and let them know how glad you are that they could come through for you.
In a Nutshell
No, it isn’t rude to send a last-minute invitation to someone. As long as you aren’t annoying the person or showing a lack of effort on your part, your invitations are more than welcome.
Matt Vargas is an author and public speaking coach with a degree in sociology and more than ten years of practical experience. Matt is responsible for the empirical surveys at everyday-courtesy.com, is a passionate recreational musician, and blogs here about his experiences in the field of interpersonal communication.