• Resolving Problems

My friend didn’t show up at my birthday party

Published: March 11, 2014 | By | 18 Replies Continue Reading
Having a friend who is a no-show is disappointing but it’s worse when she doesn’t show up at your birthday party.



I had a birthday party I made in advance, and invited everyone a month before the date of the party. All my friends accepted, and four of them showed up on time, except for one.

We waited for 20 minutes and wondered what was going on. I called her, only to have her call me back 10 minutes later saying that she just got out of work and she couldn’t make it because she didn’t have a ride. I told her I could have driven her to my party had she asked me to come over after. I told her I would call her after the party.

I called her and she never answered my message. I am upset with her because she accepted my invitation, had plenty of time to make arrangements to come, and it makes me wonder if she would have called at all to cancel if I didn’t call first to ask what was going on.

What should I do, or say to her?

Signed, Robin


Hi Robin,

It’s frustrating and disappointing when a friend doesn’t show up when she says she will. When she misses your birthday celebration without an explanation or apology, it’s worse than that. You have every reason to feel upset.

Something was going on with your friend: Either she didn’t want to come to the party for some reason—or something else, totally unrelated to you, was going on in her life.

The next step: If she’s not typically a no-show and this friendship is meaningful to you, you need to ask her what’s going on. Take a deep breath, harness your anger, pick up the phone and let her know you need to talk and deserve an explanation. Hope this helps.

Best, Irene

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Category: Disappointing friends

Comments (18)

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  1. Faye says:

    It’s my 30th next month. I normally never do anything with friends as it falls on a bank holiday weekend and people are normally away and I always worry no one will want to spend it with me. This year I decided to try and do something as its my 30th. A friend of mine told me she would arrange it – we had planned to go to an event – she confirmed who could come and said she would book tickets as she could get a deal. This was several months ago. This week she told me she can’t come anymore as she’s now double booked and has arranged a trip on the same day and also told me she hadn’t booked the tickets. I checked with another friend who was supposed to be coming and she has told me she has a wedding that weekend and can’t come. I haven’t bothered asking the rest as they were only coming because the first friend was arranging it.

    I understand my second friends reason and know that can’t be helped but I’m so disappointed and upset with my first friend. I always make so much effort with this friend and made the effort to go to her 40th this year even though I was really ill. I feel like my friendship doesn’t mean anything to her. I’m so disappointed as I’d been really looking forward to this event.

    Looks like I’ll be spending another birthday on my tod..

  2. Josephine says:

    I have a friend who I have known for about two years, we do a class together twice a week which we are both dedicated to. Because of the class I see her a lot more regularly than most of my other friends. Initially we just got on well, but became a lot closer as friends when she told me about her family issues which are ongoing. Now we pretty much message every day and sometimes see each other outside of class, go for dinner and do other things.

    My friendship group and her friendship group are probably quite different, so we keep them separate however I treat her the same as all my other friends and decided to invite her to my birthday. I only invited close friends. Everyone replied yes or no, a few had to cancel but told me without prompting. Two days before the event, I asked her if she was coming and she said she didn’t think she would make it, gave an excuse and thanked me for the invite.

    I have previously made excuses for her because of the things going on in her life, however feel this has happened too many times before and its more about her not wanting to come rather than not being able to. Her blasé attitude, not giving me an answer, last minute cancellations, messaging her other friends when I am with her in person and sometimes reciprocating gestures (e.g. giving cards and presents) out of guilt rather than because she cares has started to get to me and I feel like this is the final straw.

    I know her well enough to know all that is going on in her life and feel hurt that she doesn’t respect me like I feel all my other friends do. Because we talk so often she knows more about my life than some of my other friends. She knew about my birthday for many months and had no reason not to tell me straight out that she couldn’t come rather than using an excuse. The fact that she may have not told me at all until I asked her makes me feel even more hurt.

    She nearly cancelled on me last minute a few months ago and when I confronted her with how I felt (stressed) she became extremely defensive and ended up showing up at the event at the expensive of losing a work client because apparently I had made her feel so bad and ‘didn’t like to let me down’. She later semi-blamed the loss of a client on that day, which came across as she was blaming me.

    It is a very difficult situation because the class we do together is irreplaceable, and I choose to live and work close to it because of its importance in my life. I don’t feel like I can confront her again because of the way she previously reacted and feel this recent incident has confirmed she is completely uncaring about our friendship. However, I am not sure how you can downgrade a friendship of two years to become class buddies again without causing drama or more distress.

  3. Emma says:

    I’m having my party very soon and my friend can’t come as her mum needs her to look after her brother but I have said cant he go to his friends house or something and it’s not as if it is over night. It is for Less than 3 hours. Is there anyway you can think of trying to get her to come.
    Also she didn’t come to my last birthday party.
    Thank you.

    • Amy F says:

      Emma, I’m so sorry your friend can’t come to your party. That’s very disappointing for both of you. I don’t think there’s anything you can do, if she has to babysit for her brother, she really has no choice and other than finding a babysitter for him, there’s nothing you can do. She probably wishes she didn’t have to watch him. If you think she doesn’t really have to watch her brother, she might be making an excuse because she has social anxiety, doesn’t enjoy parties and is embarrassed to tell you the truth. But, in the absence of other indicators, she’s probably telling you the truth and us just as disappointed as you are. Maybe you two can plan a different way to celebrate your birthday, just the two of you, like a sleepover.

  4. Maria says:

    I told my whole class that Iam throwing a birthday party and I really need them with me because I had some promblems that made me cry every night and when I invited them on 2 out of 15 girls came. I felt really sad. I don’t get why didn’t they come all though they all accepted my invitation and told me that they are coming it really broke my heart cuz I had a hard time and I had some problems and they didn’t even care to even tell me happy birthday :”(

    • Ros says:

      Don’t let this get to you, Maria. You are SO much better than them. Girls at school can be unkind sometimes, but it’s because they are insecure – it’s NOT because of anything you’ve done wrong. I was bullied at school, but now that I’m in my 40’s, I can see it for what it was – silly immature girls trying to boost their confidence by being mean to me. Don’t let the meanness of the girls at your school define you. There’s also the possibility that they are just a bit insensitive. But, either way, it doesnt matter. You are amazing and I want you to hold your head high and believe in yourself 🙂 xxx

  5. Phong says:

    I had a friend who would constantly not show up to my birthday party and i expected him to cos i considered him close. What made it worse was i always showed up to his birthday and celebrated it with him but he would always be a no show always make up excuses i beleive in the rule if somone goes to ur birthday make the effort to show up to theres. Anyyways i stopped showing up to his birthdaays his girlfriends birthdya and his sons birthday then he starts crying, which is funny cos he never showed up to mine. Then when his wife had a baby he called me down to the hospital but i didnt go. So he bumps into my sis and starts complaining that i didnt come visit them. Now i wouldve but where was he when i went to hospital on my21st? right anyways 1 dont keep contact with him or try to im done with him. He rocks up to my house randomly after we havnt talked to each other for 2 years and complains again about me not keeping in contact and not calling. Told him u live to far now he has totally lost a legit friend

    • Ellie says:

      Hey Phong,
      What your friend did to you was horrible but have you tried talking to him? From the way you complained about your 21st it seems as if you were not aware of the reason he wasn’t there. He seems to really like you as a friend and it’d be such a waste to lose someone like that. Then again I understand what he did to you can make one feel hurt but honestly is it only the bday issues? I mean to let go of a friendship over something like that? I could never go to my best friends birthdays since there was ALWAYS something on, from weddings to a planned family day.

  6. Phong says:

    Just next time if they have a birthday dont show up. I had two good friends and one was close. Use to always show up to their birthdatys. for 5 straight years. So expected them to come and show some respect.But they managed not to show up to my celebrations 5 years straight. So i gave them one last chance as there birthdays were before mine. Came to there birthdays that year and called them up to come celebrate and they never showed again. Was annoying as hell. SO i never bothered coming to there celebrations and never botherd inviting them again. Then they get angry with me when i dont go and why i didnt invite them. I laugh at them. but i never go to stheir bday his kids birthday or his wifes birthday. And he always complains and i just laugh at him god damn hyprocite. Anywyas we arent close anymore and i dont talk to him anymore he tried to catch up with me a year ago but i dindt bother . Cos i only keep in contact with my real friends and friends they give a damn and that represent me.

  7. Julia says:

    Patterns indeed, but this still doesn’t show the entire picture. I have one friend who misses things, is late for everything, forgets birthdays, etc. But she is always there for me, and I for her. We laugh about missed birthdays, and her nickname is “Don’t ask Kat to bring the appetizers unless they are dessert”. It’s just how she is. But, the flip side is that she’s got a huge heart, is genuine, and truly loves her friends. She knows it and they know it.

    I was raised to believe that if you’re not five minutes early, you’re late. And for years, I had convinced myself that it was disrespectful to be late, and I believe that with most chronically late people, it is an act of selfishness. But not Kat… it’s just how her brain works, and I’ve learned to let go of my irritation over it, and embrace it’s simply a part of who she is, and that’s endearing. But she’s the only one who an get away with it. 😉

    Another (former) self-centered friend makes a huge deal about her own birthday and everything is always about her. She forgets others’ birthdays, is very controlling, and full of drama, and loves being a martyr. We took our teen-aged girls camping last fall and it was pure He!!–she didn’t like what we brought to sleep on (“when I camp, I sleep on the ground”), made fun of our gear, and made snide remarks about my drinking coffee (“My mother drank coffee. I drink tea. I hate coffee because of her.”), controlled the entire schedule (she threw out the itinerary that we had planned out as a group), and she smoked constantly during the 13 hour trip home with our girls in the car. The list goes on.

    I haven’t spoken to her since, and that was almost 4 months ago. She texted me once, “Are you mad at me?”

    What’s weird is that we’ve been friends for four years, and we’ve been there for each other many times. She’s always been very self-centered and doesn’t really do anything that doesn’t benefit her or her daughter in some way. We’ve taken care of each other’s animals, rescued each other, etc. but had only seen glimpses of her vileness before and had heard rumors from her former roommate, but still I was shocked at her behavior on our trip. Glad to know her true nature before making a commitment for our tribe committed to moving to a new town. I’ve asked myself several times over if my decision to drop her was warranted, and it keeps coming back with a resounding “yes”.

  8. Jason says:

    I give people three chances first is ok if they got a valid excuse and call me or text me to let me know,Second I get angry and warn them again if it happens without showing up and no excuse then our friendship is over third and last I don’t want to hear or know of excuses because you’ve let me down and kept me waiting twice before,Nothing worse annoying and hurtful than a so called friend who cant even be bothered to let you know they cant make your party or not turn up at all after telling you they will,I delete them of facebook I delete their number and I let it be known your friendship is no longer valid to me!

  9. Debbie says:

    My boyfriend did not show up at my party but all our friends and his kids to I think he was trying to hurt me under handed

  10. Tam says:

    I agree with Amy. A friend who is a “no show” the first time is someone to worry about, believing they are in a distressing situation. A friend who has a pattern of not showing is just somebody to not count on…And that’s all there is to think about it. Put your energy and focus into those that do show up. (And never put yourself in the position of depending on the friend with a “no show” pattern: That’s volunteering for victimization and on you.)

  11. Denise says:

    Yes, there are several theories why people make plans, then cancel with poor excuses or just do nothing. Sometimes we find out what’s happening, sometimes we never will. It can be tempting for awhile to give them one more chance again and again. Maybe next time will be different.

    For me, the bottom line would be pattern. If it’s consistently poor excuses and no-shows and on top of that unanswered emails or calls, this is how the person says the friendship is not important, I will not follow through, I will not keep my promises. This is the behavior I’d use for no longer making plans. Seeing the person by chance somewhere, I might talk to her, but that’s it. There are others who will keep their word, apologize when necessary, and be there for you.

  12. Lauren says:

    When people repeatedly bail out or flake out at the last minute, it is their way of saying that you are not important enough to them to bother showing up. Whether they know it or not, they are consciously or subconsciously sending out a strong message that says, You don’t matter much.

    They probably don’t know how to politely say No thanks, perhaps another time, or No thanks, I have a precious engagement/date. So instead, they say Yes, when they really mean no: Then when the time comes, they either don’t show up or they contact you at the last minute with a feeble excuse. This may be easier for them, but believe me , they have no regard for your feelings.

    Or it could be that they are saying yes to your invitation, but they are selfishly keeping in mind that if something better comes up on that date, you will be dropped like a hot potato, with or without an excuse.

    Having said this, anyone can say Yes to an invitation then have a totally genuine, legitimate excuse for not showing up. However, this sort of situation would only happen one in a blue moon for just about everybody.

    When the friend or relative flakes out/bails out frequently, when it is an on-going pattern, then it is another matter. They are basically saying that they have no respect for you. They think that they have you all figured out, and that they can keep you on a string for any time that they themselves actually need you, for their own selfish purposes.

    These frequent flake out type of people are not dependable or trustworthy, and they do do respect you.

    Keep your own self respect and self esteem in mind, and think twice before inviting these frequent flake-out types to meet up with you. Friendship is a two-way street.

  13. GraceW says:

    I would say if it’s a one-time occurrence, try to forgive her. If it is part of a pattern of ongoing no-show behavior, stop inviting her to events, and focus on other friendships.

    I’ve been on both sides of a problem like this. I had (yes, past tense) a friend whose birthday was on New Year’s Day and for years, no matter what we did for her, she didn’t like it. She didn’t like a party her boyfriend arranged for her because he invited too many of his friends. She didn’t like a surprise party that a group of us arranged for her a different year because she had figured out that it was happening beforehand. I live in a different city than her, and eventually, one year my husband and I ended up spending New Year’s Eve night at the emergency vet with a very sick cat, and I felt too drained to call her to wish her a happy birthday on New Year’s Day. I didn’t forget, I’d had a bad night and didn’t have it in me to listen to her complain about how terrible her birthday was that year. Sure enough, she called me and told me how hurt she was by my silence, and I apologized, because I agreed my behavior wasn’t good. Then I told her about how we’d spent our night at the vet and how upset I was about the sick cat, but she was so focused on how I’d done her wrong, she just didn’t care. I’m sure THAT year, I was the “reason” her birthday was ruined.

    On the flipside, I had an aunt who RSVPed “yes” to my wedding in 2006 and then did a no-show. We had fewer than 30 guests, so her absence was noticed and the pastor actually delayed the ceremony a bit so we could wait for her arrival. Later, I contacted her by email (our mode of communication because, again, we lived in different cities) and told her how we’d waited for her and how upset I was, and she apologized. But I’d really lost my trust in her and distanced myself after that.

    For me, there is a big difference between failing to meet an unspoken expectation (onus falls on the person with the expectation) and failing to keep your word (onus falls on the person who gave her word, thus creating expectation in a friend). I don’t trust people who repeatedly fail to keep their word, and I don’t maintain friendships with people that I don’t trust.

  14. Amy F says:

    You can be hurt that your friend didn’t come to your party. It’s always nice to be surrounded by your closest people when celebrating, but if you make a big deal out of her absence, you might come across as demanding or needy and push her away.
    I had a small party for my 40th birthday ten years ago and spend a lot of time making myself miserable over who could and couldn’t come, and who I expected to show but didn’t. I spent do much time worrying, until a good friend told me I was missing out on appreciating who did come. She’s a bit older and a LOT wiser and she explained that people have a lot going on in their lives, and my desire for a certain friend to be there wasn’t more important than her own “stuff”, whether that be something big (to me) or something I consider minor (like she was too tired from a stressful day).
    Now 10 years later I’m thinking of another party, and hoping that I can find a time when most folks can attend. If someone doesn’t, I hope we can do lunch at another time and extend the celebrating for me!

  15. tanja says:

    That is hard. I had a friend like that through out high school. She would always not make plans, but she would not even call. I was always the one calling her. Well, we didn’t talk after high school for a long time. I travelled etc and worked. Well, years later we reconnected because we had a kid at the same time. She got in touch with me first, so our friendship took off again. But, the same thing happened, she would sometimes come and sometimes not, there was no regard for my feelings. we stopped talking for 4 years until we found ourselves pregnant at the same time again, so we started talking. Well, she would also invite me out sometimes but then never follow through either, she would not call when she promised. It was sad, because we have a son the same age and a daughter the same age.

    Now, after this past October, she invited me out to a gym and she never followed through, I can’t trust her, she just says things. She hasn’t really changed since high school. I have decided not to contact her again because we really do not see eye to eye on things and she really doesn’t care about me or my time.

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