What to do When You Forgot a Birthday

happy birthday banner in background. Foreground shows image of man in a birthday party hat sitting alone on the floor looking sad underneath a happy birthday banner

Sorry I Missed Your Birthday…

What to do when you forget someone’s big day

We’ve all done it.  The heart-sinking realization when it clicks: “I forgot my best friend’s birthday” or “oh my god, I forgot my girlfriend’s birthday what do I do?”

It is the WORST feeling.

Seeing birthdays on Facebook is great, unless you’re one of the many people who have essentially stopped using Facebook.

And between new phones, email calendars, lost backups, or just – *gestures everywhere* – life itself, it’s easy to let something get in between you and the special day for someone you care about.

How to make it up to someone for a missed birthday

Let’s talk about late birthday wishes.

There are several different kinds of “not wishing someone happy birthday” . There are the people that you’d probably text after writing on their Facebook wall or posting a comment on their celebratory Instagram. Next, there are the people you would call or send a happy birthday card to. Finally the “oh sh*t” people that you can absolutely, positively NOT forget their birthdays. 

Please see the very informative chart below.

three concentric circles labeled. the outermost ring is purple and labeled "Facebook DM or Text", the middle ring is labeled "Card or Call" and the innermost ring is labeled "Oh, Sh*t!"
Facebook DM or Text: The “happy day after your birthday” message

For the first circle, your journey is going to be a little bit easier. “Sorry we missed your birthday” is a lot easier to say to a friend you see occasionally than it is to say when you forgot your girlfriends birthday. 

These are the kind of people that you can send a text or dm saying “happy day after your birthday” or “I hope you had a great birthday” because you are still taking the time to recognize their birthday and let them know that you are thinking of them, even if you didn’t happen to think of them on their actual birthday. 

They’ll appreciate the thought and likely will be able to spend more time replying than they would on their actual birthday because they aren’t inundated with so many messages. 

Sending a card or giving them a call

The second circle is where things get a little more complicated. 

You can send a belated birthday card, or a late birthday card. Though you may find yourself asking “what does Happy Belated Birthday mean?” 

To put it simply, belated means something is late or delayed, like your amazon order or your one friend with ADHD who can never show up on time, and is the Emily Post approved way of saying “sorry for the late birthday wishes”. 

So now you’ve got your belated birthday card (or you can send just a regular birthday card and let them know in your message that yes, this is a better late than never happy birthday, we’ll link our favorites below) and you’re wondering what to write in a belated birthday card.

What to Write in a Belated Birthday Card

Keep it simple. Forgetting a birthday is not a crime – it happens – and this circle of friends or family will be more understanding and won’t need elaborate excuses. Something as simple as sorry I missed your birthday will do. 

The key here is that this is still a card for them and to them.

Don’t waste precious space drawing attention to your forgetfulness, now is the time to appreciate them!

a woman sitting outside smiles as she reads a greeting card. She is holding up her phone to the card as if scanning a QR code.

We love to write about a favorite memory, story, or even just tell them what you like about them.

You can still make someone feel special (and you WILL) just by sending a card at all. 

Now that we know what to say in a belated birthday card, let’s move on to the next circle where we’ll discuss how to make up for forgetting a birthday.


How to Make Up for Forgetting a Birthday – Thoughtful Options for Your Inner Circle aka the “Oh Sh*t” tier

We’ve reached the “oh sh*t” circle of birthday forgetting. Like,  “I forgot my wifes birthday” bad.

This is the kind of forgetting that is going to take some explaining. 

Luckily, for this instance only, we are living in an EXTREMELY long unprecedented time and historical event. Things are tough right now, for everyone. We are all having to save space for the people we love who are also struggling with the pandemic and everything else. This is the time when you’ll be asking for that space and that forgiveness. 

Again, be honest. Let them know that you screwed up and you are sorry. We’d advise against long, drawn-out excuses. They don’t want to hear about the long conference at work, the traffic, or the dissociative state you’ve been in. They probably already know and hopefully will consider that!

thoughtful gifts for your closest people

You should try to do or find something that is completely them. This is where thoughtful gifts or hangouts really shine. 

Does this person love books and coffee? Take them to a bookstore and let them wander and pick some of the books they’ve been eyeing – your treat. Then go to their favorite coffee spot or the one they’ve been wanting to try and let them tear into that new book with you by their side.

Does this person have a drink or snack that they can never be without? Buy them that drink or snack IN BULK and give it to them. 

The point is to let them know that you see them and that you know them, and you like them even more for it. This is not the time for a sorry I missed your birthday card, it’s time to pull out all of the stops.


P.S. You Got This!

Whether you missed it by a few hours or a few weeks, we believe in you. Know you’ve got this (and that you’ve added their birthday to your calendar – with a reminder!).

At PS Post, birthday cards are kind of our thing–whether they are sent in advance or after that “oh sh*t” moment. Take a look at some of our favorite cards for belated birthdays below!


Our Favorite Happy Birthday Cards

Write your message on your phone or computer. We mail your personalized card for you!