What to Do When You Forgot a Birthday

September 14, 2023

Realizing you forgot the birthday of someone about whom you care can be startling. It can also be embarrassing. Similarly, the person whose birthday was overlooked can feel let down. This is especially true when we have smartphones—the device upon which you’re likely reading this right now—capable of reminding us of everything from the date of the vernal equinox on Saturn to trash day.

The good news is there are many things you can do to recover, including saying happy birthday with flowers. But like so many other things in life, there’s a right way and a wrong way to go. For the most part, the nature of your response will be dependent upon the nature of your relationship with the person.

Casual Acquaintances

Here, you can probably skate by with a note, a text message or a post on social media declaring yourself a forgetful idiot who cares about them just the same. And actually, there’s some potential benefit to being late here. Anyone with a Facebook account can testify to the multitude of well wishes the platform elicits on the actual day.

With so many greetings coming in, they might not even realize one of them wasn’t from you. Responding late sets you apart from the knee-jerk social media greeters and may even gain you a more in-depth reply.

We’re not saying forget on purpose, however, having done so isn’t always a bad thing.

Close Friends/Relatives

Things can be a bit touchier in this instance. These are people you know well, and with whom you've likely spent a great deal of time. You may have even gone to parties celebrating the anniversary of their emergence from the womb on more than a few occasions.

These people rate a physical expression.

In other words, you’re going to have to go out of your way to buy a belated birthday card —and you’re going to have to put pen to said card to express your regret.

Make what you write about them, rather than about the way you feel, having missed the day. Share a fond memory, talk about one of their qualities you admire. Delivering it in person is good too, if your proximity to this person makes doing so a feasible undertaking.

Spouse/Significant Other


You forgot the birthday of someone who lives in the same house with you?

Just exactly how thoughtless can you be?

Calm down, we’re kidding, these things can happen, even to the best intentioned. The good news is you WILL be reminded of your oversight before the day is over. Let’s just say there will be lots of meaning in that uncharacteristic quietness you’ll experience in your home that day.

You’re going have to pull a rabbit put of your hat on this one, and it needs to be hopping, skipping and kicking.


One idea is to take them to their favorite store and tell them they have a gift certificate on file for whatever amount you can comfortably afford. Follow along patiently as they wander about and choose whatever they’d like.

Make it a surprise.

In other words, do something that makes it look like you didn’t forget and make sure it’s all about them. And no, for the record, we’re not advocating lying here. We’re just saying things will go better if your response appears to be part of plan.


I believe in making the impossible possible because there’s no fun in giving up. Travel, design, fashion and current trends in the field of industrial construction are topics that I enjoy writing about.

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