Whoops: Tips for sending belated birthday cards

For some people, birthdays are the best holiday of the year. Your birthday is all about celebrating you, after all! For others, birthdays are just another day of the year and they aren't as important. In my experience, though, celebrating a friend's birthday is always a good idea, even if it's just with a simple and thoughtful card that lets them know you appreciate their friendship. So, what happens if you forget a friend's birthday? Should you send birthday cards if they're only going to get there late? Won't that make it obvious you forgot? Take a look at these tips for sending belated birthday cards:

Send a card, anyway
Should you send a card that's going to be late? Yes. There are a couple of reasons you should. First, if you know your friend is hurt that you missed their actual birthday, a thoughtful card can go a long way toward smoothing things over – and it's a great way to take responsibility for your forgetfulness. Second, if your friend isn't as upset, it's still a considerate thing to do. In fact, some people enjoy receiving belated birthday cards because it extends their special day. The general rule of thumb is to send a belated card within a month of the person's birthday. After that, consider delivering it in person.

Write a thoughtful message
As far as belated birthday cards go (or any birthday cards, in my opinion) it's best to write your own personal note – even if the card already has a pre-printed message you like. Taking the time to mention your forgetfulness is never a bad idea, and you can apologize if you think it's necessary. Then, say something caring and individualized. Here's an example: "I can't believe it's already your birthday, I'm so sorry I forget to send something over! I'm sure you had a great day with your family, but know that I'm thinking of you and I hope your new job is going well. Let's get dinner the next time you have a free evening!"

Keep it lighthearted
If you want to apologize, you definitely should, but try not to overdo it. Too many "I'm sorrys," sad faces and exclamation points can start to look a little disingenuous after awhile. In fact, many people insert humor into the situation, which is often better than profusely apologizing. Say, "Obviously we're both getting older, because my memory seems to be fading fast – sorry I missed your birthday!" Or, "The problem is you still look just as beautiful as you did 10 years ago, so I just forget that you ever age!" 

Pick up the phone
There's nothing wrong with calling your friend or even shooting over an email as soon as you realize your absentmindedness. You can even reach out immediately, set up a time when you can buy them a birthday drink and bring your belated card along when you get together. They'll likely love the consideration and will be happy to catch up.