How to Wish Someone a Happy Belated Birthday

How to Wish Someone a Happy Belated Birthday

Happy Belated Birthday: What to Say When You Miss the Big Day


We are often asked, What does Happy Belated Birthday mean?  and What do I do if I forget to wish someone special a Happy Birthday?  

Happy Belated Birthday is a phrase that people use to wish someone a happy birthday after their actual birthday has passed.  

It happens to all of us. Despite our best intentions, we sometimes forget to wish people close to us a happy birthday. Maybe we bought their card weeks ago but then lost track of time, or perhaps the day caught us completely unaware. What matters isn’t that we forgot, but how we handle things once we’ve noticed our mistake. 

 If you’ve missed someone’s birthday, sending them belated birthday wishes as quickly as possible should be your priority. We all have busy lives, so most people are happy to forgive a late birthday message, but the longer you take to make up for your oversight, the less effective your happy belated birthday greetings will be. Imagine if someone wished you a happy birthday two weeks after you celebrated. Would the belated apology ring true, or would it feel insincere? 

SEE ALSO:  National Send a Card to a Friend Day

Of course, you can’t do anything about being late. All you can do is craft a heartfelt message, put it in a card, and get it in the mail. Be sure to send a text message or an email, too. Sending a card is the right thing to do, but it means your belated happy birthday wishes will be delayed even more. An accompanying text message gets to your recipient quickly and lets them know that a card is coming. 

 But what should you say? Below you’ll find an assortment of happy belated birthday messages that you can use as-is or change to your liking.

SEE ALSO:  How to Send Birthday Cards in Bulk

A birthday cake in a darkened room with lit candles shaped like letters that spell "happy birthday."

Why You Should Send Birthday Wishes Belatedly

You missed someone's birthday. Is it better to send belated birthday greetings or should you just sweep it under the rug and pretend like it never happened? 

 Certainly sending late wishes reflects poorly on you. It might suggest to your recipient that either they don't mean enough to you to remember their special day, or that you're simply too ditsy or lazy to get wish them a happy birthday on time. Worse, they might assume you don't know when their birthday is. The later your belated birthday wishes are, the worse you look. 

 Can you avoid this negativity by simply never sending a card? No. It's an even greater insult to never acknowledging the birthday you missed. Sending late birthday greetings still acknowledges your recipient's special day. It lets them know they're special to you, special enough to face the music about getting the card in the mail late. If you never wish them an amazing day they might assume you don't care at all. And they'll almost certainly assume you have no clue when they celebrate their birthday

 So get your happy belated birthday messages in the mail as quickly as possible, but definitely do it. With a little bit of creativity, you can find the perfect way to apologize for your tardiness and still make the birthday boy or girl feel special. It doesn’t matter if your message is silly, sweet, or heartfelt — as long as it comes from the heart, they’re sure to appreciate it.

Close up on a plate and party napkin at a birthday party.

General Tips for Making Belated Birthday Wishes Special

You'll find a wide assortment of belated happy birthday wishes below. Here are some general guidelines to phrase "happy birthday" belatedly in the best manner possible. 

 Be honest: Admit that you're late in your message. Acknowledge that you made a mistake and didn't get their birthday greetings in the mail on time. 

 Explain why you're late: If there's a good reason for your tardiness, be sure to explain it. Perhaps you were out of town or facing a family emergency. Whatever the reason, let them know why you couldn't make it on time. 

 Apologize: You don't need to grovel, but do say you're sorry for being late. A simple "I'm sorry I missed your birthday" goes a long way in making up for being tardy. 

 Compliment them: Take the opportunity to say something nice about your recipient. A belated birthday message is the perfect time to share how much you appreciate them or what makes them special to you. 

 Make a joke: Humor is often the best way to smooth over an awkward situation. If you're worried your late birthday greeting will be received poorly, try lightening the mood with a self-deprecating joke or funny story

 Keep it short: If you're worried about what to say, keep your message short and sweet. A few sentences is all you need to get your point across. 

 Check your spelling! It's bad enough that your happy birthday message is arriving late. Ensure it doesn't show up with silly spelling mistakes, too. Before sending your card a bit late, double-check that it's grammatically correct.

An office birthday party.


The following messages are universal. You can use them with anyone, regardless of your relationship.

  • “I’m so sorry I missed your birthday! You know how special you are to me, and it pains me that I missed your day. I hope you had a wonderful time full of birthday fun. Happy belated birthday!” 
  •  “In all the years I’ve known you, I’ve never once forgotten your birthday...until now. I’m sorry there’s a first for everything! I hope you had a smashing good birthday. Happy belated!” 
  •  “I know this card is reaching you late. Hopefully, it’s also reaching someone that had a great birthday. Sorry for the belated birthday message!” 
  •  “Happy belated birthday to a person that deserves to have their birthday wishes arrive on time. I promise to do better next year. Hope you had a great one!” 
  •  “I hope your birthday was everything you wanted it to be, and more. Next year I’ll be sure to be a part of it.” 
  •  “I can’t believe I forgot your birthday! I hope you enjoyed every minute of it because you deserve it!” 
  •  “Here’s to keeping your party going one day longer with an extra birthday wish. I hope it was filled with laughter and fun.” 
  •  “I’m sorry this birthday card is reaching you late. I’m sure you know that you were in my thoughts and my heart on your special day. Happy birthday on your 30th! Here’s wishing you a happy belated birthday!” 
  •  “I may have forgotten your birthday this year, but I can never forget how special you are to me and what you’ve meant to me over the years. This belated birthday wish comes packed with more love and affection than you could ever hope to receive. Hope it was wonderful!”
A birthday card with a picture of a sausage at the top. Below the card reads, "I'm the wurst. Sorry I forgot your birthday."


Humor is a great way to diffuse a tense situation. If you’re worried that the person you overlooked might be miffed, try a funny message to lighten the mood. Make them laugh, and they’ll forget your message was late.

  • “Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday to you. I’m sorry that this message is late. I sure feel like poo! I’m so sorry I missed your birthday. I hope this silly song makes up for it. Happy belated birthday!” 
  •  “When it comes to birthday wishes, my motto is ‘better late than never.’ So at least I didn’t go with never! I hope you had a great one.” 
  •  “I was thinking of you on your birthday, so I wasn’t late. Too bad the mail is much slower than my brain! Next year I’ll try to get my written wishes to you sooner! Happy birthday!” 
  •  “I was going to apologize for the belated birthday card, but then I realized that the longer you wait for your birthday wishes to come in, the longer you get to celebrate. So actually, I’m doing you a favor! You’re welcome, and happy belated birthday!” 
  •  “It’s not my fault that this birthday card is late. I wrote it on the calendar, but the calendar never bothered to remind me! I hope your birthday was everything you wished it would be.” 
  •  “It might seem like this birthday card is late, but it’s actually almost a year early. Happy birthday (next year)! I hope you get everything you want...51 weeks from now.” 
  •  “This birthday card isn’t late. It’s a time traveler! It came from two days BEFORE your birthday to make sure you had a great one. Isn’t science amazing?!” 
  •  “I had two options — be responsible and get your card to you on time, or be a lazy. good-fer-nothin’ slacker that can’t remember to do a simple thing like put a card in the mail. Unfortunately, we both know which option I went with. Happy belated birthday anyway!” 
  •  “You turned 40 this year. That means I had four decades to get this card to you on time, and I STILL couldn’t manage it! Sorry for my procrastinating ways. I really do hope you had a wonderful birthday!” 
  •  “You might think that I forgot your birthday, but the truth is that I was abducted by aliens on the way to the post office. I put it in the mail the moment they sent me back. So this card comes to you straight from my heart, with stopovers at the moon, Jupiter, and Zeptron 5. Happy belated birthday!”
An intimate, dimly lit birthday party.

Emotional Happy Belated Birthday Messages

Sometimes speaking directly from the heart is the most impactful way to let make up for a fashionably late happy birthday message. Emotional belated birthday messages are appropriate for loved ones, a dear friend, an important family member, or really anyone that you hope had a great birthday celebration.

  • "A wonderful friend like you deserves their birthday wishes on time. Last birthday I was able to supply that. This time, not so much. But here's wishing you good health and a very happy late birthday. Your happiness is more important than anything else!" 
  • "I hope you had an unbelievable birthday. I'm so sorry I missed it. I never like to be late to wish birthday greetings. You deserve better. I hope you had a lovely birthday and that all your dreams come true in the coming year." 
  • "The word belated means 'arriving late' and that's exactly what this birthday card did. I know I'm late wishing you happy birthday and that I missed the usual time. I think the biggest surprise is that I remembered at all! Just know that my absent-minded brain loves you very much!" 
  • "You might imagine that I forgot your birthday, but it makes much more sense to assume that I'm just, because I am...busy being sorry for forgetting your birthday! From the deepest part of my heart I'm saddened that I missed your special day. You're my best friend and I'm glad you're in my life. Wishing you a belated birthday full of happiness." 
  • "I can't believe I missed your birthday! I swear I know when it is. I've never missed one of your birthdays before. Know that if I had sent a birthday card on time, it would have made your heart move with its glowing sentiments. But instead you get this heartfelt yet delayed belated birthday card. I can offer only my apologies and sincere hope that you had the best birthday possible." 
  • "Happy belated birthday! It gives me such joy to wish you a happy birthday, even if it didn't get to you in time. I hope that you had a great time with whatever you did, had wonderful conversations with whomever you visited, and had a wonderful day wherever you went." 
  • "You deserve all the happiness in the world, whether it's your birthday or not. Technically it isn't anymore, but don't let that stop you from having a lovely day. Happy belated birthday!"
An open birthday card.


Did you know that you can schedule recurring, handwritten birthday cards to be sent to your friends and family automatically? Simply Noted offers the most realistic automated handwritten cards. With our easy-to-use website interface, you can order birthday cards to be delivered whenever they’re needed. Our ballpoint pen-wielding handwriting robots will write them at the appointed time and wing them off to your recipients. So you’ll never miss another birthday again!

SEE ALSO:  How to Plan a Surprise Birthday Party