Happy Belated Birthday: What to Do & Say When You’ve Blown It

Uh oh.

That person you really care about? You know, the sensitive one who always sends you a gift and a text on your birthday and Christmas and when you get a promotion at work or have a bad day? The one that brings you soup when you’re sick and lets you do laundry at their house?

You missed their birthday. Again.

You can’t literally just say “Happy Belated Birthday” and be done with it, can you?

Maybe. If you’re an idiot, then probably yes, you can. But if you’ve missed an important birthday and want to make it right, here’s what to do and say when you’ve really blown it.

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Happy Belated Birthday Meaning

belated [be-layt-ed] / adj.
The art of sending things after the fact so that yours is noticed more.

What does “Happy belated birthday” mean?

“Happy belated birthday” means that you are wishing someone a happy birthday after the day has passed. The birthday wishes, card, gift, or message is late, and thus it is belated.

The word “belated,” as you might suspect, comes from the combination of two words: be late. “Belated” is simply the past participle of the antiquated compound word belate.

That word has essentially disappeared from modern English (my spell checker is underlining ‘belate’ in red right now) but the common phrase to wish someone a “belated happy birthday” has kept belated relatively well-used.

Forgot Birthday? Here’s What to Do

So, did you forget someone’s birthday? Don’t sweat, we’ll help you out of this pit of your own making. Here’s what you need to do.

If the Birthday is Very, Very Soon

Never fear! Through the magic of modern technology, you can send your birthday wishes instantly. Even if your gift or physical card is going to be late, you can still convey your birthday wishes on time.

  • Text to call. Send a message letting them know their birthday gift is on the way but might be late, and ask if they have a good time tomorrow (or whenever their birthday is) to talk on the phone or through video chat.
  • Expedite. Choose a gift that is readily available and in stock, and have it shipped out overnight. Many popular gift ideas, like super-soft throw blankets or electric back massagers, can be ordered online and delivered within just a few days, or sometimes even the next day.
  • Send flowers or chocolates locally. Nowadays it’s easy to get flowers and other gift items prepared by a local florist and delivered the next day. ProFlowers is a great source for lovely flowers that can be ordered almost instantly and delivered in a very short time.

Here’s our list of the very best last-minute birthday gifts to help you out.

If the Birthday is Today

You’re still not late! There are options up to the very last minute:

  • Choose a different gift. There are many gifts that are instant, especially if you are considering sending a gift via post or ordering online. Consider an “experience” gift, like tickets to a ball game or upcoming concert. Here’s one source that allows the recipient to choose their own adventure, near or far, with activities such as rock climbing, surfing, wine tours, and more. Order now and they can be notified within minutes.
  • Send an e-card. There are many options out there. For instance, Blue Mountain allows you to customize a wide variety of virtual birthday cards and videos to send instantly, and many designs are free.
  • Send a text or social media post. A text message conveys that personal touch, while a social media post provides a public way to brag on and compliment your friend.

If the Birthday was Yesterday (or longer….)

This is where it gets rough. You blew it! You missed their birthday, and the only thing left to do is:

  • Send a belated birthday card (see here)
  • Send a belated birthday gift (see here)
  • Use humor to diffuse the offensive faux paus (see here)
  • Be sincere in acknowledging that you blew it (see here)

Hit those links to jump to the section you need, or simply read on. Next, we’ll talk about what to say, followed by specific ideas for late b-day gifts and late b-day cards.

Happy Belated Birthday Wishes

Below you’ll find plenty of examples for what to write in your “happy belated birthday” card or say in your “sorry I forgot” text message.

The first section is for funny, punny, and humorous messages. The second section is genuine, sincere quotes to write in a card with a more heartfelt and authentic tone.

Funny Belated Birthday Messages

Everyone who sent you birthday wishes yesterday?
They aren’t thinking of you TODAY like I am.
Happy belated birthday!

Birthdays are special days.
But you are special every day!
Happy belated birthday!

I'm a little behind
I’m a little behind – hope your birthday was stupendous!

I would say happy belated birthday,
but Chuck Norris just changed it to today.
So I’m all good. Happy birthday.

Why do they call it a belated birthday card?
‘Cuz it be late.

Must Have Been In a Fog for Your Birthday
I mist it. Mist it. Get it?

I must have been in a fog when your birthday rolled in
Because I mist it.

This isn’t a late birthday wish.
It’s just early for next year.
(You probably don’t even remember my early birthday wishes from last year, shame on you!)

Happy birthday!
Whenever that was.

In another part of the world, it’s customary to send birthday wishes the day after the person’s birthday.
I don’t know where that is, but apparently that’s where I’m from.

Late Birthday Wishes
Happy belated birthday, from me and this cat.

Sorry I forgot your birthday!
Did you save me any cake?

I didn’t forget your birthday.
I just wanted to prolong the celebration.

Sure, everyone else remembers your birthday.
But a REAL friend remembers you in the days that follow.
Happy belated birthday!

Related: 101 Happy Birthday Messages for Your BFF

I wish I had a time turner so I could turn back the clock and save Dumbledore wish you a happy birthday at the right time. But I don’t, so you get a happy belated birthday wish from me!

Some friends show up for your birthday on time
We really are the best of friends.

Sometimes you need a friend who will remember your birthday and, like, show up on time.
Other times you need a friend at 3am who will help bury the body.
We both know which one I am.
Happy birthday, friend.

I just remembered that I forgot your birthday.

Sorry this card is a little bit late.
I remembered your birthday, just not the date!

There’s a good reason why I missed your birthday.
I was super busy.
Busy being in AWE of how amazing you are
And how lucky I am to have you in my life.
Happy birthday, you awesome thing, you.

Now that everyone else’s birthday wishes have worn off,
here’s a great big new one from me!
Happy birthday!

The BEST surprise is always the LAST surprise
The last shall be best. Or something like that.

The best surprise is always the last one.
So…. surprise! Happy belated birthday!

Please excuse my time perception disorder.
(T.P.D. It’s real, and it affects 1 in 562 Americans. Totally not making that up.)
Happy belated birthday!

You know that I have a habit of being late to the biggest and most important events. And since there’s nothing bigger or more important that your birthday, what else could you expect?!?! Happy late birthday from your unpunctual friend!

One day isn’t enough to celebrate you, so I had to stretch it out. (See? This message is late for a very good reason!) Happy birthday!

Sorry I forgot your birthday. But it’s not like you didn’t know what you were getting into with me.

These birthday wishes are late so that you could celebrate even longer. You’re welcome!

I missed your birthday and now

It’s never too late to be what you want to be.
Unless you want to be younger.
Happy belated birthday!

Happy Birthday (Late)
Or was it three…?

Happy Birthday*

*Two weeks ago

OFFICIAL NOTICE FROM CARRIER. Incoming SMS messages have been delayed due to service error. The following message was from {NAME} sent on {DATE}. Begin /// Happy birthday, I hope you have an amazing day! BTW, have you been getting my messages? /// End. Standard data rates may apply. Text “1” to opt out. Text “2” to reply and approve incoming message.

I always try to find new and exciting ways to make an impression. This time, I decided to be late on wishing you a happy birthday. I’m sure you’re impressed! Happy birthday!

I just wanted to be the LAST one to wish you a very happy birthday!

I just wanted to be the FIRST one to wish you happy birthday NEXT YEAR!

Need more ideas for funny late birthday wishes? See our collection of belated birthday cards, below!

Sincere Belated Birthday Wishes

I'm So Sorry I Missed Your Birthday!

I’m so sorry I missed your birthday! Please forgive me – I care for you more than that, and want to wish you a sincere (if belated) happy birthday.

Happy belated birthday, my dear friend (brother/sister/cousin/etc). I hope you had a wonderful day and I wish you the best in this coming year.

You have so many good qualities in you, but the one that I love the most is your forgiveness. Happy belated birthday my dear friend!

Sorry this is late, but my love for you is all-year-long. I wish you a very happy (belated) birthday, and I hope it was a good one!

I'm so Sorry- Birthday Card

I’m so sorry that I missed your birthday! But I promise to make it up to you next year. I hope you had a great day, and I wish you the best in the year ahead!

I thought up about 647 great excuses, but decided to just come clean – I forgot your birthday. Please forgive me, and accept my genuine wish for you to have the very happiest of years in the days ahead!

I am so sorry that I forgot your special day. I hope that you had a good time (albeit without me!) and that you have a wonderful year. Happy belated birthday!

My sincere, but belated, wishes for happiness on your very special day. I’m so sorry I missed it! May you experience great things in this coming year!

Sincere Late Birthday Cards

Even though I’m late for your birthday, I still want you to know how special you are and how important you are to me. I hope you had an amazing birthday and you have my best (belated) wishes for the year to come.

I’m so sad that I missed your birthday, I was really looking forward to it!

Even though I’m late on wishing you a happy birthday, I want you to know how proud I am of the person you’ve become. I hope you had an amazing birthday and I wish you the best in the year to come!

I’m sorry that I missed your birthday, but I hope it was a good one. May God bless you in new and exiting ways this coming year!

Happy belated birthday to a friend who is always there for me. Thanks for forgiving me every time I’m late. That’s why you’re the best!

To a wonderful and understanding person, happy (belated) birthday. I hope that you had a wonderful day and that each new day brings you peace, joy, and love.

Sorry I Totally Missed Your Birthday

I totally missed your birthday, but believe me I’ll make it up to you in double celebration. Pick a time and place for us to meet, my treat. Happy late birthday!

Belated Birthday Gifts

The main aim of a belated birthday gift is to make it up to them. You were late: Own it, then find a way to fix it.

There are essentially three ways to do this through your belated gift and accompanying card:

  • Humor. Make them laugh, and their anger or annoyance will melt away. Especially when you show that thoughtful, personal touch.
  • Quality time. One good option is to take them on a special expedition, just the two of you. A fancy restaurant, a picnic, a couple hours over coffee, a fun daytrip.
  • A really expensive gift. And, of course, you can just attempt to buy your way out of trouble. It can work, too, if it’s authentic. Giving something really big, high-quality, or over-the-top can actually be a great way to show that you’re putting your money where your mouth is, and that you care enough to show them.

Here are several belated birthday gift ideas that fall in each of those categories.

I Succ… Belated Birthday Succulent Gift

Acknowledge that it “succs” to be forgotten with this adorable succulent gift box, which includes the plant, a candle, tiny chocolates, and a card. Designed especially for YOU, our dear belated birthday gift-giver.

Belated Birthday Candle

Let’s party like it’s (still) your birthday! It’s the afterthought that really counts.

This candle says just what you need it to, uses hand-poured phthalate free fragrance oils, and it smells great too.

Personalized Journal

They can write about what a great friend you are. Personalize it here for a special, heartwarming gift that they’ll actually put to use.

Funny Apology Gift

Because sometimes you need a little somethin’ to emphasize how sorry you are for missing their big day! These cute little guys will bring a smile to their faces and hearts.

I mean, how could you stay upset with such a cute, sparkly lil poo staring up at you? I don’t think I could.

Belated Birthday Flowers

Birthday flowers are a classic gift, you can’t go wrong with this one. Include a message that says, “Here’s a big BUNCH of belated birthday wishes for you!”

Belated Birthday Cards

Here are some great birthday cards to send when your wishes are belated, tardy, or late.

Sloths Gonna Sloth

The picture says it all. Inside, the card reads,

Sorry I’m slow. Happy belated birthday.

Bee-lated Birthday Card

For those who love puns.

(Which is everybody, right?!?)

But….. Kittens!

This is the one excuse that actually makes sense.

Better Late Than Never

They won’t be able to argue with this turtle.

It’s Not My Fault

Bloody postal service! Sending this card late?!! (I bet they’ve pranked the envelope with the wrong date too!!)


We’ve All Been There

I thought I wished you a happy birthday then I realized that only happened in my head so here is a belated birthday card.

I know I’ve done this about a million times. You think something, play it out in your head a minute, then somehow that becomes a reality and you think you’ve said it or done it but…. nope.

I need to print out a stack of maybe 500 business cards to give to my wife once or twice a week that say:

I thought I told you ________________ then I realized that only happened in my head so I’m telling you now. Also have I told you how much I love you? And how I appreciate how forgiving you are?

Belated Is Better (Supported By Science)

New research has shown that belated birthday cards actually contain up to 40% more heartfelt good wishes than regular, on-time birthday cards.

It’s science, yo.

Snailed It!

Yes, this is a late card. #snailedit! At least the card got there (eventually), right?!

Happy Birthday! (Time Travel Edition)

On the front: Let’s pretend to have gone back in time….


This Card Works As Long As You’re Not TOOOOOO Late

Happy birth month!

It was THIS month, right?

I’m the Wurst

Sorry I forgot your birthday. Here’s a hot dog.

Well, a piece of paper with a hot dog on it.

Cuz I’m the wurst.

This Is Not a Birthday Card…

…because if it was it would be late. But, it’s not a birthday card… So it’s fine.

We Both Know Which One I Am

Like the card says, “Sometimes you need a friend who will remember your birthday, and sometimes you need a friend at 3am to help hide the body.”

Yep, you know who you are. So what if the card is late? You’ll show up when it really counts.

Almost Forgot Belated Birthday Card

Almost focaccia birthday.

If I did, I would have been toast.

Crumbs, that was a bad pun. It was totally half-baked.

I kneed to stop right now.

Dang, I’m on a roll. Butter stop for reals.

… Before the joke gets stale.

Library Card

For the book lover or librarian in your life.

Get it? Overdue? Librarians love that kind of talk.

Sorry I’m Late to Shell-ebrate!

Turtles are like you. You know, you’re late. (And hilarious.) Everyone knows these things, but you still want your belated birthday card to communicate your personality, your corny sense of humor, and your boundless love.

This is that perfect card!

I Didn’t *Really* Forget Your Birthday

I totally remembered your birthday. I just forgot the birthday card. No big deal, because I **totally** was thinking about you like, so much, on your special day.

I’m Just Extending the Celebration

It’s never too late to extend the celebration of your bestie’s birthday! This card is the perfect way to do it.

(It might help to include a bottle of wine or something to show that you mean business. Just sayin’.)

Belated Happy Birthday Images

Let’s close out with some memes and images that you can send via text, share in a post, or just print out for a hasty DIY card.


Late Happy Birthday Wishes
Happy belated birthday wishes – say it with candles!
Here's a really cute cat
An adorable kitten makes a great apology.
Hare Late for Your Birthday
Who doesn’t love bunny-filled apologies?
Fashionably Late Belated Birthday Card
Let’s be real…
Early Late Birthday Card
Add a little humor to how this could have been worse

Read Next: 21 Last-Minute Birthday Gifts

Or Read This Instead: 100 Hilarious Quote Ideas for DIY Funny Birthday Cards

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What to Do When You Forgot Their Birthday