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

Yeah. You blew it. Again.

You always have the best intentions to make sure this year is the year you don’t forget. But then again you suffer from goldfish brain more often than not.

That dear friend or family member whom you care deeply for—the wonderfully considerate one who always sends you a text and a gift on your birthday. And Christmas. And when you get a promotion at work. The one that brings you soup when you’re sick and lets you do laundry at their house…

Their special day came and went and you completely spaced it.

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

Technically, sure. 

But if the goal is to be a thoughtful, caring, and true friend…? Then, nope. Probably shouldn’t. 

If you’ve missed an important birthday celebration of a special person and want to make it right, here’s what to do and say when you’ve blown it.

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Forgot Their 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. 

If the Birthday is Very, Very Soon

If you’re almost but not quite at the belated status, then never fear! You still have a little bit of wiggle room. Thanks to modern technology, you can send your best wishes instantly. Even if your gift or physical card will be late, you can still convey your birthday wishes for their big day 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 there is a time tomorrow (or whenever their birthday is) when they can talk on the phone or video chat.
  • Expedite. Choose a readily available gift 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 a few days, or sometimes even the next day.
  • Send flowers or chocolates locally. Nowadays it’s easy to have flowers and other gift items prepared by a local florist and delivered the next day. ProFlowers is a great source of lovely flowers that can be ordered almost instantly and delivered within a day or two if not same-day.

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

If the Birthday is Today

Good news! You’re still not too late. There are options up to the very last minute for their actual day:

  • Choose a different gift. In my opinion, this is the best way to cover your butt. Many gifts are instant and can be delivered via email, text, and even phone apps. Consider an “experience” gift, like tickets to a ball game or upcoming concert. Here’s one source that allows the recipient to choose their 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 variety of virtual birthday cards and videos to send your good wishes 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 about and compliment your best friend.
  • Send a birthday cake or birthday meal. With many bakeries and restaurants partnering with delivery services like DoorDash, you can have a favorite food or dessert delivered to their door in an hour or less. 

If the Birthday was Yesterday (or longer….)

You missed their birthday. It’s not an ideal situation, but it does happen. Just try not to make a habit of it, okay? At this stage, all you can do is:

  • Send a belated birthday card or text with your belated wishes
  • Send a belated birthday gift 
  • Use humor and funny belated birthday wishes 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 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 will find plenty of examples of belated happy birthday wishes to write in your late card or in your “sorry I forgot” text message.

The first section is for funny, punny, and humorous messages. The second section is sincere belated birthday wishes to write in a card. These are more heartfelt wishes with an 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 late 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 belated happy 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 late 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 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 special 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. May you have the happiest of belated birthdays!

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 day trip.
  • 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 be a great way to show that you’re putting your money where your mouth is, and that you care enough to show them.

Belated Birthday Cards

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

Sloths Gonna Sloth

Sloth Birthday Cards
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The picture says it all. Inside, the card reads,

Sorry I’m slow. Happy belated birthday.

Bee-lated Birthday Card

Bee-lated Cards
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For those who love puns.

(Which is everybody, right?!?)

But….. Kittens!

But Kitten!! Birthday Card
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This is the one excuse that actually makes sense.

Better Late Than Never

Happy Belated Birthday Card: Better Late Than Never
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They won’t be able to argue with this turtle.

It’s Not My Fault

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


We’ve All Been There

In My Head- Late Birthday Cards
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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...
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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!

Happy Belated Birthday Card: Snailed It
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Yes, this is a late card. #snailedit! At least the card got there (eventually), right?!

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

Happy Belated Birthday Card: This Card Works...
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Happy birth month!

It was THIS month, right?

I’m the Wurst

I'm the Wurst Card
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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…

Not a Birthday Card
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…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

Happy Belated Birthday Card: We Both Know
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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.

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
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Daniel Szczesniak

Daniel launched All Gifts Considered in 2013 to help people find the best gift ideas for anyone and any occasion. He has worked for Northwest Gifts, an online gift shop based in Oregon specializing in American-made and personalized gifts, for...

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