Happy Belated Birthday—Is that Right?

It happens. You look at the calendar and cringe, realizing that you forgot a loved one’s birthday. The special day came and went, but you never reached out with a heartfelt birthday greeting for your family member or your dear friend. Not to worry! We’ve got a few recommendations for great ways to send belated birthday wishes. 

This is our first piece of advice: don’t apologize. It’s better to send late wishes than no wishes at all. Whether you opt for an ecard, a physical card, or a quick note on social media, try to focus on the great year ahead rather than your mistake. After all, it’s fun to receive messages even after the big day has passed. Some people like to celebrate throughout the entire week or month, so imagine that you’re helping the birthday boy or girl to prolong the festivities.

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A Note About “Belated”

“Belated” means “delayed beyond the usual time,” according to Merriam-Webster. So, it’s more grammatically correct to say “belated happy birthday,” rather than “happy belated birthday.” It’s the “happy birthday” wish that’s late, not the birthday itself. “Happy belated birthday,” means the same as “happy late birthday.” Still, because so many people switch the order, especially in the United States, you can expect to see lots of “belated birthday” greetings, even if your birthday arrives right on time!

Now, let’s discuss the best ways to say “happy birthday,” belatedly. 

Throw a Birthday Party

If the birthday boy or girl is someone very close to you, you might consider throwing a surprise birthday party. Gather a small group of people for an intimate dinner. Bring plenty of decorations. Alternatively, you may choose to schedule the party at a venue that does all the decorating for you, such as a bowling alley or skating rink. If you plan wisely, you can create a wonderful birthday memory for your guest of honor. Typically, large surprise parties require complex planning, but smaller get-togethers don’t need as much preparation. Just don’t be surprised when the guest of honor says, “You really had me fooled! I thought you forgot!” 

Send Belated Happy Birthday Wishes

Here are a few birthday messages that let your friends and family members know that they’re important to you: 

  • Belated happy birthday! I hope you had the best birthday yet. 
  • Belated birthday greetings! Give me a call and let me know how you spent the day…
  • I want to wish you a late happy birthday! I may lose track of time on occasion, but you can always count on me to celebrate the hardest. 
  • I’m sending you my fondest late birthday wishes. I hope we can celebrate the next time we get together.
  • Happy birthday! I’m so excited to celebrate you that I already set the calendar alert for next year.
  • Did you have a great day yesterday? I’d love to see you this weekend. Let’s make the birthday celebration last all week!
  • I wanted to wish you a belated happy birthday. I couldn’t find a greeting card as special as you are, so I had to make one myself. 
  • Best wishes for the most magical yesterday and an even better tomorrow. Happy birthday!
  • Your birthday only comes around one day a year—but I think you deserve a few more days. May these belated wishes help to make the party last a bit longer!

Share a Birthday Quote

Whether you’re designing a birthday card or a social media message, these quotations may help when you’re short on “bday” content:

“Inside every older person is a younger person wondering what the hell happened.”
—Cora Harvey Armstrong

“Our wrinkles are our medals of the passage of life. They are what we have been through and who we want to be.”
—Lauren Hutton

“Please don’t retouch my wrinkles. It took me so long to earn them.”
—Anna Magnani

“Count your age by friends, not years. Count your life by smiles, not tears.”
—John Lennon

“Live long and prosper.”
—Mr. Spock

“Every birthday is a gift. Every day is a gift.”
—Aretha Franklin

“You know you’re getting old when the candles cost more than the cake.”
—Bob Hope

“Don’t just count your years, make your years count.”
—George Meredith


  1. https://www.countryliving.com/life/entertainment/g19702255/birthday-quotes/
  2. https://www.pinterest.com/amp/jenniferfers/happy-belated-birthday/
  3. https://www.americangreetings.com/inspiration/what-to-write/birthday-messages-belated
  4. https://medium.com/@estherogechi22/how-to-use-the-word-belated-rightly-80414eeb7c0
  5. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/belated?utm_campaign=sd&utm_medium=serp&utm_source=jsonld