100 Belated Birthday Wishes That Show How Much You Care
Missed an important birthday? Don't panic! These belated birthday wishes for friends, family and colleagues will ensure you're forgiven.
Our editors and experts handpick every product we feature. We may earn a commission from your purchases.
The best belated birthday wishes to smooth things over
No one means to forget a loved one’s birthday, but we all slip up sometimes. When you accidentally reverse a month and a date, get your best friend’s birthday mixed up with your cat’s or just get wrapped up in the craziness of life, it’s time to send some heartfelt belated birthday wishes instead of the regular happy birthday messages. The person whose birthday you missed will still be touched to know you’re thinking of them, as long as those belated wishes hit the right note.
From funny to sweet, the belated birthday wishes on this list will work for friends, co-workers and even family members. And hey, isn’t giving your siblings something to hold over you the greatest birthday gift of all?
How do you wish someone a happy belated birthday?
It might feel a little awkward—after all, you’re basically admitting “I forgot!”—but sending belated happy birthday wishes doesn’t have to be tricky. According to established etiquette rules, you should include a bit of a longer note than usual, just to let the person know you were still thinking about them and you value your relationship. But don’t go overboard explaining why you forgot; keep it focused on them, not you, except if you’re poking a little bit of fun at yourself. Try breaking the ice with a happy birthday pun or funny birthday meme, and follow it up with the perfect birthday gift.
Your belated birthday wishes will also seem more authentic if they come from the heart. Depending on your relationship, you might want to call in addition to sending a handwritten, texted or emailed message. And rectify the situation as soon as you remember that you missed the big day. Better late than never … but don’t wait too long!
Get Reader’s Digest’s Read Up newsletter for more etiquette tips, humor, cleaning, travel, tech and fun facts all week long.
Funny belated birthday wishes
1. Happy belated! It’s the birthday that keeps on giving!
2. Here are three wishes for your birthday: 1) that I remember it next year, 2) that you forgive me for forgetting this year, and 3) that you have a birthday cake the size of your head. Happy birthday!
3. Every year you’re older, wiser and more forgiving. Sorry I missed your birthday!
4. These birthday wishes aren’t late—you’re just old and confused. Happy birthday, right on time!
5. It’s a late one, but not a fake one! Happy birthday to my dearest friend.
6. You always say you love surprises, so … surprise! I forgot your birthday was yesterday.
7. Happy belated birthday! You’re always one step ahead of me (which makes me not late).
8. I know you like to save the best for last, so let me be the last one to wish you a happy birthday!
9. Sorry this is late—I was trying to figure out how you can be this old, yet look so good!
10. Happy belated birthday. I’m so sorry I forgot the date. Consider this permission to forget my birthday next year!
11. You know I’m always late to everything, and I didn’t want to disappoint you for your birthday. Happy belated!
12. As the saying goes, if someone forgets your birthday, you don’t get older that year!
13. These birthday wishes may be late, but they’ve aged like a fine wine: sweet, delicious and as expensive as the accompanying gift. Happy birthday!
14. Happy birthday! Sorry—that’s for next year. I like to get in early.
15. As someone who recently turned one year older, I know you understand that time answers to no one—and especially not to me. Happy belated birthday! I’m sorry I missed it.
16. Happy belated birthday! In ancient times, people would send things belatedly as a sign of love. You’re ancient, so I thought I would honor that!
17. Yes, I forgot your birthday. I’m so sorry. But on the bright side, I also don’t remember your age! Happy birthday!
18. Hope you’re not deflated that I’m a little belated.
19. I know it’s too late to wish you a happy birthday, so instead: Happy Today!
20. Did you think I forgot your birthday? I would never do that—your dog ate the birthday card I sent!
21. I don’t forget birthdays—I just extend them. Happy birthday week!
22. Hope your birthday was better than my excuse for missing it!
23. Late birthday wishes are just an excuse to eat more cake. You’re welcome!
24. Let me be the first to wish you a belated happy birthday.
25. Your birthday came, your birthday went, and here’s the wish I should have sent: Happy birthday!
If you need something else to write in your card, alongside those belated birthday wishes, a funny birthday quote can be just the ticket.
Belated birthday wishes for friends
26. Sorry these birthday wishes are late—I remembered your birthday but forgot the date!
27. I’m so sorry I missed your birthday! But at least a friend full of guilt means a really great present.
28. How do you know when you’ve reached adulthood? You find it in your heart to forgive. Sorry I missed your birthday!
29. This is what happens when you’re friends with someone as cool as me: You get your birthday wishes fashionably late.
30. It’s still your birthday week, right? Happy late birthday!
31. Anyone can remember your birthday, but only a true friend will remember it even after the date is gone. Happy belated birthday, bestie!
32. Even though these birthday wishes are a bit late, the happiness I wish for you is good on any date.
33. Every day with you is special, so a late birthday wish doesn’t really matter, right?
34. Happy belated birthday to the most forgiving person I know!
35. Everyone else sent you birthday wishes yesterday. Bet they aren’t thinking of you today like I am! Happy belated birthday.
36. Happy birthday! I hope you were blessed with everything great on your special day. Sorry that birthday wishes from me weren’t on the list, though.
37. You’re my most fun friend, which means that the party is still going and I’m not late for your birthday at all.
38. I am guilty of forgetting your birthday. It is a crime not to celebrate someone as awesome as you!
39. How do you expect me to remember your birthday when you never look any older?
40. You know I always say the right thing at the wrong time, and here I go again: Happy birthday!
41. I may have forgotten your birthday, but at least I didn’t forget that I forgot.
42. Happiest of birthdays to the warmest, most fun, gorgeous, smart and special friend. (Wasn’t that worth waiting for?)
43. Happy birthday from your slowest friend. Sorry I’m late (again).
44. I didn’t really “forget” your birthday. I just didn’t remember it on time. So sorry!
45. Happy birthday! May these be the least belated of all your late birthday wishes.
46. Thank goodness you’re not friends with me for my punctuality but because I’m great at buying gifts. Happy birthday!
47. Happy birthday to someone truly unforgettable … unlike your birthday. Sorry!
48. Sorry for these belated birthday wishes. I prefer to celebrate you every day of the year!
49. Like a really great dessert, the most heartfelt birthday wishes come to you last of all.
50. Yes, this birthday card is late, but it could be worse—there could be a meteor heading for earth. Happy birthday!
Have you ever wondered why we eat birthday cake? It’s the perfect fact to put in a friend’s birthday card.
Belated birthday wishes for family
51. Sorry these birthday wishes are late—being weighed down with love and good vibes made them a bit slow. Happy birthday!
52. A belated happy birthday! May every blessing find its way to your door—and hopefully faster than this card!
53. It may not be your birthday anymore, but it’s still your birthday in my heart.
54. We have always made up after a fight, and I know we’ll find a way to get through me forgetting your birthday. Sorry. Happy belated!
55. Happy late birthday! See, good things do come to those who wait.
56. I’m so sorry I missed your birthday, but I’m sure it was wonderful nonetheless—at least as spectacular as you are!
57. These birthday wishes may be late, but at least they include a great gift! Happy birthday!
58. I’m so sorry I forgot your birthday. However, you have my permission to use this against me forever. You’re welcome!
59. Happy late birthday. I’m sorry I missed it, but I didn’t want to remind you that you’re getting older.
60. Dear Dad, here is a dad joke to apologize: I must have been in a fog when your birthday came around, because I mist it. Sorry!
61. You forgot to remind me not to forget your birthday, but I forgive you. Happy birthday!
62. Dear Mom, I may have forgotten your birthday, but at least I remembered Mother’s Day. Sorry!
63. You always give me great advice. Any idea what to say when you’ve forgotten your beloved family member’s birthday?
64. Before I apologize for forgetting your birthday, there’s something you should keep in mind: They say your children are the greatest gift of all. Sorry I missed your birthday!
65. I thought I would leave you some time to come to terms with your age before sending you these birthday wishes.
66. As Gandalf would say, a birthday card is never late. It arrives precisely when it means to. Happy birthday!
67. Roses are red, violets are blue, sorry these wishes are so overdue. Happy birthday!
68. I hope your year is as wonderful as this message is late. Seems like you’re in for a wonderful year!
69. Happy birthday to my favorite sibling. You’ve always been so understanding and kind and forgiving. Sorry this is so late!
70. It’s difficult to appreciate the happy times (like birthday wishes) without the sad times (like me forgetting your birthday). So in a way, I did you a favor!
71. Forgiving me for forgetting your birthday comes with a lot of rewards: biggest cake, most expensive wine and a huge gift. Sorry!
72. I may be a day late, but once you open that gift, you’ll see I’m not a dollar short! So sorry I missed your big day.
73. I didn’t actually forget your birthday—I just wanted you to be celebrated twice!
74. This year for your birthday I got us matching calendars: one for me so I don’t forget your birthday next year, and one for you so you can remind me!
75. Family means unconditional love. Please remember this as you open my very late birthday card!
If your mom never taught you to write thank-you messages, we got you.
Belated birthday wishes for co-workers
76. Sorry this is late—I had to move your birthday wishes to the next business day.
77. Happy belated birthday! Sorry for being late, but I didn’t want to add another email to your inbox.
78. Thank you for being more punctual than this birthday card!
79. It’s so hard to believe that you’re getting older … which is why I’m late in wishing you a happy birthday.
80. It’s still your birthday somewhere. Happy belated!
81. Hope you had a wonderful birthday surrounded by people who didn’t forget it.
82. I heard you just had a birthday! Sorry I missed it—hope it was spectacular.
83. I’m so sorry I missed your birthday! I hope it was Excel-ent.
84. Let me be the last to wish you a very happy birthday!
85. You shouldn’t burn the candle at both ends at work, but you can definitely burn the birthday candles before and after your birthday. Happy belated birthday!
86. New research shows that belated birthday cards actually contain 36% more goodwill than timely ones. Happy birthday!
87. I know it’s a crime to forget your birthday, but I’m hiring the best lawyer I know to defend me: you!
88. I totally spaced out and forgot your birthday! Thank you for being my most down-to-earth co-worker.
89. I’m so sorry I missed your birthday—I was intimidated by how amazing you are.
90. You work harder than anyone else I know, so I know you’ll understand how I got too busy and forgot your birthday! Happy belated!
91. When you get to my age, you’ll realize how difficult it is to remember things. Sorry I missed your birthday!
92. I know you already celebrated your normal birthday, but this is to celebrate your work birthday! Happy belated birthday!
93. They say time can heal all wounds, which is good news for me—you’ve got a lot of time under your belt! Happy late birthday!
94. I forgot your birthday. You know what this means: Break-room snacks are on me for a month!
95. To make up for missing your birthday, I’m returning this pen you loaned me eight months ago. Belated happy birthday to my kindest co-worker!
96. Happy late birthday! Your birthday may have passed by, but the joy you bring to my workdays will always stay.
97. These aren’t late birthday wishes—they’re hundreds of days early!
98. Apologies for missing your birthday. You got older, but I got more forgetful!
99. Sorry for forgetting your birthday. On the bright side, belated birthday wishes mean belated birthday drinks as well!
100. Sorry these birthday wishes are so late—it took me this long to find you the perfect gift.
“Feel better” cards at work come around almost as often as birthday cards. These thoughtful get well messages will make sure you always know what to write.
Awesome birthday gifts they won’t mind getting late
Sometimes a belated birthday wish just doesn’t feel like enough. If you’re looking to make it up to them or just want to make them smile, we have the perfect things!
- Milkbar Birthday Treats: OK, so you missed their birthday. It doesn’t mean you can’t still celebrate with cake (or cake truffles) from this foodie-beloved brand. As soon as they taste this gift, forgiveness will be guaranteed!
- Birthdate Co. Birthdate Candle: This unique candle uses astrology, numerology and tarot to provide a detailed description of the birthday boy or girl, plus comes with a specially formulated custom scent. And hey, ordering this may help you remember their big day next year.
- Urban Stems The Unicorn Bouquet: Flowers can say “I’m sorry” and “Happy birthday” all at the same time. This delicate bouquet filled with roses, aster and Alstroemeria will get the job done.
- Cozy Earth Women’s Bamboo Pajama Set: You can never have too many pairs of pajamas—especially when they’re a cult favorite she’ll never want to take off. For guys, try this ultra-soft bamboo hoodie.
- Rifle Paper Co. Cat Mug: Cat lovers will adore this whimsical mug—and they’ll think of you every time they use it. More of a dog person? We’ve got plenty of gifts for dog lovers too. Before you order, add on a little belated birthday gift for yourself as well!