TV & Movies

Is There a Polite Way to Decline an ALS Ice-Bucket Challenge?

The etiquette around refusing to be charitable (Angelina Jolie, take note!)

Angelina Jolie

(Photo: Keystone Press)

Don’t worry, Angelina. There’s an eminently gracious way to decline fulfilling the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge—even if you’ve been publicly nominated by the daughter of a Beatle, and everyone is expecting you to be a good sport and get soaked in the name of charity.

Celebrities and mere mortals, listen up: You’re not obligated to douse yourself in icy water just because someone dared you to do it, says Patricia Napier-Fitzpatrick, founder of the Etiquette School of New York. (Although honestly, it’s not that bad: FLARE did it!)

But while there’s no law saying you have to do the ice bucket challenge, you are obliged to reply to the nomination. “It’s very rude not to respond,” says Napier-Fitzpatrick. Think of a nomination as an invitation for which you must RSVP, she explains.

To beg off the challenge politely, simply send your regrets to the person who nominated you, says Jacqueline Whitmore, founding director of the Protocol School of Palm Beach.

In Jolie’s case those regrets should be sent to Stella McCartney and Chris Martin. Her reply can come in writing or in person and should follow a few simple guidelines.

For one, it should acknowledge the nominator’s daring in doing the challenge (while concealing any slight or epic annoyance at being nominated to do something you really don’t want to do): “Hi, Stella! Hi Chris! I’m so glad you accepted the challenge!”

Second, it should offer support of the cause itself. Whitmore suggests the following phrasing: “Although I believe in this cause, I already support other causes that are near and dear to my heart.”

Finally, the proper reply should end with emphatic gratitude: “Thanks for thinking of me!”

A donation in lieu of accepting the challenge is a nice touch, but is again not obligatory, says Whitmore.