Friends who are coming to town invite me to dinner; unsure if I can that night because of work, so OK to invite them on another date?

I have some good friends who are coming to town in 3 weeks. They come each year for a conference (for fun) and always invite me to dinner when they come. They invited me (by email) for a day this month when I might be able to make it, but I have a huge work deadline around then and am not sure. OK to be honest... show more I have some good friends who are coming to town in 3 weeks. They come each year for a conference (for fun) and always invite me to dinner when they come. They invited me (by email) for a day this month when I might be able to make it, but I have a huge work deadline around then and am not sure.

OK to be honest with them and say, "I'd love to, but I have a big work deadline then. I am free now, but would not want to cancel at the last minute. May I take you to breakfast on such-and-such a date?"

I assume that it'd be rude to say, "Maybe, so put me down as a 'tentative'" or something--I assume that I need to accept and stick with it, or decline?

I also assume that it's fine to offer a counter-invitation to another meal on a different date (with me paying, even though they always pay for dinner)?

Thanks.
8 answers 8