Catching Those Mistakes Early

by admin on April 4, 2014

I wanted to share a story that still makes me cringe when I think about it. And the faults were entirely mine.

Doing our own wedding planning, DH and I tried to make everything as efficient as possible. As part of it, we ended up addressing our invitation envelopes (no names on the invitations) together almost assembly line style over the course of several evenings.  Then we sent them out. “Done,” we thought!

When I received an email from a friend that I had called her new husband by his last name, I was embarrassed, but she didn’t seem offended, and DH and I were able to find the humor in it.

Then, a few days later,  I was thrilled to receive a card from a relative who I was not especially close in touch with and who I knew would not be able to attend due to distance, but who I wanted to make sure had an invitation. (Upon reflection, I have also realized with mortification that this could have been seen as “give-me” to people who I invited this way but I promise that I never expected gifts from them and meant it only as a kind gesture.)

I opened up the lovely card and was horrified to find an inserted note pointing out (politely) that I had included their spouse who had passed away several years ago on the envelope and that it would have been prudent of me to double-check my guest list. I felt genuinely horrible. I knew their spouse had passed away, but as we hadn’t kept in touch well, I had honestly forgotten in the midst of copying addresses from an old address book.

I immediately sat down and wrote an apology letter to them (owning up to my oversight) and thanking them for their gift.

Fast forward to my DH and I mailing out thank you cards. We each worked from an Excel sheet with names and gifts – splitting up the work. While I was finishing up the very last step – sealing the addressed envelopes, I came across an envelope with this relative’s name on it in my DH’s writing. “Odd,” I thought, “I already wrote them a thank you card.” I opened the envelope to find a thank you card I wrote for a friend with the same first name as this aforementioned relative.

I am so incredibly thankful that I caught my second mistake, otherwise this poor relative would have received a wedding invitation with their deceased spouse’s name on it as well as a duplicate thank you card for gifts they knew nothing about!!!!! 0117-14

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Kimstu April 4, 2014 at 11:37 am

While the OP and her fiance/husband should have been a bit more careful, I don’t think they have anything serious to reproach themselves with etiquette-wise. We all make mistakes from time to time.

Mis-addressed guests are in a bit of an awkward position, aren’t they? On the one hand, it is ungracious to point out other people’s inadvertent etiquette lapses; but on the other hand, if the other people are really under the impression that your husband’s last name is his first name or that your late spouse is still alive, you need to nip that in the bud to avoid future and possibly worse awkwardness.

In the case of the first couple, I think if I were in their place I’d have just accepted the invitation with both names written very large and clear, and hope the bridal couple would spot and correct the mistake for themselves. No need to send a separate email drawing their attention to the error, unless they do it again and it becomes obvious that they really don’t know what the husband’s name is.

In the case of the deceased spouse, I guess there’s no way around the polite note specifically correcting the error that will unavoidably make the bridal couple feel dreadfully embarrassed! Polite face-saving has its limits, and you can’t embark on an elaborate pretense about your spouse being temporarily absent or incapacitated just to save the bridal couple from the mortification of realizing that they carelessly invited somebody who happens to be dead.

In general, I think the moral of this story is that if you’re issuing invitations to family members you’re not very close to, you should always have another family member who’s more in the loop check over your guest list information!

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Cat April 4, 2014 at 6:29 pm

If you have never made a mistake, you have never made anything. With all that planning a wedding entails, I am willing to cut you some slack for this sort of mistake. It was not intentional and you tried to correct it by apologizing. Well done.

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Mary Bernard April 5, 2014 at 1:24 pm

Oh yeah, people make mistakes all the time! My friend “Helen” and I went to a baby shower for Helen’s pregnant niece “Molly.” The two of us bought a car seat for the baby. After the shower, another friend who went to the shower called us to say that she had gotten a thank you note for the outfit she bought the baby. She told us that she had given money, not an outfit. Helen called Molly, who said that it wasn’t her fault, because her sister “Nancy” was supposed to keep track of who gave what, so it wasn’t her fault if Nancy messed up. When Helen and I received a thank you note from Molly, it said “thank you for your gift.” I guess Molly didn’t want to take the chance that Nancy had made more mistakes, so instead of thanking us for the car seat, she just said “thank you for your gift.”

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Kimstu April 6, 2014 at 3:54 pm

Nancy inadvertently mixing up the who-gave-what list: Somewhat careless and awkward, but not rude. We all make mistakes.

Friend announcing that the thank-you note she got was wrong: Mmmarginal, I think. Unless she had cause to be worried that the money she gave somehow didn’t reach the recipient, it would have been more gracious just to keep quiet about the misdirected thanks.

Molly reacting to the news of the misdirected thanks by disclaiming responsibility and blaming her sister for the mixup: RUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUDE! The only proper response to finding out that you have made a mistake in acknowledging somebody else’s kind generosity and expressing your gratitude for it is a profuse apology and an immediate do-over of the thanks.

Doesn’t matter who screwed up, and nobody wants to hear your excuses about who screwed up. If somebody was nice enough to give you a present, it’s ultimately YOUR responsibility to thank them for it individually and appropriately. If that requires a little discreet detective work after the fact to check up on what the present actually was, then so be it.

Molly neglecting to check with Helen, while they were on the subject of baby shower gifts, what Helen’s and OP’s gift was so she could be sure to thank them for it properly: Dumb.

Molly sending Helen and the OP (and presumably others as well) a generic “thank you for your gift” instead of following up on the gift identification: Lazy and borderline rude.

And once again, this mishap illustrates the problems inherent in the current unfortunate SHower Inflation Trend (acronym? What acronym? ;) ). When a shower is the traditional informal gathering of a moderate-sized group of intimate friends and family giving small presents, it’s much easier to keep track of who gave what. And you don’t have to worry about some friend of your aunt’s spending scores or hundreds of dollars on a major gift like a car seat that she never even gets properly thanked for.

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AnnaMontana April 7, 2014 at 6:20 am

We had a similar issue, but in our case, it was my godmother whom we (almost) offended. I (stupidly) wanted to allow my MIL the opportunity to ‘get involved’ with our wedding planning, as I knew when her daughter had married, it had been organized and arranged 8+ hours away from our location, meaning MIL had no chance to get involved. MIL willingly agreed to do ‘anything she could’ to help us. I had a broken leg and DH was working 8am -8pm for his honeymoon time off, so MIL and I wrote out our invites together.
I had written the insides of the invites, but MIL was helping us to address the outer envelopes. When she came across one for ‘Aunty Suzette’ she promptly searched through her address book (which is how we were able to address my husband’s envelopes) and found a great-great aunt of her’s who had a vaguely similar sounding name ‘Aunty Shelia’. MIL promptly addressed the outer envelope to the great-great aunt and scrawled her great-great aunt’s deceased husband inside the invite. I didn’t see any of this and assumed, MIL had followed my instructions and addressed ‘my’ side of the invites using my address book, as I had told her to.
Luckily, my mother was posting them, and as she took them to our local Post Office every one had to be weighed and checked. She spotted the invite addressed to ‘Aunty Sheila’ and quietly slipped it back into her handbag. She bought it round to me, along with another invite for ‘Aunty Suzette’ that she had found in the pile. Upon investigation we discovered that not only had MIL tried to invite her great-great aunt, whom myself and my husband didn’t know, or care to know and had written into Aunty Suzette’s invite that she was ‘welcome to come, and bring Uncle Leopold’ from whom she has been divorced for less than a year. Way to go MIL, offend and upset about 8 people in one go. We rectified the mistake, and my godmother, Aunty Suzette has still not stopped talking about our wedding and how much she enjoyed herself nearly a year after the fact.
OP, you did nothing wrong and there was nothing really in your post that I would call an etiquette blunder and a simple telephone call to say to the relative ‘Apologies for putting your husband on your invite, we are using an old address book. I have corrected it for the future,’ would suffice. There was no blunder. I would say the relative made a blunder in pointing it out, really!
(We later found out MIL had not addressed or written the invites maliciously, it was a significant clue in her development of a serious mental health issue.)

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