Invited…No, Not Really Invited….Oh, Wait, Maybe If We Have Room

by admin on October 3, 2012

Good morning! I sent a story in several weeks ago about my cousin and his fiancee using a honeymoon registry as their wedding registry. The wedding is in just a few weeks, and another etiquette issue has come up, this time involving my other cousin, A, who is the Groom’s sister.

My mom mentioned to me about a week ago that she received an invitation to the rehearsal dinner. My cousin A had designed the invitations and was handling the guest list for my aunt and uncle, her parents. I hadn’t received one, but the rehearsal dinner wasn’t really “on my radar,” so to speak, so I forgot about it. This morning when I checked my e-mail, I found an e-mail from A saying that I would be receiving an invitation in the mail sometime this week. I figured she didn’t have my address (I moved within the past year) and wouldn’t have thought anything more about it. Then she opened up a Google chat window asking if I had received her e-mail. I told her that I had. I mentioned that my mom, dad, Grandma and I were planning to travel to the city (9 hours away) the day before the wedding in plenty of time for the rehearsal dinner. I said I hadn’t heard if my brother and his wife and kids would be coming to the wedding. She said that they were not.

She then went on to tell me that she had hoped that she would be able to invite me, but had to wait and see who all would be coming to the wedding. Apparently with her two cousins on the other side of the family and my brother and his family and me, they would have too many people.

I completely understand having to cut off the rehearsal dinner guest list at some point. I probably would have been a little bit hurt had I not been invited, but would have understood (and would have enjoyed the evening away from the wedding madness). What made me chuckle was that I never would have known I hadn’t made the first cut if she hadn’t told me! I’m sure she was just trying to be kind, but letting the person know that their on the B List isn’t exactly the best. Oh well! I’m glad that I get to go! I probably wouldn’t have thought anything more about it, except that I had caught up on my Etiquette Hell and Hell’s Bells reading this morning, so I realized I had a story to share! 0926-12

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Cat October 3, 2012 at 2:30 pm

There is such a thing as being too honest. You did not need to know why you were not invited and would never have asked. She should have left it at that.
It reminds me of the lady who was careful to send a lovely Christmas card every year to a distant aunt so she would know that her family remembered her and wanted to send her holiday greetings.
Auntie wrote back that she had never liked her niece’s husband or her family and wished she would stop sending those Christmas cards to annoy her. She further claimed that the niece should consult etiquette books so she would learn that, if someone doesn’t send you a card after you have sent them one, you should realize they don’t like you and to leave them alone. It’s enough to make you cry into your egg nog to realize you have a relative like that. Way, way too much honesty in that.

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inNM October 4, 2012 at 9:55 am

Then the next story you’ll probably hear is that Aunty can’t understand why she’s alone in her old age… go figure.

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Kimstu October 5, 2012 at 7:34 am

Aunt Horribilia, unspeakable beeyotch though she undoubtedly is, is technically ALMOST right about ONE point. There’s a general etiquette rule that if somebody you regularly send annual holiday cards to does not send you any greetings for *two* years in a row (not just once), then it’s proper and graceful to assume they’re not really interested in keeping in touch with you, and let your communication lapse.

However, it’s not actually RUDE to send anybody pleasant holiday greetings, especially in the case of a younger family keeping in touch with an older relative who might be finding the annual holiday celebration rituals getting to be a bit too much for her.* And it IS rude, appallingly rude, to tell anybody that their pleasant holiday greetings annoy you and they ought to stop sending them. Yeesh.

* Heh heh heh…If I were the slighted niece in this story, I would be very tempted to send a final note to Aunt Horribilia, sweet as pie, hinting exactly that. “Dear Aunt Horribilia, we’re so sorry our greetings didn’t please you, we assumed that the reason you didn’t reply was just that you don’t have as much energy for Christmas cards as you used to and you knew we family members would understand.” Heh heh.

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Library Diva October 5, 2012 at 11:46 am

As an avid Christmas card sender, this rule interested me. I’ve never heard it before and violate it left and right. A lot of people I send cards to just simply don’t do Christmas cards themselves, so I never really worried about not receiving one in return.

I did, for many years, send a card to a former best friend who suddenly stopped communicating with me for no reason I could ever determine. She had moved across the country several years prior to the last time I ever saw her. That last night, she was in town visiting and came to my apartment , and we went to the bar we always used to go to. We caught up, drank, shot pool, and went home at closing time. If I did something to offend her that night, I’m absolutely clueless as to what it could have been, but I never heard from her again after that night. I’m still sad about it, and I always hope that whatever she’s doing, she’s happy. I had decided that I’d send her that Christmas greeting every year to let her know I still thought of her and that the door was always open to her unless she either reached out to me and told me to stop, or unless they started coming back. Last year, the card came back return to sender, so I guess that sad little tradition is at an end.

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Kimstu October 6, 2012 at 6:39 pm

Library Diva, sorry to hear about what happened with your friend, that’s always a sad situation! What Miss Manners calls the “two years’ silence” rule
(see, for instance, http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1987-12-16/entertainment/8704030372_1_gloves-genteel-manner-gender)
is designed to let formerly regular correspondents drop and be dropped by each other with minimal awkwardness.

Of course, this rule doesn’t apply in situations where people are happy to hear from you but just can’t be bothered to send cards themselves, as long as you don’t mind it that way! Etiquette never interferes with any mutually satisfactory resolution agreed upon by two consenting parties in a situation involving only themselves, no matter how far it may diverge from standard etiquette rules.

If you like sending cards and the non-reciprocating recipients like getting them, Miss Manners isn’t going to tell you to stop. (And I think she would agree that even recipients who DON’T like getting a particular sender’s cards, like Aunt Horribilia and your ex-friend, are being very rude if they explicitly reject the greetings instead of just continuing to let their silence do the talking. Sheesh, how much work does it take to throw away a card unopened once a year, after all? In my opinion, most people who rudely reject sincere good wishes do it because they’re feeling guilty, because they know deep down they’re being unfairly harsh to the other person and hate being reminded of it.)

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Miss Otis Regrets... October 7, 2012 at 3:19 pm

I never knew that receiving a Christmas card could be so horrible. That reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where Jerry “thoughtlessly” gave his parents a Fruit-of-the-month gift they were horrified by. Unwanted fruit coming, every month, for an entire year?? How could he do such a thing???

Goldie October 8, 2012 at 2:13 pm

Was it one of those three-page “here’s a list of what our family did this year, complete with little Jimmy’s school report cards and little Emmy’s preschool art work” Christmas cards? That still wouldn’t excuse Aunty Horribilia’s behavior, but would at least help understand why she flew off the handle over something as innocent as a Christmas card.

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Gleaner Girl October 20, 2012 at 2:20 am

You don’t have to read those missives, after all.

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Lo October 3, 2012 at 4:58 pm

Totally tacky but at least you handled it with grace. She really shouldn’t have brought it up to you at all. I feel like sometimes people get the idea that if they mention that they’re trying to fit you into some planned occasion they’ll get bonus point for making an effort. What they fail to realize is that just the opposite occurs.

I’m grateful I never had to worry about the rehersal dinner issue. I really think the idea of the dinner is overblown, with people inviting everyone in the family. It’s just another crazy expense. With our wedding I had this idea it would just be the people IN the rehersal who would come to dinner and it would be a really low key thing. The parents too, of course, but nobody else.

What actually ended up happening is that my amazing inlaws hosted the rehersal dinner in their backyard and invited everyone who was coming to the wedding. It was a smallish wedding, but still an extraordinary gesture. And it saved us from having to worry about rehersal dinner invitation etiquette.

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Agania October 4, 2012 at 6:51 am

Never really understood the whole rehearsal dinner thing. For my wedding, the wedding party gathered at the church, ran through the proceedings with the minister and then we went to the pub. I think my parents attended but not my hubby’s parents. A great night was had by all. This happened a week before the wedding.

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Powers October 4, 2012 at 10:54 am

I don’t get it — so you went out for a good time after the rehearsal, but don’t understand rehearsal dinners?

Here’s what rehearsal dinners are: going out for a good time after the rehearsal. I.e., exactly what you did.

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Agania October 5, 2012 at 5:30 am

I agree, but it seems that rehearsal dinners have morphed into a massive reception-like production costing mega bucks with relatives and friends toes being stepped on left and right – as per the OP above. Not all my attendants went to the pub, they had families to go home to. Mostly we went to the pub to toast my MOH’s divorce that had come through that day!

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Gleaner Girl October 20, 2012 at 2:21 am

How ironic.

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Kimstu October 5, 2012 at 7:44 am

Yeahbut, it’s fair to say that the modern American rehearsal dinner is significantly more of an “event”. It’s perfectly possible to take it for granted that everybody will head out to hit a bar (sorry, “go down the pub”) together after the rehearsal, but still not quite “get” the notion of turning that conviviality into a catered dinner with carefully allotted invitations.

Anyway, Agania, Miss Manners says that the modern American tradition of the more fancy and formal “rehearsal dinner” originated as a way for the bridegroom’s parents to take on some of the hosting duties around wedding festivities, since traditionally the wedding and reception per se were hosted and paid for entirely by the bride’s family.

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Agania October 6, 2012 at 1:54 am

All you say is very true. I should probably point out that I’m Australian and as far as I know Aussies don’t ‘do’ rehearsal dinners. I have three older brothers, all married, and none of them had a rehearsal dinner, neither did any of the friends that I’ve stood up for. So it’s something I’ve never experienced before.

In my case, we had a modest reception but heaps of people wanted to be present at the ceremony to show support. Rent-a-crowd at a wedding ceremony is perfectly acceptable where I come from. Generally church family who have no expectation of an invitation to the reception but want to support the couple in their public vows. Anyway the church was packed (as we knew it would be) so we had a lavish afternoon tea to show hospitality to those who were present. My MIL & FIL (groom’s parents) catered this part of our festivities. So that was their hosting contribution.

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Katy October 4, 2012 at 11:07 am

My grandmother told me it was bad form not to invite those who had traveled great distances for the wedding to the rehearsal dinner. We were just doing it at my house, so it was no big deal to invite a few more people and order some more food. But I’m pretty sure that’s not the thing anymore, as we’ve traveled to several weddings recently and haven’t been invited to a single rehearsal dinner. It’s not a big deal to me, it gives us a chance to play Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives by searching for a local culinary treasure. I don’t expect an invite, so I would be a bit frustrated with a bride who played a game like the one in the OP’s letter. She shouldn’t have mentioned a thing until she was sure she could invite OP, and if they couldn’t then it’s no big deal. The only risk she runs by keeping it to herself is OP making other plans and declining, which is usually not a big deal for a bride who knows she doesn’t own the days/weeks/months surrounding her wedding.

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Wendy October 4, 2012 at 11:19 am

Am I missing something? Unless she’s part of the wedding party or a spouse/significant other, why would she be part of the rehearsal dinner? I was under the impression (fueled by Emily Post and others) that the only people at the rehearsal dinner were those who rehearsed + DS/SO and (in my case) the women who helped cook it (close friends).

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June First October 4, 2012 at 2:13 pm

I have been on both sides of this.
There was a moment before my recent wedding where I realized that I forgot to invite one of my former coworkers. Luckily, he was cool about it. I apologized via facebook and asked for his address. I pretty much groveled, in fact.

A few years ago, a former coworker invited all the other coworkers except me. It stung a little bit when I saw their grinning “Save the Date” photo on my friends’ fridges. We hadn’t really gotten along, so I was mostly ok with it. But then she sent an over-the-top email about how she was so sorry she forgot me. (I think someone tipped her off, since I was continually asked if I was going to the wedding.) The email included a link to her Official Wedding Website where I could print my own Save the Date. Except the link didn’t work.
I politely declined, but other communication between us was strained. (After I got engaged, I asked her about her dress. Her reply was along the lines of “My dress has a Special Snowflake train. Look it up.” Yeah, she told me to research her type of dress.) I think our communication since then has been limited to clicking “like” on mutual friends’ facebook pages.

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Puzzled October 4, 2012 at 10:11 pm

This makes me think of my own rehearsal dinner. I had a maid of honor, my DH a best man. My dear MIL and FIL hosted a beautiful dinner. There were 30 people there. Why? My gimme mother. Ack. I’m still embarrassed to this day. Oh, and btw, I had 150 people at my wedding. I didn’t know approximately 100 of them. Again, gimme mother. Another ack. My 20th wedding anniversary is in two years. We are going to have a vow renewal the way we want it this time.

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Katie October 5, 2012 at 1:29 pm

I wouldn’t really have a problem with this. I think it’s perfectly natural to have a ‘reserve’ guest-list, and I wouldn’t be offended if someone acknowledged this. I would interpret it less as a slight and more of a ‘we wanted to include you but didn’t originally have the capacity’. The thing is, sometimes many of the A-list guests are people you’ve *got* to invite anyway, and not necessarily those you’d choose! If I knew that they genuinely wanted me there, that would be enough.

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Agania October 6, 2012 at 1:58 am

I’m going to nitpick. If they really wanted you there, they would have saved more money, found a larger venue and invited all the people they want. Pleading ‘we don’t have the room’ doesn’t really cut it with me. You have the reception you can afford, you afford the reception you want. Or you elope!

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Katie October 6, 2012 at 12:53 pm

I’m not saying that people are wrong to be offended, just that it wouldn’t offend *me*. I’m not married myself, but from seeing friends and colleagues prepare for weddings, it all seems to be very fraught and complicated, and, whatever your budget or however much you save, you have to draw a line somewhere, and someone who you genuinely like is going to be left out. Personally, I don’t mind being a ‘reserve’ and knowing it, but I can see that it probably isn’t technically correct etiquette to be informed of this 🙂

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Kimstu October 6, 2012 at 6:58 pm

Right. You’re quite right that it’s polite and graceful for guests not to make a fuss over being put on the “B list”. They can politely decline the invitation, but they can’t directly complain about not having made the cut for a better invitation in the first place.

But how much better it is all around if the hosts just don’t talk about the specifics of their guest list at all, but just issue their invitations discreetly and try to make everybody who ends up attending feel equally welcome. Even if your understanding friends don’t mind originally being relegated to the “reserves”, what happens if some of the secretly unwanted “first picks” get to hear that the hosts were glad they didn’t attend because it let them include some “reserve” guests they liked better? A whole minefield of potential hurt feelings that could so easily be avoided if hosts just had the tact to avoid blabbing all the details of routine hostly social maneuvering that are really none of anybody else’s business anyway.

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Enna October 8, 2012 at 12:52 pm

The OP shouldn’t have been informed by the relation she wasn’t going to be invited. If you are going to “replace” guests who can’t make it with others, don’t tell them and give them plenty of notice. But then the danger is, if the orginal guest had a change of plan and could make it, it could be embrasseing. But I suppose if they’ve already RSVP’d they couldn’t come they’ve made their decision.

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