Q: We decided to do a small dinner with close friends and family instead of the hundred-plus person summer event. The ceremony will be at city hall the day before. We’re budgeting for twenty to twenty-five people at a nice restaurant.
One of the guests, my partner’s cousin and his husband, has RSVP’d and indicated that they have to leave early because of prior plans (a play). I’m annoyed since we have really limited space and it’s going to be pretty obvious if they leave. Also if they “half show,” it means we can’t replace them with someone else we would love to have there. I want to write them and explain this as tactfully as possible. Maybe something like, “We’d be thrilled to have you join us, this is a small event, if you can’t fully attend we can certainly celebrate together another time that may be more convenient.” I really don’t know how to address this, if at all, in a way that doesn’t come off as passive aggressive or petty.
I feel I’m going to be resentful watching them walk out the door knowing that we spent $200 to have them come get a drink or wolf down the entree and jet.
A: Dear Nat,
It sounds like your partner’s cousin isn’t taking your wedding seriously because it’s not fitting the usual format. Maybe I’m wrong and he’s the sort of guy who leaves weddings early for plays all the time. But it doesn’t seem likely.
It’s irritating that he’s thinking of skipping out midway, but there is a good chance he’s being unintentionally thoughtless. Perhaps he doesn’t realize that this restaurant dinner isn’t just a party, it’s your wedding reception. Maybe he isn’t aware just how small the guest list is and how many friends you cut to make room for him. So, call him and let him know. (No emails. Always avoid emails when you’re trying to avoid coming off as passive aggressive.)
Tell this cousin just what you said above, taking extra care to emphasize the parts about the super small guest list, and about wanting to see him (just maybe when he isn’t rushing off somewhere else).
He may be offended; he might feel slighted. But he’ll probably get over it and enjoy his play.
Q: Several years ago I developed a close relationship with a family, and a closer relationship with a young man in the family around my age. His parents didn’t know that we were essentially dating and also sleeping together for the better part of two years. I am very close with his parents, who cared for me through a couple major illnesses (including a bed-ridden illness). Not only did his parents not know about our relationship, but we were not public with it, so only some of my closest friends know about the details of what ended up being an emotionally abusive relationship.
Now I am getting married (yay!) to a wonderful man, and we are still very close with this family (specifically the parents of this family). We absolutely want to invite them to the wedding, as they have done so much for us (and continue to do so) and we love them so much. The concern, however, is that we don’t want to invite their son due to his and my past. I don’t want to be reminded of that on my wedding day. Even when we try to be amicable in public settings he inevitably says something rude or hurtful. My concern is the backlash from not inviting him, since no one really knows what happened in our relationship. I am afraid of offending his parents by not inviting him.
I’m not sure what to do! What is the etiquette for this?!
A: Dear GW,
Don’t invite him. You’re still close with the parents, but you’re no longer close with him. That happens in a lot of relationships, regardless of sordid past. And inviting parents certainly doesn’t necessitate the inviting of their adult children. Inviting the parents you still consider close but the son you no longer do just makes sense. Chances are, no one will question it. And if they do, you can be honest. You’re not inviting him because you don’t have the best relationship. The rest is no one’s business, and there’s a chance no one would even think to ask.
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