The Road to Hell is Paved with Surprise Parties
March 28, 2011 5:01 PM   Subscribe

Should I apologize for not inviting everyone to the party?

I decided to surprise A with a party for his birthday. I invited a bunch of his friends, many of whom I have never met, via facebook. The invite said, essentially, that I had a last-minute idea to throw him the party but was sure I would miss someone with the invite, so please invite anyone I might have missed. A has two sisters, Older Sister and Younger Sister. He socializes with YS, but, as near as I can tell, not OS. I looked up YS, who I have met, but could not find her under her real name. I meant to specifically tell someone to invite her, but I forgot because this was so last minute (and reaching out to strangers is intimidating!) I did not think to invite OS- not as a conscience decision, but A has 200 friends on facebook and only actually talks to a percentage of them, so I went through and invited only people I have met or who I know he hangs out with, and it just did not occur to me to invite the OS, who I have not met but certainly bare no ill will towards.

I sent out the messages, and some people confirmed they would be there, and a few mentioned other people I should invite, but no one mentioned OS or YS until someone texted me the day of. I told this person to invite them. YS showed up to the party and did not stay terribly long, but I did mention to her that she is (1) not friends on fb with A (2) not searchable under her real name. She agreed that it was unlikely I would find her since she is under her first name and middle name, not first name and last name.

After the surprise party A invited me to a party that OS was throwing. Then, fairly last minute, A made alternative plans. I mentioned to A’s friend L that I was bummed to miss the party since I was supposed to go with A but would feel strange attending without him. L invited me to be her guest at the party, which was one of those “more the merrier” affairs, and L had been told to bring her friends. A told L the day after I attended the party that he had texted L saying she shouldn’t have brought me because his sisters were mad about the surprise party since I hadn’t invited either of them. No one told me this was an issue until a few days ago when L let it slip.

I feel bad that I failed to invite his sisters. I should have thought to invite OS and I should have done something more to find YS. Here’s the thing:
(1) OS did find out about the party beforehand from either the person who texted me the day of or someone else, but went out with other people that night instead. I don’t know if she had more than a few hours notice. She is friends with A on facebook, and I could have invited her, but since I don’t socialize with my siblings it just never occurred to me to invite her
(2) YS did find out about the party and was able to attend. I was not able to invite her because I couldn’t find her on facebook
(3) Apparently, OS and YS both mentioned this to their mother, who is also mad that I left them out. I have met the mother before and she is a gracious, lovely woman. A is fairly apathetic about the whole thing and said that he told his family they were being ridiculous, but says I can hunt them down and apologize on facebook is I want to.

Should I apologize to YS and OS? I realize I erred in not inviting them, but is it worth it to bring it up now? Should I also apologize for attending the giant party OS threw, even if I went as the guest of a guest she invited? Is it weird to get an apology from someone you have only met twice or never at all?

Everyone is in their 20s, and all three siblings live at home, so I may run into OS and the mother (though I also may not), and I might see YS again since she socializes with A and I see A regularly (though I also may not).
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (27 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Since OS is upset about not being invited, what is the harm in apologising to her? You've already mentioned it to YS, so I do not think you need to apologise to her again.
posted by jeather at 5:06 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Sometimes, even when you've done nothing (intentionally) wrong, it is just a good idea to apologize. Make your apologies to A and ask him to convey them to his sisters and mother. It costs nothing to apologize and it will make them feel better.
posted by sciencegeek at 5:10 PM on March 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

Honestly, if you apologize over something as petty as this, you'll be apologizing for all sorts of dumb things as long as you're involved with these people. I would just ignore this and cut these people loose if they can't grow up.
posted by Ashley801 at 5:10 PM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

"but says I can hunt them down and apologize on facebook if I want to."

No! Facebook is a casual communication medium. What you need to do is not casual. It's important.

It really doesn't matter if in the great scorecard of life, you "owe" them an apology. The fact of the matter is that this is now a thing, good relations with these people are important, and jesus now your MIL is involved.

Send each one A CARD. On paper. Through the post. With stamps. You can get the addresses from your MIL, who will know you are making amends with her daughters and that will in and of itself smooth any issues with her.

When you write, be as gracious and take the highest road you *possibly* can, ala:

Dear Jane --

I just wanted to say again how badly I feel about Boyfriend's birthday. It's important to me that you know it was never my intention to exclude you, and that unfortunate outcome was a result of my disorganised last minute planning. Boyfriend and I would love the chance to have lunch / breakfast / dinner with you to catch up properly, and look forward to seeing you very soon.

All the best,

posted by DarlingBri at 5:15 PM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

DarlingBri -- I have read through this a few times and can't see anything to indicate that the poster and A are in any way romantically involved -- does your answer change if this is just a friend? Because that's how it looks to me and I think a card is massive overkill for the sisters of your friend.
posted by brainmouse at 5:21 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Apologize sincerely, preferably over the phone. Explain the circumstances, say you feel bad and you hope her feelings weren't hurt. If she has any grace, she'll accept your apology. If she doesn't, then you're not the one at fault anymore.
posted by Dasein at 5:44 PM on March 28, 2011

if i received that card, i would think you were a nutter. ymmv.
posted by dontjumplarry at 5:44 PM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Talk to them about it, in real life. Don't go through intermediaries and don't involve his mom. It's too easy to send mixed signals over Facebook, so clear it up in person. You already state that you feel bad, so let them know it and apologize. You made an understandable mistake. If the issue pops up again, after you've tried to make things right, ignore it as drama and gossip.
posted by hooray at 5:45 PM on March 28, 2011

I think everyone involved is overreacting. It was a mistake. Your friend should be telling his relatives to chill out. If you run into them, a sincere apology wouldn't be amiss, and neither would telling your friend you feel bad for excluding them. But I wouldn't go bonkers with the cards and the phone calls and the tracking down on Facebook. That is just blowing a really minor faux pas out of proportion, IMO!

On the other hand, if this is your significant other and you're in a serious relationship, then making amends more directly and immediately is a good idea.
posted by asciident at 5:50 PM on March 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

I don't think you should take this thing any further. You made a good faith effort to find YS herself, and asked others to invite anyone you had omitted. She admitted she was difficult to find. Yes, you made a mistake in not inviting OS, but she should know that it wasn't personal or malicious since you've never met her, and you attended her own party soon after. In my opinion, she should have been mature enough to ask you about it when you were at her house, instead of going behind your back to tell people how unwelcome you were, after the fact.

Seriously, you put in a lot of time and effort to throw their brother a birthday party. His mom and sisters should simply be happy and grateful that A has such a generous friend. Move on and don't give it another thought.
posted by swingbraid at 5:53 PM on March 28, 2011 [12 favorites]

brainmouse: "does your answer change if this is just a friend? Because that's how it looks to me and I think a card is massive overkill for the sisters of your friend."

Totally. I assumed the OP and the bithday boy are a romantic item of some standing, because this amount of snit is off the charts if they are not. If they are just friends, well then... seriously forget about the whole thing.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:56 PM on March 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

There's a lotta "he said, she said" goin on. You need facts. Ask A directly: "Were Older_Sister and Younger_Sister unhappy that I didn't invite them?" If either is unhappy, ask A how best to contact them. Perhaps a card or email to whoever is unhappy, saying, "I'm so glad I got to meet you at %details. I wish I'd had your contact info for A's party. It was last-minute, but you were missed. I hope you can come next time we have a celebration. Sincerely, Anon"
posted by theora55 at 6:10 PM on March 28, 2011

Unless A is your partner, this is such a non-issue I wouldn't even think to care about it. And the level of drama associated with a (presumably) adult woman texting her sibling the day after her big old party to complain about the fact that you went to her party not because you weren't invited but because she holds a grudge against you for not inviting you to a surprise party is kind of out of control.

If s/he's your partner/boyfriend/spouse/whatever, then you probably have to address this. I suggest asking A if s/he wants them to be invited to the next party, if s/he agrees, then get in contact with them, say that you're sorry you didn't have their details before the last party but now that you have their contact details, how's about planning the next one together? And take it from there. No formal apology necessary. If A doesn't want them invited, than s/he is responsible for either telling them that, or at least shielding you from the flack next time.

But if s/he's a friend, who cares? Stay friends with A, you weren't friends with his OS/YS (or Mom, presumably, despite the fact that you like her), so don't hang out with them. Problem solved.
posted by arnicae at 6:21 PM on March 28, 2011

I'm at a bit of a loss as to what you did wrong.

You, a friend, threw the party. You don't know the guy's family socially. This wasn't a super-important party like a graduation or a golden anniversary or something. You didn't have their contact information and it wasn't readily available. Some people might even assume that family usually isn't invited to friend parties; I don't know too many people for whom a party with a sibling's friends is a must-attend affair, unless they have a lot of the same friends--in which case, you'd have had their contact information!

Obviously, the family is disappointed that they couldn't be there. But blaming you for their disappointment seems out of place.

I might not apologize, if it were me. I'd resent them a lot for forcing an apology over something comparatively trivial that wasn't my fault at all. And it would irritate me that these people I barely knew were getting mad at me for not figuring out their contact information from the internet. It just seems really petty in a sort of bridezilla-but-not-about-weddings way.
posted by Frowner at 6:24 PM on March 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

Oh, and after reading all of the comments so far:
Kind of astonished by how many people think humble, personal apologies in person/on phone/with beautiful penmanship are required. You didn't do anything wrong here. They're being crazy. Don't buy into it by doing anything other than living your life, and possibly inviting them to the next party.
posted by arnicae at 6:25 PM on March 28, 2011

If A is your boyfriend/SO, then you should apologize to the sisters. If not, then who cares?
posted by elpea at 6:25 PM on March 28, 2011

Oh, one more thought. Did you throw the surprise party at the home of A, OS, YS, and Mom? Without asking anyone for permission? If so, than yeah, you probably owe everyone an apology for having a party at their house without asking first and without inviting the people who lived there.
posted by arnicae at 6:27 PM on March 28, 2011

Mod note: From the OP:
No, I am not romantically involved with A- we are friends from school. I have only met the Younger Sister and the mother, not the OS. YS and I have socialized several times but we are not facebook friends, even. She does socialize with A's other circle of friends on a regular basis, but not the crowd I run with. I did not apologize to YS, per se, at the party, because I didn't realize until after the second party that anyone was mad- I just mentioned that I couldn't track her down when I saw her to say hello. No, neither party was at their house.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:51 PM on March 28, 2011

You did nothing wrong. These people are ridiculous. You have nothing to apologize for- they just want to be mad.
posted by spaltavian at 6:59 PM on March 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

No! Facebook is a casual communication medium. What you need to do is not casual. It's important.

No, you can say important things on Facebook. The website doesn't dictate the content.

jesus now your MIL is involved.


Send each one A CARD. On paper. Through the post. With stamps. You can get the addresses from your MIL, who will know you are making amends with her daughters and that will in and of itself smooth any issues with her.

You could do this. If you wanted to. But if I were YS/OS and I got a card like this, I'd wonder if you were taking a playful jab at the idea that we were making too big a deal out of it.

It's not the case that serious messages must be written on dead trees. Facebook would be fine. You could have dashed off an apology to both in less time than it took you to right this question.
posted by John Cohen at 7:23 PM on March 28, 2011

...or, write this question.
posted by John Cohen at 7:24 PM on March 28, 2011

At the MOST, I would apologize for the confusion about the party if I happened to run into either sister at some event. Just to be polite.

But seriously, this all sounds freaking ridiculous and there's no reason for you to go out of your way to apologize to them. And you certainly shouldn't feel bad for throwing your friend a party. What the heck?
posted by grapesaresour at 7:45 PM on March 28, 2011

You offended your friend's sister. Unintentionally, sure, but you did. You did something wrong by inviting one of two siblings to a casual "invite everyone" party, and inviting the other only via a third party. Email, or a facebook message, is a perfectly reasonable way to tell them this. You are friends with A, he socialises with both sisters, he lives with them, and it's not entirely unreasonable for them to be upset that they were excluded, but that you then went to a party one of them hosted and didn't mention anything. This isn't the worst thing, but it costs you nothing to send an apology.

"Dear OS/YS,

I'm sorry I didn't invite you to the party. To YS: I looked for you on facebook, but couldn't find you. I'm glad I got your contact info and that you made it, even if briefly. To OS: I did not realise that you would want to go to this party, but I should have invited you anyhow."

You're apologising for hurting people unintentionally, not giving up a piece of your soul.
posted by jeather at 7:48 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Here's the thing.

You threw a party. You did a nice thing. You were as inclusive as you could be. And the community is in part responsible for making sure everyone who should be there got there--and they did their best.

Anyone being mean and petty about this is a total beast. This is why people say "no good deed goes unpunished." I mean! You did something nice for their brother/son! And now they are being snippy over it! I find that petty. (They can feel hurt in private for three days and get over it. Taking it public is ugly.)

Here's the other thing:

If an AskMe question has drama too convoluted for me to read and figure out, that means there is too much drama, which means you have a right to IMMEDIATELY stop caring about it.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 8:59 PM on March 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

I'm throwing my vote in with the folks that say these people are being ridiculous.

You don't know OS at all, you don't know YS well enough to even be friends with on Facebook, and they're sitting around being miffed? Do they have to do everything with A? If I were in A's shoes, I would tell my OS (because I don't have a YS) that they're being idiotic about the whole thing, and to leave my friend alone. I'd be surprised if A hadn't done this.
posted by mornie_alantie at 9:05 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

They read as petty and jealous of your connection to A to me. What kind of sister really holds it against her sibling's friend for throwing him a surprise party and not being able to intuit her contact details? Getting further enmeshed with phonecalls/facebooking/filigreed cards etc is not required in my opinion.

And from experience, when nice/courteous/kind mothers are reported to be upset on their child's behalf, I've found this is often exaggerated by the child themselves. Kids [and I do mean children, as this all sounds immature behaviour] like to relay that their parents are digging into a pointless, immature drama with a point of view that supports their own. I don't think it is often the case.
posted by honey-barbara at 11:55 PM on March 28, 2011

People's feelings were hurt. Blaming them for it and/or calling them crazies is blaming the victims. It would do no harm to try to mend these (admittedly small) fences; it might actually do some good.
posted by Dolley at 10:25 AM on March 29, 2011

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