Over-thinking a plate of human beings.
November 29, 2011 6:37 AM   Subscribe

You’re throwing a party. How do you invite some, but not all, members of one of your social circles with the minimal amount of hurt feelings and drama?

My wife and I are in the early stages of planning a holiday party. There will be various people from all our different social circles invited. We have one group that we belong to, for now let’s pretend it’s a choir, that consists of some pretty good friends, some acquaintances (some of whom might consider us friends), and some people we like but are just there. We're not worried about that last group. Fuck those guys.

Due to space constraints we can’t invite everyone, so we’d have to limit it to four or five friends from this group. However:

The friends might assume more people from the group are being invited, and might think nothing of saying “I’ll see you at the Bondcliff’s party!” to someone who was not invited. We've all done that, haven't we?

The acquaintance-friends, when finding out about the party, might be indifferent/confused/hurt/bummed or anything in between. We want to avoid this. We see all these people on a semi-weekly basis. We will see them between the time the invitations go out and the party. Awkward.

Do we add a little note to the invitations saying “Hey, keep it on the down-low because not everyone from The Happy Fun Choir is coming”? That seems tacky. Do we just invite who we invite and not worry about it? These are all grown-ups, should we just assume they’ll get over it or not care?

posted by bondcliff to Human Relations (34 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
How many people will be at the party overall? If you state that it's an intimate party of X number of people, maybe that will tip them off that not everyone is invited?

Or perhaps you could just share the invite list with everyone invited (through Facebook or eVite or something) so that they don't assume that everyone from choir is invited?
posted by xingcat at 6:42 AM on November 29, 2011

I think sending out invitations is creating more awkwardness than you'd have if you just talked to people individually and said, hey... we're having a party and thought we'd invite a few people from the choir - probably you two, the jones, the smiths... you know, something small. There's no way I could fit everyone, so it'll just be close friends.

Obviously that's outside of card territory (at least I think it is), but it's a perfectly normal conversation.
posted by empyrean at 6:48 AM on November 29, 2011 [21 favorites]

Why don't you call each of the four or five friends you're inviting and have a brief conversation about space limitations? That'd solve your problem.
posted by vincele at 6:52 AM on November 29, 2011

If you do send out invites you could say "This is a small gathering, so please check with us if you wish to bring a guest". It's an oblique way of getting the point across -- operative word "small" -- disguised as a matter of practicality. Also, people will need to know whether partners are invited too, so this takes care of that as well. (You could rephrase it to make it more clear whether partners are or aren't invited, depending on what you decide.)
posted by PercussivePaul at 6:53 AM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Can you invite them via Facebook / text message / email? Handing out invitations at choir could result in some hurt feelings, if anyone from the acquaintance group notices.

In the message, say something along the lines of 'Please let us know by X date whether you can make it! Partners are welcome, but please let us know beforehand'. This, to me, would give the impression that it's a controlled-guest-list kind of party, and I wouldn't go talking about it to others.

On preview, what PercussivePaul said.
posted by lovedbymarylane at 6:56 AM on November 29, 2011

When I've received Facebook invites that are marked "private" I always assume they are done so to specifically avoid the situation you are concerned about here.
posted by pinky at 6:59 AM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

This seems like a strange thing to worry about. Sometimes not everyone gets invited. It isn't as if you're excluding just one or two people, right? Adults should understand this. I agree that I wouldn't hand out invitations in front of the others, but I think it's fine to mail them, or email them, or whatever, and, if you're really worried about it, let those people know that it's a small gathering. But even then, don't expect that the other people won't hear about it - and if they do, just be honest and say there were space constraints and you hope you can have them the next time.
posted by dpx.mfx at 7:00 AM on November 29, 2011

A couple of things:

It won't be that small of a gathering. Maybe 40ish people. It's not so much about limited space, but it's a case of "if we invite THESE people, we have to invite THIS guy and THAT person..." and before you know it it gets out of hand. No matter where we draw the line, there will be someone left out.

We won't be handing out invites at the "choir practice." We will most likely send them via email, e-vite, Facebook, or whatever. However a lot of the people in the "choir" hang out together, in addition to attending "choir", so there will be many opportunities for these people to mention the party.

tl;dr: Bondcliff is neurotic and wants to eliminate awkwardness from his life.
posted by bondcliff at 7:03 AM on November 29, 2011

You can still say something like what empyrean suggested even if the overall party will be larger. How about: "Hey, we'd really love it if you guys and the Smiths came to our party. We're already inviting so many people that we know from other places, that we're probably not going to be able to invite anyone else from the choir, so I'd appreciate it if you didn't mention it to anybody else, as we don't want any hurt feelings. We'll probably have them over for some other event, but we're not going to be able to invite them to this one. Thanks so much!" I'm sure people will understand -- everyone's probably had to do this before.
posted by peacheater at 7:09 AM on November 29, 2011

The easiest way to eliminate awkwardness is to invite everyone. You say that there will be 40 people in attendance. How many of these not-quite-friends are there? If it's 4 couples, you aren't going to significantly increase your attendance by inviting them. In terms of a party the difference between 40 and 48 is not very much.

Also, consider that not everyone will show up. If you invite 50 it's entirely possible that you'll get 40 (or 30 or 20) attendees. Even if everyone shows up are all of them going to be there all night? The holidays are a busy time and many people will have multiple engagements on a given evening.

The more, the merrier I say.
posted by oddman at 7:12 AM on November 29, 2011 [5 favorites]

The issue is not so much how many people are being invited to the overall party, but how many people from the choir are being invited. As a rough rule of thumb, I'd say if you're inviting more than 1/3 of the choir, you're asking for hurt feelings as people discuss it amongst themselves and people feel hurt that you invited most people (even if that's not mathematically accurate) but not them, but if there are 60 people in the choir and you're inviting the 5 you're clearly closest to, it should be fine.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:18 AM on November 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

Hey, we're throwing a party and we want to invite a few of our friends from all our different social groups. I know you'll know the Smiths and Joneses from choir, and I think you met Pete at our party last spring, but I think everyone else will be new to you.
posted by aimedwander at 7:19 AM on November 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

Bondcliff is neurotic and wants to eliminate awkwardness from his life.

Unfortunately there is no magic bullet for interpersonal relationships. You can behave in a unfailingly tactful and respectful way, and people might still get their noses out of joint. Even if you invited EVERYONE in the choir, maybe the Smiths get pissed because they got their invite via Facebook, while the Joneses got theirs via email, or the Millers get pissed because they THINK you only invited them because you were obligated to, but you didn't REALLY want to (even if you did!).

Honestly, it is not worth the time we spend agonizing and overthinking these sorts of things. The best you can do is behave in a way that seems appropriate to you personally, because you can never fully negate the potential for drama when hairless apes get together.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:36 AM on November 29, 2011

It's a guest's responsibility not to talk about parties they're going to in front of people who may not be invited. You don't need to tell them how to do this, and there isn't really a polite way of doing it either - it's like telling them not to eat peas with a knife or not to wipe their noses on their sleeves.
posted by tel3path at 7:45 AM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Especially because some people will do it anyway ;) Fling peas and all.

I think jacquilynne has a good point about proportions - if it's just a few from the choir, that's fine, if it's everybody but the guy with the red stapler, problem.
posted by canine epigram at 7:56 AM on November 29, 2011

This all really depends on the ratio of who's invited and who's not in the group; if we're talking about a few select people being invited, that's totally socially okay. If we're talking about a few select people not being invited, you may run into some social weirdness.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 8:45 AM on November 29, 2011

Ratio: As I said, most of the people in the group I'm not concerned with. There's no reason they would expect to be invited. However the group was started by a core group of people, most of whom are in the friends or acquaintances category, and these are the folks I'm concerned with. Most of them were friends before this group came together and, for a number of reasons (not all of them space), I cannot/am not going to invite all of them. I'm just trying to find a polite way of inviting only some of them.

When I've received Facebook invites that are marked "private" I always assume they are done so to specifically avoid the situation you are concerned about here.

So you will understand that you're not invited? :-) Honestly, this is what I would hope, but I don't think everyone thinks this way. It's the people who don't think that way that I'm concerned with.

The easiest way to eliminate awkwardness is to invite everyone.

Yes, of course. However, this is not an option, for a number of reasons. Hence my question.
posted by bondcliff at 8:59 AM on November 29, 2011

"The acquaintance-friends, when finding out about the party, might be indifferent/confused/hurt/bummed or anything in between. We want to avoid this."

I am afraid there is little that you can do to mitigate their emotional weather. In fact, going to additional lengths to conceal the event may make it worse if (read: when) it is eventually discovered. It goes from a party to which they are simply not invited to one at which they are really not wanted.

Send gracious, welcoming invitations using the channels you've chosen. It's everyone else's responisbility to behave as polite adults after that. I hope you have a lovely party.
posted by Verdant at 9:25 AM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Perhaps people will be less likely to be offended if they believe the invitees are "winners" in some sense, rather than the un-invitees being losers. Why not claim to use (or actually use for added fun) a random number generator? The people who get invited become lucky, rather than chosen over the uninvited guy. Using a random number generator, your desired invitation lists is just as likely to be generated as any other invitation list, so the invitation list you use is plausible (well, if you're the kind of person who would plausibly use a random number generator at least).
posted by bessel functions seem unnecessarily complicated at 9:40 AM on November 29, 2011

I've had this happen to me. I have a small house, and for my birthday one year, I decided to have a small dinner party -- well, small for my social circle. "Small" means there were a dozen people there instead of 25. This meant I couldn't invite everyone, and I invited the people I'm closest to. However, most folks in the social circle share their Google calendars with most other folks, and one friend who wasn't invited saw my birthday party on several calendars and e-mailed me to say, "Hey, what should I bring?"

Now. She didn't know she wasn't invited. Most gatherings in this group are open. I e-mailed her back, with some equivalent of, "I am so sorry. It's not an open invitation. I just don't have room to invite everyone I want to have at the party." But I followed that up with, "Can we get together some time just the two of us?" This only works if you actually want to, but it goes a long way toward making people feel less hurt. She was still hurt, and embarrassed that she presumed, but the dinner we had together later was a good opportunity to resolve that awkwardness.

Most people probably won't say anything to you. If they're upset, they'll probably talk behind your back. People do that. You may not ever even hear about it, and you can't worry about it. If someone does come to you, though, consider making a gesture of goodwill and offering an opportunity to clear the air.
posted by linettasky at 9:55 AM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Invite everyone or no one.

What you are seeking to do is a recipe for disaster. Also, it's really really really effing rude of YOU to purposely and pointedly leave out certain people and expect your guests to share in the dishonesty towards their friends.

What the F are you thinking??

Invite everyone or no one from the choir. This is a pretty mean spirited idea you are contemplating. I. Just. Can't.
posted by jbenben at 10:26 AM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

What you are seeking to do is a recipe for disaster. Also, it's really really really effing rude of YOU to purposely and pointedly leave out certain people and expect your guests to share in the dishonesty towards their friends.

I don't like to babysit my own threads, and I will probably regret making this comment, but what the hell, man? Where did I say I was asking my friends to be dishonest? I'm not having a party for this group, I'm having a party and I would like some members of this group to come but I cannot invite all of them. I'm trying to find a classy way of doing that. For the record, I have had parties exclusively for this group where they were all invited. So if you had a party and wanted to invite a few friends from work, would you invite the entire office just to avoid being "mean?"

I'm going to snip from my very favorite Metafilter comment ever:

Your cynicism does you a disservice. Assume the best in people instead of the worst, it's nicer that way.

posted by bondcliff at 10:45 AM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

However the group was started by a core group of people, most of whom are in the friends or acquaintances category, and these are the folks I'm concerned with. Most of them were friends before this group came together and, for a number of reasons (not all of them space), I cannot/am not going to invite all of them. I'm just trying to find a polite way of inviting only some of them.

Then my rule of thumb about proportions applies to this sub-group rather than the whole choir. If you're inviting more than a third of the inner circle, you're going to cause hurt feelings, and I'd suggest not doing it.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:49 AM on November 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

Don't invite people you don't want to invite. As someone with 3 distinct circles of friends, plus one of my husbands, to consider inviting every time we host something, I wrestle with this frequently. It's great to host a party for Group 1 and then a party next month for Group 2, but Group1 and Group2 don't all fit in the house at once. That's the way it goes. And then sometimes, you've got to pick your favorite people from each, or the most compatible from each, and get them together - which means you're not inviting everyone. That's socially acceptable. People I know have parties without me all the time (I may be weird but I actually find it a useful piece of information - oh, E and F are friends outside of choir, and do things when I'm not there, I hadn't really realized! that's nice, I guess they're both [new parents, football fans, knitters, younger than everybody else, skiers]!) Life goes on.

When B, who is not invited, hears about your party, he won't be hearing it from you. He'll be hearing about it from A, who was invited. Whether or not B is offended will depend mostly on how A handles the situation, which is something you don't have control over. Don't feel like you're responsible for that conversation, or especially not for trying to prevent that conversation. Let it go. Your only responsibility is to be prepared for the followup: what to say if B assumes they're also invited and asks if their card was lost in the mail, and what if you hear from A that B was really hurt when A accidentally brought it up. Maybe you should consider hosting a "choir party" in the future to support your sentiment of "no really, I like you all!"

Your best bet is to make sure A at least has a clue that this isn't a choir party or a huge blowout, but not to make a big deal of it - the bigger deal you make over some people not being invited, the weirder those conversations between A and B will be.
posted by aimedwander at 10:51 AM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

jacquilynne really has it and this was EXACTLY what I was referring to.

I don't think there is a "classy" or tactful way to further pair down an inner core of a group.

I think deep down you know this, and by asking this question it's a hope against hope kinda thing.

The party you describe (40 people) is large, the inner core of the choir group is small - you can not avoid openly snubbing people with your plan. I can not assume good intentions on your part because you are not displaying any. Or at least, the people you propose snubbing won't see it that way.

It's a pretty big party you are hosting. I get that you feel some people will be disruptive or anti-social or whatever if you invite them... If snubbing certain members isn't something that would be universally done and accepted by the entire group (Bob is a mean drunk, etc) then you invite all or none.

I'm still trying to figure out why you are trying to defend and execute such a divisive act. Spare yourself the drama! It can't be worth it.

All or none.
posted by jbenben at 11:43 AM on November 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

Yeah, it's like only inviting a third of your first grade class or something. People WILL notice. It has to be all or none. Just hope that the people who aren't so into you won't come.
posted by jenfullmoon at 12:20 PM on November 29, 2011

I disagree with jbenben. It is totally okay to not invite every member of a group, for space reasons or for other reasons. Not every person can be at every event, and that's okay! When I don't get invited to something that someone in my circle of friends hosts, I'm a little bummed to have not been included, sure, but I understand that every event doesn't have to include everyone, and I certainly am not offended.

I think the most diplomatic way to do it is some variation on empyrean's advice. Invite the 5-6 choir people individually, and mention the names of the others who are invited, so they have a heads up that it's not an everyone-is-invited type of situation. Then trust that they will be adult and thoughtful about not blurting it out to everyone, and trust that the not-invited people will be adult about not being invited if/when they hear about the party. It's not the end of the world, it's just you demonstrating the true fact that you are closer to some people than to others. It doesn't have to be drama-central if you don't treat it as such.
posted by aka burlap at 12:46 PM on November 29, 2011

Okay, if the ultimate social faux pas happens in that someone gets all butt-hurt about not being invited and makes this known to your face, I, as your internet genteel bitch-in-training do give you permission (if you need it) to take the following action:

Choir member with big soft-n-glistening puppy dog eyes: "Oh..I was just wondering why you didn't invite me/us to your party. *Uncomfortable laugh* I mean, we're not on bad terms, right?"

You, with a spine of titanium: "No no no! Haha, we're fine. I just wanted to invite some of the couples/friends _my partner's name_ and I know a bit better.
We'd love to have you up at our house for dinner sometime though. I heard you talking about how you make a mean n' tasty green veggie lasagna. *Conversation continues*"

In this way, again -if- it comes up, you are both telling them, "You're still not invited" but also "we're not trying to ostracize you". Really not that big of a deal though.
posted by DisreputableDog at 1:18 PM on November 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

I had to do this for a wedding, where the group that was only partially invited were cousins. I was worried some of them would be upset, but I'm not as important as I think sometimes. You might be relieved to find the same is true of yourself.

If the idea of some people finding out they aren't invited terrifies you, weight it against the joy of having these 4-5 guys at your party. If the joy is heavier, invite them and let it happen. (Like I said, it might turn out to not be a big deal, but it's likely to happen, unless you try to control the spread of information in a way that alienates your guests.) If the dread is heavier, don't invite anyone from this group. Hang out with them another time!
posted by ignignokt at 1:49 PM on November 29, 2011

Oh for fuck's sake, is everyone 12 years old? Invite who you want, brush off anyone still in junior high who whines about "not being invited to the Parteeehh" and get on with life. It's immature people who complain about not being invited to a party held by someone they know. Not everyone can go to every fricken' party held by a friend or acquaintance. Invite who you want, express that it is an invitation only party and have a great time!
posted by Kerasia at 2:47 PM on November 29, 2011 [5 favorites]

There's no good way to spin the thought "bondcliff is having a party, and he doesn't want me to come" and make it sound awesome. Invite who you like, but the next party where choir people are in attendence should include an invitation to everyone.
posted by 23skidoo at 5:04 PM on November 29, 2011

How about throwing a casual gathering for the whole choir first? Serve something easy, or ask people to bring a dish. BBQ. Sometimes people just want to be invited over for something, and many people like casual affairs. Then, sometime afterwards, extend the invitations to your other exclusive party. People might find that easier to take if word gets out. "Oh, we've already been to Bob and Sue's last weekend! My, they like to be social!"
posted by griselda at 7:32 PM on November 29, 2011

How do you invite some, but not all, members of one of your social circles with the minimal amount of hurt feelings and drama?

If these circles are aware of and socialize with each other there will be hurt feelings. There might be drama depending on how hurt feelings get. There really is no way around that if you don't invite everyone.

My suggestion is to make the party an open house and set a time frame such as 8pm to 11pm or similar.
posted by deborah at 7:55 PM on November 29, 2011

jacquilynne made a really good point.

I've been in this situation many times. All the suggestions about the private Facebook invites, the invites-via-phone, the hints about how it's an "invite-only" party - they don't work. No matter what, people talk (sometimes it's because they're clueless and your hints went over their head; sometimes they got your hint but they weren't thinking and went ahead and asked not-invited-Bob, "hey, are you going to the party?" anyway). Go ahead and assume that some of the people you don't invite will hear about it.

In my experience, what you're suggesting is not worth the stress and awkwardness. Invite the whole choir inner circle (keeping in mind that not everyone will take you up on your offer...50 invitees will wind up being more like 25-30 attendees, particularly around the holidays when so many other things are going on). If space is really such a constraint that you absolutely cannot invite the whole inner circle, don't invite anyone from the inner circle at all.
posted by whitelily at 8:31 PM on November 29, 2011

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