Big plate of 'party invite etiquette' beans
October 26, 2015 2:48 PM   Subscribe

Is it polite to invite person A at the last minute to a party (in this case, my darling SO's birthday celebration)? I am feeling somewhat anxious about this occasion already and don't want to offend or exclude anyone. I know this is only a big deal in my own mind, and probably in no-one else's, but it is one of a couple of minor things I am feeling a bit stressed about as the day approaches.

SO is not particularly bothered if A is there or not, I should add. I've not shared my anxieties about this with him, because he has more important things to think about at the moment (work, travel, some important family stuff etc). Also I feel embarrassed that I am stressing about an occasion which should be fun & exciting, and don't want him to know. (He put a lot of energy and effort into a birthday party for me a few years ago at which, unfortunately, I let my anxiety get the better of me; I regret that I didn't enjoy it much and feel like it was a bit of a missed opportunity to really properly enjoy the company of friends and family. I don't want him to worry that I am going to be the same on his birthday.)

Part of this is my anxiety (which is mostly pretty well managed/medicated) speaking; part of it is genuinely wanting to be a good friend to A and feeling regret that I did not invite her sooner. Part of my concern is knowing I should really be focusing on SO at this time, but also not being able to shake an overriding sense of vague uncertainty about all the personal dynamics of a party and how people will interact or whether they will come at all. I know you can't control or manage this but does always make me slightly nervous.

So, the specific details of my etiquette question are: Invitations went out (via an e-invite site) about 3 weeks ago and the party is in 5 days.

I would genuinely like A to come but hesitated for the following reasons:
1) they are more my own personal friend than SO's, inviting A was my suggestion rather than his;
2) limited numbers due to catering costs, but this looks like now less of an issue than I thought.

The main complicating factor: friends B and C, who were invited, both inadvertently mentioned the party on previous occasions in front of A. B and C are slightly better friends of SO, but not by that much. I felt really awful and had no idea how to handle it. So A is aware that she wasn't invited earlier, although I don't know whether it bothers her - probably she hasn't given it a second thought (or maybe she has, I don't know).

Is it better to just proceed with the current invite list - least said, soonest mended, and all that - and risk the possibility of A feeling left out? or should I extend a last-minute invitation to A? And therefore risk her feeling like a B-list afterthought?

A is going through a difficult time at the moment with family illness and I am feeling guilty that I neglected this potential opportunity to invite her to be part of a fun celebration.

At the same time I'm worried that my uncertainty over these little issues are getting in the way of what should be my main goal: a wonderful & memorable night for my darling SO, who deserves a party that focuses on him - the joy of which should not be dampened by my anxiety.

Can you give me a reality check about this situation please - what are the real issues here, and what am I just overthinking? What do I need to do next?
posted by Weng to Human Relations (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You want her to come, you want to reach out for her when she's having a rough time, you have space and food for her- I say invite her! This is a place where a lil white lie can come in handy, so I might message her and say, "Are you coming this Sat? 8pm, my house, hope to see you!" and then either she just shows up, problem solved, or she says "What is this about?" and you can just pretend you intended to invite her the first time but made an email error and accidentally left her off the list. Add her to the evite right away, emphasize how much you want her there, then be really warm and friendly when she arrives.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 2:54 PM on October 26, 2015 [9 favorites]

"Hey A, I just realized that when I was sending out the evites for this party, I somehow left you off the list! So sorry! I know it's late notice, but if you're free, we'd love to have you join us. And if you already have plans, I hope we can find a time in the next few weeks to grab dinner or a drink with you and catch up!"

You're overthinking it. It was a very small, minor error, and you're going to do your best to rectify it now, and if you can't you'll see her soon. Everything is going to be okay.

And don't worry. Party planning is stressful, and most everyone gets stressed about some aspects of it. But you and SO are going to have a great time partying with your friends. So take a deep breath and remind yourself to have fun.
posted by decathecting at 2:58 PM on October 26, 2015 [19 favorites]

I'd just invite A - it sounds like the only reason not to is embarrassment that she wasn't invited sooner. But better to invite her late than not invite her at all and then live in fear that friends B and C might mention the party in front of her.

I'd be honest and say that you're sorry for the late invitation but you hope that she will be able to make it. Hopefully she'll be able to come and will have a great time.
posted by slmorri at 2:59 PM on October 26, 2015

So basically, she is B list since you're only doing this because others declined the invite?

My friend did this with her wedding, because she knew it would be a great party.... No one responded to her last minute invite at all. She was a little hurt/ shocked, but I'd ignore the last minute invite too. I'd rather not be more or less told straight out I'm second tier. If your husband doesn't care, I wouldn't do it.
posted by TenaciousB at 2:59 PM on October 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

"A, I am so sorry, I should have mentioned that we're having a party for SO on X! I know it's late notice, but I would really love if you're able to make it!"

"But Weng, aren't I just on your B-list? What the heck?"

"I knew I was going to accidentally miss someone when I put the list together, and feel awful about it. This party planning process is so crazy. I hope you can come!"
posted by dayintoday at 2:59 PM on October 26, 2015 [10 favorites]

This is a birthday party and not a wedding. I'd invite her and explain you didn't mean to exclude her in the first round and realized it when going through RSVPs.
posted by soelo at 3:25 PM on October 26, 2015 [3 favorites]

Just invite her.

People who make drama over who was invited when and who else is going and who knew and first tier vs. second tier blah blah blah are boring and not worth worrying about. (By which I mean ignore the drama, not drop the person.)

I like decathecting's language on how specifically to extend a late invitation.

On the off chance that A doesn't come, I would read it charitably as she already had plans, didn't feel like coming, couldn't make it, etc. rather than jumping to the more dramatic conclusion that she hates you now because you revealed that she is a Tier 2 Friend or whatever.
posted by Sara C. at 4:02 PM on October 26, 2015 [8 favorites]

shoulder the blame yourself. say that you organised this in secret, and had limited space, but got the priorities wrong, and only realised when your SO asked about A.
posted by andrewcooke at 6:53 PM on October 26, 2015

I'd tell her you had a limited budget and due to perfect number crunching are in a position to now invite people who mean a lot to you as well , not just your partner. And that it would mean the world to you to have her there because you can get a bit anxious and having her there will give you great happiness/grounding/drinking buddy.

Make it about your relationship with her. That's what I'd do. Don't lie, you'll be sprung fo sho.
posted by taff at 7:01 PM on October 26, 2015 [8 favorites]

Call A and ask how she's doing. Then ask if she has plans for Saturday night or whenever, and tell her you're really hoping she can make it. If you want, you can say, "I screwed up by not inviting you earlier, because I really want you to be there." If she can't make it, try to arrange something else with her.

You don't owe anyone who's not super close to SO a party invite. Not everyone can always be invited to everything. You also don't owe an apology or an excuse. Personally, I am happy to be a second tier invite in situations like this because it means someone thought of me, and that's nice.
posted by zennie at 7:40 PM on October 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

if it works (that A is really more your friend than your SO's) then I would definitely go with i really taff's response. It is both honest and also shows that you really value her friendship and want her to be there in a way that pretending you just forgot wouldn't do. Personally, I like to avoid telling a lie when there is a way to tell the truth without being hurtful. I think taff does that.
posted by metahawk at 10:27 PM on October 26, 2015

Oh god, don't bring money and budgets into the conversation when you're already anxious and flustered. Really. Go with the scripts above that say you inadvertently missed a few people and truly hope she can make it. If not extend a dinner or brunch invite for the following weekend.
posted by barnone at 6:44 AM on October 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

If I were A I would definitely be less offended by a last minute invite than no invite at all. In fact I probably wouldn't be offended at all, just pleased that I had been invited after all!
posted by intensitymultiply at 8:01 AM on October 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

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