To invite or not to invite, that is the question
March 20, 2017 2:14 PM   Subscribe

If you threw a party and invited everyone you knew, would you invite people you already knew could not come?

Sometimes I throw large casual-ish parties, and invite pretty much everyone on Facebook who lives in my town. I always wonder whether I should invite people I know can't come for various reasons, like:

1. I know they have a commitment on that specific day/time.
2. I know they have an ongoing commitment on that evening, a class, they work weekends, etc.
3. I know that their religious beliefs don't allow them to attend (most of these casual-ish parties are on Friday evenings).
4. I know that because of their general family commitments that they are unlikely to attend a party like this (would have to find a sitter, etc) and they have always declined in the past.

I am conscious of making people feel excluded, so I think "I should invite everyone and let them decide if they want to attend." But I'm also conscious of making people feel othered, so I think "I should not invite people to parties on their sabbath that they will then have to decline, because it just makes it seem like I didn't even notice that they are Jewish and have a sabbath to be concerned about."

Sometimes I'm inclined to not invite people and then reach out to tell them why, "Hey, I didn't invite you to the thing on Friday, because I know you spend the Sabbath with your family/teach that yoga class/are going to be in New York, but if you did want to attend, I'm happy to add you to the guest list." But that feels like doubling down on making it an issue, plus it's a lot of work.

What is the right thing to do in these various situations?
posted by jacquilynne to Human Relations (26 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I invite everyone!

Or I would, if I ever did.
posted by The otter lady at 2:18 PM on March 20, 2017 [22 favorites]

We had a small-ish wedding. We knew my aunt and her daughter would come if invited, but her sons wouldn't bother. So our invites were to "Aunt and daughter" because, really, why bother inviting someone who wouldn't bother attending?
posted by notsnot at 2:19 PM on March 20, 2017

I certainly would invite them with reasons 1, 2, and 4. If you are certain about reason 3 I think an invite worded in a similar way to the way you mention would probably be polite -- you want to be clear that they're not being excluded but also make sure they are aware that you don't consider their reason for not attending to be any big deal at all, and you want to make sure that they have to do any heavy lifting to excuse themselves.
posted by tillsbury at 2:22 PM on March 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

I think the only time I would not invite someone in that situation is if I knew that they had a religious commitment that never changed. It's always nice to throw an invite to someone, it never, ever goes amiss. And parents are kind of sensitive to friends getting "why bother' about inviting them to things.
posted by cakelite at 2:22 PM on March 20, 2017 [6 favorites]

Maybe don't invite but do also send an individual fb message with a link to the event saying "if you can come that's awesome, but I know you usually have ____." It shows you're not excluding them and want them to be there, but you're also aware of their individual reasons for not being there.
posted by phunniemee at 2:23 PM on March 20, 2017 [19 favorites]

If you threw a party and invited everyone you knew
You would see the biggest gift would be from me, and the card attached would say... oh hold on, I got distracted.

For a casual party you should invite all the people you want to come. Some people who you think won't come will come and vice-versa. You never know other people's actual commitments (e.g. they usually have class but not that week) or which things they are willing to skip or re-schedule in order to attend this.
posted by w0mbat at 2:25 PM on March 20, 2017 [15 favorites]

If this is large, casual events that you throw at least several times a year, I would invite everyone and send those specific people a note saying "I know you usually can't come to these events but I'm sending you the invite to let you know that I'm thinking about you. I'm not expecting you to come but if you ever can make it, let me know and you will be very welcome." And then just go ahead and include them every time. Who knows, maybe class will be cancelled or the in-laws will offer to babysit and they might come.
posted by metahawk at 2:26 PM on March 20, 2017 [6 favorites]

Apart from those with religious obligations, I'd go with the "I know you're busy, but you're always welcome!" option. That emphasizes that you're inviting them personally while acknowledging that it may not fit with their life. Because who knows, maybe one week they'll feel more like going out than resting up for work, and they'll think of you. The folks who have Sabbath or whatnot, I'd apologize to once for not having more events that work for them and then leave it.
posted by teremala at 2:29 PM on March 20, 2017 [5 favorites]

But that feels like doubling down on making it an issue, plus it's a lot of work.

If it's a "They can NEVER come" to a casual thing, then I'd not put them on an invite list, tell them the one time that you're thinking of them as a friendly FYI and think about whether you want to try having inclusive events that they can come to. But really an open-door sort of event that is a) public and b) clearly indicates "Hey feel free to bring friends" (if that is indeed the case) sounds pretty inclusive and putting everyone else on an invite list (esp if it's facebook) gives people an option to be all "Hey thanks for the invite but we're out of town" and is an opportunity for a bit of idle chitchat which can be nice.
posted by jessamyn at 2:30 PM on March 20, 2017 [3 favorites]

I would err on the side of inviting everyone, because otherwise you risk people hearing about it and wondering if they were excluded, but not wanting to ask you about it, because they don't want to be rude or whatever. Some people might not even know that you know about their other obligation!

Generally I think it's best to let other people make up their mind about whether or not they want to come. They might decide that week to skip their other activity for your party. And I know a lot of parents want to be invited because that way they get to be the one to decide whether it's worth it to hire a babysitter, etc.

As for the religion thing, that's tougher, but again, you never know. I would err on the side of inviting, unless you know for a fact that, for instance, they attend shul and/or do Shabbat dinner every Friday night, and/or keep the Sabbath (most Jews aren't that observant). If you do know these things about them and you're close enough that they might wonder why they weren't invited, then it's worth mentioning the next time you see them and ask if they want you to keep them on your invite list.

And then I think it's good just to include language in the invite that lets people know there's no pressure to attend.
posted by lunasol at 3:00 PM on March 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

I would invite them all. My religious commitments are not many (although I turned down a giant meatball on Friday), but I think I would feel more excluded if you assumed that I just couldn't come because of them. I'd hate to hear about a cool party (even one I couldn't go to) from a mutual friend and wonder if the reason I wasn't invited was because of my religion, or because you don't like me, or something else. If these people have even a mild social anxiety, that's likely what they'll think. Sending individual messages to say "I'm having a party, but I didn't invite you because of the Sabbath" would be helpful, but if you have enough friends affected by this to use an AskMe about it, it's probably not practical.

And personally, as a somewhat observant person in a pretty secular social circle, I kind of get a kick out of reminding people that I have religious commitments. But that might just be me.
posted by kevinbelt at 3:01 PM on March 20, 2017 [4 favorites]

I have some newish Orthodox friends so I definitely understand #3. I would leave those people off the guest list, and purposfully do an event on another day/time so you could catch up with them. Even if it's just inviting them to have coffee. Make an effort for those people.

Everyone else, invite.
posted by BlahLaLa at 3:22 PM on March 20, 2017

I like to be invited to things even if I will never in a bajillion years go to them (I'm looking at you, dance parties that start at midnight) It's nice to feel included.
posted by coppermoss at 3:24 PM on March 20, 2017 [19 favorites]

I'm someone who can almost never go out on a Friday night but still appreciates the invitations. I would be offended to hear I wasn't invited to a party, even if I knew I couldn't come to it. It puts the burden on me of wondering why I wasn't invited. I appreciate the invitations I get for events even if I realistically can't get to them.

The difference between a wedding invitation and a casual invitation for something you are known to be unable to attend is that a wedding invitation can be seen as a grab for presents, and a casual invitation can't.
posted by fingersandtoes at 4:17 PM on March 20, 2017 [3 favorites]

I agree with "invite everyone you would be happy to see at the party". Sometimes plans change last minute, sometimes you renounce your faith, whatever. Personally, I would rather know about a thing that I wasn't able to attend versus not finding out about it until the Instagram photos go up later.
posted by backseatpilot at 4:42 PM on March 20, 2017

I tend to err on the side of "invite everyone I want there" for most things like this, but I generally note something like "I totally understand if you can't make it! I would just love to have you there!" or whatever (especially if this is a FB event sort of thing -- just saying it to everyone and not to anyone specifically).

But if enough people have an ongoing commitment at the times you're typically planning these things, I'd try to vary the schedule somewhat so the same people aren't constantly being left out (it's unclear to me if that's the case here -- you may not be doing that).

For my part, I always appreciate being invited to things even if I can't make it (and people know that).
posted by darksong at 5:34 PM on March 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I too like getting invited to things even if I can't go/it's an event I would hate (dance party, five k race). When I'm hosting, I usually say something like, "I know some of you might not be able to make it, but thought I'd invite you all just in case!" My friends are pretty secular, so I don't have much experience with the religious angle, but I'd follow phunniemee's advice if it came up.
posted by ferret branca at 5:34 PM on March 20, 2017

If you are sending an invite as a mass email, send it to everyone else first, and then send a copy separately to each of the people who you don't think can come with a note at the start saying, "Hey, I know you probably can't make it because you [have Chinese classes on Saturday nights/are going out of town this weekend], but I thought I'd send you the invite anyway, just in case I'm wrong. Completely understand if you can't come, though!"

That way they know you thought of them, and that you remember/understand their events. And in the case of a non-religious thing, you never know, their thing might have been cancelled that week, or they might change their mind about travelling, or whatever, and then it's great if they can still make it to your thing. The only case where I might not do it is for people who you know observe the Sabbath, if the party thing clashes. Maybe an invite in that case would seem a bit insensitive, but I hardly know any Jewish people, so I'll leave to others to weigh in on.
posted by lollusc at 6:34 PM on March 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

One more "invite everyone."

I use a wheelchair, and people assume I can't attend a party that lacks a level entrance. But some days I can walk a little, and if the party sounds great then I might decide to join the fun.

Let your friends decide whether they want to make an exception.
posted by Jesse the K at 7:17 PM on March 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

Yes, in case their plans change. You can't really know who can come. The future is mysterious.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 2:01 AM on March 21, 2017

Yes, please let people opt themselves out - so they know that you'd like them there if they can come, if their plans change, if they are able to come where you assumed they couldn't. Feeling left out - even if you can guess as to the reason why - is never fun.

I have friends with physical limitations and mental illnesses which sometimes make parties impossible. It does take a little extra effort, but I generally do this:

1. Invite everyone, noting on the invite that I realize some folks may not be able to make a [Friday evening / Sunday morning / weeknight] event, but that they are all warmly invited and I'll aim to make the next gathering [a weekend / earlier in the day].

2. Send a personal private message to individual friends or couples who have special circumstances ("I know you will be in Texas that weekend, but in case your plans change... And regardless, brunch soon?" or in my friends' situations, often "I know parties aren't generally your thing, but I would love to see you - if not at this party, then maybe something in a smaller group?").
posted by pammeke at 5:56 AM on March 21, 2017

Another vote for inviting everyone. I regularly get invited to events 1,500 miles away that I clearly won't be going to, but it still gives me warm fuzzies to know that my friends were thinking about me.
posted by csox at 7:13 AM on March 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

I would invite everyone.

For me this is partly because I have a few friends who have disabilities that would prevent them from coming to a big event (massive environmental chemical sensitivity, anxiety) and they've said in the past that it's nice to be invited even if they can't go.
posted by bile and syntax at 2:22 PM on March 21, 2017

Absolutely invite everyone! Your impulse to want people to feel included is a good one, especially if you live in a community small enough to invite everyone to one party. They can decide to come or not as their other commitments allow, but will appreciate that you want them. I also think that it's better to not play the 'I know you can't but wanted to invite you anyway' card because that complicates the invitation - it suggests that you want them there but not enough to plan if for when you know they can come - which is not the case you're presenting at all, so no reason to throw undue shade on yourself.
posted by AliceBlue at 6:42 PM on March 21, 2017

Just to clarify since a few people have assumed I meant literally everyone on Facebook who lives in my town -- I actually meant "everyone on my Facebook friendslist who lives in my town." My town being Toronto, throwing the doors open to the entire population would tend to overwhelm my condo party room.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:50 PM on March 21, 2017

I'd invite all but #3. I've been #2 and #4 and it can change for just one day.
posted by RainyJay at 7:13 AM on March 22, 2017

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