Naughty or Nice Awkward Party Invite

A week ago I participated in a dialogue with another reader that I found to be a thought-provoking conversation, and I asked her if I could share it with my readers. Especially since it’s the holiday season and most of us are invited to parties!

Do you ever find yourself in an awkward situation when it comes to party invitations?

Do you stick with your gut and keep your boundaries, because you were planning an “intentional gathering,” or do you turn “nice” and do what everyone wants you to do, thus causing resentment and a party that you wish you’d never had?

I’m going to call it the naughty or nice conversation, as I’m conversing with my reader. What I’ve learned is that most the time, situations work themselves out … but not always …

Here we go …

I just rec’d an email that I am having a myriad of feelings in reaction to. I’m having some neighbors over for some holiday cheer in December. I worked hard at accommodating schedules since there were three houses that I wanted to include, and they were all important to me. After some coordination, we’ve arrived at a date, and I thought all was well. Today, one of those neighbors invited emailed me, “Can I invite X and Y?” (other neighbors that I don’t really know, but she does) So….what do you think about that? In the past, we’ve been to a gathering at her house that included the woman of the couple. Other than that, I’ve never really dealt with them.

My take is that if it’s a very casual open house … then why not? If it’s more of “let’s get the 3 families together for an intimate time” … then, no. You could say that you’re really looking forward to a more intimate time with just the 3 families. Also, she could have those families to her home. But again, if it’s really casual, it could be fun!

Your response confirms my own see-saw response. On the one hand, what harm? On the other, I already picked the people that I wanted to have to my house (and I find it odd that she would want to invite them herself to my house). I emailed my husband and asked him what he thought, and his response was, “Who are they???” One of the families included is new to our neighborhood, so I wanted them to meet the two families that I am closest to–so inviting someone that I don’t really know changes that. I guess it’s really a call between “design” and “flexibility”….hmm.

I believe in “intentional” hospitality. I’ve been faulted for this. I also think it’s a personality issue. Some people are more “come one, come all.” I have a more purposeful approach. Wanting to introduce a new family to your friends, I think you should stick with your 3 families. Just say you wanted a more intimate party this time.

One thing that I neglected to include is that when she asked me this, she included all of the invited people on the email–so now everyone will be privy to the question and my response…which definitely was a choice I wish she hadn’t made!

Ok … well, that changes things. Mm-m-m, that’s not classy! Let me know what you decide. 50/50.

What do you think? I followed my gut and tried to be as diplomatic about it as I could. Here’s what I sent as a “reply all”:


With no intention of being Scrooge, I am going to say “no thanks” to inviting Connie and Bob. Except for the one time you had Alexandra over at your house with us, I don’t really know her and don’t know Bob at all. While this might make for a nice opportunity to get to know them better, I was planning a smaller gathering of those I included.

Hope you still find me merry…

Let me know how it goes.


Thought you’d be interested….I heard back regarding the “awkward invite situation.”

Here’s what Emily had to say on the subject: …and in case I didn’t respond to your last email, OF course I think you’re MERRY. I shouldn’t have extended myself like that and asked to invite folks you don’t know! SORRY!

So let’s close that chapter! All’s well that ends well!

From the beginning you had our boundaries, you knew what you wanted, and you were firm. Look how it worked out?

It turned out pretty well. I had come to the conclusion, prior to sending the “final decision” email, that I was either going to have to truly be good with inviting the additional people, or I was going to have to speak the truth in love. After letting the afternoon go by and trying to let it “settle” on me, I realized that the additional people, in my opinion, were going to add a dynamic that I wasn’t seeking when I decided upon the gathering. SO…I tried to say it as honestly yet kindly as I could. (Even though I could have been warmer.) :)

As I said all along, I believe I know Emily well enough to know she meant only good, and I am happy to see the outcome only reinforces that!

I realize this is a long post, but we’ve all been there and have struggled with party invitations – and feeling ‘naughty or nice.’

Welcome to the holidays! :)

How do you handle awkward party invites? Do you ‘go with the flow’ or do you have a more ‘intentional’ approach?

29 comments on “Naughty or Nice Awkward Party Invite”

  1. VERY interesting conversation. I love the term “intentional” as it pertains to hosting. I am in fact an intentional hostess however I never thought of phrasing it that way. I believe the guests/guest list is the KEY factor in entertaining and the addition (or elimination) of unexpected guests can absolutely change the dynamic of the evening.
    With that said, the larger the party, the easier it is to work in extras. For a more intimate gathering such as the one mentioned, I wouldn’t be afraid to put my foot down.

  2. Cindy, Thanks for the advice! I think my daughter can read my mind. She told me yesterday she didn’t think it appropriate that her husband invited other people to our holiday celebration, so she asked me if I wanted them uninvited. I said no, as I don’t want to seem like I’m a scrooge, but I told my daughter I was sticking to my menu, and they or their friends could bring some dishes for their friends to eat. I also suggested if they didn’t want to do that, they could join us for dessert after the main meal. My daughter also offered to pay for all the seafood, which is the main cost, and which I gratefully took her up on. Still doesn’t address my son in law’s insensitivity, but I have decided to deal with that after the holidays, when emotions are not running high, and hurt feelings won’t ruin Christmas Eve or day.Thanks for yor response! It falls into what I was thinking, but its good to be validated that the way I felt about it was not off the wall. Hope you have a wonderfulholiday season.

    • Kate, I’m happy to hear that Your Holiday is going to be rescued. I really hope that your son-in-law is just so proud of what a WONDERFUL Host and Hostess You and Your Hubby are that he wants to show off Your talents :) Have a WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS and Many Good Wishes for the NEW YEAR !

    • Glad to see how so much has resolved already … encouraging! Thanks for sharing Kate so others can see. :)

  3. Hi thanks for the great advice – I’ve had a number of situations like this this year, and most of the them include my son in law. His mother died seveal years ago, and since then I have cooked for every Thanksgiving and Xmas for the whole family. I don’t mind this, in fact quire enjoyed it until my son in law started inviting exta people at the last minute, changing the venue to his house since our house could not accomodate all the extra people, and expected me to cook all the food and BRING it to their house. I’ve tried to be gracious about it, but finally hit my limit when I found out he has invited another couple with children to our Christmas Eve celebration. At his house. We traditiionally cook a seafood dinner, in fact have done so as a tradition for over 20 years. This couple does not like seafood. I’m really upset about this, and I just don’t know how to handle it. On top of all this my husband and I are retired and have a small income. We actually foot the bill for everything, and don’t get much help from anyone in terms of expense, or clean up. I don’t want to spoil Xmas Eve for anyone, but I am feeling really abused and taken advantage of. What advice would you give me on how to handle this situation?

    • Kate, why does your Daughter let her Husband impose on You in this way ? ? If my Husband tried to do this to my Mom I’d tell HIM to stay home. Perhaps You could explain that the Christmas Eve meal is quite expensive and is really something special for the people You love. I believe You should stick to Your guns and host Christmas Eve at Your home with Your menu and tell Your son-in-law that if he wants to invite other people maybe he should host his OWN party. By the way, Your Christmas Eve celebration sounds MAGNIFICENT ! !

    • Hi, Kate. Sorry just getting to this … yesterday was a day of silence for many in blog-land. I agree with Cindy … it would be nice if you could reclaim the holidays and make them what you want them to be. Part of that is standing up to your son-in-law and saying NO. I always recommend the book, Boundaries, if you haven’t read it. It’s a game-changer for sure. The other thing I’ve learned is that just because it’s a tradition, you don’t always have to do it. It’s okay to stop one, and start a new one. Maybe you and your husband could come up with a totally different way of celebrating (next year?). You could be firm with your plans, and let them know of course, that they are invited to join your celebration. Holidays can be so tough … I’ll be praying for you for a smooth transition and that your heart will be full of JOY! Email me any time … :)

  4. I liked this post, Sandy, and the way this awkward situation was handled.

    It’s kind of the flip side of something that happens sometimes with my dear neighbors. I live in close proximity to two families who are very good friends with each other, although my husband and I often spend time with them, as well. It’s happened quite frequently that the two families will plan something, get down to the actual day of the activity or get-together, and then one of the couples will call and ask if we want to join in, too. At that point, I feel like an afterthought. I used to go along with it and felt all out-of-sorts, but lately I’ve been saying “no”, that we have other plans.

    I’m wondering if there’s another way to handle this. I’d love to know your thoughts.

    • Pammie, two things come to mind. First, some families just have more in common than others, which may be why they plan the event together. I doubt you are an after-thought … it’s actually nice that they invite you. BUT, on the other hand, it’s not a good feeling if the 2 families are “cliquish,” … if that is the case, then saying no might be best.

      One thing I’ve learned about relationships is to not let resentment settle in your heart. Boundaries are good, like saying no–that you have other plans–but make sure you move on, make those plans, invite people over, get over any yucky feelings, and ENJOY your family and friends. :)

      I wish you were our neighbor! :)

    • Sandy, thank you ! Fact is, since I started reading your blog a few years ago and using your book, I’ve become a fantastic reluctant entertainer – and that has helped this particular situation quite a bit ! I so appreciate your advice.

  5. Very good post today Sandy! It seems my last 2 weeks has been filled with boundary issues and it is a real bummer! I love the advice you gave and Karey handled the situation with grace.

    I gave a 60th birthday party for my stepmom last Friday night. Not only did her children not RSVP, but they brought extra guests. I prayed in the bathroom for grace to take over as my thoughts were filled with resentment and even anger when they all went to the backyard and started smoking and threw their butts in the yard, ignored everyone, never offered to help clean up, etc. It takes the joy out of a celebration when you are filled with angst.

    It is good to know I am not alone……..{hugs}

  6. I think it helps to know yourself too, and how much patience or energy you have. I’d have no problem surprise hosting a friend’s elderly parent, for example, but surprise hosting a friend’s friend of a friend (or 2 or 4 or 6) just because they’re looking for a good, friendly time, would really depend on how my life was going at the moment. I prefer to be a happy, open-hearted hostess, rather than a tense, confused, exhausted one, when I have a choice!

  7. Great post Sandy! Sounds like it was handled well. That is a tough scenario. An even tougher one is when guest show up and announce they invited or brought someone else along…uhhhhh….okay! That is awkward. If it’s a larger gathering of people I usually don’t fret about extras. However, I have had on one occasion that I can remember inviting some visiting ministry up to our house for lunch after church and we had invited one other couple. I had left early to get things ready (knowing how many people would be at our house). When everyone showed up, there were extras (I think at least 2). At that point there wasn’t much I could do about it but pray that I had enough food. Thankfully it was one of those meals that could be somewhat stretched and I just made sure everyone had enough before I jumped in for mine.

    I have had many awkward situations of being invited to someones house and not knowing who else has been invited and made the mistake of saying something to someone who ultimately felt like they should have been invited…maybe I needed to ask for a ride etc..I now always ask the hostess who she has invited so I know who to say something to, or who to ask for a ride. As adults we should be mature enough not to get offended when we are not invited but that is not always the case. Especially with social media now and folks posting pictures, things are bound to be seen by multitudes and that’s where maturity kicks in.

    Kids birthday parties are another arena for awkward situations…when they don’t invite someone or aren’t invited. Great opportunities for conversations with them. Yikes!!!

    Such a great topic Sandy!!

    • Kirstin, well … regarding the kids birthday parties, I’ve always taught my kids “you won’t be invited to every party” so get over it. LOL It’s the same for adults. It’s better to have a mature attitude about it than hurt feelings. I sure don’t get invited to every party … :) You brought up some great points here. Thanks Kirstin!

  8. Really enjoyed reading this post. I sometimes struggle with knowing how to respond in certain situations and found it really interesting to see the thought process going on and the weighing up of the scenario. Thank you and a merry Christmas to you.

  9. I am such a go with the flow gal, I never even knew people had problems like this. Very interesting points though. I could see how the hostess could have her feelings hurt thinking the invitee that is inviting additional friends is only doing so because the hostess and people on the guest list “aren’t fun enough.”

    • Thanks Angie. Just curious, do you host casual events, or sit down dinner parties? I’ve found with sit-down dinner parties I have to be more intentional on the invitation list :)

  10. Really good post today. Thank you for sharing this example of an awkward situation. We all need help and confirmation when faced with these kinds of things.

    I was intrigued by some of the phrases used:

    “Hope you still find me merry…”

    “… were going to add a dynamic that I wasn’t seeking when I decided upon the gathering”

    How tactful and kind! Thanks for this.

    • You are welcome. I think we all need to be reminded that we’re human, we all struggle in this area, and there are tactful ways to handle the awkward situations. Thanks for sharing Barbara!

  11. Thank you for sharing this post. You both made some good points for and against.
    It niggles me when folks I’ve invited to my home ask to invite others. I usually say yes, but I feel put upon and resentful. (I don’t like those feelings!) I have had to say no once or twice, after all my house will accommodate only so many people. I once had someone ask if I had invited a certain person and when the answer was no demanded to know why I left them out!
    I always give consideration to whom I’m inviting so that I have a good dynamic, and I don’t get two families who are feuding.
    I guess my feelings are, let the hostess do the inviting! However, since people will be people, I shall try to be less rigid.

  12. Thank you for sharing this conversation with us! My first instinct when I read this was to advise the hostess to politely say no. This gathering was meant to be an intimate gathering of good friends. I think it was rude of the guest to ask to invite other neighbors, and especially rude to include those neighbors in the e-mail! If the guest wants to spend time with other neighbors, she should host a party at her home.

    Most of the parties I host are large buffet style parties. Lots of food based on a theme beautifully arranged on my dining room table. For these parties, I am a ‘go with the flow’ hostess- there is always more than enough food and if my children or guests ask to bring a friend I always say yes and have a ‘more the merrier’ attitude. For more intimate dinner parties, I take a more ‘intentional’ approach. Much thought goes into who is invited and how the evening will play out. I would be taken aback if one of my guests asked to invite strangers to an intimate dinner party. I will keep this post in mind if that ever happens so I know how to handle the awkward situation! :-)

  13. This really hit a nerve with me after something that happened to us last year.

    Ever since my husband and I got married we’ve invited a select few friends each year for an intimate dinner the weekend closest to St Lucia day (December 13th…today!). I cook a Swedish Christmas dinner and go to a lot of trouble for this one dinner. For us it’s a thank you dinner for our closest friends, for all their love and support in the past year. Last year, we decided to invite another couple who had not been before, because they’d been ever so helpful when I ended up in hospital for a week when our son was just 11 weeks old. My husband and I both spelled out what the dinner was for, how incredibly important it was to us, and so on. The evening of the dinner, they were over an hour late, the guy had been in the pub all afternoon and was drunk as a skunk and seriously obnoxious, his wife was fuming and sniping at him all night, and they’d brought their 5 kids (who, we’d spelled out, were not invited to this one dinner since that was not what this one dinner was about). Now I know inviting kids is nothing like inviting another couple you don’t know, but the boundary issues are the same. I was so disappointed. It was thrust upon me and I had to go with the flow, but the dynamics of the evening were completely different to the ones I had carefully and intentionally designed.

    The year before I had to throw out the wife of a friend after she was downright obnoxious and started a spewing evil words at everyone at the dinner table (including her own husband).

    I’ve had it with these dinners now. I end up getting disappointed every year. This year I’m having a casual drinks and nibbles party instead. Much easier and fewer expectations on my part. I do find it odd though that so many people have trouble with boundaries and find any invitation a free for all.

    • Carin, I can clearly see how disappointed you’d be with those scenarios. Maybe take a few years off, like you’re doing this year (drinks and nibbles – for sure less expectations than a dinner party), and regroup next year with the original group of friends. Thanks for sharing on RE!

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