Party Etiquette

Not Extending an Invitation to a Party

Angry couple at a party

Sometimes, when we’re planning an event, there is someone we really don’t want to invite. There’s lots of potential reasons why. We also likely feel guilty if we don’t. When do we grin and bear it, and when do we cut them loose?

The first thing to consider is the ramifications of not inviting the person.

  • Will this person likely find out? If not, excluding them is easy. However, if you’ve invited all your co-workers but one, odds are the odd one out is going to hear about it.
  • Do you care if they find out? If this is the obnoxious co-worker who does nothing but harass you, are they likely to be any worse if you snub them for your party? Quite the opposite, it gives you an easy explanation: they have made it clear they don’t appreciate your company, so you saved them the embarrassment of having to turn to you down.
  • Do you see this person often? If the answer is “no,” then you won’t have to often deal with fallout, and you have a reasonable excuse: you only invited people with whom you are close.
  • Is this person family? For better or worse, family members expect special treatment. Moreover, other relatives may take their side on the matter. Family squabbles get ugly quick. Seriously consider if the issue is worth division among relatives.
  • Are they an attendee’s significant other? If yes, you’re going to have to put up with them unless there are seriously extenuating circumstances. You can’t ask a friend to come alone just because you don’t get alone with their partner.

So what circumstances justify excluding a person from the invitation list?

  • Threat of harm. If you or one of your guests has reason to believe the person means them physical harm, you are absolutely in the right by not inviting them. You owe your guests as safe an event as possible.
  • History of bad behavior. Does this person behave inappropriately? This most often rears its head when alcohol is involved. If you’re afraid this person is going to break things, behave rudely, break the law, etc. then it’s reasonable to exclude them.

But what if you have no real objection to the person, but you feel they won’t fit in with other attendees? Treat your friend like an adult. Explain your concern and let them decide for themselves. They may decide it’s not for them, but that’s their decision. You extended the invitation. They may attend and feel out of place. That’s a shame, but you did warm them. Or they may attend and surprise you with how well they get along with others.

How do you handle people’s ex’s? If you’re friends with both, you’re in a sticky situation. I suggest inviting both. You shouldn’t have to choose sides. If they can’t cope with one another, that’s between the two of them.

Of course, if you think one of them may harm the other or behave grossly inappropriately, then it’s completely reasonable to exclude them. But if that’s the case, why are you friends with them?

There’s a certain amount of politics involved in creating an invitation list. Understanding your options goes a long way in helping you make an informed decision while hurting the fewest feelings.

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