We've probably all been on the receiving end of an unwanted party invitation at one point or another. Whether it's the destination wedding of a long lost cousin, a baby shower we just want to avoid or a birthday party at a noisy kids' restaurant, there are just some invitations we'd rather not accept. Maybe the cost of attending the party is just too expensive, or maybe the guest of honor is not someone you particularly like. Whatever the reason, it's good to know how to handle unwanted invitations politely.
When the problem is your own
For many years, I avoided baby showers because they were too painful to attend. I had suffered from infertility for such a long time, and I finally just gave myself permission to stay home. This was my own problem, and really had nothing to do with the new moms or anyone else involved with the parties.
If you don't want to attend a party, perhaps because of an emotional struggle or because the event would be physically taxing, it's okay. The invitation is a nice gesture and should be met with an appropriate response. RSVP with a decline as soon as you can, and make sure to send a nice card or even a gift if you are close to the guest of honor.
When there is a bad history
I knew a family that had big parties every year around the holidays. And every year the family spent much of their time gossiping, arguing, and there was usually a fight. Sometimes it even got physical. Is it any wonder that some members of the family stopped attending these parties when they had children of their own?
When there is a bad history between some of the people expected to be at a party, it is perfectly fine to just say no to an invitation. You don't have to explain why you won't be attending. Just do what is best for you and your family. Issue a firm but polite, "No thank you, we have other plans," and let it go.
If the person who sent the invitation is fully aware that you don't want to be around certain people, but continues to invite you to parties anyway, you can even feel free to just ignore the invitations after a while.
When it's not the kid's fault
Perhaps you have been invited to a child's birthday party, but you really do not want to attend. Maybe you have a horrible relationship with their parents, or the party is at the local roller rink and loud music gives you migraines. If you care for the child and want to let them know you remembered their birthday, send a card or a gift. Tell them you hope they have a great birthday and that you'll be thinking of them.
When the invitation is bulk rate
You've probably known someone who sent invitations to everyone whose address they could find, just hoping for more gifts. The host does not actually expect you to attend; they want your presents, not your presence. These sorts of invitations include the graduation of third cousins you never met, the bridal shower of your co-worker's daughter in another state, the belated reception for a wedding you were never invited to, etc.
Worse than that are the invitations that go out to over 100 people via Facebook as an event. The host didn't even take the time to send you an individual e-mail. You're just a box clicked on a list of contacts.
Personally, if I am not close enough to the guest of honor to at least call them a casual acquaintance, I don't feel responsible for even sending back the RSVP to decline the invitation. It might not be the most polite thing to do, but if you have to figure out who the party is even honoring, don't worry about just tossing these invitations in the trash or deleting them from your mailbox.
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