DEAR CAROLYN: My brother and sister-in-law have been critical of the fact that we are planners. If we invite them for a dinner party, then we generally send out an invitation, date, time, occasion and ask for an RSVP. We never hear back. We’ve called and left messages on the phone, texted, emailed, but they don’t let us know if they are coming. My husband is gracious enough to say, “Just make enough. If they don’t come, we’ll have leftovers.” They are a family of four.
Are we in the wrong? Should we be checking with them first when we host dinners to see if it fits their schedule? Or are they in the wrong for not RSVP-ing and if so, is there anything we can do about it?
Or is my husband right — should we keep inviting them and make enough food just in case?
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— An Organized but Frustrated Host
DEAR AN ORGANIZED BUT FRUSTRATED HOST: Depends. Do you want to win or gather?
The etiquette angle here is a no-brainer. Their nonresponses to your invitations and voice mails and texts and emails are as rude and passive-aggressive as it gets. If these were friends of yours, I’d be saying right about now that these aren’t really friends of yours.
The family angle here is a no-brainer.
If I had to guess, I’d say you’re looking at a sister-in-law who is bent out of shape over mistreatment real or perceived and is using these occasions as her proverbial duel at dawn.
When you want to host a family-centric gathering, CALL YOUR BROTHER AND SISTER-IN-LAW, for the love of lasagna, and yes, I’m screaming. Ask them if Saturday the nth works for a celebration of so-and-so’s birthday.
Conversely, when you are just being social and including this family among friends of yours for a dinner or cocktail party, then give them the standard invitation treatment, where you pick a date and if they can’t make it, then, oh well, seeya next time. As a gesture of peace, also follow up your formal invitations with a quick voice mail: “Hey, just sent you an invitation to a party we’re having the Saturday after next. Would love to see you there, but totally understand if you have other plans, lemme know,” click.
It may be they’re too invested in this grudge to let go so easily. That would be unfortunate, but also out of your reach. You can only fix your half of it — which begins, as always, with admitting it’s there.