Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: A family member is getting remarried and is doing so in a low-key way — I got an email about the details instead of an invitation. It’s not even an Evite or similar, but instead a “here’s where and when to be — block off the day” note sent en masse by a busybody sibling because she knew the couple hadn’t shared the information (yet??).

I don’t want to go. There’s no travel involved, no major family drama, no previous commitment . . . we’re just not close, despite being fairly closely related. Frankly, I’d rather do other things with a weekend day.

If it were important to the couple themselves, they’d have invited us directly, no?

Do I have to go? If not, do I have to make clear that I won’t be there, given that I’ve not been asked to attend — even though I know the person who sent the email expects us all there? There’s no food purchase or related reason for them to need a firm head count. If I’d gotten an invite with a registry, I’d send my regrets and a nice gift, but in this situation I’m less sure what to do.

(Nick Galifianakis/The Washington Post)


Family: Situations like this are exactly why etiquette exists. It has a reputation for being uptight where “casual” and “low-key” are welcomed as relaxing alternatives, but the kind of wedding free-for-all you describe here actually creates more stress by leaving people with no clear idea what to do or how to respond.

No, you don’t have to go.

No, you don’t have to tell anyone you’re not going because you were not actually invited.

If you’d like, you can reply to the busybody’s email to say thanks for letting you know, but you won’t be there, and then ask if there’s anyone you should tell, or is it totally informal? That way you’re covered and still, ack, “low-key.”

Dear Carolyn: I did not receive an invitation to my niece’s birthday party. When my mom asked if I would see her there, I told her I wasn’t invited. She said she’s sure that was just an oversight, and I should call my brother and his wife to let them know I didn’t get an invitation.

I’m not so sure it was an oversight. I think they might be short on space, and I didn’t make the cut on their guest list, and I think it’s rude to call someone and ask whether they meant to invite you to their party. Who’s right?

Not Invited

Not Invited: This is going to sound like passing notes in middle school, but your mom is the one to ask your brother whether you’re invited.

She can say she was talking to you about the party on the assumption that you were going. Then she can apologize for that and ask him, “Should I not have assumed?” It will be a lot less awkward for your brother or sister-in-law to tell your mom the truth about being short on space than it would be for them to tell you.

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