Party Pains: When feelings get hurt

by epi on October 24, 2011

Q: My 12-year-old daughter wasn’t invited to her classmate’s Halloween party.  She’s really hurt, because she thought they were friends.  Is it OK for me to intervene?  If so, what should I do?

A: Tempting as it is, don’t do it.  Instead, talk to her about her feelings- and listen.  If she wants to approach the host, help her role-play what to say.  Maybe she’ll learn the party was only for the swim team.  If she was left out intentionally, it’s an important, albeit painful, lesson about her friend.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Alicia October 24, 2011 at 7:53 am

Oh do not intervene except to let your daughter vent her feelings and do not encourage her to question the host. As we all know there are meriad reasons why someone makes or does not make the guest list and we all get excluded from time to time. Learning to cope is a great life skill.

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Lizzie Post October 24, 2011 at 8:45 am

I agree with Alicia, “Learning to cope is a great life skill.” doing it graciously is especially important. I know a lesson like this would have also made me want to be all the more inclusive the next time I’m the host.

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Barb October 24, 2011 at 11:43 am

I have a wedding etiquette question… My husband and I were supposed to attend a wedding for my husbands, cousins, daughter. It was out of state and we had made reservations to stay over at a hotel. Due to a very unexepected family issue with one of our children – we weren’t able to attend the wedding. I know I still owe the couple a gift, that isn’t the question, but where we didn’t attend at the last minute – what other obligations do we owe to my husbands cousins? My husband had called his cousin prior to the wedding and explained there was a good chance we wouldn’t be able to make it and explained what the issue was. Do we need to do anything else? thanks

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Country Girl October 24, 2011 at 11:57 am

I would say a phone call with reiterated apology/congratulations to the bride herself from your husband and family would be a nice gesture. And if you know that your absences caused any financial hardships for the couple or hosts (ie. They still had to pay the caterer for your plates or such, which is common) it would also be thoughtful to offer to repay them their losses. (I’m quite sure they wouldn’t accept, but it would be a nice thing to offer.)

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Lady Antipode October 24, 2011 at 11:19 pm

The cost of the meal is not a consideration in the value of the gift. Weddings are not ‘break even’ events, where the cost of the gift must equal the cost of the meal + venue hire + chair + wine. This has been the topic of many etiquette forums and blogs, and it is something about which I am quite vehement.

You should definitely call and apologise/congratulate, but stress that you’re sorry you missed the celebration and their company, not that you’re sorry you cost them X dollars. If you must mention it, say that you hope they weren’t put out too much financially by your absence, and that if they were you’d like to help. Country Girl and Pam are right, though, a gracious host shouldn’t accept such an offer.

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Winifred Rosenburg October 25, 2011 at 12:08 am

I don’t necessarily agree. It depends on the reason for not going. If it was an actual emergency, like your child was in the hospital, you shouldn’t have to pay for your plates. If it was anything less than that, like your child had a school project, you should absolutely pay for your plates, and I don’t think it would be rude for the couple to take you up on your offer. (In general, one shouldn’t offer something if he or she doesn’t want the answer to be yes.) Miss Manners answered a question like this although I can’t find it right now where she told the person he should pay for his plate and host a party in the honor of the newlyweds and not be surprised if they don’t show up.

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Pam October 25, 2011 at 3:05 pm

The cost of the meal is not a consideration in the value of a gift when you actually ATTEND the wedding. This is because the bride and groom paid for a plate and it was eaten by the guests. In this case, the bride and groom are paying for multiple plates that will not be consumed, so it is appropriate for the people missing the wedding to keep this in mind when sending a gift. In other words, when writing a gift check or purchasing the wedding gift I would think to myself “well they obviously had to pay for 4 plates that were not eaten, so I’m going to consider that when deciding how much to spend on this gift.” I’m not saying it has to work out exactly cost-wise, but an attempt is the gracious thing to do.

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Pam October 24, 2011 at 12:40 pm

And when they refuse to accept payment for your family’s plates, make sure you go extra on their gift in an attempt to make up for the plates they had to pay for. It is so nice of you to acknowledge that they still had to pay for you even though you couldn’t attend. Unforeseen circumstances happen, but acknowledging that it may have put someone else out is a wonderful thing to do.

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Jaquie October 27, 2011 at 11:52 am

Yes, although its tempting, do not intervene. My daughter had a similar experience with a cousin’s birthday party. We lived in the same neighborhood and they played quite a bit together, but she was not invited to her birthday party. My daughter had been playing with her cousin when it was getting time for the party to start, so my SIL asked me to explain to my daughter that the party was just for 2 other friends and her daughter who were going out for dessert and a movie. I took my daughter home and when she asked why she wasn’t invited to the party, I told her the truth, that I was not sure. She was confused and hurt, but learned a valuable lesson about life and more importantly about her cousin.

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