1. Erika

    Very recently, I’ve had to back out of being my boyfriend’s plus one to two weddings due to work. They’re very good friends of my boyfriend. I tried to do so graciously but it was last minute and I felt badly. I’ve prepared cards to the couples with checks in the amount appropriate for “paying for my plate”.
    And in a whirlwind, my boyfriend and I of two and a half years have since stopped seeing each other, with intentions of making it work but we’re very much broken up at this point.
    Do I send these congratulations cards to his friends? Leave it alone?

    • Chocobo

      Dear Erika,
      How last minute is the change of plans? A week? A month? A day? If your changes were very close to the weddings, then I believe it is prudent for you to still send the bride and groom a gift, since you had indicated that you would be there regardless of the status of your relationship to your date now. However, you do not need to “pay for your plate”, since that “rule” does not actually exist. Please do send along the card of congratulations and apologies for your last-minute change along with a gift of your choice.

      • Erika

        Thank you for responding. The change I plans was within a week and a half. I will send the cards. Per the request of the (ex) boyfriend, he’d prefer I didn’t send a check along with it. I think acting how he’d prefer is the more optimal action. Again, thank you.

    • Winifred Rosenburg

      Yes, you should send the card. For the record, having to work is rarely an acceptable excuse for backing out of going to a wedding you rsvped yes for.

      • Kendra

        I’m actually unsure of how to put this or if I should at all. But Winifred I feel as though you perhaps are not anticipating how your tone comes across. You have great authority and a true mastery of proper etiquette and we all benefit from your knowledge – for that I am grateful, truly. But, to me, this comment in particular reads a bit brusque. Erika is reaching out to us, in the hopes of treating these hosts with as much respect and consideration as possible given the unfortunate circumstances. She is also now dealing with a whole other level of complication and pain with the dissolution of a relationship.
        The written word is a tricky thing and though I trust you’re striving to be clear and informative, perhaps a little compassion is due along side the lesson?
        Thanks for listening

        • Winifred Rosenburg

          I have always been taught don’t ask an honest question if you don’t want an honest answer. My answer was very matter-of-fact and answered her question so I’m not sure what the problem is. Perhaps you have a personal problem with the answer?

          To answer scdeb, rsvping yes is in fact agreeing to a “change in lifestyle” if you choose to think of it that way. You are agreeing to go to a place at a certain time you wouldn’t have otherwise gone to. You are agreeing to dress and behave in a way that’s appropriate to the event that you might not have otherwise done. You are agreeing to turn down other things you could have been doing during that time, including work. This is not new etiquette; it is as old as invitations. There is no list of acceptable professions or anything. There are two reasons why one could change their rsvp due to work. 1) A completely unforeseeable emergency comes up and dire consequences will happen if you do not work. Off the top of my head if you work in a hospital when an epidemic strikes and literally everyone needs to work. 2) You have a job where there is no way of knowing ahead of time if you have to work, you have explained the situation to the hosts, and they encouraged you to plan on coming anyway. To deal with reason 2, you should call the host before rsvping and explain “I would love to come, but unfortunately I’m on call 24/7 and won’t know ahead of time if I can make it. I’d hate to make you plan on me being there when I might not be so…” and leave it up to them.

          By the way, there was a Miss Manners column where she answered a related question. I can’t find it right now, but to paraphrase the person said he had rsvped that he would be going to a wedding and had to cancel at the last minute due to work. Should he send a check for the cost of his plate and host a party in the newlyweds honor? Miss Manners’ answer was: You had to work? I seriously doubt they chained you to your desk. Yes, you should send a check and host a party in the newlyweds honor. Don’t be surprised if they don’t show up.

          If I wanted to be brusque, I would have said that.

      • Erika

        I would typically agree with you, and that’s why I feel terrible for backing out. My (ex)boyfriend and I are in an atypical line of work in which we can’t control the wheres and whens like other people can. Our friends and family are always understanding.

        I am sending the cards, per everyone’s agreement here.

    • This idea of sending cheques to “pay for one’s plate” seems a little odd. By all means, send a card and gift in advance of a wedding, as usual, and whether or not you can attend the wedding, but you are under no obligation to send a personal cheque–in addition to a gift–because you cannot attend a wedding.

  2. polite punk

    An old and good friend of mine moved out to the suburbs with her husband and 1.5 year old son. We often try to get together, but she keeps canceling on me. I don’t have a car and it would take nearly 2 hours to get to her place on public transportation. Since it’s a 30 minute drive to my neighborhood, I’ve often suggested meeting at some in-between places.

    To be honest, it’s not so much the canceling at the last minute that bothers me the most, it’s more her attitude. Every time she cancels, it’s always with quips such as “neither of us have an ounce of flexibility” or “hoping one day you have to manage a toddler 24-7. then you will understand what it really means to be inconvenienced.”

    I think I have tried to be flexible as I’m open to meeting someplace equi-distant and at times, I’ve done my best to re-arrange my schedule so that we can meet when she is free. There are, of course, times when that’s not possible and I get text messages saying that it’s “kind of in your hands if you want to see us or not.”

    Recently she posted on facebook about how it’s hard to be “carefree” and “spontaneous” when you have kids and it’s hard to keep up her “end of the friendship without asking you to babysit.” This was all directed to people without children.

    I realize that I don’t know what it’s like to be raising a child, but at the same time I see plenty of my friends with kids who live in the city. I also have a fairly busy schedule working multiple jobs, balancing family time (my parents live nearby), etc. Furthermore, all the times I suggest getting together are with activities definitely geared towards her son (the playground, the park, etc.).

    I was hoping folks here could guide me on how to proceed. For the parents, what were your experiences in staying in touch with friends after you had children? For the non-parents, how do you negotiate this shift as your friends start having kids? Finally, am I crazy to expect a little bit of compromise in meeting up or should I be doing the 2 hour trek out to the ‘burbs to spend time with them?

    • Polite Punk,

      Speaking as a mother of (almost) three, it doesn’t sound like you are to blame here. You’ve tried hard to keep up your side of the friendship, and your friend has tried less hard. She shouldn’t be blaming her circumstances (the having children bit) when it seems to be more a lack of creativity and flexibility on her part. It’s true that being the first of your friends to have a family does come with its own learning curve. That said, I would not feel guilty about keeping a cordial distance until she works out her own feelings about having a family and the inconveniences they sometimes present.

      Good luck to you, and good good job being patient!

    • Dear Polite Punk,

      I have found that some people with young children use their new situation in life as an excuse for rudeness. It seems to me that this is what is happening in your case. From what you say, I would agree that you have done what you can to accommodate your friend, and you are in no way crazy for expecting a bit of return effort.

      As for moving forward, it seems like you have a choice to make. Your friend has made it pretty clear that she is not willing to put forth the effort and sacrifice it would take to meet you half-way (literally and figuratively!), so you now must decide if it is worth if to you to take a 2 hour trek to her. If it is, then do so. If it’s not, then this may be a relationship that drifts apart–at least for now.

      • Joanna

        I don’t have kids either, but I do have a serious chronic illness, which means I spend nearly every day of my life in a considerable amount of pain and exhaustion. Despite this, I’m determined to hang onto my independence for as long as humanly possible, so I’m still working full-time. Many days, it’s all I can do to get through the work day, then get home and collapse.

        Nonetheless, I honor 99% of my plans with friends (cancelling only if I’m REALLY in bad shape). I also make a point of reaching out to keep in touch with friends regularly, etc.

        Yet I can’t tell you how often people will cancel on me, not respond to an email for 2 months (when I know for a fact the person spends every waking moment with their smartphone in hand), etc. The typical excuse is, “Well, y’know, I have KIDS…” as though that’s a reason to do whatever you want, whenever you want. These individuals all know that while I’m not a parent myself, I have some very strenuous struggles. These of course, are paid no heed whatsoever.

        It’s a good thing, though. I’ve made a few careful “prunings” of my friend list in recent years. These situations are quite telling, IMO.

  3. Hi Erika,

    I think it depends on how you were invited to these weddings.

    If your name was specified on the invitation then you were specifically invited and should send your congratulations along with a note of deep apology for backing out. Sending a gift would also be appropriate, but sending a check specifying it as paying for your plate is–in my opinion–unnecessary.

    If the envelope was addressed to “Boyfriend and Guest,” then you have no responsibility whatsoever. Your boyfriend can take whomever he chooses to these weddings, and if he RSVP’d for 2, then it is his responsibility to find your replacement.

    Hope that helps!

  4. If you’re saying that you had RSVP’d “yes” and ended up not attending, I would definitely send the cards with the checks inside. Then, leave it alone and if you happen to see them out and about you can also offer your congratulations in person (avoiding a long-winded apology and/or story about what has since happened between you and their friend).

  5. R.B.

    My husband passed away 16 years ago. In his obituary, I listed that he was survived by a niece. (We had no children). The niece is my sister’s daughter, but she & my husband were close. My husband’s brother & sister did not have any children. My friend still insists that I was wrong to list her as one of his survivors in the obituary. Who is right?

    • Jody

      RB, you were right. You wrote the obituary as you wished and as you know your husband would have wished. It’s rude of your friend to suggest otherwise. Different people word obituaries in different ways.

  6. Tia

    My mother’s cousin sent out invitations to a bridal shower for me prior to asking who was invited to the wedding. There is one woman on there who is distantly related, but not invited as she has been very rude to our family. When I told my mother’s cousin that the woman and her husband were not invited, her response was that she was sorry, and if it were a problem with money, she would pay for them to come.

    So I now have to invite the rude woman and her husband? Please help!!!

    • PJ


      Is she coming to the shower? I don’t know if this is proper etiquette, but I’d say that if she doesn’t come to the shower, don’t invite her to the wedding. If you do invite her to the wedding, let’s hope that she just doesn’t come!


  7. scdeb

    “For the record, having to work is rarely an acceptable excuse for backing out of going to a wedding you rsvped yes for.”
    What? Should you lose your job just to go to a wedding? What “work” is an acceptable excuse? Is there a list some where? I think that a wedding invitation has no basis to change a life or lifestyle of the invitee. It is an invitation. Period. No more or less important than that. You don’t owe for the price of the meal or event if you attend. You also don’t owe if you don’t attend even when you have to cancel for work or any other emergency after the RSVP has been sent. It is very kind & brave to communicate that you can’t attend after the RSVP has been sent. That is important. There are way too many “new” rules that have made weddings over the top ridiculous.

    • You are, of course, correct that a wedding *invitation* has no bearing on the activities of the invitee. But if you have communicated with the organisers (RSVP’d) that you *will* attend, then it is a little rude to cancel at a short date. If, at the time you RSVP’d, you knew there was a foreseeable chance you wouldn’t be able to attend, it’s best to contact the host and make that clear–ideally letting him/her know when you will know for sure.

  8. Courtney

    I know that there are a million people on the web asking this question, but I cannot seem to find one to my particular problem. My parents are divorced, my father is hosting the wedding, but I want to be polite and put my mother on the invitation. Neither are remarried. How do I phrase this on my wedding invitation? If I had to take a guess
    Mr. John Smith
    Ms. Jane Smith

    Is that correct? Thank you for your help!

      • Courtney

        So if my father is hosting, I can switch him to the top of the invitation and put my mother after, since usually etiquette dictates putting the bride’s mother first?

        • Ok, there are two schools about this. First, there is some precedent that invitations issued by divorced/separated spouses would read:

          Ms. Jane Smartlington
          Mr. John Smith


          The names would go on separate lines, with the woman first and *crucially* no “and” which indicates their being married. (The “and” is usually the link that two people with different surnames are actually married/in a long term live-in relationship. Here, Smartlington refers to Jane’s maiden name.)

          The other school says that the “and” can be used to indicate divorced parents, jointly issuing invitations, in the following way:

          Mr. John Smith and Mrs. Jane Smith

          This is, as in your case, when the two are divorced but not remarried. Smith, in this case, would be the mother’s married name. If your mother doesn’t want to be called in this way, but would rather go by her maiden name, then the option is as in the first case above.

          It’s completely understandable that you want to honour your mother on the invitation. Is your mother at all hosting the wedding? If so, it does follow tradition, in this case, to have her first on the line. If she is not hosting the wedding, then the invitation isn’t coming from her, is it? But you can, of course, honour her in many other ways.

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