We Were Really Expecting Your Gift, Not You

by admin on May 31, 2011

I consider myself to be pretty etiquette illiterate, but even I know this is inappropriate! I generally don’t attend family functions because it causes anxiety issues, but I always appreciate being invited and send a gift (when appropriate) with my regrets.

Recently, my uncle sent an invitation for a river cruise party celebrating the adoption of a little girl. She has lived with him for two years, and they are finally able to finalize the adoption. Because of my own history with adoption, I decided I would like to attend. I sent in the RSVP and looked into the registry. A few days later, I received an e-mail from my uncle saying, “This is awkward, but you have put me in an uncomfortable position. We didn’t expect you to actually want to attend when we invited you. We figured you would just send a gift like usual. Unfortunately, there really isn’t enough space on the boat for people we didn’t expect to come. I know you’ll understand. We can get together in a couple of days for you to give her present. Thanks.”

So not only was I un-invited, and BLAMED for the situation (“You put me in an uncomfortable position…”), but he still expected me to give a gift. 0527-11

Ooo ho!  Uncle got caught red-handed being a greedy gimme pig!   The invitation really wasn’t meant for YOU.  It was inviting your gift to come in your place.

Suck it up, Uncle.  When invitees accept the kind invitations to join you at the event you are hosting, you say nothing and find some way to squeeze them in without calling attention to the fact that they are inconveniencing your plan to reap only gifts from them.  Blameshifting your guilt at being a greedy, ungracious, guilt manipulative host-pig onto your unsuspecting guest is a serious faux pas qualifying you for an extended stay in Etiquette Hell in the far, deepest recesses where the flames are the hottest. Crispy, deep fried Uncle.

{ 98 comments… read them below or add one }

gramma dishes May 31, 2011 at 3:01 pm

Are the other family members (those who presumably WILL be participating in this river cruise event) aware of this email and its contents?
I would be horrified to know that my sister/brother/daughter/son had pulled a stunt like this! Maybe Uncle Obnoxious needs for someone to point out to him the inevitable repercussions of this fiasco.

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Snowy May 31, 2011 at 3:48 pm

Show up and when they ask why, tell them you’re the gift’s plus-one.

And by all means, stay close with that little girl, even if you write off her dad. It’s not her fault, and she’s clearly going to need all the good role models she can get.

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WrenskiBaby May 31, 2011 at 4:24 pm

This story made me want to weep. Being uninvited makes a person feel awful.

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Saucygirl May 31, 2011 at 4:52 pm

Op – I think your response and your gift idea is perfect. Congratulations to rising above this and good luck in future dealings.

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lkb May 31, 2011 at 5:10 pm

Sorry, somehow I missed the part about the anxiety issues. Oy! So uncle is the deeply sympathetic sort, isn’t he? He is so helpful he even declines the invitation for you! How sweet!
I’d be soooo very tempted to show Aunty Marge and dear Cousin Joey and of course, Grandma the charming email I got from deep-fried uncle. It’s always nice to keep in touch with family, isn’t it? ;D

Too bad OP lives so close to uncle, the stench must be terrible.

But congratulations on the adoption finalization for the little one. Do keep in touch with her as much as possible. She needs kind people like you.

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Just trying May 31, 2011 at 5:21 pm

[the OP's] reply to him was as follows: “No, I don’t particularly understand, but it’s not like there’s anything I can do about it. I realize I generally only attend small gatherings, and not the parties that include the whole extended family, but in the future, please don’t invite me to anything I’m not welcome to attend.”

Perfect. Polite and to the point.

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Lynne May 31, 2011 at 5:50 pm

Kinsey,

Thank you for sharing the follow-up details with us. Your proximity to the party, and the fact that other extended family is attending, leaves me flabbergasted as well. I still can’t believe that he had the gall to put blame on you.

I think your choice of gift to your cousin is a lovely one, and sends a clear message that it is the relationship that you value, and expect others to value as well.

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Twik May 31, 2011 at 5:56 pm

The sad thing is it is clear the party is not about celebrating the adoption – it’s about raking in the loot. The new daughter is almost an afterthought.

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Alida May 31, 2011 at 6:30 pm

Kinsey, I am so glad you responded to your uncle the way you did. I am still shaking my head, trying to figure out who not only invites someone just for the gift, but then *admits* to it, too?

Hugs to you and I think your idea of a gift for your cousin is perfect!

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Sharon May 31, 2011 at 7:18 pm

The fact that he responded in an e-mail rather than deliver this kind of news in person is just piling on the disrespect.

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Marcia June 1, 2011 at 12:28 am

While I think Uncle goofed up with the way he handled this, I’m not quite sure if I can blame him for sending the invite.

According to the OP, she knows and her family knows that she does not attend large functions, but she appreciates the invite because it makes her feel good. In return for being remembered she sends a present. Her family doesn’t take her repeated turn downs as offense because they are understanding of her issues and continue to invite her because she likes it.

Uncle did nothing more than follow the trend that OP created for herself. I can see the conversation: We have 35 seats and 35 guests, but what about OP? – Oh send her an invite she likes them and makes her feel special, but she’ll never come because of her anxiety.

Then lo and behold OP changes her pattern of behavior and leaves them in a lurch. While I think Uncle needed to suck it up once that happened, I can’t necessarily send him to the lowest depths of EHell that others have.

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m June 1, 2011 at 2:10 am

Sound of jaw hitting the floor…

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David June 1, 2011 at 3:52 am

Kinsey;

Your reply was very good and your gift idea for your new cousin sounds like a lot of fun.

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--Lia June 1, 2011 at 6:03 am

Picture my jaw on the floor with all the others. I now have a question . I’ve been rolling this around in my mind and don’t know. Would it be alright to tell other family members about the dis-invitation? Crispy deep fried Uncle didn’t seem to be embarrassed by it, and he said nothing about keeping it confidential. Would sharing and letting others draw their own conclusions as we have here be okay? Would it be smart? Might it backfire? Is it possible that OP’s family would somehow support (crispy, deep-fried) Uncle?

(I love, love, love the phrase “crispy, deep-fried” and will use it as often as I can.)

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Amanda Kate June 1, 2011 at 6:32 am

How dare she actually want to come to an event she was invited to! Now she made her poor uncle feel bad because he has to uninvite her. What a horrible person she is. /sarcasm

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The Elf June 1, 2011 at 8:39 am

Oh wow. Just wow. If you have a hard limit on the number of people that can be at a party (such as with boat capacity), then it behooves you not to invite more people than can fit on the boat just in case they all say yes. After all, a river cruise is pretty special! You can always do a second (or third!) round of invites when you have some “no” RSVPs. You can also send out announcements that aren’t invitations to a specific event. Of course if you do that, you risk people just sending their congratulations instead of sending gifts, and that does appear to have been his main purpose……

Somehow I’m not surprised that family events give the OP anxiety issues! I’m sure this is not the first offense.

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--Lia June 1, 2011 at 8:47 am

I can’t seem to leave this one alone. I thought of something else. Do we know that Uncle did this just to the OP because of her usual habit of not attending big family events? He could have sent a similar email to several people. He might have sent invitations to 60 close-proximity people when he knew he only had room for 20. (I’m exaggerating, but I’m making a point.) He might really think that that’s the way it’s done.

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SilverOrb June 1, 2011 at 9:46 am

Did anyone else notice that it took the uncle a few days to respond? I wonder if he was waiting to see if the “actually” invited guests would all RSVP… Maybe if there had been enough negative RSVP’s he would have “allowed” the OP to attend and not said a word.

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gramma dishes June 1, 2011 at 10:46 am

Marcia ~~ I might be able to go along with your thinking if all he had done was explain that they had anticipated that she would probably not come even though she would appreciate being invited based on her prior pattern of response.

So I understand your point, but the email made it quite excruciatingly clear that even though they had not really planned on including her in the cruise event, they most certainly DID plan on receiving a gift from her and were all too happy to make arrangements to see her at another time for the sole purpose of collecting that gift! I think it was almost more the emphasis on the gift they were expecting more than the actual withdrawal of the invitation itself, although that was horrible enough on its own.

The combination of the double faux pas does, in my opinion, indeed make the Uncle a candidate for the deepest depths of Ehell and certainly earns him the distinction of being a qualified recipient of the title “Crispy Deep Fried Uncle”.

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Ruth June 1, 2011 at 10:48 am

How old’s the little girl? I suggest some age-appropriate version of an etiquette book. :)

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Margaret June 1, 2011 at 12:16 pm

Oh my gosh, if that got around in my family, I would fully expect a large number of people to tell Uncle, “That’s terrible that there isn’t room for Niece. Just give her my spot and we’ll catch up with you another time.” He would end up with LOTS of room. If it were me, I might not bring it up, but if someone asked if I were attending the event, I would certainly say, “I’d have loved to, but my invitation was rescinded.” And if they asked, I would certainly tell them the story.

I think what makes this so bad isn’t JUST that there was an unvitation (thanks whoever coined that), but that the unvitation went out to someone who already has anxiety about attending functions so that it is MORE likely to be hurtful. Shame, shame, shame.

Excellent response, OP, and I think your gift idea is lovely.

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karma June 1, 2011 at 1:51 pm

I can see why he didn’t expect her to come what with her having “anxiety issues” and a pattern of not attending, but he shouldn’t have *admitted* that he didn’t expect her. LOL! The point where he went wrong was in the second statement about making a plan to get together for gifts. Ha ha ha. Too much!!!!

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Wink-n-Smile June 1, 2011 at 2:53 pm

Marcia, while you have a point, you miss the main point here. Uncle planned for the gift to be sent, and for the OP NOT to attend. When he got the positive response, he didn’t go “Oops! Now we need to find a way to fit her in,” or “WOW! She actually wants to come! How can we fit her in?”

The uncle blamed the OP for “putting him in an uncomfortable situation.” How about the OP’s discomfort?

Then, he flat out asked for the present, anyway!

Yes, she had set a pattern. However, he should have made alternate arrangements so that she could attend, or at least handled the disinvitation better. “Wow! I’m so happy you are coming out of your shell and want to come. Frankly, after all these years, we just thought it was standard procedure to invite you, and you’d decline. I’m ashamed to admit, I planned for that very thing. Now I’m not sure what to do. The boat is at capacity, without you. What do you suggest? Do you think we can squeeze in, or would that be too much of a safety issue? The captain might not allow it.” Knowing the family dynamics, the OP might have come up with a solution that would work.

If the Uncle had admitted he made a mistake, and actually *apologized*, the OP wouldn’t have been so offended. After all, she DID set up the pattern. It’s understandable that the plans would be made without her.

It occurs to me that there might be a relative who doesn’t care to attend, as much as the OP obviously does. If the situation were made known to the family (with Uncle being appropriately apologetic, and determined to find a solution), it’s quite possible someone else would be willing to step down in favor of OP. After all, this is a momentous occasion! OP, actually coming! Hooray!

Of course, my family dynamics are different, and would allow for such communal trouble-shooting and willing sacrifice. We understand mistakes.

In this case, along with the apology, the uncle should make *absolutely no mention* of the gift. He can expect it all he wants, in his heart, but don’t let the words come out. Treat OP as an honored and welcome guest.

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Wink-n-Smile June 1, 2011 at 3:07 pm

Kinsey – Thanks for the update!

Since big parties and registries for adoption celebrations are the norm in your family, I suppose that it makes sense that a gift would be expected.

If you want to take the high road, and let the child know she is loved, since you are within walking distance of the dock, I think you should go to the dock at the appointed time, bringing your gift, and personally hand it to your new cousin. Give her a big hug and a smile, and then just don’t get on the boat. When anyone asks why, tell them to ask your extra-crispy Uncle.

Then walk home, and enjoy a relaxing bubble bath.

If you were far away, I’d say differently, but since you’re close, go ahead and bring a gift. It can be small – a token. I also really like your idea of taking her for a day at the park. Why not do both? She’d love it, and it would be a way to set a good example of fine, classy behavior.

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Sarah Peart June 1, 2011 at 3:33 pm

I actually lost my breath – my mouth is hanging open! I cannot imagine how he could admit such a thing! Basically “We have given up on you attending and are very happy with the situation because you get us a gift and we do not even have to shell out one red cent to entertain you – no food, drink, music – just a lovely gift. And we were more than satisfied with the arrangement!”

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RP June 1, 2011 at 5:22 pm

Oh send her an invite she likes them and makes her feel special, but she’ll never come because of her anxiety.

@Marcia – He could have just as easily sent her an announcement that the adoption was being finalized to share the happy event without actually inviting her to a function.

Besides, that’s not what his response to the RSVP said. He didn’t say, “We’re didn’t expect you to come but sent the invite anyway to keep you in the loop. It was more like an announcement. Sorry for the mixup.” He said “We figured you would just send a gift like usual.” Sending people invitations simply because you want more gifts is incredibly rude and greedy.

It is never wrong to accept an invitation, even if you have a habit of declining. He had no right to invite someone he needed to not show up and he had no right expecting her to give a present as if he was entitled to one. As the host, one MUST plan for the possibility that everyone you’ve invited will RSVP and show up.

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Kinsey June 2, 2011 at 7:13 am

Hi, OP’er again :)

My uncle’s reply to my reply was “you don’t have to get snippy with me. It’s not my fault this happened.”

I think I’m just going to ignore it at this point. Although I do turn down invitations to most large functions, I have always felt welcome at any of the ones I have attended. I would have had no problem if he had called me and said “we screwed up, we didn’t expect you to want to attend, we just sent the invite as a courtesy. Can we call you if someone can’t go? ” or “can we all meet for dinner and do a mini party, just us and you, instead?” But instead he seems to be taking the position that this is all my fault because I thought I was actually invited.

Several people have posted about whether or not to bring this to the attention of other family members. Because of the size of the family, and their tendency to be gossipy, my general rule of thumb is “don’t lie, but don’t volunteer information.” So if I’m asked why I wasn’t there, I’ll won’t lie about it, but I won’t bring it up either.

thanks again for all the supportive replies!

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Abby June 2, 2011 at 10:56 am

“My uncle’s reply to my reply was “you don’t have to get snippy with me. It’s not my fault this happened.””

What? What? Oh hell no. That just takes the friggin cake right there. Exactly then, dear Uncle, who’s fault IS it?

“Several people have posted about whether or not to bring this to the attention of other family members. Because of the size of the family, and their tendency to be gossipy, my general rule of thumb is “don’t lie, but don’t volunteer information.” So if I’m asked why I wasn’t there, I’ll won’t lie about it, but I won’t bring it up either. ”

You’re a better person than I am, Kinsey. The fact that my family was gossipy would just further encourage me to tell. ESPECIALLY your uncle’s response to your email.

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Nina June 2, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Oh, we get this all the time since we moved out of state. Recently my daughter and I both received invitations to a wedding shower. The invitation naturally included gift registry information. When we each RSPVed our regrets (and sent gifts), the response from the mother of the bride was an email “LOLing” about how they never expected us to come anyway, followed by the announcement that she and her husband (my husband’s brother) had decided to come visit us and had put in for their vacations on such-and-such dates and could we please make sure we noted that on our calendars, and that this, that and the other thing are the attractions they’d like to see and places they’d like to go, blahblahblah…no kidding.

I’m appalled. I will grit my teeth and be polite but distant at the wedding, and then I’m done with these people. They want to come here for vacay, great, but, hey, looky-there, seems like I have urgent out of town business for EXACTLY those dates, SO sorry!

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Library Diva June 2, 2011 at 12:55 pm

I’ve been following this site since it was merely updated every six months rather than a daily blog, and I think this is one of the worst things I’ve ever read on here, worse than the Titanic Dress Disaster, even (at least that came from a place of helpfulness). Kinsey, I think your response to the situation was graceful and wonderful. I’m sorry your family treated you this way.

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traherne June 2, 2011 at 1:11 pm

Now I really want to know whether the OP ended up buying a gift. I’d have replied with an email of my own: “Gee, now YOU put me in an awkward position. I wasn’t planning on buying a gift, I just wanted to come to the party”.

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Maitri June 2, 2011 at 4:00 pm

Wow, Kinsey. I’m so sorry that happened to you. No wonder you get anxiety at family gatherings, if that’s the way they treat you! He is an awful, awful person >:(

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Scritzy June 2, 2011 at 4:22 pm

Why didn’t he just send a note saying, “I’m having a party, but you can’t come. However, I expect you to send a gift.”

Roast, gimme! Roast!!

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Elizabeth June 2, 2011 at 4:40 pm

“My uncle’s reply to my reply was ‘you don’t have to get snippy with me. It’s not my fault this happened.’ ”

OH NO HE DIDN’T! That’s unbelievable. I was already flabbergasted at the original story, and this takes it to a whole new level.

It’s unfortunate that you probably won’t be asked why you weren’t there, given your history of not attending such events. I hope that if others in your family discuss it in front of you, you’ll say, “Oh, I wish I’d been able to attend,” and provoke a “why didn’t you?”

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June June 2, 2011 at 5:14 pm

Op-

Your responses are so perfect and classy.
It seems you have experience with this sort of familial rudeness, and I’m sorry to hear it. Sounds like you will be a great role model for this new cousin!

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Marcia June 2, 2011 at 8:09 pm

Wink N Smile:

You actually summed up what exactly what I was trying to say. She set a pattern, so the invitation can be excused. The way he handled it and the fact that he still asked for the gift are beyond pale and he definitely gets thrown into E-Hell for that. There were way better ways to handle it.

I do agree with you that his intent of her just sending a gift was wrong and that maybe he wasn’t just sending the invitation to make sure she felt included. I re-read the original post and I did miss that part in my original reading. But I still stand by my statement that if you set up a pattern, you can’t be surprised when people follow it.

And RP- The OP states she likes getting invitations even though she knows she won’t go because she likes to feel included. An announcement wouldn’t have done the same thing. So if his intentions were just to make her feel included and not get an extra gift, he still would have been put in a tough situation.

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MeganAmy June 3, 2011 at 3:10 am

Horrendous! The uncle has horrendous behavior!

“It’s not my fault this happened.”
Whose fault is it then? Kinsey’s? He’s crazy.

Kinsey, I think you’ve been very polite and classy. And I can understand not forwarding his email to the rest of the family. But I fear that by being so classy and quiet about this, the family will assume that you didn’t want to come. On one hand, telling a few family members about what happened would leave me feeling like I was unwanted “He told me I couldn’t come.” On the other hand, I wouldn’t want to leave people feeling like I was constantly dissing events, when in reality, I was trying to make an effort to attend one.

Only you know your family dynamic. Maybe most of your family members are like your uncle, in which case, I would avoid seeing them, too. But if there are a few more rational ones, you might tell them what happened just so that they will continue to invite you to events.

We have a family member who is rather rude like this and she burned several of us, and none of us told anyone what happened. After it finally happened on a third occasion to a third person did we start talking to each other and saying “yeah! She did that to me too!” I wish the first person had warned the rest of us so that we didn’t have to go through it with her too.

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Cat June 3, 2011 at 6:43 pm

I was the adopted child of some people who were on a par with uncle. The most appropriate gift would be a sympathy card, but the girl is too young for that kind of humor.

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Enna June 4, 2011 at 5:45 am

The uncle should have handled it better. You don’t invite people you don’t want to come, and why wait a couple of days? Surely if she sent her reply back first she should get priority on a first come basis. The OP is shy and has anxiety problems, she did something unusual and a bit unexpected – if I was the host I would be so happy she had come along as it could be the first of many attendances to future events if OP’s feeling more confident. If like the OP said instead of calling her “snippy” he said “If theres room you can come, if not we will do another small party.” He does sound like a gift grabing gimme hog. It should be a nice surprsie not a shock that OP wanted to come.

Ignoring his email is a good idea OP as for not voluteering information because of gossiping family members well he would deserve that – he’s brought it on himself for the rude behaviour.

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Vicki June 4, 2011 at 10:43 am

Kinsey–

You are a very classy and generous person. I don’t (mostly) mean the gifts, I mean the way you responded to your selfish uncle. And taking your new cousin out together, just the two of you, is a gift she’ll probably enjoy more than anything you could find on a registry.

This just seems weird to me because my family’s custom includes inviting people you don’t think will come, but it’s not to get gifts, it’s because maybe they will be able to. My grandparents invited every relative they could find to the party for their sixtieth wedding anniversary, including people on the other side of the country and across the Atlantic. Some of those distant relatives showed up, including an Englishman I’d never heard of before, one of their cousins once removed.

A couple of years later, he and my mother got married. And while I’d rather she wasn’t now living so far away, it was a strong lesson that it’s worth inviting people, because you might just get lucky. And lucky doesn’t mean a fancy vase or a savings bond, it means seeing good people.

Keeping events small is fine too–I invited a total of ten people to my wedding, counting our parents. But if there’s room for ten, you invite ten, you don’t invite thirty and hope they don’t show up.

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The Other Amber June 4, 2011 at 5:33 pm

Sorry Marcia, I just can’t agree with you. I have invited people to functions when I didn’t expect that they were going to be able to attend – my wedding for example. But I would never, ever, tell someone that accepted an invitation that I’m sorry we don’t actually have room for you, don’t come.

It’s one thing to issue an invitation to someone and expect that they’re not going to accept. It’s quite another to issue one and PLAN that they’re not going to accept. You don’t invite people that you can’t accommodate – period.

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Missmolly June 4, 2011 at 8:28 pm

That’s just utterly appalling. Not only does Uncle behave like a complete jerk, but he actually blames you for the situation HE created. Ugh. I’ve never even met this guy and I’d like to smack him back to last week!

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ArtK June 5, 2011 at 11:03 am

Marcia,

The Rule of Invitations is very simple: You invite people that you want to attend and you don’t invite people that you don’t want to attend. It doesn’t matter what their past behavior with regards to invitations is. You don’t decide to invite someone hoping that they won’t come, because, as the OP showed, sometimes they’ll surprise you. It’s rude to send an invitation when you don’t want someone to come.

You don’t *not* invite people because of their perceived financial situation or other life circumstances. Saying “we’d like to have Aunt Sally at the wedding, but she can’t afford to travel” is rude in the extreme, because it takes an important decision out of Aunt Sally’s hands.

Trying to shift the blame onto the OP is inappropriate. Uncle owns 100% of the problem. He sent an invitation that wasn’t sincere.

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livvy June 6, 2011 at 5:05 pm

Kinsey, congratulations on having such grace and class. I’m sorry that your uncle was so heartless, both in the first AND second place. So glad you plan to move forward with your cousin, it’s not her fault, and clearly, she will need you to guide her in the future.

Uncle could have found a way out of this, by hook or by crook. 1) he could call boat, see if there was any way to accomodate new numbers. 2) he could have send a mass “Oops” email to those who had RSVP’d yes, telling them he’d accidentally mistaken the number of people allowed on the boat, and would people please confirm that they were truly planning on being there, in case something had come up in the interim? (then some, who might have changed their minds, or what not, have a second chance to “opt out” if they wanted to do so, and Uncle could have a more solid number. 3) If he STILL had too many people, he could again take responsibility, and change the venue of the party to one that would accomodate everyone.

The fact that one single RSVP threw the whole situation out of whack tells me that he didn’t do anything to see what other accomodations could be made, or didn’t even think to do so. Of course not, after all, Uncle thinks this is OP’s fault for having the audacity to want to attend! UGH!

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Tara June 18, 2011 at 5:17 pm

I agree that the uncle in this situation is a gimme pig and that his treatment of his niece was horrible. I’d just like to address some of the comments people have made about the child having already lived with the man for two years and they’re *just now* having a party.

It sounds as if this child was adopted through social services, not as a newborn. If that’s the case, it IS best to wait until the adoption is finalized to have a party. When a child is placed in a foster/adoptive home, the goal is reunification with the biological parents. There is always a chance that the child will go back to live with his/her parents after they work their case plans and the home has been deemed safe for the child. Although the uncle in this story is a greedy pig, at least he did the right thing when it comes to adoption celebrations. If he’d had a party for the little girl early on and then she’d returned to her biological parents, that would have been very awkward. (And FYI, I’m an adoptive parent who had a “Meet Our Son” party shortly after he moved in with us at the age of 2-1/2. I now know that I did things backward, but his adoption was finalized 20 months later and we did NOT have another party! LOL.)

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MOL (meow out loud) June 20, 2011 at 6:39 pm

See if you can get an extra invite just to make a copy, take a picture of some sort of thing you would’ve taken return it to Uncle from the Gift with a decline. Yes rude and stooping to his level because he’d likely show your new cousin but he was rude too.

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Toya July 15, 2011 at 2:58 pm

What a greedy uncle. You don’t send an invitation unless you intend to have the person present for the event. I’d thank him for clearing things up for you but I would fore go the gift. If she has a pattern of declining invites, it was rude of him to assume that she wouldn’t attend but her gift would.

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Sarah December 29, 2012 at 2:20 pm

I actually laughed with disbelief! I can understand him thinking you wouldn’t come, but then don’t suggest to meet up later so that you can give a present… That’s just sleazy!!

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