Author Topic: Not inviting the entire (large) family.  (Read 4756 times)

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LadyL

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Not inviting the entire (large) family.
« on: April 15, 2012, 10:33:30 AM »
I come from a large Irish family - my father has 10 brothers and sisters, and I have 14 first cousins, plus half a dozen relatives in my step family, plus a bunch of nuns we've adopted who I consider my aunts, etc. :p. Because of the size of the brood, we usually have 1-2 big parties every year where there are between 50-150 people invited, hosted either in someone's home or in a hall. We always have a Christmas party, and then if there is an event like a wedding, Christening, graduation, milestone birthday, etc. that is usually the second big event - if more than a year or so goes by with none of those things happening, we make something up (we once had a "family reunion" even though 80% of the family lives in the same town).

Other events, like non-milestone birthdays, are usually much smaller affairs limited to immediate family plus people like god parents. Generally grouping the events in this way, into "big/whole family invited" and "very small/immediate family only" has helped avoid hurt feelings for the last 2-3 decades or so.

Except that a few of my relatives seem to be bucking tradition in the past year or so, and throwing medium sized events where about half the family is invited, and there doesn't always seem to be much rhyme or reason to why certain people are or aren't invited. This is causing some tension, and has led to me being put in some awkward positions due to miscommunications, and I need guidance on how to handle it.

Situation #1:
My cousin Todd and his wife Alice's baby shower. My father kept asking me and my brother if we'd gotten our invites. We never did. My father insisted we were invited, and that he would have Todd email us the info, but Todd never did. When Todd posted pictures of the party on facebook I saw that there were a lot of people there I didn't recognize who I assume were Todd and Alice's friends, and that only about half my aunts and uncles were there, and very few of my cousins. I suspect that Todd and Alice actually did only invite a small proportion of our family so that they'd have room for more of their friends in their somewhat small backyard. However, my father assumed that the whole family would be invited as that is the tradition in the family.

Etiquette of throwing your own baby shower aside, what should I have said to my father when he kept insisting we were invited? I am sure he only meant well. Should I have discouraged him from contacted Todd to ask where our invites were?

Situation #2: My uncle Louie's 60th birthday weekend. As far as I can tell, about 1/2 of my aunts and uncles and 1/3 of my cousins were invited to this one. They all rented rooms at a b&b in a scenic city in Neighboring State, and threw a surprise party for Louie (who thought he was going on a quiet weekend getaway with his wife). In the case of some of the cousins who weren't invited, it can be explained by them living in other parts of the country and being in school or not having jobs (so unable to afford it), but there is no obvious reason why LordL and I weren't invited. My father and stepmother were invited and when they got back my stepmother actually said to me, "It was fun, but I'm upset they didn't invite you guys. It would have been more fun with you there."

There were many funny things that happened that weekend, and re-telling those types of stories until they become legend is tradition at family functions, so I'm not sure what to say when the inevitable "Who was there that time? It was Jimmy, Kristy, Katey, Bobby...was LadyL there? Why didn't LadyL come that time?" comes up. "Um, I wasn't invited" is honest but makes me a buzzkill but "I wasn't able to make it" or "I don't remember" downplays the fact that I was left out.

For whatever reason there are certain relatives who are choosing to plan events with "partial" guest lists like this, and I know this is not an etiquette violation as you can invite whoever you want to events you host, but it does lead to these types of family dynamics where there are potential feelings of exclusion or just awkwardness.  Admittedly, it makes me feel odd to be in this sort of limbo where these people are invited to events where I am host or GOH (my engagement party, my upcoming wedding) but I am not invited to their baby shower or milestone birthday - I consider them important enough in my life that I want to share my milestones with them but I don't get a chance to share their milestones. It kind of stings  :-\.


HorseFreak

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Re: Not inviting the entire (large) family.
« Reply #1 on: April 15, 2012, 11:01:43 AM »
It sounds like your extended family is darned if they do, darned if they don't. I can't imagine throwing a baby shower for 150 people (your family, the SO's family AND friends)! When the numbers get so ridiculous cuts based on who you are closest to need to be made. I've seen it a few times recently on this site where the OP likes having giant celebrations and starts to expect them as tradition, then gets upset because not everyone sees it the same way or even likes it. I would personally go insane if every member of my dad's HUGE side of the family had to be invited every time I had a milestone event. Over time we have pared graduations, baby showers and even weddings to those we actually socialize with regularly and enjoy spending time with. 

If another party that you weren't invited to comes up in conversation I would respond with a perfectly honest, but non-accusatory, "I wasn't at that party."

LadyL

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Re: Not inviting the entire (large) family.
« Reply #2 on: April 15, 2012, 11:13:03 AM »
It sounds like your extended family is darned if they do, darned if they don't. I can't imagine throwing a baby shower for 150 people (your family, the SO's family AND friends)! When the numbers get so ridiculous cuts based on who you are closest to need to be made.

Good point, let me clarify - the big parties are always a group effort, not something one host is solely responsible for (and average numbers are usually 60-75; the 150 person parties are every 5 years at most). Someone either offers their home, or everyone chips in to rent a space. Food is always pot luck (we have many chefs, some professional, in the family).  That doesn't address the issue that large parties are not to everyone's taste of course.

It is, indeed, hard to have a combined "friends + family" event and not have the numbers go over 100 if you have more than a handful of friends. Most people therefore do separate events for friends and family, or if they combine, invite immediate family only.

In the case of the milestone birthday I was particularly surprised because LordL and I had vacationed near uncle Louie a few months prior and made a point to visit and have dinner with him and aunt Kathy, and we really enjoyed spending time with him, so I would consider him someone I socialize with and am reasonably close with. I would have enjoyed seeing his face when everyone yelled "surprise." I am also reasonably close with the aunt who planned the surprise party, and I don't think there was any space limit at the b&b or the event hall where they threw the party, so I'm particularly unclear why I wasn't invited (and my parents seem to feel the same way). However your phrasing does seem to be the most neutral so I will probably go with that.

cattlekid

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Re: Not inviting the entire (large) family.
« Reply #3 on: April 15, 2012, 11:13:33 AM »
I'm parking my POD here.  My mom has nine brothers and sisters and I have 15 first cousins.  Most of these folks are married and/or have SO's so start doubling that number, plus the cousins have started having kids of their own.  It's a given that almost every occasion will not have everyone in attendance.  I only had a few token members of my family at my wedding shower, for example.  The entire wedding guest list was given to the shower hosts so I'm not sure if they didn't invite the out of towners or if they just didn't attend.  And then you have the holidays where some people go to to their other side of the family and don't make it to our family's get together.

About the only event where everyone tries to make it is the annual family reunion. But even then, some people just can't/don't make the trip for whatever reason. 


It sounds like your extended family is darned if they do, darned if they don't. I can't imagine throwing a baby shower for 150 people (your family, the SO's family AND friends)! When the numbers get so ridiculous cuts based on who you are closest to need to be made. I've seen it a few times recently on this site where the OP likes having giant celebrations and starts to expect them as tradition, then gets upset because not everyone sees it the same way or even likes it. I would personally go insane if every member of my dad's HUGE side of the family had to be invited every time I had a milestone event. Over time we have pared graduations, baby showers and even weddings to those we actually socialize with regularly and enjoy spending time with. 

If another party that you weren't invited to comes up in conversation I would respond with a perfectly honest, but non-accusatory, "I wasn't at that party."

Nibsey

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Re: Not inviting the entire (large) family.
« Reply #4 on: April 15, 2012, 11:15:53 AM »
It sounds like your extended family is darned if they do, darned if they don't. I can't imagine throwing a baby shower for 150 people (your family, the SO's family AND friends)! When the numbers get so ridiculous cuts based on who you are closest to need to be made. I've seen it a few times recently on this site where the OP likes having giant celebrations and starts to expect them as tradition, then gets upset because not everyone sees it the same way or even likes it. I would personally go insane if every member of my dad's HUGE side of the family had to be invited every time I had a milestone event. Over time we have pared graduations, baby showers and even weddings to those we actually socialize with regularly and enjoy spending time with. 

If another party that you weren't invited to comes up in conversation I would respond with a perfectly honest, but non-accusatory, "I wasn't at that party."

I sort of agree with this. SO and I also have large families. Which similar to yours invites everyone to the large events. However for smaller events it's up to the individuals. For my side, my family just don't invite any of the cousins. Of which there are 30 (not including spouses and their children). While in my SO family only the cousins closest to the persons age group are invited which means that when my SO oldest brother has a party the age group tends to be cousins in their 40's. Whereas when me and SO have a event it's the cousins in their 20's.

From the outside it looks like there is no rhyme or reason but there is.
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Kaypeep

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Re: Not inviting the entire (large) family.
« Reply #5 on: April 15, 2012, 11:35:46 AM »
RE the shower:  I would have told your dad that he should not pester cousin about the invites for you and your brother.  It's obvious the family is quite large and many events are being held that don't include everyone.  Don't pressure them to include you because you wouldn't want to be in the same spot for your future events having relatives hounding you to include them and their offspring.  Family or not, it's just rude to seek an invite.  If you were invited and it got lost, the hosts can reach out to get your RSVP if they need a headcount that badly.

RE: what to say during the stories.  Just tell the truth.  "Why weren't you there?"  "I wasn't included for that event."  It's the truth, and it's really just a matter of how you say it that determines sour grapes or not.  if you say it very plainly or matter of factly, then it shouldn't be a problem.  Obviously you're not the only one who wasn't there.  Perhaps you can add in "Oh, Uncle Joe's birthday? I think that was an 'older generation" event, so the young cousins like me weren't there."

While I do understand that not being included to some of these events stings, I think that with such a large family you really do need to develop a thicker skin.  If they aren't treating you badly or shutting you out in other ways, simply accept that some people do not have the means to host such large events.  Even if it's potluck, there's still space, planning, cleaning, stocking bathrooms (assuming you have enough) and other things to factor in for hosting parties that size.  And when you marry, you now have new families and friends to consider so for many it's no longer just about your (dad's) family, each relative now has their own family and circle to consider. 

I'm afraid I think that you are expecting too much with a family this large.  You are expecting them to do what you do, and that's unrealistic.  It's nice of you to include everyone, but not everyone can do that.  I think you need to lower your expectations.

CuriousParty

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Re: Not inviting the entire (large) family.
« Reply #6 on: April 15, 2012, 11:50:55 AM »
When Todd posted pictures of the party on facebook I saw that there were a lot of people there I didn't recognize who I assume were Todd and Alice's friends, and that only about half my aunts and uncles were there, and very few of my cousins. I suspect that Todd and Alice actually did only invite a small proportion of our family so that they'd have room for more of their friends in their somewhat small backyard. However, my father assumed that the whole family would be invited as that is the tradition in the family.

I pulled this quote out because it highlights another issue that I think may be arising, which is that as the family expands through marriage there is a whole other family (and set of traditions) to be considered when people are party-planning.  From the quote above it sounds like you are thinking in terms of "our family" and "their friends", but forgetting that there is also "Alice's family" to be considered.  The people you did not recognize in the photos may well be Alice's family as well as their friends, and they may have invited a smaller group of Tom's family in order to have more room for Alice's, too.

Let me be clear - I don't think you are doing this out of malice or any negative intent!  It's easy to forget about the new wife/husband/SO's family when your own is so large. I come from a large family as well and married into a smaller one, so figuring out balances/relationships/invites is always a balancing act.

Allyson

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Re: Not inviting the entire (large) family.
« Reply #7 on: April 15, 2012, 12:13:49 PM »
I think that with a family that large, it's reasonable to be able to invite 'some but not all', and not always be relegated to *just* immediate family. Give the option to only have the cousins you're closest to, or an aunt you've had a special relationship with, or only one age group/generation. But, I think it's kind of a bad idea to have a random mix of everyone, so have some from your generation and some not, *and* do things like invite your father and stepmother but not you. Unless there's extenuating circumstances, it just makes for awkwardness.

NyaChan

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Re: Not inviting the entire (large) family.
« Reply #8 on: April 15, 2012, 02:08:00 PM »
I'm sorry you are feeling left out - I know that feeling, and it really does hurt more when it is family.  I was wondering, have there been any occasions when you & LordL were invited, but your father/stepmother were not?

I think what may be changing is that members of your family want to host on their own rather than as a big group - let's face it, coordinating with other hosts is troublesome and you do lose that sense of ownership over the event. 

As for your questions: 
1)If your father brings up the subject when you weren't invited, just flat out say, "Dad, they can't invite everyone.  Please don't bring it up with them.  I am sure they have enough to do with just planning as it is."  You don't want others to get the impression that you are offended & it won't improve your situation to have him questioning the host as to why you weren't invited.  Maybe you should even explain that to him so that he understands the importance of not doing anything on your behalf.

2)  If other family members bring up something that happens, treat it like any other anecdote that someone is sharing.  Laugh at the right parts, ask questions about what interests you - you become part of the memory in the retelling.  If someone specifically says, why weren't you there LadyL?  Be honest, you have nothing to be ashamed of and neither does the host.  "I wasn't invited for that one."  Make sure your facial expression and tone is pleasant so that no one thinks that you are upset or holding a grudge.

Now that this system of family get togethers is changing, feel free to take advantage of it yourself - it means that you can see your family more often now without having to organize a ginormous event.  It can be a good thing :)  I also agree with CuriousParty's insight into how your family is not all of the spouse's family & people are likely making room at their events for their in-laws as they should be doing and also for friends who they may actually feel closer to than family due to proximity. 

Roe

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Re: Not inviting the entire (large) family.
« Reply #9 on: April 15, 2012, 02:31:51 PM »
I come from a HUGE family.  There's just no way to invite every single person to every gathering. 

For many years, everyone was invited and no hard feelings were had.  As the next generation grew up and started hosting parties of our own, many of us realized, we just don't like to host "the more, the merrier" type parties.  It didn't matter that everyone pitched in to help.  Actually, I couldn't wait to host a sit-down dinner party but that didn't happen till I was in my 30's due to the fact that I just couldn't cut down the guest list enough not to leave someone with hurt feelings.  Plus, my family was so huge that we never had any room for good friends to join in on the fun.  I hated that. 

Even though we are no longer invited to each and every special event, I can still join in the laughs and memories of crazy things that happened at "so and so's" party/gathering/event. 

As time goes on, and other start sniping at the family guest list, it will feel more normal and won't sting at all.  You'll understand that it's pretty normal and typical to want to have room for friends as well.

My mother used to get the "why didn't Roe invite us to "X's" party" question and she learned to say "oh it was immediate family only."  Of course, immediate family is still over 30 people.  Ugh...big families are great but so are the growing pains! 


SPuck

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Re: Not inviting the entire (large) family.
« Reply #10 on: April 15, 2012, 02:43:49 PM »
I think this is just the natural procession of large family. My mom's mother had 6 sibling with anywhere from two to six children a family. They got together when they were younger, but as the cousins got older they planned events with there own siblings. Now that my own family is older we hardly plan anything with my own cousins, let along the second and third cousins that live in the area.

My mother's father also had a pretty big family *more so through remarriage and divorce than actual birth numbers* and everyone used to go to the houses up in Maine. When those were sold they didn't get together anymore, but no one is offended.

My dad's father is from Ireland with three siblings. I could go there any time to visit family that would treat me like I had known them my entire life. No one gets hurt though when they hear about celebrations on either side of the pond.

It just happens, and problem is if you or other people bring it up, the drift might happen faster.

elephantschild

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Re: Not inviting the entire (large) family.
« Reply #11 on: April 15, 2012, 03:14:27 PM »
It doesn't seem the OP is really angry at the fact that some are invited, some not ... but let's not downplay that although it's definitely OK for the planner to make that choice, it doesn't change that it still stings to realize that when they did draw that line, you were on the other side of it.  :(  Especially when it's someone you would have invited to your own event.

To answer the question, OP, I'd just say simply "I wasn't invited to that party." It's the truth. And then don't let it hang there, but move on.

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Roe

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Re: Not inviting the entire (large) family.
« Reply #12 on: April 15, 2012, 06:08:58 PM »
It doesn't seem the OP is really angry at the fact that some are invited, some not ... but let's not downplay that although it's definitely OK for the planner to make that choice, it doesn't change that it still stings to realize that when they did draw that line, you were on the other side of it.  :(  Especially when it's someone you would have invited to your own event.

To answer the question, OP, I'd just say simply "I wasn't invited to that party." It's the truth. And then don't let it hang there, but move on.



I don't think anyone is downplaying the "sting" factor.  Of course it stings.  But as time goes on, it'll sting less and less and eventually, it'll be something that's normal and pretty typical. 

I do agree with the "I wasn't invited" response.  You aren't being a buzzkill if you keep the right tone.  If you say it in a 'oh poor me' tone, then yes, that's rude.  But if you just accept that this is the natural progression of huge families and it's not something they are doing to hurt you, then it's fine. And ya know, it really will start to feel fine after awhile.

kudeebee

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Re: Not inviting the entire (large) family.
« Reply #13 on: April 15, 2012, 10:44:28 PM »
This is just the natural progression of large families.  As the children of siblings (cousins) marry and start to have children of their own, the families start to break off into the sibling units.

It is just a natural progression then to start inviting those relatives to whom you feel closest to parties, dinners, holidays, etc.  Also as others have said there are friends to consider, as well as inlaws.  Some people don't feel that every get together must be a "include all the family" event.  It sounds like your family has reached this stage.

I know it hurts to not be included in events of relatives that you consider to be close to you and that you would invite to your events. It may be that they don't feel as close to you as you feel to them.

Ginya

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Re: Not inviting the entire (large) family.
« Reply #14 on: April 16, 2012, 12:20:20 AM »
This is just the natural progression of large families.  As the children of siblings (cousins) marry and start to have children of their own, the families start to break off into the sibling units.

It is just a natural progression then to start inviting those relatives to whom you feel closest to parties, dinners, holidays, etc.  Also as others have said there are friends to consider, as well as inlaws.  Some people don't feel that every get together must be a "include all the family" event.  It sounds like your family has reached this stage.

I know it hurts to not be included in events of relatives that you consider to be close to you and that you would invite to your events. It may be that they don't feel as close to you as you feel to them.

POD to all of this. I come from a large family that I'm told at one point did everything together, the sheer logistics of trying to do this today would be a nightmare. The grand total of family members would likely exceed 200, when everyone started having families, moving away, ect. they started doing things in smaller subgroups. Unfortunately some people took this as an offense and now group gathering are non-existent because there ended up being a lot of hard feelings and most of the family doesn't speak to each other anymore. Now I just hear my relatives reminisce about how fun getting everyone together used to be.

My best advice is understand that the family dynamic is changing and try not to take it personally. Enjoy the gatherings/celebrations you are a part of and try to understand when someone simply can't/doesn't want to accommodate everyone. If you let your hurt feelings eat at you they can end up doing more damage than good.