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.
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
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