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Surprise Guests Usurp Rightful Guests….Oh, Burn In EHell!

Several years ago, my husband’s aunt invited us to a dinner party in honor of her son, my husband’s cousin, who was on his first leave from the military after graduating from basic and secondary training. The party was small, and to be held in a meeting room at a well known local restaurant. My husband and I RSVP well in advance of the party, as did my parents-in-law and sister- in-law. As his cousin hadn’t called or visited us during his leave, we were excited to see him before he got his orders.

When we got to the party, it was being held in half of the restaurant’s meeting room. Another party filled the other half of the room, and long rectangular tables had been set up to the right and left; one for each party. As we got settled into our seats and began to order our drinks, a man and woman I’ve not seen before walk up to our party and greet my husband’s aunt, uncle, and cousin warmly. They tell them that they’re pleasantly surprised to see them, and my dear aunt-in-law explains that it’s going to be a problem fitting them in since they never RSVPed to the party. Indeed, it seems impossible to fit them in, since my husband and I have just taken the last seats at the table, and the only vacant space in the room is in the corner of the other party’s table.

My aunt-in-law knits her brow and says that there must be a way to fit everyone around the table. She calls the waitress over, but before she can arrive, my mother-in-law lets aunt know that it’s perfectly all right if my husband and I leave to make room for the ‘surprise’ guests. Now, this isn’t totally unexpected. My mother-in- law is the veritable queen of faux pas, and we long ago learned to politely stand up to her. But, this is aunt’s party, and she calls the waitress over to ask if two more people can be seated and served.

The waitress points out that there’s physically not enough room for more seats or tables on the right of the room, and that there’s not enough food. Auntie looks devastated. The waitress reluctantly says, ‘I can ask the other party if you can seat people with them, but you don’t want that… You won’t be able to talk to them!’
Mother-in-law pipes up, ‘Then seat my son and his wife with the other party! You’ll be able to catch up with your friends that way!’ To our shock, auntie replies with, ‘Oh, would you? Do you mind? Of course you don’t! I’ll buy you some food and have it sent over!’

My husband and I stand up to leave. Mistaking our shock and fury for compliance, the waitress grabs our coats and bag, runs over to the other party, and leads us there. Both of us sit down, stunned. We agree that we’ll leave as soon as the rest of the party stops staring at us, and before we can finish our sentences heaping plates of food are put down on our table.

We eat a small plate quickly, beet red and avoiding the confused and angry looks of the party of strangers we’re sitting side by side with. I mutter something about how humiliated I am, my husband nods and agrees that we need to leave as soon as we can. The stranger eating next to us nods, too.

We say goodbyes quickly. Once outside, we agree that we should stop accepting any invitations from family members that are openly rude to us. Six years later, we no longer see my husband’s family. Whenever we are tempted to attend a family event, we remind ourselves of the time we were sent to crash a stranger’s party.   0614-12

Oh, my!  This is, by far, the worst story I have read in a long time.  So many faux pas by so many people!

Those “old friends” who couldn’t have been bothered to rsvp but showed up any way deserve to slow roast in the deepest corners of Etiquette Hell.   They should have been squirming with discomfort over the chaos and inconvenience their selfishness inflicted on others.  But they probably didn’t because they are the epitome of self-centered and entitled.

And your aunt!  She had the right idea by expressing her surprise at her friends’ unexpected arrival and telling them that there were no more seats or food.  That alone should have had the surprise guests backing out the door in shame but no, they stand there expecting the hostess to create a miracle of more seats and food.   Aunt makes her first mistake by going to the waitstaff to see if more can be added instead of informing the surprise guests that, “I am sorry we cannot accommodate you for dinner.  We did not hear from you and therefore did not plan for you. Perhaps the next time son is in town we can visit with you.”

The drama that then ensues should have further had the surprise guests’s skin absolutely crawling in shame but no, they keep right on letting the hostess trip all over herself trying to fit them in.   And the waitress does the outrageous by putting the hosts of the other party in an awkward position by even asking if part of their room can be used for overflow from your aunt’s party.  God help your aunt if I had been that other hostess because the answer would have been, “No, I am sorry we cannot accommodate that request.  The lack of planning on their part does not constitute an emergency on my part.”

Your mother-in-law was just way over the top in assuming to take the hospitality lead by rearranging the guest seating.   Offer your own seat, Mom!

You and your husband did the best you could do under the circumstances but my husband and I would have done differently. I can easily envision my husband standing up to leave, smiling wanly and say, “We will take our leave right now in deference to the more honored guests.  Please give our regards to cousin.”    And then left with little fanfare.  To be honest,  accepting a seat on the other side of the room was to facilitate the many faux pas and continue the drama til the end.   It was already clear the surprised guests had absolutely no sense of shame in what they were doing so leaving to yield your seats to them fits with the expectation they and your family had.

One can almost hear Aunt-in-law and your mother-in-law lamenting the lack of family unity and togetherness and having not a clue why that is.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Laura-x June 14, 2012, 10:02 am

    Have parties evolved into a “sit down with people you see everyday and talk, while you just buy food for people who you ignore” shenanigan?

  • Kry June 14, 2012, 10:05 am

    I have just spent the last 10 mins picking my jaw up off the floor! The audacity of anyone speaking for another adult like that, relitive or not, astounds me.

  • Shalamar June 14, 2012, 10:20 am

    WOW. I would’ve loved to have been a fly on the wall of the other party – “Can you believe they sat a couple of STRANGERS with us? Who does that?”

  • o_gal June 14, 2012, 10:25 am

    E-helldame would applaud my Aunt. My cousin and her long term partner got married in a very small ceremony, with a dinner reception afterward at a restaurant that he previously owned. It was a sit down plated dinner and X number of seats, based on RSVPs, had been reserved and set. Two women who were invited but did not RSVP came to the ceremony, then asked my Aunt if there was still room for them. My Aunt replied that no, there was not, since they did not RSVP, and they could not be accomodated. Go Aunt S!

  • TheVapors June 14, 2012, 10:28 am

    I. Am. Aghast.

    I would have done pretty much as the Admin said. Taken my things, wished everyone a pleasant dinner, and left.

    You and your poor husband… that poor other party!!! Ugh. What a terrible situation. So many rude people.

  • Shea June 14, 2012, 10:29 am

    Wow. I’m shocked that anyone can put others in such an awkward position! That’s just awful. I think my husband and I would have just left entirely.

  • Ashley June 14, 2012, 11:04 am

    I would have just left, regardless of what food was set in front of me. That’s so freaking rude of the surprise guests and aunt…wow. Just wow.

  • bloo June 14, 2012, 11:09 am

    This is probably the worst I’ve read in a long time.

    OP- it’s been a sweet 6 years hasn’t it? 😉

  • KHR June 14, 2012, 11:14 am

    I probably would have left red-faced. I know my husband loves his mother, but I don’t know if I would have had anything to do with her afterwards if she so flippantly dismissed our planning and taking time to come visit cousin and essentially kicked us out of the party. I never would have sat with the other party, the rudeness of my family is not and should never be their problem.

  • ferretrick June 14, 2012, 11:23 am

    I had a similar situation with being forced to sit with strangers, and now I wish we had left, but just like OP, I was so shocked I didn’t think fast enough.

    We traveled to New York. After a long day of sight seeing and a good deal of walking, we were tired and hungry so we went to the nearest restaurant we could find, a Mexican place. The place was jammed, and the host tells us the only seats he can give us is to share a booth (which really should have held 3 max), with another couple already seated. We agreed, because we were really too tired to argue and just wanted to eat, and because everyone knows New York is cramped and crowded everywhere you go. So we felt like yokels in the big city and thought maybe This Is How It’s Done in New York. It was only after we had our meals that I began to notice that no one else seemed to have been singled out for this treatment. Now I wish we had just left immediately.

    Certainly OP “should” have left immediately, but I can certainly see how the whole thing went down so fast, she was just too shocked to respond. The behavior of the non-RSVPs and her inlaws is really inexcusable.

  • aghastaunt June 14, 2012, 11:23 am

    Ok, this is truly awful.

    However, many have said it here and I have said it myself–THAT PEOPLE DO NOT RSVP ANYMORE. I have asked casually around to people about rsvp’s. The response from most is, “If I’ve been invited to a party, I will show up or not, but the host should still expect to see me because I was invited.” So in other words, I got an invite. That means I’m invited. I may choose to rsvp or not, but I’m still invited regardless of rsvp’s. I’ll show up if I want to regardless of my rsvping.

    I no longer hold parties unless I can seat and feed all the people I have invited, regardless of rsvp’s.

    If I have to hold a large party like a reception, I will force people to respond by either calling or sending out an email reminder and saying something like “you must let me know by xxx date if you are coming or not because I must know numbers in order to reserve tables and food. If I do not hear from you by xxx I will assume you can not join us and hope to see you another time.”

    I went so far one time as to actually withold the name of the place we were meeting at in the original invite, and only after I got the rsvp’s did I send out a map to the people who rsvp’d me. It did deter the ones who did not rsvp. If they tried to ask beforehand where the party was, I simply said, I’m not for sure yet, it depends on how many rsvp and I will send out maps to everyone who does rsvp.

    To the OP: I do not believe you should have joined the other party. I realize you were probably so shocked you didn’t know what to do, but you should have simply gotten up and left (I may have waited at the bar for cousin to show up to talk to him because this after all, wasn’t his fault, but would have left immediately or found another table by ourselves.)

  • The Elf June 14, 2012, 11:25 am

    Wow. Just wow.

  • boohaha June 14, 2012, 11:34 am

    We have a situation similar to this right now in our family.

    My son’s graduation is soon, and Aunt and Uncle have not rsvp’d, because they do not intend to go. However, I know them, and as time goes on and they think more on it, and realize everyone else is going, and after all it’s their nephew, and it might be kind of fun–they will show up. They will not care if they did not rsvp–because that means nothing to them. Their attitude is, and has always been, if I got an invitation–then I can go. For them, a rsvp is an unnecessary phone call that the elite require to fancy soirees. I even believe that they think it’s rude of the hostess to tell them they have to be the ones to call to accept an invite–if the hostess really wants to know if they are coming, she will call them.

  • Shoegal June 14, 2012, 11:34 am

    I’m als0 very busy picking my jaw off the floor! OP – you were treated like garbage, in my opinion. I would have grabbed my coat from the waitress and told her we were leaving right that instant and probably humiliated myself further with the spectacle. I would have made a beeline out of there!! Just unbelievable.

  • mamamia June 14, 2012, 11:36 am

    OP should not have joined the other party but should have either said “sorry, we’re here for cousin and will stay until we see him”, or gotten up and asked the waitress to find them their own private table and had a pleasant meal elsewhere in the restaurant, or immediately left.

  • Jones June 14, 2012, 11:51 am

    You can bet that my husband and I would have not sat down and left any food sitting uneaten on the table if someone tried this on us. If we saw someone pull this stunt with other expected guests, we’d have left with them as an act of solidarity, and caught up with the guest of honor afterwards. OP, I’m glad to read that you no longer go to family activities with the inlaws, and if you are ever asked why I hope you remind them of the incident.

  • Abby June 14, 2012, 11:51 am

    I can’t even imagine anyone I know doing that — any of it! I can’t decide who’s worse, the guests who didn’t RSVP and then had no problem with the chaos that ensued because of their surprise appearance, or the family who actually sent two other family members to sit with complete strangers.

    I do feel bad for the waitress too though. I’ve worked in food service and retail jobs where the “customer is always right” attitude prevails, and I’m sure she felt like she had to do something to accommodate everyone, lest a complaint get back to her manager. You would hope a manager would side with the waitress if she’d not asked the other party to accept the new guests, but I know a lot of managers who would have berated the waitress instead and sent the “offended customers” a gift card to make up for the waitress’ “rudeness.”

  • Calli Arcale June 14, 2012, 12:02 pm

    WOW!!!! I can understand why you were unable to avoid being seated over at the other table; sometimes rudeness is so phenomenal, it stuns the mind and there is no more capacity for rational thought. I would also have left, and never accepted another invitation again. I might try and make separate arrangements to visit with the cousin, but that isn’t always possible; in any case, this goes so far beyond that it’s just stunning. Wow.

    If I were the aunt in this situation, I would have done precisely what admin said. “It’s lovely to see you! I’m so sorry you didn’t let us know you were coming; it would have been such a joy to have dinner with you. We’ll have to set another date, because as you can see, we are completely full.” If I were feeling magnanimous, I might pay for drinks and let them sit at the bar with the guest of honor to catch up until the food arrives. But that’s about it.

    I’m not sure what I would have done if I were the other hostess. Sometimes surprise tablemates can be a delight, if you have extra space at your table and you’re not having to pay for their food, and in a case like this, you have the opportunity to brighten up a day that has just been quite horribly ruined; I’d be tempted (if it was practical, under the circumstances) to make sure that the surprise tablemates had a *better* time than if they’d stayed at the table with the ultra-rude hostess, just to show the rude hostess up and try to soften the obvious discomfort they were feeling. But that occasion really should not have arisen anyway; the waitress should never have transmitted the rude suggestion from the hostess to the other party. I can only assume the waitress is young and inexperienced dealing with rude people who act as if they own the world.

  • TylerBelle June 14, 2012, 12:02 pm

    And some folks wonder why it’s a really good idea to do seat charts / place cards at wedding receptions and the like. For one thing, guests at least have their place at the table authenticated to back them up chances be if any intruders come trying to push in and them out.

    I gather the other party wasn’t asked about or even informed that the OP and her husband would be joining them? The waitress simply took them to places at that table? Wow.

    I don’t know what I’d have done in that situation. I’d hope I’d ask for a “doggie bag” at the most and got out of there asap. As the admin said, I too would think the MIL and AIL has probably wondered over the years of why the family doesn’t seem as close as they’d hoped.

  • Pam June 14, 2012, 12:14 pm

    I can’t believe the “non RSVPers” would allow someone else to be transplanted to another table. How incredibly rude!!!!!!!! Why couldn’t they just stop in at some point after the meal and greet people briefly and go?? Crazy.

  • Elizabeth June 14, 2012, 12:25 pm

    Yes I agree that a lot of people were rude here but one has been left out … the OP herself. Being directed to the other party’s table and then actually taking that direction and sitting down with them? Just because you were told to do it doesn’t make it acceptable. This was very rude to the other party. I’m shocked it was tolerated. The OP was treated rudely and then turned around and put the other party on the spot to accommodate them – big WOW!

  • Justine June 14, 2012, 12:25 pm

    Well those “friends” just learned that they really don’t have to RSVP, they can just show up and Auntie enjoys their company so much she will just make room for them. And your mother-in-law sounds like mine. Big UGH!

  • Michelle P June 14, 2012, 12:29 pm

    I love admin’s suggestion, and am scraping my jaw off the floor too. It’s easy for all of us to say what we would or would not have done, given we weren’t there. I probably would have been just as flustered.

    OP, keep distancing yourselves. Your mother in law doesn’t deserve you or your husband’s company. I can understand the aunt being flustered too.

  • Jewel June 14, 2012, 12:33 pm

    The OP’s situation reminds me somewhat of when I was treated similarly. Several departments in our mid-sized company, including the one I managed, worked together on an intense year-long project. All involved put in a ridiculous amount of overtime and weeks of incredible stress to pull off the project to much national acclaim and many millions in revenue for the company.

    The company owner’s wife decided to celebrate the project’s successful conclusion with a dinner in their large luxury home for all the project’s “key players”. She asked me for a list of who to invite. I drafted it, reviewed it with my direct boss, and sent it to her.

    A few days later, she came to me complaining that there was one too many people on the list for her to be able to host the sit-down dinner she wanted. She was just beside herself with unrestrained angst about it. When I suggested a buffet so she could accomodate everyone, she adamantly stated that “buffets are tacky” and she only had so many seats at her dining room table, so someone on the list MUST GO. One person, mind you, that worked their tail off for an entire year on the project — a project in which she was personally receiving great financial benefit. I looked at her incredulously, in shock as to the height of her selfishness and foolishness.

    Then, I took the pencil from her hand and marked through my own name on the list and said, “Here. Problem solved.” She laughed in relief and practically skipped out of my office, revised list in hand.

    Although there is no way I would ever step foot in her home after that display of horrible behavior, I let my direct boss know what had happened. He was dismayed at her behavior, but too gutless to let the company owner know how his wife treated one of the company project’s “key players”.

    Is it any surprise, then, that I resigned from that company not too long afterwards? Even though it’s been years now, I do often wonder if the company owner’s wife ever realized the extent of her bad behavior.

    I hope that someone in the OP’s family stands up for the OP by letting “Awful Aunt” know that her behavior was outrageous and hurtful.

  • Baku-chan June 14, 2012, 12:55 pm

    Wow. Just… wow. As a rather anti-social person, I probably would have burst into tears out of sheer humiliation, especially if I sensed the strangers’ hostility towards me!

  • --Lia June 14, 2012, 1:13 pm

    Add me to those with their jaw on the floor. The only thing I can add is that I’d be tempted, when the in-laws invited me anywhere, to send my regrets along with something along the lines of “oh dear, we just couldn’t. I remember I how much trouble we were to you that time we sent the rsvp to attend Cousin’s send-off party.”

    Are the unknown man and woman who didn’t send an rsvp still in Aunt’s social circle?
    Has Mother-in-law groveled on the floor with apologies? Has Aunt? I think I could forgive if Aunt called with thanks for being such good sports when she was on the spot and did the wrong thing. I’d also want to get the name of the hostess of the other party and send her an explanation and thanks, maybe something along the lines of thanking her for accommodating you when you were in such a tight spot. That and an enormous thank-you gift.

  • Teapot June 14, 2012, 1:16 pm

    I suppose it could have been worse. The ‘extra’ chairs at the other party’s table could have been for guests who arrived late to find total strangers had replaced them and were eating their dinners.

  • CH June 14, 2012, 1:20 pm

    Although this is something I have never really done, I think just this once I might have “made a scene.” When other people are this dense about good manners, it takes something over the top to get through to them that they are just plain wrong. I know, I am bad to be a little gleeful that it would shame them in front of the other party, but they already did that themselves.

  • Miss Raven June 14, 2012, 1:23 pm

    As someone who spent many years working in food service, I am aghast from that perspective. Aunts, in-laws, and strangers can all be extremely rude, self-centered and tacky and it is not absolutely shocking. What is absolutely shocking to me is that the waitress facilitated this display of madness.

    Waitstaff, especially those handling large parties, should be trained down to the last detail. Never in my wildest imaginings, even when I was a teenager waiting tables in a sports bar, would I have sat a complete stranger at a table reserved for another party — or at another stranger’s table, in general! EVER.

    I don’t care whose idea it was or how difficult your customers are being. This is a line that one just simply does not cross. If I had done something like this, I can only imagine the chewing-out I would have gotten from my managers, whether or not the hostess of the other party complained (and I can’t imagine she would not have.) They would have been completely incredulous, every one of them.

  • Coralreef June 14, 2012, 1:36 pm


    MIL and AIL perfomed a FAIL of epic proportion. Guests who RSVP and arrive on time are booted because someone else wants in? In what universe is this OK? If I had been in the other party, I would have been livid. Depending if it was a work / friend / family reunion, how can you talk about either work / personnal matters in front of strangers imposed (inflicted?) on you?

    I agree with others in saying that RSVPs getting harder and harder to receive. How hard can it be to either return a card or a phone call? It doesn’t matter if the reception is at home or in a restaurant, the host/hostess need to know how many will be there, if only to borrow the right amount of chairs from the neighbours.

  • Cat June 14, 2012, 1:47 pm

    On the positive side, now you know clearly in what esteem your mother-in-law and your aunt-in-law hold you. ‘Go away; someone better has come.”
    I can’t imagine what I would have done when caught off-guard. The fun part of me would have said, “Sorry, I’m staying here so I can see my cousin. Want to sit on my lap and share my dinner, darling?”
    The furious part would have exclaimed, “Forgive me, I was under the impression that we were invited here as guests and would be welcomed. I see that is not the case. Goodnight.” The “I’ll Get You, My Pretty” part would have stormed out without a word and, everytime either of these women dared to invite me anywhere, would say, “No, I do not intend to go to the trouble to attend your function and then be asked to leave as I was the last time you invited me to dinner.” I’d ride that pony to death.
    The polite part would have asked, “I beg your pardon?” and remained in my seat acting as if nothing had been said. If repeated, I might have said, “I thought you said that earlier, but I could not believe you would be so rude so I shall pretend you did not say it.”

  • Jane June 14, 2012, 1:49 pm

    I’m wondering what the etiquette is for a host when RSVPs just aren’t done in that particular area or circle? I’m asking because I have some family and friends who wouldn’t know what as RSVP is, seriously.

    I think the OP did the best she could given the shock of the situation. I imagine leaving (even though the right thing) would have caused a huge stink she’d have to deal with later, so I can see why she just took and seat and didn’t say anything at the time.

    A similar thing happened to me once – my husband and I, at 24 and 25, were moved to the “kid’s table.” At least we knew the kids, however!

  • LeeLee88 June 14, 2012, 2:05 pm

    My mom always calls or e-mails the invitees a couple days before a big, important event just to double check that those who said they’d be there are still planning to come, and that those who didn’t RSVP or said they weren’t hadn’t changed their minds or forgotten. She started this because her own family is rife with boors who would never RSVP and then show up to a catered event, or would say they’re coming, and never show or even call. It saved a lot of money for my wedding reception, because there were several who had not RSVP’d, or who had said they were coming, but their plans changed, and they weren’t coming after all. That was a lot of money that would have been shelled out on uneaten food and additional floor space. In the end, it might sound a bit annoying, but I’ve come across so many people who completely disregard RSVPs, it seems that we’re forced to do it so we’re not frustrated wrecks at the event. Maybe if we do it enough, they’ll figure out they need to keep in contact about those RSVPs!

  • Ultra Venia June 14, 2012, 2:13 pm

    Wow, I am surprised. (BTW it’s spelled with the “s” not a “z” – like reprise, apprise, and comprise) I was hoping that the title wasn’t quite so accurate as it was…

  • kingsrings June 14, 2012, 2:25 pm

    Wow…this is one of the most hurtful things I’ve read on this website in a long time. I would have been in tears if someone told me to my face so blatantly that they’d rather be in the company of others over me, and that I should leave. I applaud this couple for not ever having anything more to do with these unbelievably rude, hurtful people. And the fact that nobody seems to have stood up for this poor couple is also astounding.
    A friendship of mine ended several years ago over something similar. This girl had already committed many faux pas in our relationship, basically, let’s just say she had no concept of manners and considerate behavior and often stood me up or showed up late, and was indignant when I expressed displeasure about this. I invited her to a NY Eve’s dinner with some of my friends were there was a reservation with only a certain number involved, and we filled that quota. At the dinner, she suddenly announces to me that she’s invited her brother to come join us there. I pointed out that we didn’t have room for him since the table reservation was full, and that she should have told us beforehand that she was inviting him. She hit the roof right in front of everyone and told me that I and the others were sooo mean for not accomodating her beloved brother, and stormed out of the restaurant, with everyone staring at this crazy woman.
    I agree with the others – people just don’t have any concept of RSVP’ing anymore, and think nothing of just showing up, not realizing at all how inconvenient this is. I’ve known of too many instances of this happening with otherwise well-behaved friends and aquaintances. It baffles me.

  • 2browneyes4 June 14, 2012, 2:32 pm

    I would have been very upset if I were the other hostess. Seating strangers at my table for my party?? What kind of establishment does this? I hope the seats at the second table were at least offered by the second hostess and not “commandeered” (sp?) by the restaurant. If I didn’t offer the seats, I would have complained to management. The rudeness of the non-RSVP guests and subsequent rudeness of the first hostess does not give them the right to intrude on my party. What if I were still expecting guests to arrive for those seats?

  • Ann June 14, 2012, 2:50 pm

    Almost unbelieveable. So rude, and so hurtful. I am glad for them that this couple has opted to shield themselves from these people.

  • David June 14, 2012, 3:59 pm

    Like others before me, I had to pick my jaw off the floor. How unbelievable that both the aunt-in-law and the mother-in-law felt this was how you treat the OP and her husband, perfect strangers having a party, the waitstaff and boors who can’t bother to RSVP.

    I’m inclined to give the OP and her husband a pass on failing to leave immediately. Hindsight is always 20/20, but I know I would have been in complete shock in that moment. I’m sure they were as well.

  • Jay June 14, 2012, 4:10 pm

    @LeeLee: “Maybe if we do it enough, they’ll figure out they need to keep in contact about those RSVPs!”

    Um, if you do it enough, they figure out that they DON’T need to keep in contact about those RSVPs.

  • Catvickie June 14, 2012, 4:44 pm

    Years ago when we were younger, my husband let his mother trample all over us. The thing was, she was very socially inept, and wanted us to accompany her to family stuff so she would not have to go alone (she had her elderly mother with her all the time, they were both widows and had each other to sit with.)I remember a Thanksgiving dinner held a couple of hours away at a cousin of hers. My hubby drove trucks at night and had just gotten off work, and she expected him to drive the four of us up there in freezing rain when he had been up all night.
    When we got there, the cousin, a doctor’s wife, was busily scrambling around to find us a place to sit. I always wonder if we were really invited, and cringe with embarrassment when I think of it. I remember her as a very gracious hostess. But I wish I had stood up to MIL more than I had. I think sometimes younger people try to fit in with the other family members, somtimes to their detriment. Glad OP is ditching those people and that hubby is on board. It took years before I could pry my hubby loose. Had to move to a different town.

  • Spike June 14, 2012, 4:47 pm

    “The polite part would have asked, “I beg your pardon?” and remained in my seat acting as if nothing had been said. If repeated, I might have said, “I thought you said that earlier, but I could not believe you would be so rude so I shall pretend you did not say it.”
    I love this!!!
    I, too, don’t think the OP should have gone along with any of this, but I know how it is when you have to make a split second decision but at the same time your brain can’t really comprehend the level of rudeness which has been reached. So you go along with the flow only later realizing something was horribly off-kilter.
    I wonder if the waning attention to RSVPs has anything to do with Facebook events. As I’m sure most people (who have FB accounts) know, you can “RSVP” to event invites on Facebook with either yes, no, maybe, or simply not responding at all. Some people who say no might change their mind and come anyway, but not get around to changing their response to yes; some people don’t respond, but plan on coming anyway; some people say yes but never get around to coming; and of course, “maybe” is a toss-up. Because of this, I always plan my FB events as if twice as many people are going to show up as have RSVP’d because you never know and it seems better to have too much food than too little. So I wonder if people are being retrained at least in part by the anything-goes nature of FB RSVPs.

  • Corvid June 14, 2012, 7:21 pm

    While I understand the original poster and her husband were so stunned by the shocking rudeness and lack of consideration show by mother-in-law and aunt-in-law that they weren’t thinking clearly, they in effect indicated tacit approval of the waitress’s solution when they sat down at the other party’s table. Mother-in-law and aunt-in-law probably still think everything worked out just spiffy. If a similar situation ever arises, it’s best to just leave.

  • Another Alice June 14, 2012, 7:25 pm

    I think this is one of those rare occasions when the Broken Record method might work well. Simply repeating, “No, I think we’ll just sit right here. No, I think we’ll just sit right here. No, I think we’ll just sit right here.” With a smile, in a distant, respectable voice. I hate passive-aggression, but I think in this case it’s okay to just refuse to let yourself be involved in the drama – in a sense, acting dumb to everyone else’s conflict and not participating in it. Because, after all, it is NOT your conflict. You RSVP’d. You showed up. Anything outside of that is not your problem. It is the host’s and the unexpected guests’.

    I’d just repeat the same thing over and over every time I was directly addressed, and then turn to my husband and talk pleasantly about how excited you were to see his cousin. The End. Eventually, the other parties would realize that you were not involving yourself in something that clearly is not your problem. I do this at times when people hint at me to basically do them a favor to help them remedy something they screwed up themselves – usually when they’re complaining about it and waiting for me to say, “Oh, let me help!” I smile and say, “Oh, I’m sorry to hear about it. That sounds terrible! What are your plans this weekend?”

  • Raymee June 14, 2012, 7:28 pm

    @TylerBelle – Yes placecards are nice but I had a funny experience with them recently.
    I went to my uncle’s wedding earlier this year, let call him “David”. It was held in New Zealand, and my parents and I live in Australia so (with only a months notice) we packed our bags and flew over for the weekend. We called in to say hi to David and his fiance the morning of the wedding (this was planned) and Mum noticed the seating chart- and that my name wasn’t on it (I had definitely RSVPed) so she quietly mentioned it to her brother David, who was very apologetic and promised to fit me it.

    We got to the wedding later that evening, which was held (both ceremony and reception) in a beautiful historic cottage. The only problem was that there wasn’t enough room to put everybody inside, so there were two tables on the porch, where I and three others were placed, but my parents were placed inside.

    We stood in the doorway for the ceremony (which was stunning and so heartfelt), but then kicked outside to wait for our turn at the buffet, because we were last. And it was freezing!
    When we moved outside we noticed that my parents had been moved onto my table without being told- they just noticed that some family of the bride were seated in their former spot, placecards and all. From what I gather, because they had travelled from overseas, the bride’s family couldn’t be seated outside (not to mention that we had also flown in!). The other unfortunate thing was that because we were outside on the verandah, we couldn’t hear when the toasts had started, but our conversations could easily be heard and were amplified in the small room. So while everyone was deadly quiet, they could all hear our loud conversations! I was mortified when I found out, we must have sounded like such boors!

  • Cat Whisperer June 14, 2012, 8:45 pm

    “…One can almost hear Aunt-in-law and your mother-in-law lamenting the lack of family unity and togetherness and having not a clue why that is….”

    So why doesn’t someone in this family travesty sit down with Aunt-in-law and mother-in-law, and give them the clue? It seems to me that this is a situation that was screaming for someone to intervene. Shame, shame, shame on all the other guests at this travesty who sat in silence and allowed things to progress from bad to worse to unbelievable.

    I sure hope that at the very least, someone called the drop-in guests afterwards and gave them absolute hell for showing up to a party where they had failed to RSVP acceptance.

  • LeeLee88 June 14, 2012, 9:07 pm

    @Jay: what would you suggest then?

  • Megan Amy June 15, 2012, 1:10 am

    That is awful! At first, I would have tried Another Alice’s suggestion and just stayed in my seat because it wasn’t MIL’s place to dictate a solution. But once Aunt-in-law agreed, I would have hopefully had enough wits about me, while shocked, to say something like “clearly, having us here is not a priority to you. Bye” and left the restaurant.

    What do you all think the other guests at AIL’s table should have done? Obviously, they wanted to see the son who was deploying. But I think if I were a guest and had witnessed this, I would have wanted to walk out with OP and her husband just because I wouldn’t want to associate with someone as rude as AIL. On the other hand, if I didn’t know if there were a backstory or if I heard things correctly, I probably would have remained in my seat and not gotten involved.

    @Raymee, that’s also insulting that you were put in that position. I’m sorry that some people probably thought you were boors and that’s why you were seated outside, when in fact, you were not. But I’m glad that your conversations overshadowed some of the reception rituals of a thoughtless bride and her spineless groom.

  • Wim June 15, 2012, 4:23 am

    While I agree that the OP and her husband were treated awfully and the guests who didn’t RSVP should not have expected to be seated, I can’t help but wonder just how small that “long rectangular table” must have been, with everybody practically sitting squeezed against each other, if it was really physically impossible to fit in two more chairs. And even if this really was the case, unless the room was really tiny (in which case you could wonder why the restaurant would choose to seat two different parties there), surely the restaurant could have added a small table to the main one (even if it meant creating an L-shape) to accommodate the non-RSVP guests?

  • Jenny June 15, 2012, 7:09 am

    For my husband’s and my wedding, I had to make a ton of calls 2 weeks before (even to a close friend) to find out if people were coming. I guess a lot of people think that “I’m not coming” means “I don’t have to RSVP?” Worst were the people who just assumed I knew they were coming. I’d provided plenty of opportunities to RSVP.

  • Katie June 15, 2012, 7:18 am

    Edited: please can you submit this comment as I’ve added a bit on the end!

    I think that the OP did the right thing. Yes, the MIL and aunt were wrong, but surely it would have been worse to have done the passive-aggressive speech about ‘taking your leave’ and then making a fuss/’fanfare’ about it. That seems very immature and would have spoiled the atmosphere for the cousin, in whose honour the party was being held in the first place.

    Maybe this is a cultural thing, but here in the UK, it’s not unusual for a few unexpected guests to turn up (unless it’s a VERY formal party, which doesn’t sound the case here). So I would say that it’s always a good idea to allow for a few extra people, to avoid this kind of scenario. I will repeat again that yes, the family and the waitress were wrong, but it sounds like bad planning rather than deliberate malice/rudeness.

    I know I’m going against the grain here, but this is certainly not the worst thing I’ve read! Particularly not in the light of some of the stories posted here recently (e.g. the one about the lady who was verbally abused by a stranger).

    ETA: I just saw how long ago this event happened! It seems like there’s a lot more going on here than just this story in terms of the OP’s in-laws. But on the basis of this episode, I’d be more inclined to think this accidental bad manners rather than a deliberate snub.