Asking Our Readers: To Invite or not to Invite

This is somewhat of a touchy subject I am hoping you might be able to help me with.  Hubby and I both come from pretty big extended families and sometimes, things can be a little tricky.  In the picture below are my parents in the middle in the back.  My mom’s parents are to the way left-my great grandma in the wheel chair-I’m the pouty five year old-my sister and her husband are to the far right with their daughter on my sister’s lap.

You can see there’s a big age difference between my sister and I…..16 years.  There is only 4 years between her daughter and I.

MANY years later I had the youngest grandchild and my niece had the oldest great grandchild just one month later.  In light of that, my sister always seemed more like an aunt to me.  My niece seemed more like a cousin.

Amazingly, my Hubby’s family is worse.  There are 22 years between the oldest and the youngest.  He has five sisters-I have one sister with three brother in between us.

Some of the families we are really close to-others not so much.  Hubby and I have MANY-MANY great nieces and nephews.  Hubby even now has some great-great nieces and nephews.  The family just keeps extending and extending.   Our daughter Kalissa was the 20th grandchild and after that my brother remarried and his wife has two kids so that makes 22.   All of my siblings have grandchildren some with 15 or 18.

Now comes the hard part.  Some of the family we see regularly.  Some we don’t see.  I don’t think Hubby has even seen his great-great nieces and nephews.  We have several nieces and nephews that we haven’t seen since our parents died and that’s been some time ago.  We have some great nieces and nephews that we haven’t seen for a long time.

Now add in weddings, bridal showers, graduations and the like….how does one go to these events and how does one invite family to events?  We’ve had this talk at our house so many times and I’ve yet to come to a good solution.

We get invitations to some things and I sometimes think-  Really?  I haven’t seen you in five years.   We get invitations to other things and I am just thrilled to go and be part of the event.

You can imagine there are a lot of things always going on.  Two years ago we had five graduations, two weddings, and an anniversary that all happened in a three month period.  All of the events are about a two hour drive away.

When Kelli got married we only had room in the church for 125 people.  Honestly, I think if all of the family of both sides were counted up, we’d  likely be over that!

So readers….What I am asking is this….If I am invited to an event, which things do I have to go to?  (honestly sometimes I feel like I’m invited just for a present)  If I am inviting people to an event, which people do I invite?  With Buck’s wedding we had friends that we really wanted to invite but couldn’t because we invited so much family…then they didn’t come.  UGH.

Along the same lines…who do I have to send a present to if I’m not going to make it?

Hubby says-if I haven’t seen them in five years..they are out.  If I wouldn’t recognize them on the street (yes, some are that way) they are out.  In light of that when Buck got married Buck did opt to not invite a few family members and we said that was his choice.  There was backlash over that…but honestly it was Buck’s choice and he said that he couldn’t remember the last time he had seen the person.

Some of the family I wouldn’t pick as friends.  Some I wish lived in my town.  It’s so hard.  There are no clear lines. Hubby has nephews that are close to his age that are more like cousins.  Other nieces and nephews he hardly knows and would be pressed to keep up a conversation with.

It’s so hard to know what’s right and what’s not right.  I’m hoping you might be able to help me sort through it all…so advice please?

38 thoughts on “Asking Our Readers: To Invite or not to Invite”

  1. I have a large extended family on my mother’s side. It’s so much fun to get us all together! But I firmly believe that you include the ones closest to you (including, especially, close friends), then fill in with the next closest family. On the invitee side, our friends’ kids are starting to get married and we’re being invited to them. I let hubby write a check for what we can actually afford, then I make a table runner. This is why some people elope!

  2. Marian Sayers

    Jo, I personally feel weddings and celebrations are for those who are your close family and friends.They will be the ones in years coming you’ll be able to share and reminisce with. I’d suggest for those invitations you receive from extended family you don’t see often or not at all, that you just acknowledge the event with a tasteful card. For those who because of distance you aren’t able to see often but still maintain a relationship with, perhaps a card with a gift card if you can’t travel or don’t want to travel.
    My son is getting married in a few weeks. Both sets of parent’s (us) have siblings and nieces/nephews that didn’t make the guest list. While I feel bad about it, I don’t feel guilty. We also traveled 2 1/2 hours last weekend to attend the wedding of my best friend’s daughter. I’ve known this young lady since birth and would of traveled even a greater distance to be part of her big day.I think it’s really all about the connections!

  3. Invite the people you enjoy and want to celebrate with. In our extended family there is a core group of cousins, and the “family gems”, (2 aunts who are 94+ years) who regularly get together. These are the ones who always attend events and therefore we know each other, their spouses and their children. Everyone is always invited to the biannual family reunion and attendance is their choice! Don’t feel pressured! Good luck

  4. If they send an invitation send a card back and tell them you are working and can’t be gone that long. Which is true. If you choose to send a gift them do a monetary gift in the form of a gift card to a place they are registered. If you have no other contact with them other than invitations I would think the handwriting is on the wall. They will like it or lump it Feel no guilt. If they don’t come to see you why would you go to see them. My husband has 400 cousins and we never see them and we live within 5 miles of most of them. Times have changed. Good Luck Chris

  5. This is difficult. We’re starting to face this as well. We’re only inviting the ones we’re close with. My daughter wants to have a small wedding. The groom to be’s mother not so much. Let me say that its not the money thing. Daughter and fiance’ don’t know these people and my daughter says ” I don’t want to share my day with a bunch of strangers”. Groom to be says the same. His mother is not agreeing with this at all. Daughter has whispered a few times ” we’re eloping”. She doesn’t want drama. Her friends are more family than the family. So guess who’s coming. I’m fine with it.

  6. I think you sort of answered your own questions when you said, “Some of the family I wouldn’t pick as friends. Some I wish lived in my town.” I would invite family and friends that you are close too and whose company you would enjoy.

  7. I had to keep my invitation list short because I was a single working mom paying for my own reception. The one thing I regret is not issuing an open wedding invitation to the church members as I think some of my deceased mother’s friends would have liked to be there. We then sent announcements to extended family.

  8. Jo, this is as difficult as you wish to make it! I don’t think you should feel obligated to invite family just because they are related by blood. I have people I call Aunt and Uncle who are family friends and have been a special influence in my life…they mean so much more to me than some of my parents’ siblings. On occasions such as weddings, the bride and groom should invite those that hold a special place in their hearts, people who will be supporting them during their married life, through thick and thin.
    Same goes in reverse…the family you feel close to and who are there for you are the ones who deserve your love and support.
    As far as gifting goes, I think that in this day and age, if you can’t attend the function then you don’t necessarily need to give a gift, unless you feel that you want to!
    I know that I never EXPECT to be invited to any celebration but feel very honoured to be included if I recieve an invitation. It shouldn’t be an expectation…ever.
    Love and hugs xx

  9. i think your readers have boiled down the problem well; send invites to those you love and who love you–family or not– and send announcements to all the rest.

  10. This is probably the hardest part of wedding prep… We have 3 sons, now all married as of 2 weeks ago the oldest got married. All 3 had different weddings and lists from each other. Our immediate families are all smaller which helped. Our middle son and DIL had a small (75 guests invited) outdoors, and catered with BBQ sandwiches and fixin’s. Our youngest son and DIL had the largest wedding – due to the fact that her father has been the pastor to 3 local churches…who do you invite there?? What we did was a general invitation to all church members to the ceremony, and an old fashioned reception of coffee, punch and cake in the basement, so that everyone could be included. Then went off to the reception and dance with family and closer friends. Our oldest son and DIL had a medium sized wedding (160 guests). We had a great time – it was Kentucky Derby day so many of us wore hats to the reception(including the bride) and drank mint juleps. The very hardest part is trying to get people to send back the ‘reservation’ for the meal – and trying to figure the food. The food is so costly – at least the oldest and youngest sons. You don’t want to not have enough for everyone, but you also don’t want to have 20 extra meals at $20-25 a plate! And at that price for a meal – inviting someone for a present – doesn’t make much sense. My feeling is that you really want them to be there, that the day wouldn’t be complete without them. I feel honored to be invited to someone’s celebration! I also don’t feel left out if I am not invited – and may still send a gift! BUT I will NEVER not send back the RSVP card as quickly as possible since the meal scheduling is so stressful.

    We didn’t go deep into family – we don’t spend much time with cousins, usually only family reunions…on the other hand, last year we were invited to a second marriage of a cousin of my husband – we didn’t even know who it was(last name was different). We didn’t know if we should go just to find out who it was! We eventually DID figure it out and went, had a good time seeing cousins that we hadn’t seen for a long time. Her mother had died young and inviting us and other cousins was a way to connect to her. I felt honored.

    Sorry this is so long – I guess I have some strong feelings! Good luck with your guest list! Sherry Whalen

  11. I agree with what everyone else said, invite who you love and who you can’t live without. I do sympathize with the ‘backlash’ issue though. I’ve been married over 40 years and I heard about the one person who didn’t get an invitation until the day she passed. Not that I would have done it differently — I just shrugged it off but that poor woman gnawed on it for over 35 years! Sometimes the pain of the one day with the unwanted guest is less than the pain of ‘ever after’!

  12. Invite the ones you see and enjoy. You already learned from Buck’s wedding that the others probably won’t come anyway. I’ve occasionally gotten calls from a cousin of my husband’s asking “Who is this and who does he/she belong to?” and I think that is extending the guest list a little too far.

  13. You are so sweet to even worry about this! I really don’t think that there is a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer to this. At my ‘advancing’ stage in life, I would simply go with what made me happy, especially at important events in my life. If my son was getting married, I would want to surround myself with the people who brought me the most joy. If that is family, then so be it. If not, then that is fine, too! Your life is so busy already that adding hours worth of driving and the associated stress of distant familial relationships is definitely NOT a requirement! Don’t let guilt or ideas of what you should or shouldn’t do rule your actions. Give gifts because you want to, go to events because you are excited about them, invite people only because you love them and like to spend time with them. You deserve to enjoy your life, too!

  14. Our daughter was married almost a year ago. We knew how many seats we had available for the reception and started planning the list from that. Close friends and family, most local. We made the decision to not invite friends, etc. from long distances because of the cost for travel for them (so they wouldn’t feel obligated) and we are glad that we choose to do that. After the RSVP’s came in there were a few that had not replied and my daughter and her fiance took it upon themselves to contact those who had not replied. We had a very accurate count for the reception then. Another option to consider…go through your Christmas card list. If you have not heard from someone in a few years they aren’t considered for the wedding. Happy Wedding Planning!!

  15. Please invite the people you love and who love you…..Your friends who are there for you should come before family who are never there.. and those friends really want to come and celebrate with you on those big days–they are the ones who cheer you on when life gets hard…You are not obligated to send a gift to a wedding you don’t go to unless you really want to…my family is complicated too and sometimes it is difficult to know how to handle these events….

  16. I am pretty confident even Miss Manners can’t sort this out in our day and age. I just got a text message from my sister inviting me to her second wedding and informed me where I could get her a present and that if we were interested, we could buy our own dinner afterwards. I am sure that I need to start thinking about the guest lists for my own children as graduations will be the first major events we will have to tackle this issue with. My parents are divorced, so family gatherings can be a bit stressful. Fortunate that my husband’s family isn’t stressful that way.
    I think every family faces this issue, but I also know that it can be more emotionally upsetting to some than others. I, like you, would be worried that I had upset/hurt someone’s feelings. I don’t have the answers for you, but I can relate.

  17. Maybe some of your relatives feel the same way. Perhaps they are sending invitations to you because they felt obligated to do so since you are family. I wouldn’t get too worked up about attending or not – simply answer yes or no and either send a gift if you wish or not. Chances are nothing will ever be said to you about it, and if so, you simply state that you had something else planned for that day. I had this problem many years ago when I did not invite my aunt to my wedding because at the time she was involved in drugs and alcohol and I didn’t want to deal with that on my day. She did call to give me a piece of her mind, and it did bother me for a brief moment, but we then began to speak again to each other about 5 years later when her situation in life improved and have been talking periodically on and off ever since and we even attended her wedding some years later. I think if anyone gets upset with you for not inviting them, have a conversation and explain your feelings and your reasoning. They will either be receptive and understand or they won’t and that’s okay too. You could just agree to disagree.

  18. We only attend those events we want to. Its perfectly acceptable to send a “congratulations” card without a present, and wish folks well. If your family is as big as you indicate, its also a bit of a financial problem. I think your husband is correct. Invite those who still are close to you and forget the rest. And, friends are often more important than family.

  19. This is a hard issue, I have family that lives close and family that lives states away, and I see them about the same amount. I’ve struggled with the issue, and I’ve finally come to the conclusion I include those I want to see and don’t include those I don’t. When my niece recently got married, she flat out said that she wasn’t inviting people to just invite people, it had to be people she knew and loved. She sent a few to family that she knew wouldn’t be able to attend because of distance/age, more so they knew she would want them there, than anything else. There were a few noses out of joint from family that live close enough to attend, but her thing was she didn’t want to spend her reception explaining who people were, if they weren’t close enough that her intended had already met them, they weren’t invited.

  20. My feeling is you should only go to events that you want to go to and when it comes to events that you are hosting invite only the people that you want to. I totally get that about feeling that you were invited only so the person could get a present. I have a hard time sending out announcements and invitations for that reason also. I don’t want people to think I want a present I really just want them to share in an event. I think sometimes we worry too much about hurting someones feelings when we should just do what is best for us.

  21. Deborah DeBerry

    Wedding, etc, com with their own stress built in, because one wants everything to go off without a hitch. Weddings are also a time that you celebrate the beginning of a new family unit, and close family and friends are needed for this celebration. If you don’t know certain people at all or not so much, I don’t believe an invitation for them is warranted. If communication is so important to them, why wait all this time to visit. Live, Laugh, Love and be happy. Your family, the close ones, will appreciate you. God bless you all and just breathe, and enjoy your celebration of continuing life.

  22. I grew up in Iowa in a huge family, and cake and punch weddings were the norm. Wedding at 1pm so no one expects a meal. Invite everyone and know people use the occasion of the wedding as a reason to reconnect. Also, with a cake and punch wedding, the food can be stretched to however many people show up (we didn’t know about RSVP or reply cards).

  23. Marjorie Nath

    Invite those that you enjoy spending time with. When I was younger I invited all the Aunts and Uncles because it was expected. As I grew older I decided that it was more important to be with the people that made me happy whether they were biological family or family by love.

  24. I would only invite those with whom you already have a relationship beyond just being related to any weddings and graduations. When you receive invitations to graduations, weddings, births for family you really don’t spend time with otherwise, etiquette only requires you respond with a card, not a gift. I hate getting invitations from people I really don’t know…it really does feel like I am being invited only for a gift, and I know that they would rather I just sent the gift then actually attending the event!!

  25. Our family, although small, has many of the same “big family” problems. My husband insisted that our daughter invite one of his family members to her small wedding, in spite of the fact that none of us liked said family member. They did not even bother to reply, so apparently the feeling was mutual. Invite the people you love, and who in turn love you and your family.

    Don’t fret over the details, as years from now no one will remember what you didn’t do, only what you did do.

  26. Jerry in sealy

    Such delimas plague most large or extended families. Jo you are not alone, your mind and heart will pull you in different directions. Announcements are always good for all occasions. Personally I send out cards for any and all events, no gifts, a personal note is always appreciated. You can feel comfortable giving small personal gifts as your heart dictates. Prayers for your family.

  27. When you are from a large family it really makes it hard to decide which way to handle things. My youngest brother is 20 years younger than I am and we rarely see him or his family. Yet every time on of his kids seems to sneeze we get an invitation to the “event” So often I feel like it is just asking for a gift! Lately they get a card and a “congratulations” note and that is where it ends! My grandchildren are now trying to decide who to send invitations to for big events such as college graduations and weddings and it is hard to decide who they need to include. I tell them to follow their hearts and invite the people they want to spend time with and who will be excited to be there rather than feeling if they are just expected to send a gift!

  28. Here is my suggestion for inviting. Think of each person. If you feel some sense of excitement or ‘warm fuzzy’ at the possibility of seeing that person, then invite them. If you feel nothing, a sense of dread or reluctance, then they don’t need to attend. If you are inviting people that you don’t have a bond with, then I think the whole celebration will be affected and will not be the wonderful event that it can be!

    I guess I’m saying the same thing as Mary Jo! And I think a card suffices when you are invited to a family event that you are not able to attend (or don’t want to!).

  29. Amen to all the comments above. Keep to the “nearest & dearest” (family & friends) for all occasions. I think many times we ARE invited just to get a gift. I make it a point to always send “best wishes” cards, and sometimes a check goes with the card, but not always. Keep it simple and do it the way that works for you. Good luck!

  30. Sharon Hughson

    Life is short. Do what YOU WANT! Let the chips fall where they may. I have a brother I have not spoken to for 40 yrs. (Drugs, Alcohol, Female abuseer). He called me in the 90’s and sent me a graduation announcement for his daughter who he apparently raised. I knew he wanted cash. I didn’t know if the child would ever see it. So I took the announcement and chopped it up copied and pasted a bunch of times and made a scrapbook/sutograph book for her. No money, but a heartfelt letter written to her included. I never heard a word from either of them. Do what you want, Jo. You are allowed to make decisions for yourself and it doesn’t even have to be a hard and fast rule. The closer I get to the end of my life (none of us gets outts here alive) the more I take my own council about these decisions. Listen to yourself. There’s your answer. Have a great day.

  31. I think you are being too nice and worrying about this too much. :-) I agree that sometimes what you may perceive as an invite, is actually just an announcement. Go to the ones you think you’ll enjoy and skip the others. On the ones you skip, send a gift if you feel you want to and just send a card to the others. As far as inviting on your end, if I had room, I’d invite them all because you know half of them won’t show up anyway. If space (cost) is an issue, just invite those you’d REALLY like to see. But most of all do what you want to do. You only live once–enjoy it!

  32. Hi- I have a few thoughts and a couple questions for you to consider. I think if you truly answer the questions honestly, the light might become a little clearer for you in your invitation/ gift dilemma.
    I have known quite a few families that have many siblings that are several years apart. I don’t think it has ever been a problem for them- they have had fun with it and are actually quite proud of their generation gap. Why is it so amazing that your hubby’s family is “worse”? Worse than what?
    Why is it that your families are not all close? Is it because they all moved away from you? Or did you choose to move away from them? Have you never been invited to any of the holiday dinners, family gatherings, weddings, showers, graduations, confirmations, etc, etc? Or did you choose not to attend? I bet that is where you could have gotten to know your nieces and nephews and that family that just keeps extending and extending. I bet most of them were there!
    When you get those invitations from people you haven’t seen in five years, do you wonder why that is the case? Again, were you never invited to anything in the last five years where you may have had a chance to get re-acquainted. Maybe you should go and see what is new with all of them.
    In that year when you had five graduations, two weddings, and an anniversary within three months, how many of them did you actually go to?
    So in answer to your question of which events you have to go to- the answer is simple. You don’t have to go to any of them if you don’t want to. They will happen with you or without you. I sincerely doubt that anyone invites you to things only to get a wonderful gift nowadays- if they do, they will be due for some disappointments. I know someone who moved out of state several years ago, fully aware that he and his family would miss several of the celebrations and activities back home. He has it figured out- when he learns that someone is having an event, some time before it happens he decides if and when he is going to send a gift and does it. Then- if he gets an invitation he decides if he can make the trip to attend or not, and RSVPs accordingly. If he doesn’t get an invitation, he still feels good about sending a gift because he wanted to and he is not the one feeling guilty. He doesn’t let the self-induced idea of the overloaded guest list decide if he is going to send a gift or attend- he lets his brain and heart decide- Brilliant!
    If the church isn’t big enough for all your friends and a few relatives, find a bigger venue so you can invite anyone you want to- it’s your party! If you are trying to impress your friends by inviting them instead of your relatives, go ahead. Your relatives may not be as disappointed as your friends would be.
    No, You don’t HAVE to send a gift if you don’t go- you don’t even have to take one if you do go. Do what you want to do, but be prepared for the reciprocating consequences. Don’t expect a pleasant return.
    Life is a two-way street- sometimes even more than a two hour drive. If you are not willing to travel that street in both directions, don’t expect anyone else to come looking for you. But know that it may get lonely on your end of the street some day.
    And just think- some day your kids and your grand kids are going to be asking their social media world if they should burden themselves with inviting their extended family, nieces, nephews, and great nieces and nephews to their kids’ life events. Oh, but wait- they won’t have to worry about that, because they won’t have that extended and extended more family because haven’t had time to go to any family gatherings and haven’t seen them in five years, and don’t even know them. Sound Familiar?

  33. I normally don’t read these blogs, they are kind of like poorly written Christmas letters, they make me gag—but this title intrigued me.
    Sometimes when you chose to isolate your family from relatives, the family will still make an effort to respond to invitations to help with bridal showers, attend weddings, graduations, confirmations, etc for the children’s sake. Whether it’s because of a few fond memories of those kids, or hopes of re establishing a relationship with this isolated family—-Even though it was the parents who chose to isolate themselves. It’s not their intent to burden your precious guest list. But then when they invite you to their children’s’ graduations, confirmations, weddings etc, and you make no efforts to attend, because you haven’t seen them for 5 years, or you had “5 other things going on that day” that’s definitely your choice—and if that’s how you want your relationship with your family to be, I guess you’re the one who has to live with that decision and sleep at night. Is the reason you haven’t seen them for 5 years because you didn’t attend any family holidays that you were invited to?(even ones that do not require a gift) Then don’t expect your relatives to continue to travel 2 hours, get hotel rooms, gifts, and show up with a smile to your events either.
    ……………..oh, and by the way —there is only 20 years between us, …………..

  34. CindyM in Oregon

    My husband and I got married at a Justice of the Peace with moms, dads, and our 2 witnesses, for this very reason. It became such a guilt-fest- it just wasn’t worth ruining OUR DAY- over. We didn’t get a bunch of gifts we would never use, didn’t have to send out hundreds of thank you cards and have never regretted it for one day- not in 43 years. We no longer travel well, so don’t go to anything. But, we send a congrats card to everyone with our excuses and gift cards to those VERY very close in relationships. Do what your heart says- not what people say.

  35. I would say that invites should go out to the aunts and uncles (i.e. your siblings). You can address it to Aunt/Uncle, Spouse and Family and that way if they want to pass it along to their children and so on, they can. And if they choose not to you have an excuse when they ask why so and so wasn’t invited. I would also invite directly those cousins/nieces/nephews/etc. that you or the person getting married/having a birthday is particularly close to.

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