My invitation to the wedding has not arrived. Should I inquire?

My good friend's daughter is getting married. What if the invite got lost in the mail?

Published March 2, 2007 11:18AM (EST)

Dear Cary,

A very good friend of mine has apparently not invited me to her daughter's wedding. We have been very close friends for over 10 years, and friendly for nearly 20. I know Miss Manners would say to simply ignore the snub, and I'm inclined to do that. But part of me worries, what if she did send me an invitation and it went astray (I know that is not likely to be the explanation; but it's possible). The other part of me wonders, should I say something? Not (again) out of good manners (it wouldn't be -- plus, how awkward), but in the context of our friendship, for me this is a huge deal. I know other people we both know (of the "parent" generation, which I would be in as well) who are invited, so the list is not limited to the daughter and her friends.

I'm feeling hurt, but more important, I don't know what to do now about the friendship. Hold a "silent grudge"? Act like nothing has happened? I e-mailed her an article I thought would be of interest the other day and she e-mailed me back and thanked me but that was all. Several weeks ago it felt as if she had suddenly "pulled back" (wasn't calling as often) and when I asked if anything was wrong or I had offended her in some way, she insisted there was nothing wrong and she was simply "busy planning the wedding" and "some personal stuff." I said, "You know you can talk with me if you need to," and she acknowledged that.

But she hasn't, and now this. Leaving out the possibility that I have committed some offense, which I can't imagine (and she denies), my only other possible conclusion is that she is deliberately excluding me for some unfathomable reason and (ergo) doesn't care how this makes me feel. So my question is, do I bring it up (and explain that I care, and/or am sad or hurt)? Do I just write off a (long) friendship? Should I conclude it was never one (a friendship) at all? Any thoughts (mainly perspective!) would be great.

Miffed but Muddled

Dear Miffed,

I was in almost the exact same situation as you a few years ago. My high-school girlfriend was getting married. All the friends from our group were being invited. But I did not get an invite. I asked a mutual friend, who was very close to her, and was involved in helping plan the wedding, and she said she felt sure that I was supposed to be invited. Though that gave me reason to believe it was an oversight, I still felt chilled. I thought maybe I was being snubbed. And maybe I was being snubbed. So what I did was ... but wait.

First, it must be said that most questions about weddings are covered by etiquette. But insofar as etiquette is a logical system, like mathematics or physics or law, there exist certain problems on the fringes of that system that tax its inner logic and coherence. For instance, what is the proper etiquette to follow when the hostess suddenly becomes invisible, when she literally disappears right before your eyes? Do you observe, "Dear, you seem to have become invisible. I can see right through you." Or do you go on as though nothing had happened, rather than risk offending your hostess or bringing undue attention to yourself, or, indeed, making it appear that you yourself have gone mad?

Or what do you do when your hostess launches into a profane, sputtering tirade? Can you be sure that she means it, or might she have Tourette syndrome?

These questions admittedly lie on the outer fringes of the conceivable problems that a system of etiquette will generally be called upon to answer.

But what if, as you suggest, an invitation might have been lost in the mail? Do you inquire?

My initial perusal of etiquette guides has not given me a satisfactory answer, so I will say this: I believe that in situations that directly concern us, we must inquire of the facts. While for many people the emotional significance of the fact is inseparable from the fact itself, I think civilized people ought to be able to look together at a set of facts without catastrophic failure of the relationship. For instance, in matters of hiring, one may decline to hire a friend. This is an uncomfortable fact that must be faced by both people. In matters of a wedding, one might find it necessary not to invite a friend. This, too, is a fact that both parties may out of necessity have to regard as simply a fact. The person doing the inviting has both rights and duties that must be balanced; while she has the power to invite or not invite whomever, she also has duties to this person and that person, and the claim on her by some people is stronger than the claim on her by others. These competing demands must be balanced. In the actual balancing, there will be certain surprises and difficulties. The rest of us ought to accept that with equanimity.

So, anyway, in my case, with the wedding of my high school girlfriend to which I did not initially receive an invitation, the way I figured it, even though I was OK with it either way, it would be stupid to conclude, merely on the evidence of not getting an invitation, that this dear friend, who in many respects was like family, did not want me at her wedding.

So I called her and congratulated her on her wedding plans. I told her how happy I was for her. I said it was perfectly OK if I was not invited. No problem. I would understand. Weddings and all that. Ex-boyfriend and all that. I just wanted to congratulate her and wish her happiness.

She asked if I was coming. I said that I had not gotten an invitation but no problem, you know, if I wasn't invited, it's OK, ex-boyfriend, uncomfortable moments, ugly dust-up, you never know.

She apologized profusely, in that very sweet way she had, and said to stop it, of course I was invited and there must have been some screw-up. The invitation arrived soon after that.

I was prepared for her to say, "I'm sorry, but it's a small wedding," or, "My mother is planning it, and you know her," or something like that. Her mother was never a huge fan. That would have been fine. I was OK with it either way. The central thing was to ascertain the facts.

So this person is your friend and you need to find out the facts. Just talk to her, or to someone in a position to know, and verify if you're invited or not invited.

And then make peace with it. Don't tell her you are hurt. Just make peace with it.

You may have deep feelings about this, and I don't mean to belittle them by saying just get over it. If you have deep feelings, then have deep feelings. Have them for as long as you need to. But aim toward the day when you can resume your friendship. As to your expressed concern that she doesn't care how this makes you feel: It's possible that she cares very much how you feel, but doesn't have what it takes to communicate that. Remember, people are fragile and incomplete. Not everybody gets the whole lunch. Some just get the roll, or some soup.

And maybe you don't want to hear this, but I'm just trying to cheer you up: It's just a darned wedding. People put way too much energy into weddings. This isn't the court of Louis XIV.

So ascertain the facts, and if you indeed are not invited, know that there could be a million reasons. The reasons are hers alone. Let her off the hook.

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