Netiquette: Invitations, Vol. 5, Issue 30

Dear Etiquetteer:

In the age of e-mail invitations for dinners and barbecues I submit to you the following situation. Recently a friend of mine invited a group of us to his house for dinner. He apparently used an old e-mail list so that he could contact a large group of us all at the same time. He did not, however, take into account that he had included an e-mail address for a woman that one of our friends broke up with over a year ago. That friend has since moved on to date a very nice (very sane) woman and the two are currently living together. The other woman (let's just call her the crazy one to be clear) does not assume that she was invited by mistake and hits the dreaded reply to all button to say that she misses us all terribly and that she had recently had a dream about our friend.

How does one now uninvite the crazy one to the barbecue without being outright mean (I personally don't care since I never liked this person to begin with, but most people would be afraid of hurting her feelings)?

Dear Invited and Appalled:

Here we see the disadvantages of the cut and paste commands. The three extra minutes the host saved not typing in each individual address are more than lost now that he’s invited someone he didn’t want to see ever again (and which it seems few of his other guests would either). Etiquetteer cannot stress enough that reviewing the To: field before hitting Send on any e-mail, not just invitations, will save a multitude of anxiety later.

It’s quite natural to assume that when one receives a party invitation one is actually being invited to a party. Etiquetteer cannot fault the Ex-Girlfriend in Question for that. But Etiquetteer still has to Wag an Admonitory Digit at her anyway for sending her reply to the entire guest list (never Perfectly Proper for large gatherings) and even more for including a personal message to her ex-boyfriend. Personal correspondence should be just that: personal. And let’s face it, telling your ex-boyfriend (and all his friends) that you just had a dream about him a year after the break-up conjures up images of Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. (On the other hand, if they’re serving rabbit at the barbecue, that might come in handy . . .)

The Host, if he’s not willing to let the invitation stand and welcome the Ex-Girlfriend in Question to his barbecue, now has the embarrassing duty of rescinding his invitation. He needs to do this in person (or at the very least by phone, and Etiquetteer does not mean voicemail) and he needs to do itimmediately. He must spread the embarrassment and self-abasement over himself thickly and explain that the invitation was sent in error. He may have to put up with some tears and/or temper. Etiquetteer does not care; it’s his own fault for not checking the guest list before sending the invitation.

Many people would say it’s mean to take back an invitation like this. Etiquetteer suggests the Host needs to weigh what would be meaner for the Ex-Girlfriend in Question: hearing that she’s not really invited to a party she’s already publicly expressed excitement about attending, or actually attending the party and being snubbed by everyone there.

Or he could cancel the party altogether and then reschedule it (preferably for another day) with the correct guest list. The two e-mail messages should not go out back to back. The Ex-Girlfriend in Question will be sure to find out if she’s been snubbed.