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Baby Showers & Uninvited Plus-Ones

Aug12

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Advice Smackdown ArchivesDear Amalah –

I love your site and your advice and I find myself in need. I have an etiquette question needing to be answered.

I have two fantastic friends who are working together to plan a baby shower for me. They both work and have their own families and priorities and I’m just so grateful and touched by the gesture. Especially because none of us are made of money, and I recognize how generous they’re both being. So, with that in mind, I tried my best to keep the invitation list under control and be selective in my invitees making sure that there’s a good mix of family, friends, and friendly co-workers.

One such co-worker, let’s call her P, has us a bit puzzled. P and I aren’t terribly close, but we’re definitely work friends. We’ll go to lunch once in a while, And we know a little bit about one another’s personal lives, but it’s not like we have an open invitation to one each other’s homes or like P would be the first person I’d call in a moment of crisis. But she’s also been very enthusiastic and supportive of my pregnancy, and I wanted her to be invited to the baby shower.

A save the date evite has gone out addressed to P alone, and P has RSVP’d for two. For her and her daughter. Her daughter who I have never met. Who, I guess, is visiting from out of town. So, what’s the etiquette here? On one hand, I understand that you wouldn’t want to leave your out of town guest at home to entertain themselves when they traveled across the country to spend time with you. On the other hand, it feels a little rude to me for P to assume she can bring someone – especially since my two friends hosting are really trying to splurge and the shower is likely going to be held in an upscale hotel where the cost is per-head. I don’t really want to celebrate this special occasion with someone I’ve never laid eyes on! I guess I’d feel differently if P was a life-long friend or family member, but she’s a co-worker. I know, it’s probably not right to categorize people here, but I just don’t know how else to make sense of the situation and how to react.

Thoughts?
Preggo in Colorado

The etiquette of the “uninvited plus-one” is that yes, it’s rude. Very, very rude. And yet so many people continue to DO THIS, even at weddings, when the costs are ALWAYS per head, and the bride and groom ALWAYS have a max head count and are ALWAYS struggling to pare down the guest list…and yet how many of us have received RSVP cards back — be it your wedding, shower, the 50th anniversary party you threw for your parents — with a stranger’s name scribbled down? (Or my favorite, when a singularly-invited, no-plus-one-on-the-envelope person just writes “AND GUEST,” just because they want the right to bring someone they maybe haven’t even met or decided to ask yet.)

And for the record, I don’t care whether this was a wedding or a shower or a birthday party, or whether it was an online Evite and not a formal envelope situation — it’s rude to assume you’re free to bring someone and put the party planners in an awkward situation like this. If “and guest” isn’t written on the envelope or somewhere in the Evite details, if it doesn’t specifically say that spouses or significant others or children are welcome to attend, DON’T ASSUME THAT YOU CAN BRING THEM. Pick up the phone or shoot an email back and ASK. Explain the out-of-town relative situation. At that point, if it’s just a casual shower at someone’s house (like maybe P assumed it would be), the hostess is free to officially extend the invitation to the guest…or to apologize and explain the budget and head count restraints. A strict policy on plus-ones may mean some people can’t or won’t attend. That’s fine, and yet you are completely within your rights to SET a policy on plus-ones, be it “long-term dating partners only” or “guests of immediate family members only” or however you want to slice it up. It’s YOUR PARTY, and seriously, I hear you: I wouldn’t want strangers at my baby shower either.

But anyway. P didn’t do anything really right here. She made an assumption and you guys are just going to have to correct her on that assumption — preferably before the “real” invites go out, and preferably one of the hostesses should handle it, rather than making you (the guest of honor) be the bad guy with your co-worker. Something like this:

“Hello, P, this A, and I’m Preggo’s friend, and hosting her baby shower. I JUST noticed that you RSVP’d for two people on the Save the Date, but unfortunately the shower is taking place at a hotel restaurant — so we really don’t have unlimited space. And because of the set head count and budget, we need to keep the guest list to our original list of invitees only. I’m so sorry, and I hope you’ll understand, and of course we’d be happy to let you know if anything changes and we have more room after all.”

P might be super-apologetic for misunderstanding the shower vibe and location, though I also can’t promise you that P won’t feel annoyed or put-out, or ask something silly like “what if my daughter promises not to eat anything!” But I can assure you that you and your friends are perfectly within your etiquette rights to put the kibosh on her uninvited “and guest.”

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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14 Responses to “Baby Showers & Uninvited Plus-Ones”

  1. Tracy Aug 12 at 1:35 pm Reply Reply

    I agree with Amy’s advice, and I also think it’s extremely important that the shower hosts have this conversation with P. NOT you. If she’s crass enough to come to you and complain, you can stay above the fray and say “Oh, I’m sorry, but they really do have a budget constraint, and I’ll understand if you can’t come.” That way, it’s not your “fault” that she can’t bring her uninvited guest. After all, you still have to work with the woman.
    =
    And, on an unrelated note… Amy, did you realize that not all of your entries end up on the home page? Some of them (like this one) only show up when I click your name.
    _________
    Isabel: this post is on the home page. It’s currently in the “feature box” as the second item. As more posts are featured, it will scroll off the feature box into the column below. ;)

  2. Karen Aug 12 at 2:41 pm Reply Reply

    Preggo your friends sound so awesome! You are so lucky! I actually gave up on using Evite for anything except BBQ’s at the park because I was running into problems just like this one – uninvited guests – and people including odd, uncomfortable remarks with their reply.
    I disagree with Amy though – unless it’s absolutely impossible, I think that when someone shows up with an uninvited guest or RSVP’s with one, the gracious host accommodates that person. This happened at my wedding (two instances), my kid’s bday party, my cousin’s baby shower… Yes, you are paying by person, yes, you only reserved a certain amount of seating, or prepared a certain number of favors. But rarely does calling someone out on their wrongness ever end well.

  3. Liz Aug 12 at 4:49 pm Reply Reply

    In terms of the advice to not assume you can bring your +1 and to just ask, I actually think it’s better to just regret. RSVP regrets, and say, sorry, I can’t come because I’ll have my daughter visiting from out of town and don’t want to leave her behind. That gives the hostesses the option to either say, “Thanks for your reply. We’re sorry you can’t make it” or assure you that it’s OK to bring your daughter, that she is welcome, etc. etc.

    But your advice in this case, as usual, is spot on.

  4. Sarah Aug 12 at 7:55 pm Reply Reply

    I wish I would have had this advice when I was throwing the wedding shower for my friend. The MotG didn’t even RSVP and invited THREE extra people, whom I didn’t find out about until 24 hours before the party. :(

  5. Di Aug 12 at 8:26 pm Reply Reply

    I’m so glad to see this addressed, back when my wedding party was planning my shower, we ran into the same problem, only instead of a work pal, it was my husband’s PUSHY AUNT. At the time we let it slide since Aunt Pushy was going to be taking care of another Aunt, who was critically ill. However, years later, Aunt Pushy attempted to bring along this same woman.

    I don’t really like Aunt Pushy all that much.

  6. Di Aug 12 at 8:27 pm Reply Reply

    I mean to say, she attempted to bring Ms Awkward to my baby shower, as her plus-1.

    Nope. I put the breaks to that one pretty quick!

  7. kenandbelly Aug 12 at 8:58 pm Reply Reply

    It’s not like this is just any plus one, though, this is HER baby she wants to bring to the baby shower. Where I come from (rural-ish midwest, were baby showers are both frequent and casual events), bringing your baby (no matter what her age) to a baby shower wouldn’t be an issue.

    I think the clarifying conversation with the co-worker is a good idea– it’s pretty likely it’s a simple misunderstanding, possibly regionally inflected.

  8. Betsy Aug 13 at 12:16 am Reply Reply

    I sent a wedding invitation addressed to a friend and her husband (no kids–it was an evening wedding anyway). I received an RSVP that she was bringing her husband, 4-year old daughter, and HER MOTHER. WTF? So I got to phone her up and have that awkward conversation about how we could only accomodate invited guests, blah blah kill me now blah. In the end she & her husband never showed up, so we ate the cost of their meals, and we’ve not spoken since then. Bad situation all around.

  9. Carrie Aug 13 at 10:28 am Reply Reply

    People assuming they can (or feeling they just have the right to) bring whoever they want to events drives me up the wall. I don’t care if it’s a shower/wedding/birthday or whatever, if you’re not sure about the guest policy, either ask or, as someone has said, send your regrets. Making someone else feel bad or adding to the stress of their day is not a nice or polite thing to do, especially when they’ve asked you to share in their day. There may be a million reasons why they can’t (or just don’t want to) accommodate everyone. Got a problem with it? Don’t go. I’m sure they won’t miss you if that’s the way you’re going to react.

    It makes me glad that we don’t do the baby/bridal/whatever shower over here. It sounds like an unnecessary hassle.

  10. Brooke Aug 13 at 1:26 pm Reply Reply

    I wonder if this might honestly be the fault of the evite. It makes it LOOK like you can just bring more people along, so she might have assumed, incorrectly in this case, that it was an informal event and guests were free to bring other people along. If she were totally welcome to bring her daughter, how would the evite have been set up differently? If it isn’t very obvious from the invitation who is actually invited, then the fault lies with the invitation.

    Informal invitations are not really a good way to invite people to formal events. Plus, why is anyone RSVPing to a Save the Date email? Aren’t those just so people don’t book an out of town vacation?

    I think the hosts should call and explain. Your coworker will probably be embarrassed at her gaffe. Chalk it up to a learning experience to match the style of invitation to the type of event. And then get really irritated at those people who invite their next door neighbor’s cousin to your really formal wedding.

  11. niki Aug 13 at 1:46 pm Reply Reply

    I second Brooke’s opinion, I think the evite format might have confused the coworker . In my own experience of Evite invitations I’ve seen that box which allows you to name the number of persons attending as an invitation to bring as many guests as I’d like. Also, she shouldn’t have RSVP’ed to a save the date but, again, there’s a little box asking you to do so…

    All of which is to say, I suspect this will be easily resolved by having an organized contact her, especially if they sound apologetic for any possible misundertstandings the evite might have engendered (even if it turns out to be more of a cultural misunderstanding, like kenandbelly suggests — hey, maybe she was *excited* by the lucky coincidence of having her daughter in town to be able to bring to your shower).

  12. LB Aug 16 at 9:35 am Reply Reply

    I think that I would be annoyed in this situation, but apparently I’m a people-pleaser because assuming that the per-head cost is less than $25, I’d probably talk to my friends who are throwing the shower and offer to throw in the cost of the unexpected guest. I am a Midwesterner, so it might be a regional culture thing like another poster said, but leaving this out-of-town visitor to fend for herself just seems rude.

  13. Jill G Aug 16 at 7:22 pm Reply Reply

    This happened at my baby shower last month. My mother in law threw the shower at a restaurant, and it was regrets only so we knew the number of people coming. Some of my family members brought their daughters, which amounted to 7 extra chairs. My MIL was fine with the cost, but it kind of stressed me and my organizers out to try and fit extra chairs at tables. I wanted three of my best friends to sit at my table, but they gave up their seats for kids and were stuck in the back with colleagues and in-laws. They were very gracious about it, but it was awkward, and we didn’t even account for children being brought.

  14. kc Aug 17 at 12:23 am Reply Reply

    I am in the midst of planning my daughters wedding. Last weekend we had the bridal shower at my house (hosted by someone else) The invitations were addressed specifically to the individuals invited. We had people asking if they could bring there children and with 40 people on the guest list the answer was no it was an adult party. I still had people bring there children and extra guests……My sister addressed one of those individuals which did not go over well and they left…..I am having the same issue with the wedding. People adding extra’s to the RSVP’s without asking. We were very careful to add every invited guest by name on the invite. What is wrong with people? I would never even ask to bring uninvited guests????? I am feeling like mammazilla because I am dealing with a bunch of rude people?

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