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Partying Coast to Coast

Partying from Coast to Coast

By Amalah


I’ve been reading your column faithfully for the last year or so and always find your advice very helpful, pertinent and incredibly witty. So thank you! That must be hard to maintain with two little ones (and one on the way, I see…congrats!!!)

Advice Smackdown ArchivesI’m sure I could ask you TONS of questions, but I’ll limit myself to just one for now. It’s in regards to the big NUMBER ONE birthday coming up. Our sweet little girl is turning one in December, and I am excitedly planning for her first party. While I want it to be meaningful and special, I really am trying to keep it low-key and low-cost, and I thought a great place I could save would be on invites. I decided to just use an online invitation and then use regular, in-the-mail cards for Thank Yous after the party. We’ve compiled a list, I’m just about ready to hit “send” but I have huge thing I’m stuck on.

My husband and I live in the middle of the country, with the huge majority of our family members (including both sets of grandparents) on either coast, many, many hours away. We are seeing them all during the holiday season, so I am not in the least bit mad or sad or anything about them not being able to make her birthday party. We understood things like this would happen when we moved here and that really isn’t a problem. The problem is this…should they be INVITED to her party? I mean, if I know, if I’m 100% sure that there is NO WAY any of our out-of-town family will be attending her party, should I include them on the online invite list or not? (I’m just asking about family: Grandparents, Aunts/Uncles, Cousins) My husband thinks no…thinks it just serves as a reminder that we aren’t all together and maybe even looks like we are asking for presents. I think yes…that it shows them that they are a special part of our lives, no matter where we all live, and it shows that we want them to feel included. Most likely at some point during the holidays there will be some talk about her party, whether before or after, and I don’t want them wondering why they weren’t invited. But I do understand my hubby’s point and don’t want them to get the email invite and feel like it was rude for me to send it. He said whatever I think is fine.

My one sis-in-law always sends us the invites to our niece’s parties, even though we aren’t going to fly back for them. But they do always include a picture of our niece, so I always save the picture and through away the invite. I can see that an online invite doesn’t share that sentimental value.

Anyways, this isn’t an incredibly crazy, difficult question. I just want to know the etiquette on this one. Do you send an invite to someone you know can’t attend?

Thanks so much,
Party Planner

Personally, I send invites regardless of whether I “know” if the invitee will be able to attend or not. Thus, I am for sending invites to far-flung family members, for reasons of inclusion, symbolically bridging the distance, and to let them know that they would, of course, be more than welcome to attend. (I also like receiving them, because I am NOTORIOUSLY bad about remembering the exact birthdays of nieces and nephews, and appreciate getting the timely “HEADS UP, SEND A GIFT/CARD” a few weeks before I’m officially behind the eight-ball.)

You never know when somebody might be discussing a possible business trip with work that week, and would just need to extend their travel plans an extra day, or if someone else is keeping track of $99 airfare sales. While, yes, there is the potential for a moment of deflation when they realize they can’t attend, I still don’t like the idea of lumping close family members into a group of “Eh, I KNOW they can’t come, so I won’t even bother.” I think it really is a personal call though — I know many brides usually compile invite lists with a narrow category for people they’d like to honor with an invitation, even though it’s likely that person is too old or far away to actually attend. But it’s not any huge breach in etiquette to NOT send birthday party invites to every person far and wide, especially if you are concerned about looking gift-grabby. I am fully aware that many of my far-away nieces and nephews have yearly parties to which we are not invited, and your family is too. But you know? It’s still nice to feel included, no matter what.

As you mentioned, though, an emailed invite is hardly on par with a lovely, personalized wedding invitation. Again, PERSONALLY, I would not use the Evite approach for the family members you’re talking about. I would go to the store and buy a cheap 6- or 8-pack of party invitations, fill them out, include a photo of your daughter and a note expressing your understanding that they can’t attend, but they will of course be on your mind and in your heart that day, etc. etc. etc. And perhaps a “no gifts, please” note on the invite itself. I think what your sister-in-law does sounds just right, so maybe follow her lead and do the same, while reserving the convenience of the emailed invites for your in-town friends and guests.

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


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 Ama...

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

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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