Invitation Or Obligation?

November 21, 2012

Invitation – Or Obligation?

By Andrea Freedman
The other day, my husband and I received a wedding invitation in the mail from someone we barely know, with a response card requesting a reply by a certain date. The trouble was, the date had passed three weeks earlier. The all-weekend function was to be formal, judging by the reference to Elegant Attire, and was to be held in two weeks from the date we received the invitation. Only two weeks to ensure that our schedule was clear for an entire weekend and to find, purchase and possibly alter clothing that was appropriate for the occasion.
Clearly we were B-listed, invited at the last minute and expected to pretend we didn’t notice. Why then, I reasoned, should we feel an obligation to enclose even a small cheque with our reply card as a token gesture, when it was quite obvious that the people throwing the party could not care less if we attended? I’ll tell you why. It’s a silly thing called etiquette.
Etiquette in certain cultures sometimes calls for an obligatory observation of proprieties, such as, for example, compelling people who are hosting weddings to send invitations to family members of family members, friends of friends and anyone else they or anyone in their families have ever met. Etiquette also forces the recipients of such invitations to either go to the function, like it or not, and give a gift, usually in the form of a large sum of money, regardless of whether or not they can afford it, or not to attend at all, but to put a small monetary present in the response envelope just the same.
For generations, people have felt burdened by societal pressures. I have heard from friends and family members over the years that one “has to” or “must” do certain things in order not to look bad or embarrass family members, no matter the absurdity and no matter if it means acknowledging an invitation or attending a function against one’s will, and even if the fact that one is on a second-tier guest-list is glaringly obvious.
I pondered whether I should actually succumb to the expectation that had been placed upon me or whether, if I chose to respond at all, to not send any cheque, no matter how small, and stop perpetuating this nonsense once and for all. I laughed to myself as I pictured the hostess receiving our empty envelope, perhaps shaking it or holding it up to the light to be sure there was no mistake and there was no cheque stuck inside. For one brief moment I thought about calling her bluff and throwing off the seating arrangement by actually accepting the invitation at the last minute.
I realized that I did have a choice in this matter. I was torn between doing the “right thing” or taking a stand and breaking a nonsensical cycle, practicing what I preached by not sending a gift that I would be giving with resentment rather than genuine good wishes. In the end I decided to be true to myself. If I was going to criticize others, the least I could do was not be a hypocrite. With that, I checked ‘No’ on the reply card, wrote a brief congratulatory note wishing their family the best of luck and then took a deep breath and sealed the envelope, void of gift.
I did not feel even an ounce of remorse at saying that we could not attend, and felt that the mere fact that I acknowledged this ridiculous invitation at all was good enough, despite the part of me that felt that the best response would be to simply throw it in the garbage.
If someone doesn’t really want to send an invitation, and they know full well that the recipient would most likely not have any desire to receive it, what is the point in putting obligations on people? I hope that the next time somebody wants to extend an invitation or do anything, for that matter, merely out of a sense of political correctness, that they forget the pretence and save themselves the stamp.♠

Copyright © 2012 Andrea Freedman


About andfreed

I am a Toronto based writer of articles, columns, essays and novels.

Posted on November 21, 2012, in Weekly Thoughts and Observations and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I appreciate what you went through. However, I don’t think that one person could actually “break the cycle”, just make a teeny dent in someone’s way of doing things. Well written.


  2. Love it! Well said!!!


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