Etiquette for an ambiguous invite

One of my best friends Carol, who was brought up in my area but has been living on the other coast, flew back for a few days to attend a week long family reunion shindig. I had agreed to pick her up when she got here, spend a little time together and then drive her to the shindig, which was about an hour away, and held at her Aunt’s large house.

Because I would be there anyway to drop her off, she had asked her Dad if I could stay for a bit, both to enjoy the activities and to meet her extended clan. Since her Aunt was the actual host, I’m not sure if she asked him because he was more in direct contact with her or because he helped plan the activities.

He said I could stay for the day and dinner, but that there wouldn’t be enough extra beds for me to stay over. Carol told me the plan. At no point did I talk to her Dad, nor did I receive any kind of invite or anything, not that it was a formal party or anything like that anyway. I was her plus one to an informal large family get together.

Though I’m very shy, I made an effort to be polite, friendly, and non obtrusive. I helped people bring in their luggage, I put away my own dishes, I made small talk, I took out the garbage, and I thanked anyone who offered me anything directly.

Dinner was just kind of a buffet style thing set up by multiple people, so there wasn’t any clear particular person to thank for the food, or obvious context in which to do so.

After dinner me and Carol ended up chatting pretty late and there turned out to be an extra couch available so she asked if I could stay over and it turned out I could. I don’t know who she asked so I wouldn’t know who to thank for that. I did thank whoever gave me the sheet and blankets.

The next day I stayed for the parade and a quick swim and then prepared to go. I guess I was expecting to walk through the house and say goodbye to people individually, but by that point everyone had ended up at various spots around the pool. And when I went out Carol just kind of announced I was leaving, so I was forced to just address the faceless mass group of relatives.

I did my best with a kind of generic thank you and goodbye, and everyone just kind of waved and offered a generic farewell back. Her Dad did thank me specifically for bringing Carol, from where he was, so I thanked him back specifically for having me.

The next day Carol told me on the phone her Dad was annoyed that I hadn’t shown enough gratitude and hadn’t thanked her Aunt and Uncle personally for dinner and hosting.

Apparently one of the other guests caused some drama so her Dad was predisposed to be critical, but still I feel like this came out of left field.

I guess in hindsight, I should have made a greater effort to thank her Aunt and Uncle personally for hosting, but it wasn’t at all obvious who should have been the recipient of gratitude for the dinner. And other than the initial introduction, her Aunt and Uncle never socialized with me, so there wasn’t a natural point for it to come up. And they were just introduced by name. There were no social cues like, “this is my Aunt, the one who is hosting and preparing dinner tonight.” And presented in front of the scattered group for the goodbye, it wasn’t even obvious who was where.

In any case I’ll be picking Carol up from there to take her to the airport. I’m wondering how I should address the situation with her Aunt and Uncle. Should I act like nothing happened, but offer a personal “thanks again”? Or offer up some sort of apology?

Even more confusingly, what should I say to her Dad, given his ambiguous role in the invitation process?

In future situations, should I make a point of playing detective to find out exactly which person is responsible for every facet of the occasion and seek each of them out to express specific sentiments of gratitude?

Her Dad’s being a dick. It’s just an informal party. Thank the Aunt and Uncle again and don’t worry about it. Thank the dad casually if you see him. You are way over thinking this. Hell, you’re doing your friend a favor by giving then a ride to and from the airport.

Considering that NO ONE IN HER ENTIRE FAMILY was willing to give her a ride from the airport, they should show more gratitude to you.

Don’t worry about it. If no one has the guts to say anything to your face, then they don’t get the courtesy of an explanation.

My family has a big yearly shindig thing, too, and if the exact thing had happened with a friend giving me a ride and then ending up staying over no one would have thought twice about it. Your friend’s dad is being weird and what you did is perfectly fine.

If I were you in the same situation when going back to pick her up, going inside and thanking the hosting family once again is more than enough. You’re going out of your way to take your friend back and forth an hour both ways - it’s you doing the bigger favor.

One, you didn’t violate any rules of etiquette. Two, Carol really shouldn’t have told you this (unless it was with rolled eyes and/or a conspiratorial wink). She should have realized that her dad was overreacting. I hope she didn’t take his passive-aggressive bullshit-spewing seriously. Possibly he was cranky as a result of proximity to his family (I know I get that way after big family parties). He probably took his pissiness out on you by proxy because you are a “safe” target.

I recommend you forget about the whole thing. If her dad ever mentions or confronts you over this, call him a terrible father for not picking up his own daughter from the airport. Then laugh in his face.* He won’t mention it, though, because he’s a textbook passive-aggressive butthead.

*Please do not misconstrue my sarcastic levity as actual advice :smiley:

“Really? Well I don’t remember them seeking me out to thank me for bringing you either.”

Wow! I tend to be an informal person so I was worried I committed some horrible faux pas. I’m glad I’m not the only one who was surprised by her Dad’s reaction. I’ll do a friendly “thanks again” in person and not fret about it again. Thanks y’all.

You should marry Carol. Dad sounds like a perfect father-in-law.

Dad doesn’t like you, and didn’t fall for that sleeping on the couch story either.

Carol was out of place for passing along her dad’s displeasure. All that accomplished was making you feel awkward.

When you go back to pick Carol up, if you see the aunt or uncle, just thank them again for allowing you to join in previously.

I understand your situation, but I don’t think it would be unreasonable (or going to the lengths of “playing detective”) to ask your friend who the hosts are and go and say thanks.

I think you were shanked. Back when I was shy, I would do things for people but having to be around them would freak me out. You went beove and beyond.
This whole family is weird, is my take.
No family member picked her up. You did. Her dad proved himself a butt and she told you about it. (She’s weird, too.) If you have to take her back I’d say “I don’t like the reaction my presence got.” Doesn’t matter what she says back; dump the whole clan.
If you can get out of taking her back, do it. (Got a hangnail? She’ll have to call Aunt Betty.)
You were more than right and they were rude. Emily Post’s #1 Rule: never make a guest feel uncomfortable.

Send them a written thank you note to follow up on the verbal thanks.

**Becky2844 **'s advice is way too harsh, so don’t take it.

You were a good guest. It was a casual get together.

You seemed to be saying “I didn’t know who to thank”… uh, I would have found out whose house it was and thanked them. That should work. Not rocket science.
Now, I’m wondering what the H ol’ Dad is doing in the equation? It wasn’t his house. Who is he to control where you sleep and to be the arbiter of your manners?
NEVER thank Dad again. Mail, or email a Thank You to Aunt and Uncle.

I think it’s weird that your friend made a point of telling you this. If I had been in her position, I would have yelled at my dad for being such a grouch, and not mentioned it to my friend at all.

That being said, whenever we are at a party, we make it a point to thank the hosts personally before we leave. Then we thank them again the next day via email or something. I have to say my boyfriend is much more a stickler about this than I am - he tends to be somewhat old fashioned about such things.

Even so, no good host gets mad at their guest for not showing enough “gratitude.”

Is Carol’s Dad some sort of head honcho figure in this family? I get that he’s Carol’s Dad, but why did she ask him if you could stay at the house when it wasn’t his house?

Surely she should have asked the people whose house it was.

And as for him being disposed to be critical because some other guests had raised a racket - why? It wasn’t his party, he was a guest.

I don’t understand why Carol wanted you to know her Dad was annoyed at you, either. You’re the only person who will drive to and from the airport for her, so surely she should be keeping you sweet and not telling you that her Dad thinks you’re an ill-mannered twit.

I suppose if it was me and because I had already agreed to take Carol back to the airport I might pitch up to collect her at the aunt’s house with a bunch of flowers to say thank you for the party the other night. But I’d not bother speaking to Carol’s Dad unless I absolutely had to.

OK, so when I got there pretty much every one was at the beach, so I didn’t get a chance to do a personal regratitude. The one relative who was there, I asked to thank the Aunt and Uncle for me, and she suggested that leaving a note behind would be nice. So I left a note on the kitchen counter saying I had a good time and thanking especially Aunt and Uncle for their hospitality. When I get some money Monday, I’ll send out a thank you note. Hopefully that will be sufficient.

Yeah…usually I’m invited directly by the host, or I know them fairly well anyway. And the various other factors I mentioned made it a bit confusing, and the unexpected way I was asked to say goodbye caught me off guard. But I’ll be more mindful of this in the future.

I asked Carol about this when I picked her up today. Apparently the way it works is that their tradition is that family events are usually hosted by either the Dad or the Aunt, and whoever isn’t hosting takes care of the activity planning, dinners, and so forth.

I asked about this too. It seems the tradition in her family is to show gratitude by large gestures, proclamations, that sort of thing. The tradition in my family is that large overt gestures are seen as grandstanding and sort of ingenuous, and instead we show gratitude through action. Which is why I made a point of helping with luggage, garbage, dishes, etc. I guess I encountered some culture clash.

Carol says that due to being brought in a family with as she calls it “passive aggressive tendencies” she’s come to the decision as an adult to mitigate that by having an “open and frank” policy with the important people in her life, to foster healthy communicate and avoid unintended resentments from festering. While it did make me feel awkward, I’d still rather know the truth.

I got the sense afterwards from Carol that having brought something would have been appreciated, but I’m unemployed and despite her helping me out with gas, I still spent literally every penny I had driving her all over the place and had absolutely nothing left with which to buy something to bring. If she thought it was especially important to them, she should have told me. But lesson learned. If they ever invite me back, and I decide it’s worth the potential drama, I will make sure to show gratitude in the specific forms that are important and relevant to them.

In any case, her boyfriends have come and gone, but I will be in her life forever. So they better get used to me. :wink: :smiley:

I think he knows I’m gay, but that theory amused us both greatly! :smiley:

Plus, Carol was rooming with her 8 year old cousin, so that would have been awkward… :eek:

Wondering why it took so long for someone to recommend this. Maybe “kids these days” don’t know what thank-you notes are. :slight_smile:

Send them a nice card with a personalized note about how it was so nice to meet everyone, and that the food was great. The aunt and uncle will think you’re a prince.