How much of an obligation is an invitation?

Assume you get an invitation for something - a dinner, a party, whatever. There’s no RSVP. How much of an obligation do you feel you have to attend?

Backstory: We’ve got an invitation to a friend’s daughter’s graduation party today. As it turns out, the past few days have been cold & rainy, and today is GORGEOUS. In fact, it’s looking like it’s going to be the nicest day so far this year. AND it’s a Sunday, so we don’t have to work. I want to do some gardening, then go on a nice long mountain bike ride. When I’m nice and tired from biking, I want to sit on my deck in the sun and throw some easy food on the grill. You know, all those things you can do when 1) it’s nice out and 2) I don’t have to work.

The last thing we want to do is go spend several hours inside. I’m of the opinion that I have no obligation to go to this party, since there was no RSVP and I know the people in question will have gazillions of people who will attend. They’re not family, nor really close friends - we like them, but they’re definitely in the “casual friend” category. The only time we see them is when we run into them when we’re out at night (which is quite frequently - it’s a small town, we frequent the same places).

Yet still, I feel vaguely guilty for not going…

It’s all you.

You’ve said as much in your post. They are not family, will have many other guests, you’re not really that close, there was no RSVP.

Let go of the guilt already. A free man is someone who can turn down a dinner invitation without making any excuse.

If it was an obligation it would be called that, not an invitation. You have been invited, not ordered, to attend.

Still feeling uneasy? Consider just stopping by for a moment to offer congrats then split. If, as you say, there will be many in attendance no one will care or notice that you’ve quietly slipped away, (don’t say any goodbyes or thank you’s, save them till you bump into them again out at night!). Or you could send a card, drop it in the mail today and leave it at that. It acknowledges the invitation and the graduation and might assuage your guilt about not attending.

But it’s still all you. Give yourself permission to enjoy your lovely day doing what pleases you. You’re the only one who can, after all.

Enjoy the mountain biking and BBQ and make your peace with it, don’t let it enter your thoughts for the rest of the day.

Have a great day!

Did you have anything you were going to hand the graduate when you showed up? If you have a card and a check you’d like to pass on, I’d say pop it in the mail tomorrow. The grad’s looking for the goodies–not to meet her parents’ friends. If you have a package, could you manage to spend a couple of minutes there? I immensely dislike the obligation of going to all the spring money grabs by the graduates (and more often their parents) but at least no one expects you to spend a long time there. Most people will probably be out in 15 minutes anyway, right after they give their congratulations and gifts. If you were just going to show up to chat and dawdle over finger foods, I’d say not to bother going at all.

I had a card I was going to throw some money in. But had I not gotten the invite, I would not have sent a card. Heck, without the invite, I wouldn’t have known she was graduating.

And there’s no way I could just drop in for 15 minutes. I know these people. Within 15 minutes I’d have a glass of wine in my hand (I have no willpower against good red wine) and three hours later I’d be loopy and feel bad tomorrow. That’s a part of the reason I don’t want to go, actually: we always have a good time. Too much of a good time. Scary!

What an interesting question! In your specific instance, I would say that if you want to remain close or somewhat close to the hosts, you have to send a card or a gift. You don’t have to attend the party. The graduate is trolling for gifts.

On a more general note, The obligation incurred from receipt of an invitation varies with the sender and the relationship that the recipient wants to maintain with the sender. I find social protocol frustrating --but a game that must be played. A very good portion of wedding/ birth/ graduation invitations or parties are people saying, “Hey, it’s my turn now. Give me a present.” I would even go as far to say that most of the invitations I have received have been along those lines as opposed to “Hey come celebrate with me. I’m so happy about this and I want my good friends to share in my happiness.” Of course, you aren’t required to go or send a present. But it’s not as easy to refuse as some others have implied. Some of those relationships have to be maintained for expediancy no matter how much you’d like to politely refuse the offer.

Let’s see if I understand. You presumably received this invitation some days ago but because the phrase/acronym RSVP wasn’t written anywhere you didn’t respond or feel that a response was necessary? I don’t agree. I think that a request for response (either positive or negative) is implied in all cases. (But perhaps that’s not true in all social circles.) And if you had said you were coming, it’s rude to back out now because something better came up.

In theory, a gentleman should accept all invitations (within reason). In practice, the egregiousness of skipping an event is highly dependent on circumstance. If you’re not especially close to the hosts, and if the event is large enough that your presence wouldn’t really be missed (worse to miss an 8-person poker game than a 50-person BBQ), then I think you can skip it with only minor guilt – your happiness counts, too.

Definitely send a card (and some cash), though. If possible, drop it off beforehand.

A graduation party is almost always an “open house” type thing because so many kids in the same extended social circle have them the same day, so people are constantly coming a going. I don’t think RSVPing is normal for that sort of event.

I think the answer is buried in this sentence. If you weren’t close enough to even know this was her graduation year, you just got added to the mass mailing list she sent out when she ordered her announcements.

ETA: In other words, she wants you there about as much as you want to be there.

Drop the card off before the party starts and beg off on the party because of prior plans. Then enjoy your day.

In that case, I withdraw my objection. If the invitation did not require a response and none was given, then I see no problem with skipping the party.

It’s your basic “open house” graduation party? I wouldn’t feel any obligation to attend at all if you don’t want to. Plenty of people just drop in on those for a few minutes, anyway, because they have other grad parties to attend or other plans.

Do you know the party is going to be “several hours inside”? Most grad parties around here are held mostly outdoors (unless it rains) and often involve grilling, too.

It is an “open house” type of party, but it will be indoors. I know that for certain because of where it’s being held - there is no outdoor area there.

In answer to Dewey Finn, it would have been weird to RSVP. It’s just not done for these types of occasions, for the reasons Manda JO explained. To put it in perspective, it’s not at all odd to attend a graduation party where the graduate isn’t even there. There’s only so many weekends around graduation, and if the kids want to attend their buddies graduation party, that means that they tend to step out for an hour or two of their own party.

I’ll throw something else in the mix - we’ve more than once tried to extend an offer to these people to come to our house for dinner or drinks or whatever sometime. Every time, they’ve pretty much told us that they do not do such things. They work during the week, socialize by going out, and leave town on the weekends. So really, we’re not ever going to get much closer than hanging-out-at-the-bar whenever we run into them type of friends. And yeah, I feel a bit odd about being snubbed like that - who flat out says “No” when extended an invitation? It wasn’t a “No, we can’t do it this week” or “This month’s bad for us” or “how about meeting at Joe’s for dinner instead” it was “No, we’re not interested now, and we probably will never be.”

And it’s not that they don’t like us. Heck, we tried to leave a place last week where they were in the back, and the guy ran after us and insisted we join them for a drink. They appear to loooove us, they just don’t like socializing anyplace except at a couple places around town. Yes, they’re odd. But we do like them, despite it all.

I’m likely about the last one to give advice on something like this; in actuality, I entered to learn something… however!

Based on this last bit of information, I’m firmly in the “oh no you don’t need to show up” camp :slight_smile: As you say, it’s quite clear you all like each other fine, but since your socialization is entirely when you’re out in public, well, I doubt they’d even miss you not being there, especially if you throw something in the mail for the graduate.

Then again, I may be wrong :slight_smile: