Proper Etiquette Advice

My wife and myself have been invited to an out-of-town Bas Mitzvah. It is a daugther to my wife’s first cousin. We’re not extremely close to them, but they’ve come to see us twice while in town in recent years. So, the relation is actively growing.

While we have kids, and kids will be at this “casually formal” (i.e., not black tie; yet, dressy with lite fare kinda shindig) event, the invitation did not read “…and family”. Yet, if our kids are not invited, we cannot go without them. Overall, we’re suspect this was an oversight, but it is possible they had to draw the line somewhere.

How do you go about asking if the family is invited, too? Our RSVP depends on this. We are requested to RSVP by email, so would you flat out ask? Drop a hint (i.e., yes four of us will attend) or what?

  • Jinx :confused:

Proper etiquette basically says that anyone not listed on the invitation is not invited. Period. Please, do NOT say, “Yes, the four of us will be attending”. That is absolutely NOT PROPER at all.

(How was the invitation worded?)

If you can’t go without them, then honestly, you won’t be able to go.

I would RSVP in a way that will allow them to correct the oversight if that’s indeed what it was.

Something along the lines of:

“We’d love to attend but sadly we can’t arrange childcare for the weekend. Have a great time without us!”

That leaves them open to extending the invitation to your children if they want to, but it doesn’t put any pressure on them to do so.

If it doesn’t say “and family” then the kids are not invited.

If you these are the sort of people to follow etiquette, you aren’t invited. If they are more casual themselves and you aren’t sure, your wife should call whichever of her parents are related to this cousin and ask them. They can, if needed, call the cousin’s parent (your wife’s aunt or uncle) and ask. That aunt or uncle can ask, in a hypothetical way, the cousin, if they don’t already know. This avoids any awkwardness or pressure.

I would ask around because I’d hate to miss an event like this due to a miscommunication.

Alternatively, you can ask around about “child care arrangements, does anyone want to split a sitter?”. This opens the door for them to say “Oh, of course Billy and Suzie should be at the ceremony!”

If it doesn’t explicitly say “and family” or some such, then they are NOT invited, and it would be rude to argue or try to manipulate them into inviting your children. It’s their event and their choice of who to invite- you can either go or not go, and a simple yes or no will suffice.

If everyone else in the world followed this advice exactly, then you’d be correct. But people are not always precise, and I think seeking clarification–in a backdoor way–is ok, especially when you are dealing with an invitation within a family. It’s not arguing or manipulating as long as you never actually put them on the spot.

Well, he did ask for “proper etiquette” advice, not backdoor clarification advice.

Shitey, buggery, feck! Just call up and ask them.

Yeah, times like these I’m reminded of how differently some people view the world than I do. I’d ask them directly and it would never occur to me that some people would view that as “rude”. It’s a logical question, and it’s not like you’re asking to bring a whole busload of people with you. Hinting and dancing around the issue is a good way to end up with a misunderstanding.

Yet it would be very easy for this to come across as negotiating the terms of the invitation, which most hosts would find troubling.

However, directly asking them puts them on the spot so even if little Johnny and little Susie weren’t supposed to be invited, you’ve put the hosts in an awkward positition.

Tough titty. The pussy-footing around the issue is what MAKES it an issue in the first place. Considering that the event is a bas-mitzvah one would expect at least some friends of the child at the event. It is perfectly reasonable for the OP to call up and ask for clarification. if a friendship can’t handle an honest answer: “Sure bring them along!” or “Sorry, we really just meant you two, we understand if you can’t make it.” then it isn’t a good friendship at all. A good dose of straight forward dialogue and common sense can eliminate all these problems caused by perceptions and implications.

Well as OP points out, the invite isn’t actually from good friends. It’s extended family who they are fond of but not very close to. And some extended families are stitched together of people who don’t have that much in common besides grandparents, polite pussy-footing helps smooth communication between households that have entirely different views on etiquette.

And to be fair, close friends of the honoree are going to be much higher up on the guest list than, what would they be? their out-of-town cousins-once-removed. I would not assume that all children are invited just because some children are invited.

I tend to agree with Pochacco but if you are fairly certain it’s an oversight then I think it’s fine to call. But I wouldn’t phrase it outright as “Can we bring the kids?”, instead something like “We weren’t sure from the invite, is this more an adult party or did you want us to bring the kids? Still checking our work schedule, hope we can make it etc.”.

But it’s not a friendship, it’s a family relationship. There are other relationships all mixed up in it.

Furthermore, there’s nothing wrong with working with people’s quirks. A lot of people hate to say no. It makes them feel bad. If you know the person well enough to know or suspect this about them, it’s simply polite to avoid causing them discomfort.

In the same way, if you have a relative or friend whose quirks lie the other way–blunt to the point of tactlessness (I’m looking at you, Grandmother!), it’s also polite to work with those quirks as well, forgiving them when your feelings are hurt and not projecting deeper motives (they are manipulating me!) when they ask you if their kids are also invited.

People are complicated. They have emotions and hang-ups and insecurities, and they are easily hurt. Life would be easier if people were simple. But they aren’t, and all the indignation in the world that they should be won’t change anything.

Before we start accusing anyone of “pussy-footing”, let’s get the exact wording of the invitation, okay?

Second, as others have pointed out, asking can often put people on the spot. And frankly, if they had intended to invite the kids, they would have put their names on the invitation.

Sometimes, proper etiquette does mean, yes, “pussy-footing.” The opposite can mean being pushy.

I would also expect that children would be included normally (after all, it’s in honor of a child!), but you don’t want to put your hosts on the spot. I’d ask around and see if someone closer to the family knows whether or not this was an oversight on the host’s part.

snip mine.

This is a good idea if you can’t simply do the polite thing and ask. As others have pointed out, only those on the invitation are invited. Traditionally, at least what I was taught, one wouldn’t think to question the host’s generosity or intentions. If the host messed up then you would let them bear that mistake with a quiet apology at the event, or make an excuse to decline the invitation to spare them the embarrassment. Since the OP really does think that this might be an oversight, or simply a lack of clarity, it is their responsibility to get a proper response as quickly and painlessly as possible. There is nothing wrong with asking politely if the children were to be included in the invitation. The trick is to phrase it in a manner that doesn’t force the host into an uncomfortable position.

Finally someone brought up the fact that it’s a party for a child!

Don’t pussyfoot around like you would for a wedding - just ask, because it’s likely your kids are invited. Bar and Bas Mitzvas are family events in a way that wedding often are not. And the op mentioned it’s a “dressy, lite fare kinda shindig” which implies there is no sit down dinner which further implies greater flexibility surrounding extra guests.

(Caveat: I’ve attended only one bas mitzvah; I’m not Jewish, but I did pay attention…)
I don’t think of a bas mitzah as a “party for a child”. It’s a serious, momentous event. A welcoming into the adult responsibilities of the faith/synagogue…
It’s likely other children will attend – the closest relatives, closest friends.
So asking them to answer “is it all right to bring kids”, or hinting at it, is not nice; they cannot simply say “this is an all-adult event”.