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20-40-60 Etiquette---My "significant other" was not invited

by Helen Ford Wallace and Lillie-Beth Brinkman and Callie Athey Published: January 21, 2014
YOU ASK! WE ANSWER! YOU DECIDE!To ask an etiquette question, email


My husband and I are in our early 80s. We held a large family “after-Christmas” dinner. All of our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces, nephews and Oklahoma cousins were invited — a total of 32 people.

Some of our granddaughters have significant others, and those who have been “in the family” for a few years were invited, as well as an engaged couple. One granddaughter, who isn’t divorced yet from her second husband, but has a sweetheart, now has her feelings hurt because he and his son were not invited.

She has three young children whom we love and who were invited and came. She has written us after the fact that she now wants an explanation as to why her sweetheart wasn’t invited, and she is hurt that she’s not getting any “family support” for this relationship.

We have had alcoholics, felons, etc., brought to our home and they became a whim of a relationship. We don’t know this “sweetheart” but the last time they were here (Thanksgiving), his son was found opening doors and closets that he had no business doing. We paid for their motel room at that time. This time we had nine people staying over, which we didn’t mind, but I resent being told that “it would not have been a burden to my husband and I to have invited this ‘sweetheart’ since there was enough food to go around and they would have paid for their own motel room.”

My husband and I have decided this will be the last time we have a large gathering. We are very family-oriented and don’t wish to hurt anyone’s feelings. I don’t know how to answer this granddaughter. Do you have any suggestions?


I think you are right, you and your husband have gone above and beyond! The fact that your granddaughter sent you that ungrateful note — ugh! So rude! I would not respond at all. It was childish, and childish actions should not be tolerated!


It sounds like you have been very generous and accepting through the years of your entire family out of love, which is a wonderful example for all. And with such a big family it sounds as if you have set reasonable expectations for inviting significant others — that they need to have been around long enough to know everybody and not just be a temporary fling. Your granddaughter shouldn’t be dictating how you handle the family tradition, especially since she’s bringing a date and more children.

So your instincts are right, but how you answer her is a tougher call. Perhaps you should just reassure her that she and her own children will always be invited, that you love celebrating with the family and that you’re just not as ready to include people whom you don’t know well, especially so soon during a divorce. You can set the limits in a positive way and not have to include any judgment of her lifestyle choices or of her boyfriend’s children going through your things. If he’s still around next year, you can reconsider, but don’t let one granddaughter’s accusations keep you from a tradition you want to continue.


It is so nice of you to have the family and I hate for one bad episode to ruin the holiday dinner for you and your other family members. But I totally understand how you feel and you certainly can invite who you want to come to this event. You can also decide who stays where if you are paying for the rooms.

The hurt granddaughter needs to be thankful that she and the three children were invited. Maybe you can involve her parents in discussing how to handle what you say to her, but whatever you do, don’t feel guilty for not inviting the boyfriend. It doesn’t sound like the timing was right.


Yvette Walker, The Oklahoman’s night news director and University of Central Oklahoma Media Ethics Chair: Assuming your granddaughter did come this season, I find it odd that she wrote you AFTER she and her children came, and enjoyed your hospitality and food.

If she wanted an invitation for her boyfriend and his family she should have asked beforehand. Then you could have explained to her, as you have here.

Have you talked to YOUR children, your granddaughter’s parents? Her expectations are tantamount to an “entitled” or “privileged” status. They might want to have a talk with her about being grateful for what her grandparents offer and enjoy that without complaint. Her option is not to come at all.


by Helen Ford Wallace
Society Editor
Helen Ford Wallace is a columnist covering society-related events/news for The Oklahoman. She puts local parties online with daily updates. She creates, maintains and runs a Parties blog which includes web casts. She is an online web editor for...
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by Lillie-Beth Brinkman
Lillie-Beth Brinkman is a Content Marketing Manager for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce. She was previously an assistant editor of The Oklahoman
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by Callie Athey
Freelance Writer
Callie Athey is 20-something and is a graduate from the University of Oklahoma. She has worked in various positions, ranging from Event Coordinator to Environmental Health and Safety Assistant. Currently, Callie is an Executive Assistant to a...
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