Invitation Maven

What to Do When Beloved Friends and Family Can't (or Won't) Attend Your Special Event

Relatives won’t come to your party? Friends say they’re not interested? You’re not alone.

I just got off the phone with a client who confessed she is experiencing some unexpected drama as the responses for her twin’s b’nai mitzvah are coming in. A beloved aunt and cousin, who live out of state and who my client anticipated with great joy would come to her event, unfortunately declined her invitation. The reason why they aren’t coming isn’t because they are ill or can’t afford the trip, but because they just don’t want to. My client attended all four of the bar mitzvahs and bat mitzvahs for her cousins’ children, her aunt’s grandchildren, at great expense and effort by the way (they live on the other side of the country) so she is understandably feeling greatly hurt and disappointed that her aunt and cousin aren’t making a similar effort, even this once.

This same client has a so-called friend who also declined because, according to the friend, “I’ve been to too many bar mitzvahs already so I’m not going to come to yours.” Coming on the heels of hearing from her cousin and aunt only made this so-called friend’s callous response even more painful. 

I can empathize with my client. Back in 2014, a very close friend of mine, one of my closest girlfriends in fact, chose not to attend my youngest son’s bar mitzvah. Even though it was almost three years ago, I can still feel the sting I felt then as I recall reading her response. The reason she gave didn’t give me any comfort because it was something she could do any time. She also knew about our bar mitzvah because I sent Save The Dates six months in advance. My son’s bar mitzvah was a one-time event so I took it very personally because it demonstrated the true priority I was in my friend’s life. It was a very painful experience, just as my client’s experience is for her.

Even though this happens to a lot of people, it’s still painful

Special lifecycle events such as bar mitzvahs, bat mitzvahs and weddings are moments you want to share with the people who mean the most to you. You spend hours putting together your guest list, and fill it with the people you most love and admire and who you look forward to seeing and sharing your joy. So when some of those people don’t make your celebration a priority, it can be a painful realization. I’m not referring to situations when health issues, financial circumstances or unexpected emergencies prevent someone from attending your event. While still disappointing, those reasons are understandable. In the case of my client’s cousin, aunt and friend, and in the case of my friend, this was not the case. Rather, the reasons these people expressed clearly imparted the message that “you’re not important enough to me.” That’s what’s so hurtful.

Having been through the exact same thing that my client is experiencing, I gave her some advice to help her get through these next few weeks. This advice can help you when you find yourself in a situation like my client’s, too.

Advice #1: You Have Permission to Grieve

The first thing I did for my client was give her permission to grieve. To some reading this post, it may be difficult to fully understand the feelings of loss and disappointment my client and I both felt. But when someone disappoints you in this manner, when you realize you’re not as important to someone as either they are to you or as you believed you were to them, it’s like the losing a loved one. And it’s OK to grieve the loss of that relationship. This is not to say you have to cut ties with the person. But the nature of the relationship is different than what you thought, and it’s that loss that you are grieving, especially when the person is a favorite relative or one of your closest friends.

Advice #2: You Have Permission to Get Angry

I then told my client that after she grieves, she will be angry (she’s already getting to this stage), and that she’s allowed to feel this way. She should’t act on her anger, but by acknowledging it, she will be able to move past it quickly. She will then soon feel empowered, even liberated, because she will realize her relatives’ and friend’s absence is not really her loss. Rather, their absence will be THEIR loss because her friends and relatives will be missing a great event. In the case of her so-called friend, my client can see that feeling on the horizon. But her pain about her cousin and aunt is far more difficult to shake, and she’s afraid she won’t enjoy her event for fear of hanging on to the anger she’s feeling at this moment.

Advice #3: Put It Aside So You Can Enjoy Your Event

The last piece of advice I gave my client was for the sake of herself and her family: she HAS to put this aside so that she can enjoy this wonderful milestone. If not now since the pain is still so fresh, then she has to at least by the time of the event. I have every confidence that she will be able to do that. On the day of her mitzvah, she will be in awe and amazement because she will look out and see all the friends and family who DID come and who DID make her and her family their priority. And in THAT moment she will know she is blessed. The pain and disappointment she’s feeling today will be set aside and will be but a blip on the radar.

Everything Will Be OK

The last thing I said to my client before getting off the phone was “don’t worry, everything will be OK.” And it will, because this too, shall pass. I promise.

For custom invitations and free therapy for your next event, contact The Invitation Maven at [email protected].