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I'm hosting an event in a couple of weeks - my son's first birthday party. I have several people who I would like to invite. Unfortunately, some of them don't get along. This seems to be a one-sided disagreement - meaning that Person A doesn't like Family B for some slight that Person A can't get past. I'm not involved in the disagreement and don't completely understand it but my husband and I regularly interact with both Person A and Family B and would like to invite them both to the event.

Neither of these parties are family. They are both friends. Person A was in our wedding and Family B hosted our baby shower for our son, so both are part of our close circle of friends. Person A did not attend the baby shower but that was at Family B's home while this event is at our home.

So, I see a few ways of this turning out.

  1. I invite both but don't tell Person A.
    Person A may or may not get grumpy at me for not telling them in advance but they are both at the party. Person A may depart early rather than being around Family B.

  2. I invite both and tell Person A.
    Person A will likely not come to the party. I would be disappointed in this outcome. Person A may still be grumpy at me for inviting Family B, "preventing them" from coming to the party.

  3. Don't invite Family B.
    I've already given an invite to Person A, so the opposite of this isn't possible. This feels like I'm getting in the middle of the "feud" and picking sides.

So, how should I handle this? Is there some alternate solution that I'm not seeing here? I don't really feel like I should be even having to deal with this. They are all adults, so perhaps I'm over-thinking things. I trust them all to be gracious at the party and not make a scene, so perhaps option 1 is the best choice... but I feel like full disclosure might be more fair to Person A.

  • Is talking to one (say A) and explain you don't want them to be bothered with B, and that you will hold a second event especially for them, something you can think of ? – OldPadawan Aug 8 '17 at 19:03
  • @OldPadawan I'm not sure how I would hold a second birthday party. Do note that on SE we welcome all answers, so even if the answer doesn't work for me, someone else may be in a similar situation, so that may work for them. I've certainly heard of people using a solution similar to that. – Catija Aug 8 '17 at 19:06
  • What is the nature of this event? A dinner in a table? An indoor and outdoor party? Can you "separate" A and B so A doesn't have to see B (even though he know B will be coming)? – Vylix Aug 8 '17 at 21:14
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    @Vylix It's just... a party... kid parties in the US don't usually involve sit-down dinners. Just a bunch of people hanging out in a house, decorations, snacks... hoping the kid doesn't have a melt down. That sort of thing. – Catija Aug 8 '17 at 21:15
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    How many people are you inviting? Will they all know each other? Also, you mention "Family B" but only "Person A"—does that mean there are more than two B's, and A will be coming solo? – 1006a Aug 8 '17 at 23:49
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Option 2 sounds like the safest and most honest way to handle it.

If Person A is likely to be uncomfortable, but you still want them to show up, it's probably better if you give them a chance to prepare rather than be surprised by the situation.

Just break it to them tactfully and express how important it is to you that they be there. Of course you can't make them show up, or get along with Family B, but you can express that it's important to you and that you're sure everyone is mature enough to temporarily bury the hatchet and play nice for your sake.

I'm often "Person A" at my family's gatherings... Usually my cousin plays your part. I simply don't get along with a lot of her people, but she's usually coercive enough to get everyone to show up and behave.

It usually goes something like this:

Cousin: Hey it's SoAndSo's birthday, you're coming right?
Me: You sure that's a good idea? You know I don't get along with X,Y, and Z.
Cousin: Yes X, Y, and Z will be there, but you'll behave and so will they.
Cousin: You're coming.
Me: Ehh...
Cousin: You know this means a lot to me and I'll kick your butt if you don't show up...
Me: Alright... If I have to...
Cousin: Great! Bring rolls, or beer!

  • This sounds like a good solution but I think your situation is different because you're dealing with family. I don't have that same bantering relationship with Person A. It's also not that they don't get along generally... they used to be good friends long before I ever met them both... and they've since had a falling out - which is one-sided and they haven't even really explained to Family B why they are ignoring them. – Catija Aug 8 '17 at 19:15
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    @Catija playing the peacemaker would make for a really good follow-up question. The wording is of course quite optional, I assumed banter would work because friends often communicate that way. – apaul Aug 8 '17 at 19:18
  • Any time I mention Family B to Person A they just stop talking. This isn't something that can be "bantered" about. Person A is ones of those people who makes a decision about someone and then refuses to change their mind, even if no one understands their reasoning. I really do think this is a good solution I'm just not sure if it will work for me! – Catija Aug 8 '17 at 19:21
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I find "A" and "B" a bit impersonal, so I'll call them Alice and Bob.

Invite Them Separately

Invite Alice at an earlier time than Bob and most of the guests, and tell Alice that Bob will be coming. That way, Alice can plan her visit early and leave before Bob arrives.

Rationale

You don't want to invite them both at the same time and have to play the peacekeeper. And since the animosity is not reciprocated by Bob, it would be unfair to punish Bob for it.

Especially with big occasions like your son's first birthday, you'll likely have people arriving at different times, so other guests may not even notice.

Alternative

An alternative would be to invite Alice on a separate occasion. Alice is the bad actor here, so she should be the one to adjust.

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    Whether it's unfair to punish Bob would in large part depend Catija's view on what Bob did to Alice to annoy her/him so much. But, of course, Catija doesn't know. – AllTheKingsHorses Aug 9 '17 at 10:18
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Invite Both

You've already invited Person A, and retracting that invitation wouldn't be acceptable.

Family B is important to you as well, and not inviting them would be unfair to yourself, and your family. It would also be a slight to them that they don't deserve.

Talk to Person A

Person A deserves to know that Family B will be there. To not say something, when you do know that the feelings exist, does not seem like a good thing for a "friend" to do. However, in talking to Person A express how you feel, that you're "walking on egg shells" trying to not cause problems.

In having that discussion, try to keep your statements in the format of explaining how you feel, and what you do first, and the cause of that (their actions) second. Leading with their actions first tends to place them in a defensive mode, and from that stance there is very little hope of compromise or change.

Explain how it feels unfair to you that you have to either choose who to invite, or plan the party so that they're not offended, or worry that they won't come because of someone else at the party. Just because of what some member of Family B did to Person A in the past. Person A was there for the beginning of your family (wedding), so explain that it's important to you that they be there to celebrate another milestone of your family.


You cannot force change, yet you may be the agent of change. Perhaps, seeing how it affects you, making you nervous and unsure, might cause Person A to examine their stance relative to Family B. If so, wonderful. If not, your part is done, and you have been reasonable and fair.

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We actually just went through this not too long ago with our little one's 1st birthday. Personally I feel the best answer is just to be completely honest with all parties. In our situation, it was grandma and grandpa who don't get along anymore. Their 1st grandson's 1st birthday party from their 1st daughter.

I say remind them this party is not about the issues they have with each other. It's about celebrating someone special in their life and they really should be there. Let them know that there's going to be plenty of other people to talk to and they'll be able to gracefully avoid each other. For example:

"Hi (PERSON A)! Hey I just wanted to remind you that has a birthday party coming up and you should really be there! It's going to be at (A NEUTRAL LOCATION LIKE A PARK) and we'll have games and cake and ice cream... a bunch of people have already said they're coming so you can't be the one who doesn't show!"

... Now pause for a moment. If they react quickly and ask about PERSON B, you'll have to work extra hard, good luck. Otherwise, you can start listing names of people who are going to show, and some who you invited but don't know for sure yet. Wherever PERSON B fits in to that list, throw their name in there, but without emphasis! Practice this before you try it. You'll find you subconsciously make PERSON B stick out of the group one way or another.

I wish you luck. Our situation didn't work out with both being present. :(

  • Sorry to hear that it didn't work out. You have a good approach: honesty, focus on the reason for the celebration, open location so people with conflicts don't have to be very near each other. It's up to the parties involved to sort out their differences. You can hope (and if appropriate, voice it to them) that they wouldn't drag it into your happy occasion. – Lawrence Feb 18 '18 at 15:09
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I noticed two contradictory statements:

  1. This seems to be a one-sided disagreement - meaning that Person A doesn't like Family B for some slight that Person A can't get past.
  2. I'm not involved in the disagreement and don't completely understand it

You say that you do not completely understand the disagreement, yet you are holding Person A responsible. Maybe if you fully understood the disagreement, you would understand why Person A thinks it is impossible to be around Family B.

Hypothetically speaking, if Family B did something bullying towards Person A, you could be piling-on by holding Person A accountable before understanding the facts.

If it were me, and a friend tricked me into having to be around people that I had felt bullied by, I would be very upset.

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    No, that's not really what I mean. Person A has explained why they're upset at family B, I just don't understand why it's worth being upset over... it seems really petty and small. – Catija Feb 20 '18 at 12:42
  • In that case, if you are at the point where you would consider tricking her into joining company that she does not want to, it seems that you've lost respect for her as an adult. In this way, you have become party to the conflict. It seems that there is something for you two to resolve; since friendship is based on being able to respect each other. – Maiya Feb 23 '18 at 17:08
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Be as open as possible.

Surprising A or B with the other's presence invites chaos. The fact is, if these people are truly your friends, they will respect you enough to not cause drama. You should just make it clear that this is your son's birthday party and that it isn't about either of them. If they can't play nice for a couple hours to celebrate with you, it may be time to consider if they are really your friends. That is not to say that they are bad friends if they don't show up. However, if they do both show up to the party, knowing that they will run into each other at some point, and still cause problems, I believe that shows a lack of respect towards you and your family.

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As you said:

I don't really feel like I should be even having to deal with this. They are all adults...

It is your son's party, not theirs. And you are not a party to their conflict.

I would say invite them both and don't show any preference. If either can't be civil, then just tell them (in private) their behavior is disrupting the party, and if it doesn't stop there's the door.

I think any other interaction will show some favoritism which will not help matters.

Also it might be helpful to have enough activities, food, etc. that might hopefully keep them distracted from their personal problems.

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