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20-40-60 ETIQUETTE: Don't take invitation regrets personally

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QUESTION: I realize that people have busy schedules, but I took it personally when several people regretted my dinner party invitation when I sent it out. Should I tell myself that they all have good reasons and move on to invite someone else? Or should I cancel the party?

CALLIE’S ANSWER: People, yes, have busy schedules and sometimes the date doesn’t work. I would throw out a few dates to see what date is best next time. In these times though, some people are not comfortable being around others. Don’t take it personally.

LILLIE-BETH’S ANSWER: We’re in a strange time right now. After months of dialing back activities due to the pandemic, people want to try to get together safely, and events are picking back up again. However, not everyone feels safe doing so, since we still don’t have a handle on COVID-19 worldwide. I don’t think I would take it personally, although sometimes I do myself. Just try again and ask people when they’re free. You also might reassure them about safety measures you’re taking; after all, recommendations remain that we should still be social distancing, hand-sanitizing and wearing masks in crowds or when social distancing isn’t possible.

It’s great that you want to entertain — we do need to figure out ways to connect with each other and care for each other — but it will probably take some time for people to figure out their schedules again and their levels of comfort with getting together. Keep trying, but this year, I don’t think I would take much personally. We all need grace, even for yourself. Everyone is busy and not busy at the same time, and many are stressed and grieving.

At least people regretted your invitation, so you know for sure. If you know them well, then ask if another time — or way to get together — would be better because you really want to see them. But if you don’t, then ask other friends without a second thought and enjoy entertaining again!

HELEN’S ANSWER: Everyone is busy catching up, since COVID-19 has been keeping them at home. It is hard to decide whether this is the time to go out. Some of your invitees could still be quarantined at home. Remind your guests if there will be masks, social distancing and hand sanitizer.

Know that people who cannot come usually have a good reason for regretting. They may have a busy work schedule, or they could be ill, or they might be attending a community event. There could be new people you could invite. Hopefully, you won’t have to cancel your party.

GUEST’S ANSWER: Devonne Carter, licensed clinical social worker: Yes, everyone is so busy!

Also, I think RSVPing is a thing of the past as well, so how do we plan parties these days? WE JUST HAVE TO GUESS. People have SO MUCH on their plate that they wait until the last minute to see if they even have time to go to a function. Then they forget to RVSP altogether. I would encourage you not to take it personally, because everyone seems to be in the same boat of busyness these days!

I say MOVE ON and invite new people, and if you run out of friends who won't get back to you, make new friends! Invite someone you don't know well at all. Don't cancel your party!

The irony of this situation, to me anyway, is people are starved for other people these days. They are starved for interaction and meaningful relationships that you only get by spending time with others like dinner parties. There are people out there who really want to spend time with you. Keep asking and don't take it personally. Your friends might not have good reasons for not answering or joining in the fun, but they are going to miss out not having good friends like you.

Callie Athey is 20-something, Lillie-Beth Brinkman is 40-plus, and social columnist Helen Ford Wallace is 60-plus. To ask an etiquette question, email