Recently, I received an invitation to a wedding and it got me to thinking about other invitations that didn’t seem as targeted or sincere. It came from a woman I met in a faith group on social media several years ago. We’ve only interacted during group outings.
What impressed me about this particular invitation? It wasn’t offhand, flippant, dismissive or indirect. It was specific, targeted and only for me – it felt sincerely personal. Indeed, my name was printed on the RSVP card, which to me signified forethought and a preference for my presence. Even if I was one of a hundred people invited to her wedding and even though she and I have no independent personal history, the invitation made me feel as if she wanted me present on her special day.
The not-quite-warm-and-fuzzy kind
Last year, a relative emailed me on Facebook to tell me he was getting married this year and asked if I would attend. I enthusiastically replied “yes”. In the same email chain he told me to “friend” his fiancée. I told him that me friending her was not an appropriate way to introduce his future bride to me or vice versa.
Also last year, a longtime social acquaintance got engaged to a man whom I’ve always thought was a good match for her. At the beginning of this year, when she emailed to share her wedding date and location with me, she wrote, “The wedding is out-of-state[…] if you are able to roll I would love to have you there if you can.”
A few years ago, I received and accepted a much grander invitation that has never settled comfortably with me. It was a request to be a godmother to a former co-worker’s baby. It became uncomfortable because the mother never attempted to set up time with me, her and her daughter together. Babygirl was occasionally placed in daycare in my office building (mom worked at another location) and I would receive a call or email simply stating “your godchild is in your building today.” She was running late or didn’t have time to visit or had already gotten to her office, but I should feel free to meet/visit my goddaughter during the work day. I went down that first day with a great deal of excitement, but the following visits became so awkward that I stopped visiting. The only time I saw that child in the presence of one of her parents was on her last day in the daycare before the family moved to another state. The father arrived to pick her up as I was finishing my final visit. I remember he looked at me with the most judgmental eyes as he said, “Oh, you finally had time for your godchild!”
I responded, “It’s nice to see you with your daughter. Let me get a picture of you two before I leave.”
Earlier this year, a couple I’ve been rooting for years got married. They sent me an invitation to their wedding two weeks before the ceremony – they never sent an invitation, I wouldn’t have thought anything about it. I had heard about their upcoming nuptials earlier that year – we had brunched together after church for a couple of years and even though I attend another church now, word still travels. I had what I thought was a comfortable rapport with each of them separately, together and in larger groups. I would have preferred not to receive an invitation at all than to receive one that made me feel like an afterthought or space-filler.
I am not trying to imply that people need to take me into consideration when they go about planning their lives. But when they do consider me with the intent of inviting me to participate in their lives – as a witness or a guide – I would hope that their invitation is weighted with a sincere desire to see me in that role.
Though I did not respond to the wedding invitation from my former brunch buddies, I did attend the service. They both fussed at me in the receiving line and I apologized for my non-responsiveness.
I ended up friending my relative’s fiancé three months before the wedding because he was not helpful in providing details needed to plan travel to his destination wedding. Despite my efforts and requests to both of them directly to share a meal before the ceremony with the intention of meeting the bride, I did not meet her until after the ceremony when I was called up to take family photos with the bride and groom at the altar. At which point I said an awkward, “Hi, nice to meet you.” Mind you, this was a small destination wedding with less than fifteen guests and I was the only family member on the groom’s side to attend. Needless to say, I didn’t feel welcome by either of them. It was the most awkward wedding experience I’ve ever had.
My experience at my relative’s wedding contributed strongly to my decision to not travel to the wedding of my social acquaintance later in the year. Also, when it came down to the motivation to make the effort, I thought about how the invitation was issued: if you’re able to come, it would be great to have you, if you want that is….
What I’m really trying to say is…
I issue invitations because I want to share an experience with someone. I hope they accept my invitation because they want to share the experience with me in return. An invitation should not be issued based on the availability of the recipient, it should be issued from the issuer’s desire to share their hospitality.
Many invitations I’ve issued throughout my lifetime have been ignored. Having your hospitality ignored is a much harsher feeling than having it declined. But that hasn’t stopped me from issuing invitations – I’ve just become more selective on who I invite into my life and for what purpose.
For example, I purchased my first home last year after living in a studio apartment for six and a half years. While living in a studio, I couldn’t have the dinner parties or Bible study meetings I wanted to have in my home, although I did try a couple of times. Unfortunately my space did not adequately accommodate more than one other person. When I moved into my current apartment I was eager to purchase a dining table that could seat a number of people and set-up a living space that could accommodate overflowing conversation. The best compliments I’ve received about my home have been about how warm and inviting it is.
Every time I think of opening my door to someone, I think about the energy they bring me. Is theirs an energy I want to nurture in my space? That I want to embrace within my hospitality? Is our relationship one that I want to continue to pursue or carry-over into the next chapter of my life? More often than not, the answers have been “no” and I’ve been content to let things be and keep trotting along alone.
There is no honor in inviting someone into a space that is sacred to you when you do not want them there. And anyone who wishes to honor themselves do not want to be present where they are not wanted.
Basically, I didn’t feel as if the social acquaintance had a desire for me to be at her wedding but she felt a social obligation to issue the invitation. Neither did I feel the other two couples desired my presence at their weddings. And that’s fine. I don’t need to be a witness for everyone I know. What is not fine with me is issuing an insincere invitation, because then the onus is on me (the receiver) to figure out what to do – graciously decline or awkwardly appear.