Social Etiquette and Good Manners/Family Birthday Invitation


My brother's 40th birthday is on Aug 29th. This also is the day my husband and I move into our new home. My sister-in-law text me to ask when she could drop off our invitation and I told her that she could come by the new house as we were working there. It was through texting back and forth that we realized that the party and moving date were the same day. I respectfully declined and felt terrible. I found out later that my brother says he understands but that he wished I could be there. Am I being selfish or wrong not to attend?

Thank you

Dear Tina:

Thank you for your inquiry. How unfortunate that your brother's birthday celebration is planned for the same day as your move! But rest assured you are not selfish to have declined the invitation under the circumstances, because everyone knows how stressful and demanding a moving day can be and that once a move date is set, it is usually impossible to re-schedule because of the many parties involved. And I hope that everyone involved in your scenario realizes also it is not practical or efficient to delegate the homeowner's arranging and supervising responsibilities to someone else.

That said, if it is even remotely possible for you to make a brief appearance at the party ( a drop in) to keep peace in the family and to demonstrate your love for your brother, think about doing so.  I suggest this only if your new home is within a 15/20-minute drive of the party location. If getting to the party would involve an hour travel time or longer, then it is unreasonable for anyone to expect you to attend.

Call your brother and have a personal chat--eliminate any third parties in delivering your message to him.  Tell him how very sorry you are about this conflict of dates.  Tell him you want to plan a special birthday outing with him--either a one-to-one occasion or with your respective spouses--to celebrate the special event.  By doing so, you will indicate that you recognize that this is a meaningful milestone in his life and that it's important to you, as well.  After the dust settles from your move, take him to a special restaurant, sporting event, concert or play--something that he will really enjoy.  I don't recommend inviting him to your new home for a birthday dinner because then the occasion is more about you than about him. You can plan an open house for the whole family at some later date.

Social Etiquette and Good Manners

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Nancy Mitchell


Social etiquette; Business etiquette; Entertaining etiquette; Wedding etiquette; Protocol, domestic (US) and international; Flag etiquette; Dining etiquette; Restaurant etiquette; Spa etiquette; Travel etiquette


Nancy R. Mitchell is a nationally recognized etiquette and protocol consultant and trainer with more than 30 years of experience in the field. She owns the firm The Etiquette Advocate and is an owner and founding partner of the firm Protocol Partners-Washington Center for Protocol. Currently, she is an adjunct faculty member at The George Washington University, where she developed and teaches protocol courses in the School of Business and the Career Center, and at Stratford University, Falls Church, VA. She serves also as protocol and special events consultant to the Library of Congress, the world’s largest library and cultural center. For 23 years, Mitchell was director of special events and protocol at the Library of Congress where she and her staff were responsible for planning and managing over 400 events each year. She coordinated the institution’s major special events, visits of heads of state and other distinguished visitors, galas, conferences and meetings. As the Library’s chief protocol advisor, Mitchell served as liaison to the White House, U.S Department of State, the Congress, the Supreme Court and other government agencies, embassies, academia and corporations.

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Mitchell is quoted on matters of etiquette and protocol by CNN, ABC Nightline, Martha Stewart Living Radio, The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Washington Business Journal, the Associated Press and Washingtonian magazine, has been featured on ABC Good Morning America, Fox News and National Public Radio, and is an etiquette columnist for, etiquette consultant to Alexandria Woman and to Engaged! magazine, and technical editor of Wedding Etiquette for Dummies (Wiley, 2010).

B.S., University of Utah, 1969

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