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Dealing with dueling invitations

Q. My sister invited my family to a pool party. Now, my teenage daughter has been invited to a friend's party the same day. The rest of my family could still go to my sister's, though I'm sure she'd prefer her niece there, too. Do I disappoint my sister, or do I disappoint my daughter?

A. The first consideration is the import of the family party, says etiquette expert Debbie Gorney, owner of Northport-based Peas and Thank You. If it's a special occasion and you've already RSVP'd, yes, you should explain to your teen that there are some family events she must attend, and she will have to be the one who is disappointed.

If it's just an informal family get-together, there's more latitude, Gorney says. The proper way to handle it would be to first call your sister to explain that your daughter -- who is at the developmental age when friends are all-important -- has been invited to an event she doesn't want to miss. Your sister's gracious response should be to excuse your daughter from the festivities this time, Gorney says.

When giving your daughter permission to attend the friend's party, be sure to explain to her that this kind of thing will be decided on a case-by-case basis, Gorney says.

"I would allow my daughter to have some freedom, knowing that there are certain times that there's a family event and she needs to go. This will open up trust and communication between the mother and the daughter."

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