It’s probably relevant to mention this is assuming the spouse knows you won’t get along but has nothing against the partner coming. Or are you supposed to invite them and let them/hope they decline?
In my experience this is only ok if you do the same to everyone. So you can say no partners but not specifically uninvite one person’s partner if other partners are coming.
I think that it works like this:
- If you invite a coupled person to a party, the invitation is generally assumed to include their partner unless explicitly stated otherwise
- It’s usually considered rude to explicitly uninvite someone
- Partly because it’s considered rude to tell people about parties they aren’t invited to
- But it’s considered ok if there’s a general reason partners aren’t invited that isn’t personal, because then it’s not an insult
- Eg: if no one’s partner is invited, or if it’s a single-gender event and the partner isn’t that gender
Just to be clear, I don’t think it’s always wrong to be rude in this way. Just that it’s a convention it’s worth being aware of, because ignoring it can have unintended consequences.
A couple of situations in which it might be a good idea to violate this convention:
- The person you don’t want to invite is or was abusive towards you or someone you’ll be inviting
- The person you don’t want to invite ruins parties by telling racist or misogynistic or otherwise hateful jokes, and has repeatedly refused to knock it off
two thoughts (1) if the host says not to bring food, it’s polite to bring a small host(ess) gift that you think the person will like (2) it’s okay to invite people by saying “I’m asking each person to bring a side dish, would you be able to do that?”
About host(ess) gifts:
- Flowers are generally considered appropriate
- But not roses, especially if you are a man and the host is a single woman. Roses are associated with romance and are likely to be seen as intrusive flirting.
- If the host has children who will be present, something for the kids can be a polite choice. But make sure that it’s either a thing that can be shared easily or that there is one for each kid (eg: if there are three kids, three kaleidoscopes, not one).
About inviting and saying you’re asking everyone to bring a thing:
- It’s better to tell someone this *before* they accept the invitation
- Because if they’ve already said yes, there’s no polite way to change their mind after being asked to bring something
- Especially since some people are uncomfortable declining directly and make polite excuses like “I’m sorry, that sounds lovely, but I have other plans.”
- So they might say yes and not really be ok with it because there’s no polite way to say no at that point
If you’re having wine, have some soda or cider too in case there are people who avoid alcohol. Hard cider is also a nice alternative to beer
That’s an important point. If you’re having a gathering that includes alcohol, it’s important to have non-alcoholic drinks too.
A lot of people avoid alcohol for various reasons, and you don’t always know who they are.
And even people who drink often find it easier to avoid drinking too much if there are non-alcoholics drinks available.
Also, consider who you are inviting when you’re deciding whether to have alcohol. If you’re inviting people who tend to be really obnoxious when they’re drunk, it might be better to stick with soft drinks.