|Print | Back||January 15, 2015|
The Real IssueResenting a Son-in-Law's Parents
by Cyndie Swindlehurst
My only daughter is expecting her first baby and I am thinking of hosting a baby shower for her.
When she was married, I hosted the bridal shower and her father and I paid for and hosted the entire wedding. My future son-in-law’s parents sent a large guest list of more than one hundred people for both the bridal shower and wedding, but did not offer to pay for any part of the shower or wedding. Nor did they help with the invitations, arrangements, set-up or in any other way.
I want to host a baby shower for my daughter, but I do not want to include her in-laws because I do not feel that I am obligated to pay for and host my son-in-law’s family again.
I am curious. What kind of bridal and baby showers do you host? Why will it be a financial burden to invite your son-in-law’s mother, sisters or aunts? Are you renting a ballroom at the St. Regis? Have you chartered a yacht? And a guest list of over one hundred people? For a bridal shower? And you are expecting a similar number at a baby shower?
I must say, that seems excessive. Especially when the host is the mother of the honoree. Close relatives of the honoree are not the correct hosts for showers; showers should be given by friends to avoid the appearance of a family soliciting gifts for itself.
If your friends, for example, have a fit of generosity and throw an enormous, elaborate bridal shower for your daughter, to which they invite everyone they know, well, that would be very kind of them, and out of your control. But if you invite over one hundred people to a shower for your own daughter, the expectation being that each person will bring her a gift, well, that has another tone entirely.
So my first suggestion for you is that you do not host a baby shower for your daughter. Let her friends — or yours, if they offer — host the shower, even if it will not be as fabulous a party as you like to throw.
However, if you do decide to host a baby shower for your daughter, let me make four suggestions.
First, do not invite one hundred people. Showers are for an honoree’s close friends. And, I’ll concede, for your close friends, too. But you should only invite people who are close to and feel genuine personal affection for your daughter and you, people with whom you socialize regularly. There is just no way that list should include more than one hundred people.
Second, include your son-in-law’s mother and other female relatives. No matter how upset you are about the wedding (and we will get to that in a minute), it would be unkind to exclude the other half of your future grandchild’s family from an event you are hosting to celebrate the baby.
Third, if you think it will be too expensive to include your son-in-law’s family, you should dial back your plans for the shower. When you plan a party, you should first tally the number of guests, then consider how to entertain them on your budget.
It is entirely backwards to first plan the party and then see how many people you can invite: the point of a social event is the people, not the party.
Fourth, do not ask your son-in-law’s mother for her guest list. You must invite her, but you do not need to invite her friends unless your daughter feels close to these friends and can come up with their names on her own.
If this lady wants to throw a shower for your daughter that includes the lady’s friends, she is welcome to do so. There is no rule against multiple showers hosted by and for different groups of people. Although, again, it would be more appropriate if her friends hosted the shower.
Now let’s talk about the wedding, which is your real problem. You resent the fact that your son-in-law’s family did not offer to pay for or help with any of the wedding arrangements. Also, that they submitted a guest list of over one hundred people. I am sorry — or am I happy — to tell you that your resentment is misplaced.
Weddings are traditionally hosted and paid for by the bride’s family alone. Her family decides the number of guests, the venue, the invitations, the music — it’s their show because they are footing the bill. Of course, they are obligated to consider the groom’s family’s situation.
For example, they would not plan a destination wedding if his family could not afford the travel (travel expenses rest with the traveler; pay no attention to Father of the Bride) or plan an intimate wedding for 50 guests if he has a large extended family. They are also obligated to evenly divide the guest list, allotting half of the spots to the groom’s family and friends.
The groom’s family is obligated to provide a list of names and addresses for their half of the guest list, to arrive on time, to compliment everything and to be good sports. Or, as my mother puts it, to keep your mouth shut and wear beige. They should not send a guest list that exceeds the allotted number, and if they do, they should expect to be asked to whittle it down.
The groom’s family can, of course, throw their own party celebrating the newlyweds at a later date. And the groom’s family often offers to host a dinner or luncheon, or to pay for the flowers or some other bill. But their participation in planning or paying for the wedding is not required by any long-standing rule or practice.
Now, perhaps you don’t agree with this way of doing things. Perhaps you don’t think it is fair. But your personal feelings about wedding customs are not a fair basis for resenting your son-in-law’s family. You can’t extract money or physical labor from his family by declaring the traditions of wedding planning to be offensive or inadequate. Nor can you harbor ill feelings about them for complying with those long-standing rules.
Also, I think you would have disliked it intensely if his family had tried to help you with the arrangements: that help would have come with opinions, and their money would have come with an obligation to negotiate your plans with them.
Would you really have welcomed their participation in the wedding planning? Did you really want to hear their opinions and let them choose the invitations, flowers, menu or photographer?
So I suggest that you admit (to yourself — public flagellation is not necessary unless you complained about this family publicly) that you were wrong about the wedding expenses.
Next, forgive your son-in-law’s family completely.
Then, if you must throw a baby shower for your daughter, invite his mother. With the arrival of grandchildren, goodwill between you and the other grandma is essential. If you don’t believe me, just wait until the first time that you need to trespass on “her” holiday for your important family event.
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