Q: I am getting married in September (woohoo!). I am also turning thirty about a month prior. I am also about to graduate next month (May) with my master’s degree. I love this year; I want to celebrate all of these events—I have worked so hard for my degree, I am excited to turn thirty, and I’m really looking forward to my wedding. I am generally not a center-of-attention kind of person, but I’m breaking out of character a bit because I do really, really want to have a separate party for each event. I want all of the celebrations to be laid back (graduation pizza and beer, birthday beach bonfire, and wedding at a public park!). I will plan and pay for most of them (only my wedding shower and bachelorette party are being planned for me, my fiancé and I will plan and finance the graduation party, the birthday party, the wedding, and the rehearsal dinner). I don’t expect gifts (I am specifying “no gifts” or “gifts not necessary” on all the Evites and the wedding website), and I don’t expect all of my friends and family members to make it to every celebration. (I mean, the wedding is also coming with a shower and a bachelorette party and a rehearsal dinner… my goodness, I certainly don’t expect everyone to make it to everything!)
I’m having a hard time dealing with some of my family members. They are scattered around the area and will have to drive a couple of hours to get to these celebrations. I totally understand if they don’t have the time and money to make it to everything, but I felt like I should send them invites anyway just to keep them in the loop and let them know that they are special to me and people I’d like to celebrate with. Yet a few family members don’t see it this way! I am already getting snarky/jokey comments about how I’m not worth the separate drives to celebrate different events, and none of these celebrations have actually happened yet. One of my aunts, without talking to me about it, tried to plan a separate wedding shower at a time/place that was more convenient for her… and I had already made arrangements to have my shower in a location that was a bit of a drive for me but more convenient for the bulk of the guests!
I’m trying to keep APW’s essay in mind about my wedding not being an imposition, but what about my wedding, my graduation, and my birthday all in one year? Is there a graceful, non-demanding way to celebrate all of these things with friends and family? Do all of my party plans leave the realm of joyful and enter into selfishness? Maybe I should leave my family out of the birthday celebration or the other events that I haven’t sent invitations out for yet? It is so difficult and hurtful to hear those snarky jokes about my worth, and I know this is only the beginning. Any advice on how to handle this would be wonderful.
—Sad and Confused
A: Dear SAC,
You know why that whole “your wedding is not an imposition” phrase came about, don’t you? Because people have this knack for taking an invitation as an obligation, when really it’s nothing even close to that. It’s straight weird to choose to see a happy fun-time party this way. Not weird as in unusual (because Lord knows we all have these sorts of negative people in our lives), but just flat out odd. Asking someone, “Would you like to come?” isn’t nearly the same as telling them, “You must come celebrate me now.” Why do these folks choose to see it that way?
Lucy suggests that it’s just one way for the, ahem, more self-centered among us to make everything about themselves. A joyful event celebrating someone else, their achievements, their happy life changes, and their joy? Perfect opportunity to bitch and moan about it so the focus is back on us, right where it belongs.
And this is the key, here. The fact that people are responding this way bears no reflection on you, your worth, or your worthiness of celebration. It’s entirely a reflection of their issues. It’s about their inability to celebrate someone else without trying to redirect focus. They see every invitation as a groan-worthy obligation instead of a chance to have a good time? What a bunch of sad sacks.
Since you’re facing all of this opposition to barbecues and beach parties, you might want to consider choosing one or two of these events and making them friends-only, or just for your nearest and dearest. Family has a way of saying biting, sharp things that no one else in the world would, and these parties are about being happy, not about surrounding yourself with that negative noise.
For the rest, assume they’re adult enough to budget their time on their own. Word of warning: that might mean a friend or two will attend one event and not the others. That’s not a reflection on you! It’s just a matter of adulthood and responsibility and things like “limited vacation days.” For what it’s worth, I hope to have this many parties this summer for no good reason. Who doesn’t like a party?
The bottom line is, whether folks come to your parties or don’t. Whether they say terrible, cutting remarks or not. These things have nothing to do with you, your worth, your value, and whether or not you deserve to be celebrated. There very well may be grown ass adults who should know better, but instead choose to see an invitation to a joyful celebration as an inconvenience and an obligation. That’s their problem, with their perspective, because your decision to celebrate is not an imposition.
Team Practical, how do you handle folks who act like your invitation is an obligation?