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Can I Stop My SIL from Ruining My Daughter’s Bridal Shower?

...without causing a family rift

Q:Dear APW,

My husband’s sisters, while well-intentioned, have already hijacked my daughter’s bridal shower. My daughter has stated that she wants a low-key shower at our house. My sister-in-law told us (not asked) that the shower will be at her house. I said I would at least like to be involved/help and she simply said, “No”. The smallest change in the direction of the wind can cause a months—or years-long serious family rift, and I don’t want that to happen, nor do I want my daughter’s event turned into something that she does not want.

How do I tactfully retreat and get this back on the right track?

—Anonymous

A:Dear Anonymous,

Everything feels so much trickier when you’re dealing with people who are easily offended. But this is simple. Nothing says there has to be only one shower. Many couples have more than one shower for their many different circles of friends. Let your sister-in-law host her shower for her side of the family, thank her warmly for being so kind, and then go ahead and plan your own shower. (Some commenters will jump in here to say that a mother shouldn’t throw a shower for her child, but I’d argue that’s an outdated expectation.)

It’s tricky, yeah, to make sure she knows about this other event, but doesn’t see it as a competing party. There are a few different ways to couch it. If it’s a big wedding, you can cite the size. Breaking it up into smaller parties will make it easier to manage. You can suggest that your daughter’s in-laws may want to be involved in the planning (they may!) or her bridesmaids and friends (also might!). Or you can simply say that you’d already intended to throw a shower, you have specific requests from the bride, and since sis prefers to work without your help, you thought a separate event may be the simplest way to avoid stepping on her toes.

But, if as you read that suggestion, you know deep in your soul that it will never work? Pick your daughter. Double-check with her first (maybe she’s expressed that she wants a specific kind of shower, but when it comes down to it, she’s not all that invested and will be just as happy at your in-law’s house). But if she wants what she wants, you’re in a great position to advocate for it. It might piss off her aunts, but the choice between helping your daughter make the memories she wants, vs. tip-toe-ing around the fragile feelings of difficult family? Pick your kid.

I can give you some scripts to soften the blow (“It’s so generous of you to offer, but we already have one in the works, and you’re welcome to help!” “I appreciate the thought, but daughter’s been pretty candid with me about what she’d like, so I’ll need to at least be involved in the planning, if not host,”) but you know your people. If they’re determined to be offended, they’ll find a way.

Rest in the confidence that you’re not doing anything offensive.

—Liz Moorhead

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