Ask Team Practical: Too Many Parties

Invitation does not equal obligation

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?

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  • Amy March

    Those people making “jokey” “snarky” comments are being rude and mean. You are doing nothing wrong here.

  • Spot on advice! My favorite part “what a bunch of sad sacks.”

  • Peekayla

    ::hugs:: I know how you feel. I’m only getting it from one person, but it’s from my MOH! She told me that my wedding planning has been anything but low-key for her because of all the obligations it’s entailed. Besides the usual dress shopping (2 trips), bridal shower, bachelorette, rehearsal dinner, and actual wedding the only “extra” I’ve planned is an extra is a wedding-party-only picnic a few months before the wedding. She did come with me to 2 wedding-planning events [a hair/makeup show and an expo]), but I thought she wanted to be there as well . . . It’s very disheartening and was hard to hear.

    • Lawyerette510

      I’m sorry that’s happening. Have you communicated with her about how her actions are making you feel/ how she is coming across?

      • Peekayla

        When she told me about all this I was in defense-mode, since she was bringing it up because she “felt shitty about our friendship.” I made coddling replies to all of her “issues” (most of which are born of her own insecurity, self-doubt, and low self esteem). It wasn’t until I was driving home and got to think about everything she said that I realized how upset I was and how much of what she said wasn’t my fault and not my problem to fix. That was the only time she mentioned it, so I’m going to try to let it and the rest of the stuff slide, for now. But if she mentions my plans as impositions again I’m going to be honest. It’s tough because I don’t want to be lose a friend over stuff that will be moot in less than 3 months.

        • Megan

          It’s really hard to deal with these issues when some of these things come out of another’s own insecurities and low self-esteem. I’m experiencing some of that too with my future brother-in-law and I’m trying to tread very carefully with some of my girlfriends who have just gotten out of long-term relationships. It’s really hard to feel like it’s okay to celebrate myself when others are having a hard time with their own relationship statuses! I’m ready to party but not everyone else is :(

          • Peekayla

            It is and I probably should be more compassionate to her emotional state. Some of what Julia (above) wrote in her comment resonated with me and my MOH’s situation:
            “At the time, I just did not have the emotional capacity/endurance to deal with so much joy and happiness, and that sometimes turned me into an asshole who viewed these other celebrations as a reminder of my own mistakes and sadness. I had to work REALLY hard to get over myself for these moments. I knew I wanted and needed to show up as a good friend,but I remember how incredibly difficult it felt at times!”
            She’s been in and out of an extremely negative relationship for 10 years and has been free of him now for 2 years. Even though time has passed and she’s dated a few guys, she still has a lot of emotions wrapped up in him. Seeing me and my honey happy and moving forward (we have a house together, good jobs, short commutes, and are paying for our own wedding), whereas she’s older than us and isn’t much further along than she was in her early 20’s is probably hard for her.

  • Jana

    Luckily we only had one relative who acted like our wedding was an imposition: I had one cousin who responded to his receipt of a save the date for our wedding and his wife’s receipt of an invitation to my bridal shower with a type-written letter explaining that, due to issues among our parents, he did not feel it was couth for us to ask he and his wife to take time “out of (their) busy schedules” for not one but two events on our behalf. He stated that they would not be attending either and wanted no more to do with our family. I stared at that letter slack-jawed for awhile, lost some sleep over it for one night, then tucked it away and moved on. If he honestly thinks that these invitations were sent for some kind of financial gain on our part (instead of the genuine desire to spend time with our family members), then it is obvious that he doesn’t know or understand the person that I have grown up to be.

    If you’re really concerned, maybe you could do a combination graduation/birthday party and make it a two-fer. Try to combine celebrations where you can.

    • vegankitchendiaries

      That is really horrible! I’m sorry that your cousin was a jerk. :(

      • Jana

        Yeah, it kind of hit me out of left field. But… onward and upward.

  • ART

    so timely. just this morning on my way to work i heard this opinion piece on my local radio station: i lose sleep over the idea that my friends and relatives will be put out by our wedding, which is about a 3-hour drive away for most of them. then i remember how many aren’t coming, and that i’ll miss them, but it’s not the end of the world, or a reflection on our relationship, or a smack in the face, or any of the ways i might be tempted to interpret it.

    i felt the way the LW feels with just my bridal shower, bachelorette party, and wedding on the horizon, so i completely understand. for those that did attend, it was another excuse for a fun gathering, some good food, and time spent in the company of people we care about and enjoy. for those that didn’t come – they missed out! but that’s ok.

    • swarmofbees

      wow, that piece is really an embodiment of so much that couples planning weddings face.

      • ART

        yeah, I tried to share a comment, also, about how the numbers he cites are totally bogus, but it hasn’t shown up…oh well!

      • GCDC

        I love that you immediately posted a comment on that article.

        • ART

          (me too!)

      • Violet

        I’m so tired of people conflating “expensive” with “unaffordable.” Yes, $30,000 is probably expensive, but for each individual couple, we have NO IDEA if that’s affordable or not. They’re different concepts.

        • JDrives

          Or even “big” with “expensive”! To me, a “big” wedding means you have lots of people there, not that you spent 5-6 figures. I’ve seen plenty of examples on the interwebs where couples had a large guest list without a high price tag.

          • Annonyanka

            Slightly OT, but so glad you wrote that JDrives. That’s what we’re desperately hoping to accomplish (the the help of APW). It’ll be tough, but we have 150 people easily who we want to have come (and who are likely to come), plus another 50-75 who we “should” invite but who likely won’t come. Yet neither of us is independently wealthy and I have a massive aversion to spending more than we can easily afford on anything (hello unemployed twice, honestly through no fault of my own).

            Thankfully we’re in the pre-engaged stage. We know it’ll happen, (he’s talked to his mom about his grandmother’s ring, we’ve found a parish where we want to have the wedding that fits both of our ideas about a religious home, etc) but we both want to be employed when it happens so we can afford to invite all the members of our community who we love and whose support we’ll need.

          • Sarah E

            Just to give you a solidarity fist-bump, we are currently planning a wedding for approx 200 guests (dependent on response rate) on a budget of about $6500 in southern PA. Made possible by: not buying a wedding dress (mom’s dress/cocktail dress), serving only dessert and booze, finding a great venue (not perfect, but great) that hosts events as a side endeavor for cheap, that allows us to DIY catering and booze, and going seriously minimal with everything else (no decor, DIY music, etc)

          • JDrives

            Dessert and booze – YUM!

          • JDrives

            We are also planning a 150-person wedding and trying to avoid going into (further) debt (*shakes fist at student loans*). APW has been invaluable. Also, reminding myself that just because that gorgeous-funky-fresh-indie-crafty-magical wedding I see on other wedding blogs is SO AWESOME, that person was most likely blessed with resources to hire a professional florist, wedding planner, high-priced photographer, etc and we simply aren’t. So we make do to make our celebration ours without busting up the budget. I’m making my own bouquets with flowers from Trader Joe’s (thanks APW!), my hairdresser is offering her services for free as a gift, our venue lets us bring our own booze ($5 wine from TJ’s is totally happening), and so forth. APW has kept me sane and grounded and focused on what is most important so we can keep our celebration in budget. Good luck to you – it CAN be done!!

        • genevathene

          The other thing I don’t understand is why spending lots of money on “experience things”, like round-the-world travel, are celebrated while others are not. To us, throwing a wedding is just as much of an experience as travel, since our family and friends are scattered all over the world. Of course, not everyone will come, but when else will all your friends and family have an excuse to be in one place? Your funeral?

          • Rora

            Wedding spending is tut-tutted because everyone knows that weddings are only desired and planned for by Women! Women with their frivolous desires!

          • genevathene

            Ough, you know? The way you put it makes a lot of sense. Which makes me kind of sad. :(

        • MisterEHolmes

          Or that “DIY” = “cheap”. I’ve been getting the side-eye because my wedding is pretty DIY heavy.

          • Sarah McClelland

            THIS!!!! So. Many. Raised. Eyebrows.

    • Ally

      Dude is so out of touch. It’s a bummer since I usually love “Perspectives”. So many of them have made me weepy on my drives to work.

      • ART

        oh god, I know. between that and storycorps i’m a mess when i get to BART!

      • ART

        Meg should totally do a Perspectives!

        • Ally

          OMG yes!!

  • Annonyanka

    First — congratulations on everything! This is an awesome year and you deserve to celebrate each event.

    You’re not doing anything wrong but it might be worth making sure that people know that you don’t expect them to attend everything. If I can, I’d like to offer a different perspective than just being self-centered (though the way those people have gone about it certainly sounds self-centered!). Perhaps they’re not sure what your expectations are or what the consequences of not attending would be?

    I have friends who range from being like you (here’s awesome things, celebrate with me if you’re able) to those for whom missing any event is a huge deal (literally “what do you mean you can’t make the happy hour? You should have scheduled your time better.”). With most of my friends I know them well enough to know which camp they fall into (thankfully the majority are in the first, those who aren’t have had past experiences that helped put them in the second camp and are generally working on it). Family can be harder to know that well, even when you’ve technically known them your whole life. When I’ve had relatives have a lot of celebrations close together, I’ve had to figure out what camp that person is in. Admittedly for one relative who I barely knew, I did talk with my mom about what the family expectations were. Was I actually expected to get on a train and take vacation days for each event? Would it cause hurt feelings if I didn’t? My mom, knowing the person better, assured me that it was okay and that it wouldn’t cause any family drama if I didn’t go. I then wrote a lovely note to the person saying I was so happy for her, but I would only be able to attend the wedding.

    I’ll admit I loved when a friend from another state included a note with an invitation to an event that she knew I likely couldn’t make it, but she wanted to include me in some fashion and if I could, it would mean the world to get a text from her on that day. It meant I was completely off the hook and didn’t have any guilt over saying no or worries that doing so would spark a massive rift.

    Just my arsevice as a friend of mine says.

    • Rora

      Thank you for sharing that anecdote about your friend. I intend on inviting a few people who live overseas because I want them to know they are important to me. I know for a fact that they will not be able to attend, and I sometimes worry about making them feel guilty, or perhaps feel obligated to send a gift or somesuch. I think I’ll do like your friend and include a personal note with the invite.

      • Jenna S W

        Seconding this! I love that your friend suggested that you send a text on the day of the event, so that you were more tangibly ‘there in spirit’. I also love the idea of letting people know that you are inviting them because they are important to you, and that the invitation is intended just to be an expression of that sentiment rather than the expectation of gifts/attendance.

        • Annonyanka

          :) I’m lucky enough to know some pretty awesome people. We already had a habit of each of us texting each other on important days that we couldn’t be there for (like birthdays) so it really suited how we were with each other. She also knows well how easily I feel guilt over things I sometimes probably shouldn’t feel guilty about.

    • stella

      Agreed. Its hard to hear ‘its not an imposition’ simply because the fact is that not every wedding or event you are invited to is thrown by an APW reader or even a sane person. Many, many family and ‘friends’ do consider it a huge insult if you politely decline an invitation. Last week I was berated for 15 minutes by someone because I said I didn’t wish to take part in a HYPOTHETICAL event they wanted me to do.

      As someone who has a very hard time saying no to people, getting invites to things where I know the persons reaction to a ‘no’ is going to be unreasonable is one of my worst nightmares. I usually fold and then feel secretly bitter and resentful. My therapist has told me though, think of how you’ll feel at the event…. As uncomfortable as it is to set boundaries and say no, if you’ll feel more uncomfortable doing the thing then stand your ground.

      • Eh

        My MIL is insulted when we decline invitations. My husband works weekends (he used to get most Saturday off but now he works Thursday-Sunday every week) so he just doesn’t have the time to go to every event. Before our wedding my MIL was really upset every time I would go to my family’s events instead of my in-law’s events (e.g., holidays). My family lives 7 hours away so if I get the chance to go (and if my husband can go too – bonus) then I’m taking that opportunity. (She’s a bit better since the wedding because she’s now met my family and they are no longer hypothetical people, though she still gets upset that my husband is using over half of his vacation to spend time with my family this summer.)
        We have a lot of events we’ve been invited to this summer (including my sister’s wedding and my husband’s friends wedding, which we are both in respectively and are a week apart) plus we both are turning thirty. Last year we set boundaries around the holidays, this year we are realizing we need to set some around summer events too. We have prioritized the events which means that it is unlikely that we will be going to his great aunt and uncle’s anniversary party or his grandfather’s family reunion (this actually conflicts with another family event and my MIL is upset that we suggested we were going to go to the other family event instead of the reunion).
        I haven’t had a weekend at home in over a month so next weekend I’m staying home and if anyone invites me anywhere I’m declining (my backyard needs some attention).

    • notquitecece

      Seconded on the note w/invite — we did this for a friend’s baby shower. She had a lot of cross-country friends/family, and we knew they wouldn’t fly 3000 miles for a shower, but we wanted to make sure they felt thought-of. I included a note in each invite that said “we know this is a long way to come and you probably won’t make it, but we wanted you to know she’s thinking of you!” (I ran the language by her first.) I don’t think there were any hurt feelings, and people seemed to appreciate it.

      • Sarah McClelland

        This is a really lovely idea- I really hope it’s one that helps, I know it’s helped me already!!

      • MassachusettsAli

        Actually, was that shower tea party themed? It is a stretch but here I am 3000 miles away from my pal, and I had that invite on my fridge for a lonnng time, so I seem to recall very similar wording! Either way, yes, details like that are appreciated by those of us who are far away and can’t make it, even if we would have loved to be there. :)

        • notquitecece

          Ha, it was sort of tea-party themed! I’m glad it communicated the thought :)

          • Zach

            I love this random online connection.

          • MassachusettsAli

            It comes in a post where the header is a picture from my wedding, too, so I am basically cracking up. I think it just highlights how delightful the APW community is though, and like minds, etc!

  • Julia27

    Oh family. I’ve already heard through the family grapevine that my aunt has complained about my wedding location. We’re having it in my fiance’s city because, well, cities have more resources than my small upstate New York hometown. Oh and my wedding might interrupt her cruise schedule. Oy. Thank God for friends!

  • I concur with most of this advice. I think that weddings/birthdays/graduations while about us, are also not about us at the same time. I think that we are members of communities and families who may or may not be excited about our plans. While invitations are not obligations, sometimes they actually are depending on the relationship. I think it’s important to be aware of when some events need to take a backseat or need to be low key. Most people have very busy lives and cannot be there for every event. I think part of the difficulty is not taking things personally. Again, it’s not about us as individuals. People make comments based on their own needs. It’s a hard line to walk, I completely get that. Not saying, curb your enthusiasm, just thinking that we need to look to the horizon and ask what is good for the long term health of our relationships.

    • laddibugg

      ” While invitations are not obligations, sometimes they actually are depending on the relationship.”

      I somewhat agree. What I think people here tend to forget is that not everyone in their lives reads APW or similar blogs. Those people really do feel like they are obligated to attend every event, even if YOU don’t actually care (but you do, don’t you? You invited them….). Who is say they are wrong?

      The OP wants things laid back, but even with casual affairs, the same amount of time is required from your guests….they still have to block off time in their calendar and life regardless of the formality of the affair.

  • Michelle

    I know this may sound silly, but from the letter I can tell if you directly said this to your relatives. Perhaps you, or even a parent/sibling who hears these comments can say “This is a big year of celebrations for me and of course I would love to have you at each event, but I realize traveling that distance is not easy. I hope you know that I won’t be offended if you can only attend one event.” You may even want to point out (depending on the person) that you’re inviting them because they’ve always been a big supporter of your life/degree/relationship.

    • Guest

      Yep. Because the reason that people start to feel obligated to attend every little thing is because some hosts DO actually expect you to attend All the Events, to the point of getting offended if you don’t come and don’t have whatever they deem a “good” excuse.

      So it’s worth setting yourself apart from these people in advance.

      • Eh

        It’s not just the hosts that might have those expectations. My husband and I weren’t insulted that some people didn’t come to our wedding but I know my MIL pretty upset. I know some people were upset that my SIL didn’t come to my shower (my MIL is about appearances so she made an excuse for my SIL). My MIL expects that my husband and I drop everything for all family events (my family lives 7 hours away so it’s not possible for both of us to be in both places for holidays). My FIL frequently reminds her that we have to do what is best for us because we are busy people and my husband works weekends.

  • Claire

    Just a small aside note, not meant to be discouraging at all- don’t forget also the amount of your time/ energy/ cost that planning and attending all these parties will take! With a little over three months to go, and the knowledge that you’ll be dedicating time to several events of your own (and probably fun events for friends!), don’t forget to build in a few empty weekends for yourself and your sanity!

    • Danielle

      Yes! I inadvertently do this all the time by only thinking about the time commitment for the actual event and forgetting that planning a cocktail party, lake trip, birthday party, etc. all in a month or two means lots of time cooking, cleaning and working on details. Then I start getting wiped out without any time to relax or read or hang out on the weekends. The parties are always fun and I love the planning parts, but I manage to over schedule myself this way a few months every year. :)

  • Nell

    Pro tip for people invited to multiple parties: Don’t snark! Be honest! A dear friend of mine got married in a far away state while I was unemployed. I said to her up front: “I’m sorry, but I can only afford to come to either your bachelorette or your wedding shower – which one would you rather I attend?” She picked bachelorette, and we had a great time.

    • River

      You are killing it with the good advice, lady!

    • elysiarenee

      I feel torn about this. On an ethical and intellectual level I agree
      that the writer should (be able to) celebrate each of these major
      milestones however she so chooses. My instinct is still a slightly
      panicked ‘too many parties!!’

      I preface what I’m about to say
      with adding that I am an introvert; I feel relatively time/resource poor
      and my friends and family are so geographically disparate that
      attending major events usually involves major travel but I can’t think
      of many friends or family members for whom I would happily attend this
      many events in such close succession. I realise that is making this
      about me. Inviting people to events is about them though, not an
      imposition of course but if someone is invited and they love you they
      have the reasonable expectation that you want them there and will at
      least be somewhat disappointed if you can’t make it. On a practical
      level (without the time or money to attend all the events) this would
      mean (most?) people having to choose which of your events seems most
      ‘significant’ to them to merit them choosing that as the one they can
      attend and perhaps that’s where most of the discomfort arises from.
      Nobody wants to communicate to their friend that they feel their
      graduation is more significant than their wedding etc.

      I would feel really uncomfortable asking people to multiple me-centered
      events in such a short period of time and probably combine birthday and
      graduation (since they would both be celebrating me specifically). If the writer wants all of these events to be
      large enough events to call them ‘parties’ then I would say just
      practically the less you have the more people will be able to come to
      each. Perhaps
      the solution is just as you describe that the scale and nature of the
      parties are quite different, I mean how many people are we talking about
      who will be invited to every one of the events? If you only care about your inner circle who live nearby and see
      you frequently anyway being at all of the events then have one or 2 of
      the events be at a much smaller scale to only include those people who always make time for you.

      wedding might not be an imposition but people usually only have about
      one of those per lifetime. If all of my friends marked all of their milestones with large separate parties I would be so emotionally drained and losing friends left, right and center because of the extent to which I could not attend all of the things.

  • Natalie

    One note on the aunt – you said she was trying to plan a separate event – maybe this was because she wanted to plan and host a party to celebrate your wedding/you? Our wedding isn’t until next year, but I’ve heard of women having one or two different showers in different locations so it’s easier on some of the guests – (i.e, the bride is from a town she no longer lives in and then has a shower in both places.)… just a thought, but maybe she was trying to be nice? :)

    • Peekayla

      I’m having 2 showers for exactly that reason. I’m living in Western Massachusetts, where my fiancee’s family is from. So my maids are throwing me a shower out here with his family and our friends invited. And my mom threw me a shower in my hometown with my family and family friends invited.

  • Lawyerette510

    Congratulations on all the awesome things you have coming up! You deserve lots and lots of celebration to mark all these great milestones!

  • ElisabethJoanne

    On whether to have friends-only parties: You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t, like with a lot of wedding issues. Just because people won’t/can’t come doesn’t mean they won’t be offended by not getting invited. Even more so when people have already been informed about the party. Just take the rest of the advice. It’s not about you. It’s about other people’s issues, which we can never really know or understand.

    I’d also note that some people experience events through the planning. I don’t think that makes us self-centered, just analytical and sometimes tactless. For example, my friend is having a birthday party Saturday, for which I’ve had to do the normal stuff – discuss it with my husband, figure out transportation. When I got the invitation, it was those practicalities that were first in my mind, not “Oh fun! a party!” Weeks after the event, dealing with the practicalities will be as much a part of my memories of the event as the party itself. This is just my personality; I’m never an “Oh fun! a party”-first person. I’m mature enough that I wouldn’t bring up my practicalities with my friend (unless I thought she could help), but I wasn’t always this way, and I still sometimes have trouble in person and with family.

    • Violet

      It’s really true that some people just get something out of feeling offended. So they make it happen no matter what: “She didn’t invite me!? I’m so offended.” “How dare she invite me when she knows I’m busy/broke/etc. I’m so offended.” This is exactly the time not to take those responses personally.

      • ART

        SO TRUE!

    • anon

      I think differentiating the audience between events makes a lot of sense. Parents’ friends are going to want to come to weddings, but I don’t see them as the typical attendees of birthday parties. And I also don’t think it’s terrible to combine certain celebrations into a big party (say, bday and graduation or graduation and shower or whatever) and then still have an intimate dinner or toast or just chill meet me at happy hour for the actual birthday or something.

  • js

    You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t with some people. My own sister didn’t attend my wedding. It was hurtful and I was a little humiliated, but it didn’t stop me from getting married and enjoying the day. You worked hard for your education, 30 is a milestone birthday and you’re getting married! You deserve to celebrate and be happy! A bunch of internet strangers are happy for you, even if some of your family can’t be.

  • Jane

    Le sigh. In this isolated, smartphone, netflix world, it seems that many people don’t appreciate the value of getting together, of hospitality, of entertaining face to face. But celebrations are the staff of life! The longer I live, the more I love a good party, small, large, or medium sized, thrown for a specific event or for nothing at all but the fun of a Saturday night. A party is a chance to connect with people outside of the internet, in real time, with real party clothes and real conversations. And I notice that the happiest people I know feel the same way.

    You are giving people a gift–a chance to enjoy community and hospitality. If there are those who don’t see it that way, pity them for a moment and then think no more about it. Throw your celebrations with abandon and see to it that the attendees are well taken care of. You will be loved and remembered for it. Keep throwing those parties, invite everyone you think of, and make a point of attending the parties of others as much as you can.

    • Meg Keene

      Re: the discussion above about the complicated emotions that can come with celebrating other people… sometimes I just switch my head space as a guest. I stop thinking “we’re celebrating this thing I don’t have,” and just think PARTY!!! It helps.

    • Alyssa M

      Yes! So much yes to everything you say! It’s also why I freakin love holidays so so much. I try to add on extra reasons for celebrations throughout the year (summer solstice camping trip please!) just for this reason.

  • Alex

    Thank you for this post! I am in a very similar situation in which I will be graduating from a professional program a month before my wedding. I wanted to have a party, but then my mom said that after already graduating three times (high school, associates, bachelors) and because everyone would already be coming to the wedding, no one would want to come to the extra party and it might seem selfish. And I guess I can understand.

    But I can’t help but think that this is my BIGGEST graduation. I’ve worked so hard for my degree and to get that “Dr.” in front of my name. No one in my family has ever done something like this and this one is the end of my educational career. Actually, even the suggestion that my wedding is more important than all of the work I’ve put in to my education and my degree is kind of insulting. I can’t help but think that it is seen this way because I’m a woman… Maybe I’m just paranoid.

    I don’t want “extra gifts.” That’s not my motivation, and quite honestly I think it is insulting that anyone who knows me would think this. But I do want some recognition from my friends and family that I’ve done something really difficult. I want someone to say “congratulations” because of my degree and be excited about the start of my really great career. To be the first doctor in my family. But maybe this is selfish? Is wanting recognition selfish?

    I like the suggestion of only inviting friends and immediate family. Maybe that’s what I’ll do.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      Let me say: Congratulations!

      As others are saying, What is wrong with our society that parties are now considered selfish? You’re giving people a free fun time! Where were these people’s proverbial mothers? How did they not learn that when you thank Susie’s mom for hosting Susie’s birthday party, and Susie thanks you for coming, that’s supposed to be sincere? Might not always be, but that’s the goal.

      Throw the parties that will give you the most happiness in the long range – maybe that’s a smaller graduation party than your first inclination, so you don’t have to deal with family drama. Maybe you take this opportunity to learn to have tiny, quiet parties with just your partner and maybe a couple friends.

    • Lola

      Congratulations! I fully agree that the work it takes to achieve a degree deserves recognition and congratulations, and we don’t often celebrate or recognize it enough. It’s not selfish to want to hear, Congrats, Dr. Alex! I finished my PhD this year and I was secretly thrilled when my friends threw a party after my defense and my mom offered to host an open house for friends at home when I was back visiting. That said, I was too worried about people’s impressions to ask/request it and thus needed other people to step up and say it was ok, so, uhm, there’s that.

      All that said, I think this is also a know your audience situation. My family is proud of me and in many ways my graduation party from them is also about them getting to revel in their pride whereas my friends’ celebration was more about my accomplishment. Really different groups at each gathering and different vibes and that’s cool. I intentionally didn’t invite many friends to the family-thrown party ‘cuz, well, different crowds.

    • Nell

      I hear you – being Dr. anything is an amazing achievement – and I know people who have had longer relationships with their dissertations than their fiance(e)s. I struggle with feeling like I have to have everyone I love around because more friends = more love, right? But this post was really helpful in getting me to rethink that: Maybe there are some people who are just going to “get” your accomplishment more than others (classmates? ex-roomies? academic mentors?) – they might not be the same people invited to your wedding. OR, you might have a graduation party WITH the people who are graduating alongside you, and your nearest and dearest can bond with each other.

    • Heather

      Congratulations Dr. Alex! I’m in a similar boat- I defended my thesis this spring and I’ll be getting married this fall. I told someone that I thought the defense was in some ways a bigger deal than the wedding (and got a weird look), but I agree with you that it’s a huge accomplishment. That said, for me, the wedding will be a bigger celebration- I think it’s easier for people to justify travel from out of town for a wedding vs. graduation etc. I didn’t really throw myself a thesis party, but I was lucky to have my parents, favorite, aunt, and one of my bffs travel in from out of town to attend my thesis defense (and my grandma asked if she should come to one, which should it be, which is kinda sweet), so I was celebrated by those close to me. So, it doesn’t necessarily take a specific party to get those feelings, and I hope that you too will feel celebrated and recognized by those close to you. So, I guess know your crowd and know that it’s not selfish to recognize your accomplishments. What you’ve accomplished is such a big deal!

      • Kristin Beaton

        A friend of mind just defended in Holland, and there you actually have people “stand up” with you for support, just like bridesmaids or groomsmen at a wedding. They can be colleagues, but don’t have to be, they can be anyone who helped you get through your degree. I thought this is a really cool idea, and wished they did that in North America!

    • Whitney S.

      Number one. You are not selfish for being excited about your PhD. The End. This is awesome. Getting a PhD is the definition of delaying all the gratification.

      Secondly, I don’t think you’re paranoid. Which is why my smart ass self would say, “Mom. You are so right about it being a little selfish for having two milestone in the same year. My dear Partner and I will head down to the courthouse, and get this married stuff out of the way so I can get started on planning THE BEST GRADUATION PARTY EVA!!!!”

      The cricket chirps would be priceless. ;)

      • Alex

        BAHAHA, the look on her face WOULD be priceless. Love it.

    • Sarah McClelland

      Yay for you, Alex!
      And yes. Have the party. Have whatever version you want because you’ve worked really hard for it. A Ph.D is a giant accomplishment- and I’m going to echo all the other thank yous voiced for sharing where you’re at-because it seems to be a place a lot of the ladies in this community are finding themselves in. (And, while I’m rambling can I say how awesome all of you are for making all these big moves?? And how glad I am that there’s a place where we can share them all???!?)

      Within a year of our wedding, both my fiancé and I are hoping(praying, longing, crossing our fingers and toes) to be ordained, at 2 separate times and in 2 separate churches. He graduated from seminary last month. It’ll be a year of parties for us too. And not things to duck out of or downplay- they are big deal moments and thanks to y’all affirming the feeling, we are gonna celebrate them, dammit!

    • Dawn

      Congrats! I finished my PhD four months before my wedding. I felt that what I really deserved congratulations for was the degree, but securing myself a husband, so I hear you. That said, I had a small, local, casual “meet here” after graduating and a much larger wedding. I still regret not getting to have a dissertation draft burning bonfire!

  • honey come home

    This is a big, happy and exciting year for you. But it’s worth keeping in mind that your friends and family probably aren’t having the same kind of year. I was in the midst of the worst period in my life while I was the bridesmaid in friends’ weddings. My BFF got engaged, got promoted, bought a house, got a puppy, got married and got an even better job offer all during the time I was dealing with unemployment, family and personal health issues and living at home again in my 20’s. I was happy for her and wanted to celebrate all those things with and for her, but that didn’t stop me from feeling wretchedly jealous and burnt out. I declined many casual get togethers and a handful of other life celebrations from other friends because I didn’t have the emotional energy for them. I think APW talks a lot about time and physical limitations, like how far guests have to travel or time they put in. But celebrating isn’t a neutral thing, and you are asking for emotional commitments when you extend those invitations. I think that’s even more of a reason for people not to snark about it, but they might not doing it intentionally.

    You’re not just asking people to come to a party for no reason. And none of your parties exist in a vacuum, even if you don’t ask for gifts and are paying for them yourself or asking people to drive or understand if not everyone can make it to everything. Your party is not an imposition, but it’s not nothing, either.

    • Meg Keene

      I think this is just a nice reminder to all of us to keep it in check. I was at a housewarming for a multi-multi-million dollar house (of people younger than us! #SanFranciscoProblems) and I had to lock myself in the bathroom for a minute to do some deep breathing to remind myself how much we liked our friends, and how my shit of growing up without much money and being scared of places so fancy I couldn’t figure out how to flush the toilet was NOT their shit. It had nothing to do with their party being an imposition, but that your internal issues can be complicated. SO. Yeah. Good reminder to check yourself before you wreck yourself.

      Wreck yourself when you get home, in private, if you need to. Or decline nicely if you know you can’t manage that. And locking yourself in the bathroom for a few for some breathing is ALWAYS an option.

      • KC

        Bathrooms are awesome.

      • ART

        It makes me feel less crazy/jealous that I’m not the only one who has experienced this. Good advice.

    • Julia

      I think this is a worthwhile point — the year I went through my second broken engagement (a failed whirlwind rebound after a burnt out college love) was the same year that 4 of my best friends got married, and I was a bridesmaid for 3 of those weddings. And it was so, so hard for me to attend all the showers and rehearsals and bachelorette parties, etc., not to mention, be a bridesmaid over and over. At the time, I just did not have the emotional capacity/endurance to deal with so much joy and happiness, and that sometimes turned me into an asshole who viewed these other celebrations as a reminder of my own mistakes and sadness. I had to work REALLY hard to get over myself for these moments. I knew I wanted and needed to show up as a good friend, but I remember how incredibly difficult it felt at times! Luckily, these friends knew what I had gone through and were very compassionate (like when I would take my own bathroom break moments at such gatherings, to maybe cry or cuss a little and regroup).

      So yes, parties can bring forth all sorts of weird emotional crap in people. But again — it’s not YOUR issue, it’s theirs. And if they can’t manage their baggage to show up for your big moments, it might be okay they don’t come anyway. The people who mean the most to you will either show up as much as possible, with big smiles on their faces, or find another way to make it up to you. And CONGRATS on so many awesome life things in one year!

    • Alyssa M

      This makes me want to link to Rachel’s “My Life is Good” post, if only I could figure out how on my Kindle. Yes, life is hard sometimes, for EVERYONE. But that’s precisely why, in my opinion, we should celebrate when it is good, not downplay it for fear of upsetting others. When I’m unhappy it’s on me to decline invitations, excuse myself to the bathroom, etc. It’s not on my loved ones to stop being happy… happiness shouldn’t be offensive…

      • scw

        I’m really glad you said this. I completely agree.

    • Jana

      Awesome post. While I typically don’t have jealousy issues, it’s hard when others start living your heart’s dreams. I like this idea of “emotional energy.”

    • laddibugg

      This sums up how I feel. No, your party isn’t a physically imposition, but, IMO, a lot of parties CAN be emotionally stressing

  • Dacia E.

    Honestly? I wish I were your friend, because then I’d have three more fun things to look forward to this year. Who doesn’t love parties?

    • genevathene

      Seriously! I feel honored every time I’m invited to a wedding, even if it’s far away and I can’t make it. It’s the fact that they thought to include me that means a lot. And if I can go, hooray for celebration!

  • lady brett

    along with all of this, i would encourage you to establish whether certain people can’t be pleased, and if so, ignore them (easier said than done, of course). in this case, that means that if you’re sure so-n-so is going to grump about having too many parties, think: are they also going to grump about not being invited? if you can’t make them happy, then, well, you can’t make them happy – and it’s not worth your energy to try.

    (also, congrats! that’s a lot to celebrate!)

    • Rowany

      Exactly – accepting that being self-centered is just who they are (or at least who they are when weddings make them a little crazy) and that you can’t change them, can be a HUGE relief.

  • A slightly different perspective:
    If the showers are in the 2-3 months leading up to your wedding, then yes, you could end up inviting people to four or five events in your honor within a small window of time. AND they all have basically the same theme: starting a new epoch of life (in your 30s/as a married woman) and saying goodbye to the old one (life in your 20s, singledom). It does strike me as a little repetitive.
    Maybe it would help to try to figure out *why* you want to celebrate with your friends and family. What it is about acknowledging your birthday publicly that speaks to you? Do gatherings of friends and family automatically mark something as a “big deal” to you? Are there any other ways to accomplish this?
    Personally, I think I’d book a kick-ass weekend trip for my 30th birthday (after all, you can always have a big party for your 40th or 50th), let people throw you showers when and where and as often as they’d like (example: a friend of my mom’s gave me a shower, and she wasn’t even originally on the guest list! oops!), and then celebrate your graduation in the spring, once all the wedding activities have faded from memory a little bit.

    • MTM

      I don’t think this is fair. Just because she has AWESOME things happening all at once in her life, doesn’t mean she should have to minimize her joy. These are all big life events. Party on, girlfriend.

      • Lola

        I actually think this is fair, especially in terms of pointing out that it may be the *density* of events rather than the *number* that is garnering the responses she’s getting. Three celebrations for a friend over a year is awesome–and pretty doable if you’re local. Three celebrations for one person in 2-3 months is potentially a lot harder to integrate into life without having to rejigger other things. It’s not impossible, but I get how it could start to seem like an imposition to some people, especially if they’re not clear that it’s cool to pick one of the three, or that they’re getting notice of the event without an expectation to attend, or they think they need to do stuff for each one, or they’re in the midst of a tough time and the emotional energy (as noted above) is being condensed into 3 months rather than spread across more time.

        I also think it’s fair to point out that different events can be marked as special and celebrated in different ways. Some with bigger crowds and more people and some more intimately. Some casual get-togethers, some more formal, etc.

        • MTM

          I still disagree. One shouldn’t have to put a graduation celebration on hold because she is getting married. Getting married is not > graduating — both are worth celebrating. It is on the invitee to decide whether or not to go…she shouldn’t have to pause her accomplishments because she’s tying the knot.

      • joanna b.n.

        Fair enough (imo), but I actually took something different from Jessica’s comment: that thinking through what you want out of each of these events can help. Mostly because that way you make sure you get to celebrate each milestone in the way that is most meaningful to you. And if for you the best way to celebrate milestones always looks the same way, then ok, it’s totally your choice to have 4 of the same-looking soirees within a few months and love them up. However, you might find, as Liz and others have suggested, that you need a “end of singledom” moment, or a “women gathering” moment, or a quiet retreat, for one step and a mega all night music and food fueled bash with everyone you know for another. My MOH asked me when I started wedding planning what kinds of experiences I’d like to have before I got married (instead of “do you want a shower, do you want a bachelorette”), and I found it super helpful.

  • Sarah E

    Like Amy March said at the start of the thread, these people are just plain rude. My family is also one of “teasers” and it’s incredibly easy for them to take it too far. I suggest killing them with kindness and shutting the conversation down.

    “Oh, SAC, another party, huh? You must think you’re something extra special than the rest of us.”
    “Auntie Beth, of course not! I’m just so excited for what’s going on in my life and I would so enjoy celebrating these milestones with all the most special people in my life.”
    “Humph, well, not all of us can just pick up and travel every two weeks to your party. Must be nice that you don’t have to travel for the party.”
    “Oh, I totally understand! I just want all my loved ones, especially you to feel included. Of course I know you have a busy schedule. I sent the invitation because I would love to celebrate with you, but I don’t expect everyone to travel all summer. You know mom raised me better than that.”

    Etc. As far as family teasers/snarks go, responding with the utmost of sincerity and kindness usually shuts down the game in my experience. Kind of like shutting down sarcasm/racism/sexism by pretending you don’t get the “joke.” Sincerity makes people stumble. Your mileage may vary, of course, and best of luck. Blast your best “fuck the rest, I’m Flawless” music to tune them out of your brain :-)

  • MassachusettsAli

    Oh hey–the header picture is from my wedding. :D

    …if only I had a more substantial comment. I don’t, I am just now remembering how much fun the wedding was and how much I enjoyed the APW book. Finally something that described things I felt about weddings! Hurrah! What a relief that was. Good advice from a source far more knowledgeable and eloquent than I. ;-)

  • Jessica

    This could be me. I turned 30 in March, graduated a few weeks ago, have an engagement party & bridal shower this month, bachelorette in August, wedding in September. And I’m completely not someone who enjoys being the center of attention. But… You know what? I worked hard for my degree & I’m proud of it. We’ve gone ahead with this line up of events with an attitude of graciousness and understanding.

    If people can’t make certain events, we understand. Family has been invited to everything (but won’t make it to each thing). Friends it has depended on the event. And so far this year has been wonderful. It’s been a joyous time. I’ve treasured celebrating with whoever shows up. So I’d let it go and enjoy! You’ve earned it, and as we all know life is often hard, so enjoy this exciting year.

  • Londongirl83

    I think many of us are in a similar position, in that in any one year there might be multiple things to celebrate. In my case, I got married, turned 30 and moved overseas on a exciting international positing in the space of 6 months. My friends celebrated finishing PHDs, getting married, having babies and christenings. Whilst it was wonderful, it was frankly too much for everyone to celebrate everything with all their family and friends. There simply aren’t enough weekends and everyone needs some downtime. We therefore informally agreed that we would limit the parties to one or two top priorities, in my case my wedding and farewell party. This allowed each one of us to have their own time in the limelight, some personal time and not break the bank.