How Do We Make Sure It’s Not a Disaster When Our Parents Meet?


City mouse might love a country mouse, but where will the parents meet?

by Amy March

three plates of salad and a glass of orange juice on a grey table

Q: I’ve been engaged three days and my fiancée is already freaking out. Our parents haven’t met yet even though they live three hours apart (in part because my parents can be a lot, and in part because it just hasn’t been a priority). Now that we are engaged, everyone (except me) wants a meet and greet to happen because “We are all family now!” Fine. I suggested we meet up for dinner somewhere in between the two parents. She and her parents were on board, but my father didn’t love the restaurant and suggested having her parents come over for a barbecue instead, which sounded good to me. But then my fiancée was unhappy because she thought that would place her parents on unequal footing with mine. My parents live in a fancy suburb of D.C. and hers live in rural Virginia. Okay. Back to a restaurant. But if I pick one her parents like, my dad will hate it. He’s a total food snob. But if I pick one my parents like, her parents will be uncomfortable. How on earth can we plan a wedding when arranging dinner for six people is impossibly difficult?

One person can’t feel all that at once, they’d explode.”

—Ron

A:

“Just because you’ve got the emotional range of a teaspoon doesn’t mean we all have.”

Okay, Harry Potter references aside, you’re right, there are a lot of feelings here, but that doesn’t make this an incomprehensible mystery.  Let’s break down the cast of characters a bit:

Your fiancée: She’s excited to be engaged! She’s nervous about the parents meeting. She feels protective of her parents’ feelings and their experience. She doesn’t want your parents to be hosting her parents; she wants them to meet as equals.

Her parents: They’re excited you two are engaged! They want to meet your parents! They’re not city people and they aren’t comfortable in fancy restaurants.

Your father: Hates bad food.

You: Just would like everyone to eat their brunch and move on.

Here’s the thing. These feelings are all real. They are all valid. They are not all equally important.

We can go ahead and cross your father off the list right away. I’m sorry he has an existential dread of eating a meal at Applebee’s, but that is something he will just have to cope with. It’s a lot easier for someone fancy to simplify than the other way around. Sure, a city dweller might be uncomfortable at a barn raising (that’s what people do in the country right?), but they’ll muddle through. Coming the other way isn’t just a city mouse, country mouse issue; it’s also a class issue. It’s not just a discomfort issue; it’s a privilege issue. The discomfort her parents feel at going to a restaurant that may be out of their budget (even if you’re paying), more than they are comfortable with food costing, potentially involve terminology they are unfamiliar with? (Because who understands fancy restaurant menus these days? Pretty sure nobody, but at least some of us are used to it.) That’s a much bigger deal than your father just not liking the food at one meal.

So, considering everything here, she’s right and you are wrong. Tell your dad he needs to suck it up. But don’t assume you’re off the hook! Lol wayyyyyy too easy. Nope. You just signed up for this group of people and their assorted feelings for the rest of your life, so get used to it! I’m not saying you can never go out to a fancy meal with her parents, or that your parents’ wishes never come first, or even that your desire to just pick something and move on can’t be considered. There are absolutely situations where all sorts of feelings are going to matter more than others.

You just need to focus on your feelings and her feelings first. Make sure the two of you are on the same page. Listen to each other. When she says, “My parents are going to have XYZ feelings about this”—believe her. Start by assuming she knows what she is talking about when she talks about her family, and go from there.

For what it’s worth, even though you’re saying you are baffled by the feelings, you are the first dude who has ever written into Always a Bridesmaid, so I think you’re more tuned into feelings than you give yourself credit for.

Amy March

Amy has loved weddings at least since the second grade when she made an epic diorama of Charles and Diana’s wedding for “important historical event” day. She has purchased every issue of Martha Stewart Weddings ever published and will happily talk to you for an hour about the relative merits of blush and bashful. Her happy place is poolside with a glass of rosé and a good book. 

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  • Katharine Parker

    I agree with everything Amy says, but I would add that, in general, if all parties are reasonable people, everyone wants this meeting to go well and should act polite and considerate at brunch. Consider everyone’s comfort beforehand, then the actual meal will be fine. (Brunch is a pretty good meal for this, since it is relatively short, eggs are the same everywhere, and you don’t spend the entire day worrying about it beforehand, just the time before 11 am). Also, your parents don’t need to be best friends! You want them to be cordial and friendly when they see each other, which honestly does not need to be that often. Your wedding and, if you have them, your children’s birthday parties are basically the only times that both sets of parents are going to want to attend the same event.

    • BSM

      Just want to throw my full support behind brunch is the best meal for everything; we suggest it for every extended family meal and have essentially converted my in-laws on it, too. It’s on the weekend but at the beginning of the day so it’s easy to schedule, you can go to a restaurant of nearly any cuisine/price range/fanciness/location and there will always be a 2 eggs + toast + meat option on the menu, it’s relatively affordable, it’s relatively quick, you have the whole day ahead of you afterwards, you can get a mimosa (or two or not) – I could go on, but you get the picture.

      • rg223

        But don’t you feel like in this situation there might be pressure on both sets of parents to “do something” after brunch together as well? The downside to brunch is that there’s no natural end to the festivities. ETA: aside from the literal end of brunch, haha.

        • penguin

          Make other plans for immediately after brunch so you have an exit plan :) Otherwise, yes I could definitely see that happening. My future in-laws are good for stretching a meal into a full day of “activities!” so now we plan ahead.

          • rg223

            Good point, and I agree with you – I would need to have an exit plan and communicate it to both my parents and in-laws for brunch to be the end of the meet-up.

          • AmandaBee

            My in-laws = your in-laws. Having a solid, concrete plan with a strict time requirement (oh, we HAVE to be at the whateverplace by 1pm!) is essential if we don’t want to linger all day.

            (Sometimes we linger all day because they’re nice people and that’s fun, but in this case I’d have some plans made up to relieve the parents of that obligation).

          • emmers

            I love the pre-family game plans. :)

          • Fushigidane

            I wish I could do that. My mom thinks it’s rude if we leave immediately following a meal/ don’t spend time together before and after.

        • BSM

          Not at all. The natural end to the festivities is the end of the meal:

          “It was so nice to meet you! Have a safe drive home, and we can’t wait to see you the next time you’re in town/at the rehearsal/at the wedding! BYE.”

          • Cleo

            Right. And paying the bill at a restaurant tends to signal to everyone it’s time to leave, regardless of the time of day.

          • Amy March

            And then you get in your car and go home!

        • Jess

          My mom *loves* to stretch a quick event out. I have spent many years practicing saying “Oh no, we have to get back to do [important thing], but thank you so much for offering!”

          • rg223

            I mean TBH I am an event-stretcher at times too – “we’re having fun together! Let’s keep having fun together!” (I probably learned this from my parents haha.) But I recognize that events often need clear end-times to keep them enjoyable and manageable for everyone, and I think in-laws-meeting-for-the-first-time is one of those times.

          • Jess

            I’m down with event stretchers when I am having fun! Friends get an all day booking, just in case.

            Family and I are complicated, so we schedule “outs”

          • Jessica

            Getting a dog has helped us end these so much.

            My husband likes the event stretch though. We once had a fight where he asked if I hated his family, because I make a plan for when we’re going to leave (typically 3-4 hours into the event) and sometimes chill out on my phone (because we’ve been at his parent’s house for 6 hours and I need a break from people). I just don’t like hanging out with a lot of people for that long. And, not to sound like a wino, but they rarely have alcohol at these events, so my tolerance for their creationist weirdness is lower.

          • AmandaBee

            Solidarity. I have also had the “just because I don’t want to be at your parents house ALL night doesn’t mean I don’t like them” fight​. I actually do like my in laws! I just also like, you know, doing other stuff with my weekends/holidays.

    • Jess

      “Also, your parents don’t need to be best friends! You want them to be cordial and friendly when they see each other, which honestly does not need to be that often.”

      SO MUCH THIS.

      • penguin

        Agreed – I wish we’d stuck to that guideline. My FMIL kept pushing to have my brother and dad (my local family) attend holidays and things at the in-laws place, and it was awkward. It’s a bit easier now since she sent my dad a nasty email and he never wants to see them again…

        • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

          Criiiiiiiinge.

        • Jess

          Any holiday we spend at R’s sister’s (a lot of them, lately) have involved her in-laws. It’s… a lot for me.

          I’m glad we set up alternating years and that geography prevents this from happening in our lives.

        • Yet another Meg

          See, we do all major holidays combined with both families, but both sets of parents live in the same town as us. It’s also a bonus that my mother loves to have people in, and my in-laws would much rather have everyone go to a restaurant. So it works out in that my in-laws no longer have to cook a turkey or anything for Christmas etc. and they get the jy of inviting my parents out to dinner every so often. I should also note that our moms have sort of become friends ( lunch/coffee once a month etc). It can work…but I totally see how what our family does is not necessarily a blueprint for everyone. I know for sure that will never be how things are between my husband’s parents and my brother-in-law’s in laws.

          TLDR: Sharing everything with local family can work, but it depends on the people

      • theteenygirl

        So agreed. I keep hearing about people whose parents and in laws are friends and I find it 1) really cute and awesome and 2) very very strange. I don’t think I ever saw my grandparents from my mum’s side and dad’s side in the same room? I had to explain to FH that we should probably never expect our parents to meet again after the wedding, so it’s NBD if they don’t spend a lot of time together now. That’s also because they live in different countries, but yeah.

        • K. is skittish about disqus

          I kind of/definitely selfishly *don’t* want my in-laws and parents to be actual friends! I love that they respect and like each other – it makes our lives so much easier, and also helps us know that there won’t be alpha/beta grandparent wars.

          Buuuuut. I’m so close to my mom and we talk about everything…so it helps that I can turn to her as a venting outlet when my in-laws do something that rubs me the wrong way but isn’t worth bringing up to my husband (which is pretty common in most in-law relationships, I think!) It would be hard if my mom and my MIL were close and my mom always defended her, like friends do, when I’m really just needing to get something off my chest so it doesn’t creep into my marriage or my actual relationship with my in-laws.

          • Amy March

            This is a great point.

          • BSM

            Also, maybe even more selfishly, I kind of like that our families of origin and their associated traditions and quirks can be kept separate. It makes interacting with either of them both more enjoyable and manageable, for some reason.

          • AP

            Oh yes to this. Our families of origin are just so different. The ‘intermingling families’ parts of our wedding and rehearsal dinner were awful. I really would rather keep those experiences few and far between.

          • anon

            I’m kind of wierded out/annoyed that my mom is trying so hard to be friends with my in-laws. I live in an apartment above my in-laws and they’re all happy with their son treating it like his own place so we only see them really 1-2x a week usually and it’s usually for quick 5-10 minute chats while we do laundry. My mom is exhausting and will talk for hours about anything and everything. Usually it’s stupid stuff we’ve heard a million times or harmless gossip but it is exhausting listening to her talk for hours. My in-laws are not the type to talk for hours and hours and plus they are early bedtime people whereas my mom is primarily awake at night. Also still super annoyed that the first time they met, my mom went on about what an awful wife I’d make.
            I didn’t expect this. My grandparents have seen each other maybe half a dozen times in my lifetime. I think part of it is my mom trying to get herself invited over more so that she can see us. She was already jealous of my in-laws being in such close proximity when we were just dating, anticipating that we’d be moving in to the same apartment.

          • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

            It sounds to me like your mom is feeling left out. Do you go out of your way to call/text/email/facebook/make plans with her much, or is she the one barging in 98% of the time? I found that my mom was a lot less intrusive (and a lot less invested in making conversations last forever) when I went out of my way to get in touch with her, on my own terms. Just a thought.

          • anon

            Mom’s talks endlessly to everyone. Tried spending more time with her when I started dating my husband and she kept complaining I wasn’t spending enough time with her even though I was technically spending more time with her than before. She’s always been this way. She would try to start conversations with me after I tell her goodnight, after being home all night, and get mad at me when I tell her I’m tired and have work the next day. To make it worse, when I still lived at home and would go into her room (when I had enough energy to listen to her for a good amount of time) half the time she ignored me for the TV….and then got mad when I would give up on having her attention and try to leave.

          • anon

            Also I’ve only been married 2 months and I’ve seen my parents 6 times since then, and that’s with a honeymoon directly afterwards.

          • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

            Eeesh. I had a friend like that in college. It was exhausting.

          • Jessica

            I feel the exact same way. My mom commented a while back that she and my brother’s in-laws get along great and would like to see each other more often (they live 6 hours away), but finds my husband’s family odd (they live 5 minutes away). It makes talking to her about their weird behavior easier.

        • sofar

          My in-laws seriously proposed going on a vacation with my parents or spending a week in their city to “get some quality time.” I nearly choked on my shock. This would be my parents’ worst nightmare. They like my in-laws fine, but they are cool with formal distance and cordial meetings *maybe* once a year.

          My in-laws want to be “family” and constantly lament that my parents don’t feel like family to them and I basically have to say, “My parents are shut-ins and don’t socialize, so please understand.” They are not anti-social shut-ins, but my in-laws would be deeply insulted if I said, “They just don’t want to be friends with you. Please just leave them be.”

          • CII

            This is my exact situation, although my parents do verge on shut-in territory. There were a LOT of hurt feelings for a few years, especially around holidays, because MiL’s reaction was “your parents should just come to our house and we can all celebrate together” every time my parents wanted some time reserved for them during the holidays. To which my parents were straight up “no, not interested.” (Because their view is we don’t have anything in common with you except that our daughter and son love each other.) Which, in turn, was confusing and hurtful to MiL because she is used to all family members (including her in-laws) coming to her house and literally could not understand that my parents just did not want to be friends with her. Then we tried to spend a Thanksgiving dinner together a few years ago, it was a disaster, and now I think everyone has accepted separate family time.

          • sofar

            Oh, yes, you understand how it is, then!

            My in-laws literally do not understand why my parents want “separate time” with us and don’t relish spending a bunch of time with them in general. It really hurts their feelings. Meanwhile, my parents are frustrated at being “forced” into a relationship they don’t really want and don’t get why anyone would take that personally.

            The biggest issue is hotels. My in-laws do not get why my dad wants to stay at a hotel rather than with them. And my dad doesn’t get why my in-laws wouldn’t rather stay in a hotel when they visit.

      • Knonymous

        I was so surprised a few months ago to watch an old video of my grandmother’s 60th birthday. The people in attendance were all relatives, and relatives’ in-laws: her daughters’ in-laws, her sisters’ in-laws, etc. Half the people there were someone else’s in-laws! I could not ever imagine having the equivalent people in my life be invited to my birthday party. I’d barely even expect my OWN in-laws to be there!

        I don’t know if it is a cultural difference, a generational difference, or just that my grandma was so nice she made friends with everyone, but that’s definitely not the way relationships play out in my life.

        My own in-laws spent a long time wanting to get together with my parents whenever they were in the same metro area. Since that was invariably for events like helping me move out of my apartment, my parents just felt put out and wanted nothing to do with a relationship that would extend beyond the wedding weekend and now our son’s birthday parties.

        • MDBethann

          Some of that may have also been due to the fact that people often didn’t leave their hometowns, so they knew “everyone” – you married childhood friends/neighbors or a friend’s sibling. My family moved to a small, rural, college town when I was starting junior high and you had to be really careful if you ever talked about anyone, because unbeknownst to you, it might be an in-law or 2nd cousin. My parents have lived there for 27 years and I probably still learn about people being related that I didn’t previously know about.

    • Eenie

      I didn’t even plan our parents meeting! They live so far away, and would never be friends. They are all enough of adults to act appropriately in the very rare cases they ever see each other again.

    • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

      “Eggs are the same everywhere” should be a bit of advice bandied about more often. I want it to become shorthand.

    • Em

      Late to the party, but seconding this “meal other than dinner” option – brunch is a great idea, even a fancy brunch is likely to be within everyone’s budgetary comfort zones (leaving aside super expensive hotel buffets, but I’m thinking more nice/casual cafe type brunch), and contains many fewer opportunities for trip ups like “how nice a bottle of wine does everyone feel comfortable drinking” etc. Also, who doesn’t love brunch?

  • Sara

    Amy is spot on, but I’d also say this is a time to set some boundaries with your dad. Everyone but him agreed to the restaurant? And instead he wanted them on his turf? Not really cool IMO. Maybe he means nothing by it, but I agree the first time you all get together should be on neutral territory. (I may have residual feelings from a past experience on this) If you’re really worried he’ll make a scene, do some research on Yelp and find something that’s got good reviews. Or worse case, give him two options and tell him those are the choices, he can pick one. But don’t let him take over the night. You and your fiancee should be in charge and the center of attention here.

  • Sarah

    Is having the parents to your house (or your fiance’s place if you don’t live together) an option? For the meet and greet you two should pay….and give your card to the waiter/host ahead of time so they know to just run it and there’s no weird dance/fight over the bill. Also…get to the restaurant early so you don’t have two sets of parents kinda staring like “are these x’s parents?”

    • Cleo

      “For the meet and greet you two should pay….and give your card to the waiter/host ahead of time so they know to just run it and there’s no weird dance/fight over the bill.”

      YESSSS, this! I remember, growing up, when both sets of my grandparents were in town at the same time and we all went out to dinner together, my step-grandfather (Dad’s mom’s husband) did a lot of weird posturing towards everyone at the table about how he was an orthodontist so he could afford to pay. It was weird and gross for everyone. Eventually my Dad learned to just slip the waiter his card at the beginning of the meal and it made dinner more pleasant for everyone.

      • eas56

        Actually, this would be great because LW could also tell his dad that they want to pay, ergo they get to pick the restaurant. Applebees it is!!

    • K. is skittish about disqus

      Oh god, The Bill Dance. It’s practically a sacred ritual in my husband’s family (now primarily between my husband and his mom) and it makes me SO damn uncomfortable every time. I personally hate games around money, but it’s definitely a culture difference here and I’ve had to learn to suck it up.

      But yeah, big fan of the card-to-the-waiter-at-the-beginning move.

      • sofar

        Laughing so hard over here.

        My husband’s family is brutal in fighting for the bill, and my brother in law usually “wins” and foots the bill for the meal.

        We recently had all our parents and BIL in our city for mother’s day. And I knew my parents would feel uncomfortable with my BIL paying yet again. So my husband and I showed up 15 minutes early and gave our credit card to the waitress and said, “Please make sure THIS is the card you charge for the table’s meal. Others will try to give you their cards, and you can take them if you want (and say you’ll use it), but please make sure you charge THIS card.”

        THAT is how early you need to get in to win the Bill Dance in my husband’s family. I guarantee my BIL will show up half an hour early next time.

        • rg223

          Yeah, my in-laws frequently come to near-fisticuffs to pay for the bill. We’ve gone early and handed over our cards to circumnavigate it too. It’s deeply culturally ingrained, so subterfuge is our only option.

          • penguin

            Yep this is how it is when my family goes out. It’s good-natured overall but can still get frustrating. My dad and I have resorted to subterfuge. I’ll get up to go to the bathroom shortly after food comes, and pay the bill. Or my dad will get there first and give them his card ahead of time, etc etc.

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        • Rose

          My inlaws are like this. It’s worse with each older generation–my grandfather in law is a terror. I find talking about who’s spending money and gifting uncomfortable (I don’t mind doing it, just talking about it), so it’s not my favorite thing. I’m getting used to it, though. Unless it’s a particular occasion (like taking my wife out for her birthday or something) I don’t bother to play myself. Honestly, if they want the bill so much they can have it.

      • CII

        Genuine question: What is the point of the Bill Dance? Like, culturally, what does it say about you to “win” the Bill Dance or to bow out and let the other person pay?

        I just haven’t seen it done enough, I guess? In my family of origin and in-laws, the rule is pretty-well settled: The person who proposed the dinner out (which are usually always to celebrate a birthday, anniversary, etc.) is the one who does the paying. And with friends, we almost always just split, unless the dinner was specifically proposed as a celebration or thank you, in which case, again, the payor is pretty well-defined.

        • K. is skittish about disqus

          So it’s most about being able to Provide-with-a-capital-P and in my MIL’s specific Latin American culture, a mother and a son both feel pressure to be The Provider in very different ways. Yet at the same time, everyone is still coy about money, so you get this weird back and forth that includes teasing and tricks and complaining and god, I f’ing hate it. Winning usually really means that it’s your “turn,” but it can also be more complex than that. I still don’t quite get the exact pattern…plus, it varies between families, obviously.

          My family is also much more straight forward when it comes to treating. One of us will say at the beginning, “We’d like to treat tonight” and that’s that, unless it’s a birthday dinner or something, in which case I’d say to, say, my dad, “Oh, but it’s your birthday! Please let us treat. You can treat next time.” And that’s that.

        • rg223

          In my husband’s family’s culture, the Bill Dance is a show of wealth, because you paid for the other person. There’s also a cultural concept that’s an obligation to not be a burden on someone, so there’s also an impetus to NOT let someone else pay the bill as well (because you can’t burden them with paying). So being the person who paid is like, doubly desired. Although for birthdays and Mothers Day/Fathers Day, the Bill Dance doesn’t happen because it’s recognized as a gift, I guess.

        • Eenie

          In my family the it is a show of love – I invited you out, I’m going to pay. I almost always offer to split or pay, but I defer to my elders if they really want to pay. I refuse to play into the actual bill dance game – I offer once, and if it’s refused, that’s the end of it. I don’t have time for these games and I have a budget to stick to.

        • K.K.

          I’ll say in my family, it’s sort of a sign of independence or ‘adulthood’ or something like that? Like, my dad and/or uncles will often try to pay when the whole extended family goes out, but my grandfather sees that almost as a threat to his seniority, as saying he’s old and past his prime, almost, and insists on taking the bill, and we always protest a bit and then let him. This doesn’t bother me. I find it appropriate. There is no expectation that my grandfather pay, and never will be, and we make that as clear as we can. We are not there for a free meal, and absolutely are able/willing to support him should he ever need it.

          Similarly, when I got my first paycheck from my first job after college, I took my grandfather out to dinner and made it clear from the beginning that I would be paying and just that once, he let me. And I think it was important for both of us.

    • Jan

      I’m on team host-it-at-your-own-house here (if that’s feasible). I relate to this problem SO HARD; my partner’s parents are very wealthy and liberal, while mine are solidly blue collar and conservative. Pretty much the only thing they have in common is that both sets can be a little biting. WHAT AN EXCITING COMBINATION. They haven’t met yet, partially due to circumstance and partially due to idontwanna. But, the wedding’s in three months, so we’ve got to make this happen. Future in-laws tried really hard to host at their place, but we insisted we do dinner at our house, on equal turf. I’m still terrified to my core that everyone will offend each other, but that’s what wine was created for.

      • sofar

        lol at “idontwanna.”

  • K. is skittish about disqus

    My husband and I have similar class differences between our parents (mine are wealthy, his are not), which is luckily mitigated by everyone both respecting and fundamentally liking each other, even though they come from very different places in life.

    But we still have had to think through similar issues around restaurants and my parents’ place, and how to make sure everyone feels comfortable. My mom would host every single event from now until eternity because gatherings of people she cares about brings her immense joy, and she doesn’t always *quite* get why her generosity could potentially make my (socially anxious, wishes she had more disposable income) MIL feel uncomfortable-to-upset. It’s only been an issue a handful of time because my in-laws live in another state and rarely come our way, but when they do, they tend to see my parents who live close by. So we’ve had to make plans to help everyone feel at ease.

    Honestly, what we’ve done is always, always, always have our respective parents over at our place. We make the food, the menu, provide the drinks, and set it up as our way of joining them together. We’ve lived in a variety of spaces (from the exceptionally cramped to the fairly spacious now) and have always made it work, since the expectations are around us hosting them in and sharing our adult life, rather than it being some meticulously planned event.

    Not sure if that’s an option for you–and also assumes that your dad would accept that/everyone would be functional around a similar set up.

    • BSM

      That’s a great idea!

  • In the hopes of appeasing everyone, I think it would be possible to find a good quality restaurant (even one that caters to foodies with farm-to-table stuff, etc.) that still isn’t over priced or uncomfortable for her parents. I’m thinking a nice sandwich/soup/salad place. Or a good burger spot. Italian? There’s gotta be something that would meet everyone’s needs, or at least vaguely appeal to them. I agree that erring on the side of an affordable and less fancy place is a good idea, but let’s be realistic: If your parents are food snobs and they’re going to be complaining (verbally or just in their facial expressions) about Applebees, that’s probably not a great situation to put everyone in either.

    • Really good point. Betting on particular/snobby people to keep it on the inside is NEVER a safe bet. #iknowwhereinispeak

    • rebecca

      Falafel, was very key to solving this problem for us. Also Neapolitan pizza. If your parents are really into good food but kind of traditional-baby boomer-suburban, cheapish hipster food can actually be great because both sets of parents can be like “Look at this weird food our children eat” if they’re both outside their element.

      • ssha

        Haha, husband wanted to go to a Korean fusion place on his birthday. His parents were in town, we invited mine, and it was definitely “look at this weird food our children eat.” But it does give them something to talk about.

      • scw

        laughing out loud at “look at this weird food our children eat.”

      • sage

        My parents used to let me pick the restaurant where we would eat when they came to visit. One time I took them for pho and they did the whole “look at this weird food our children eat”… the next time they came to town they said “Let’s get dinner. Fuddruckers?”. I have since kept my suggestions to BBQ, Texmex, sandwiches, etc.

        • Cathi

          Aw man, I’d kill for Fuddruckers though! Any place you can put liquid cheese on a burger is a place meant for me.

    • AmandaBee

      +1 to the middle ground if you can find one. Or pick a not-too-fancy place that’s a favorite for you and your fiance, and talk about how much you love it so at least both parents are kind of obligated to pretend to like it (YMMV, know your people, etc.).

    • I had a similar thought, sort of along the lines of: “foodie does not equal expensive or fancy.”

      There are plenty of places that have outstanding food for one or two Yelp dollars that will make everyone comfortable. I totally get that LW’s dad should be a little more accommodating, but it would suck to have him grumble through a meal, too. I think that finding a balance with a different restaurant could make for a great environment for a first meet-and-greet and also put everyone in the right headspace.

      • Jenny

        But often being snobby about food is not just about the food, but the ambiance, the wine list, the fact that it has cloth tableclothes, etc. And if you are trying to find that cheap, good luck, especially if you are doing so with a specifical geography in mind.

    • Mrrpaderp

      Further to your farm to table point – Loudon County might be an option for LW. Plenty of amazing food there. And you can actually pronounce everything on the menu. Red Fox Inn was amazing. If everyone drinks, you could also think about having a picnic at a brewery/distillery/winery. Pick up a growler or bottle to share and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

    • Natalie

      This. As someone whose food snob husband has changed her tastes considerably, I’d be miserable at Applebees. But there are tons of great reasonably priced, not “fancy” restaurants with great food in any city. Places where people are wearing jeans, but the food is actually good. A good pizza place with creative toppings and high quality veggies & cheeses should satisfy both diehard foodies and people opposed to fancy. I have yet to find a city in the US that doesn’t have one of these.

      If the problem is not that the LW’s father is a food snob, but rather that he’s just a snob, in that he doesn’t want to eat anywhere under a certain price or where people aren’t wearing suits, well, that’s a different issue.

    • K.K.

      This is what we did, essentially, for my mom and SO’s parents. We went to an accessible Indian food place a few blocks from us. Wasn’t too pricey for my mom, and had reasonably good American descriptions of each dish, was low-key with no fancy wines in sight, and she felt a bit cosmopolitan or whatever with a cuisine she gets to have only very occasionally. And my SO’s parents love Indian food. We treated. Then afterwards we went to our place for cookies and CodeNames. Everyone had a good time, thank goodness. Neither set of parents has seen the others’ home, and I will never be prepared for that. They have at least all been to restaurants before.

      So, if there is any type of food your father might be willing to go a bit more middle-of-the-road on, that your parents are also down with? Outside D.C. there should be plenty of options. Thai, Mexican, fancy pizza, and hipster burgers all come to mind.

  • Kaitlyn

    We’ve been trying to get our parents together since SEPTEMBER. I finally said, “enough was enough” and decided I was just going to host everyone at our apartment for a big dinner last. I live 2 hours from my mom (and 1 hour from the future in-laws), and guess who bailed? My mom (cue eyeroll). At the rate we’re going, we’re not going to get everyone together till the wedding. They’ve already met once a couple of years ago so I’m kinda over the stress of trying to put them together haha

    • sage

      I feel you. We have been trying to get our parents together for about as long too. They have never met before. We’ve had to cancel three times, but for totally legit reasons that have to do with my future MIL’s health (she is disabled and future FIL is her full-time caregiver). I think now we are rather gun-shy about trying to make plans. At least we still have a few more months before the wedding to make it happen.

      • Kaitlyn

        Yeah I think I decided the next time I’m going to try is the tasting at the venue, we opted to invite both set of rents and it’s still neutral territory, but it’ll probably happy at the year anniversary of when we got engaged haha

  • Do yall live together? Can you just host the parents at your place, that way it’s “equal” ground?

    If it makes you feel any better, our moms didn’t meet each other until the weekend of our wedding due to distance.

    • BSM

      Our moms didn’t meet until the wedding itself, and I don’t think my mom and FIL met even then.

      • Angela’s Back

        Same here, and even though I was kind of worried about it because husband’s mum is artsy and kind of out there and my dad is a scientist and not at all that way, it was fine, everyone was happy because it was a wedding and just generally acted like adults who know how to navigate social situations.

        • BSM

          Yes. And being at the wedding gave them both a very obvious out to go socialize with other people, rather than having to carry on a conversation like they’d have to at a private dinner.

    • Her Lindsayship

      Our parents won’t be meeting till possibly the day of the wedding. We’re trying to make it clear to my future in-laws that they are expected to be at the rehearsal dinner, and that it’s actually a terrible idea to try to make the (5hr-in-no-traffic) drive up on the day of our wedding, but like… I can’t force them. But like yours, our parents don’t live anywhere near each other anyway, so they don’t need to be besties.

      • Jane

        Damn – that sucks. I hope His Lindsayship is feeling ok about that. I’d be freaking out if my parents were suggesting that they might do that drive.

        • Her Lindsayship

          He’s not thrilled about it. If it were my mom, I’d be all up on her case about it (in a polite but firm way) until she understood. He seems to kind of throw his hands up and say, ‘yeah, they’re nuts, nothing I can do.’ There’s more to the story there but basically I think if he’s not feeling ok about it, he needs to manage that by talking to them about it, and he’s not, so I’m trying not to worry.

          • Jane

            Oh yeah, definitely his call on how to handle it. I just feel sad/stressed on his behalf. My dad pulled something like and missed my college graduation, so I feel for him.

      • Eenie

        Oh my, do we have the same in laws? Mine wanted to make the trip up and back the day of our wedding (4.5 hours each way) to save on hotel room. Our wedding started at 6pm. Your husband needs to be more direct! (which I see you mention below…) My in laws only changed their mind when he said, “I’m getting married once, you need to arrive Friday, I’ll pay for the hotel.” We didn’t end up paying for the hotel.

  • savannnah

    Speaking specifically about the food issue it is super complicated because food is cultural and class related. This issue can even happen intergenerationally. My mom went away from her Long Island rural parents and moved to NYC and twenty years later she took all of us to Disneyworld with my grandparents and we went out to a fancy French restaurant and my grandfather was clearly uncomfortable and the food didn’t look like his food and he ended U.K. getting a creme of broccoli soup and it was too rich and he threw up the whole night. Which is all to say my mom wanted to do something nice with well intentions and it was totally wrong for my grandfather.

    • rebecca

      Totally, My mother is driving 4hrs with frozen pulled pork in her car so that she can heat it up in a crock pot and host a party in her hotel room the night before my wedding. I take the fact that I think this is adorable and not mortifying as a sign that I am truly a mature adult who has navigated her class mobility issues lol

      • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

        Your mom is so adorable.

      • AmandaBee

        I would come to that party for sure. Pulled pork ftw!

      • Katelyn

        MY PARENTS!!!!

        They could host another whole wedding reception in their hotel. We’ve had to sneak up multiple coolers and bag after bag of food for my other siblings’ weddings.

        • Jessica

          My parents did that for my brother’s wedding! It was a really fun party–probably more fun than the wedding itself (though that may be because of the epic hangover I had thanks to the hotel party)

          • Katelyn

            My new BIL learned to play euchre at 2 AM at their after party!

  • AmandaBee

    “It’s not just a discomfort issue; it’s a privilege issue.”

    THANK YOU for saying this. Everyone else has already said the important stuff, so I will just cosign this point. Your father, though I’m sure it’s 100% intentional, is making decisions that make a potential privilege gap between him and your fiance’s parents super obvious. Do everyone a favor and either (a) find a middle ground restaurant/plan, or (b) tell him to suck it up for a day.

    And definitely take care of the payment if you can, just to keep everyone on equal footing. Speaking as the one with a less-affluent family (and our gap is not even that big), I can say that my family is pretty touchy about the money thing and would hate to feel like they’re being paid for by some other family.

  • Rosie

    We were really nervous about our moms (who are both divorced) meeting each other after we got engaged, and my mom was really awkward about it (she wanted to know in advance “who would be paying”, and also had refused to meet my fiance’s mom until we were engaged, even though we had been together for 6 years). We ended up picking a local casual-but-trendy restaurant with a large menu (and a liquor license! lol), and told them both in advance that we would be paying for dinner. That seemed to make things less awkward!

  • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

    Our parents live 3 hours apart too. My mom and his stepmom met the weekend my mom came up to help me move into PADude’s place. We were both in sweaty, grubby moving stuff clothing, and my mom was worried that she would make a bad impression because her hair was messy. I called FSMIL to let her know we had time to take a break if she wanted us to pop by, and she was thrown off because she didn’t have iced tea made to offer us as her guests. They BOTH did that OMGworriedmomwantingtomakeagoodimpression thing where I had to assure them that everything will be fiiiiine, and in hindsight it was delightfully endearing. It was the first time I thought, “Oh, I have multiple moms now.”Our dads met when my grandfather passed away, and both sets of parents came to the service and reception after. His dad told a hilaaaaarious story about that time in high school when PADude and his friends got arrested for exploring the new half-built school building going up. We just about crawled under our seats.

  • sofar

    My mom and dad each met my in-laws separately, and it was totally a Clash of the Classes. We now ensure our parents spend as little time together as possible, and this is what I’d suggest to the LW. But, obviously, you have to get that first meeting out of the way …

    My in-laws are lovely, kind but VERY fancy people who love to show off their fanciness. They do not understand people who don’t live this way, and call them “simple people.” My parents are “simple people.” They’re well off, but rural and disdain all shows of fanciness and think less of “fancy people.”

    My FIL couldn’t travel at the time, due to a recent surgery, so my parents had to fly to their city. Meaning my parents were on their turf. When my mom arrived, my in-laws greeted her (in her khaki pants, Teva Sandals and no make-up), and invited her to change out of her “travel clothes.” All the clothing my mom and brought were “travel clothes.” The next night, my in-laws threw a SURPRISE party in their mansion that featured a live band and a guest list in evening gowns. My mother wore here “good” pair of clog shoes. I felt bad, as I thought we were just going out to dinner that night. My mom took it in stride.

    When my dad visited a month later, I told my in-laws that it would best for everyone if we met at a dressed-down dining establishment. In-laws made a reservation at a high-end steak-house. I asked my dad if he could dress business casual and a collared shirt, and he showed up with a smirk on his face, work shoes, torn jeans and an open collared shirt with a t-shirt underneath. We then went back and ate dessert off of fine china in my in-laws’ sitting room that has a literal zebra skin mounted on the wall.

    When my in-laws visited my parents’ home town for the wedding, my parents hosted them for brunch on their back deck and my mom brought out her china. My MIL wore sneakers (which would be as jarring as seeing Emily Gilmore in sneakers) and later told us she enjoyed the “rustic” experience dining outside under the “beautiful trees.”

    Everyone was nice to each other for all visits and tried to meet each other in the middle as best they were able, but I am glad we don’t have to do this often.

    • sage

      Wow, this Clash of the Classes is like something out of a movie!

      ETA: That sounds stressful and I would not be eager to get them together again either!

    • Katharine Parker

      Aside from how this all sounds stressful for you, this is a good example of how class differences go far beyond how much money either side of the family has. The way you choose to spend money, how you dress, how you entertain, etc etc–class shapes culture. Family class differences are tough!

      Also, LOL at “a literal zebra skin mounted on the wall.”

      • sofar

        YES! My parents have enough to afford “nice” cars, but have 10-year-old cars. My in-laws lease luxury cars. Both are happy with their choices, but BOTH their choices make the other set of parents uncomfortable.

        • Sara

          My brother’s ex-in-laws and my parents make similar amounts of money but choose to spend it wildly different ways. They’re big fish in a small town and we live in a major city suburb, but my mom always says she feels like my nephew’s hillbilly family after spending time in their home (which is basically what a home would look like if Michael Kors designed home furnishings). Her home is very nice! She just doesn’t need it to be ‘on trend’ and prefers to spend money on travel or dining out.
          Money makes people crazy.

      • NotMotherTheresa

        Oh my gosh, yes, it goes sooooo much further than money!

        Personally, I tend to get caught in a double bind of awkward: My parents are the *fancy* ones (D-list socialites in a flyover city), while the in-laws are far wealthier, but live in a small farming town and see no reason to show off. This creates a HUGE amount of tension with the in-laws, since they are constantly helping us out financially, while my parents give us nothing, yet my parents are the ones who regularly go to the symphony and host fancy dinner parties. To the in-laws, it seems incredibly selfish that my parents do things like that, and there’s really no non-snobby way to explain that monthly trips to the symphony aren’t *that* much more expensive than weekly trips to the movie theatre.

        Class is SUCH a sticky matter!

    • idkmybffjill

      God I’m so impressed by your mom. I’d have died if someone threw an evening gown party and I didn’t have an evening gown. I’m being partially hyperbolic but I actually think I would maybe have come close to death.

      • Amy March

        And stormed off in anger tbh. That’s incredibly thoughtless. You’re making someone else stick out because you can’t step outside your narrow frame of reference for a minute and think “maybe I should give my guests a quick run down of the events so they can be prepared.” Telling someone to change? That’s just rude and unkind.

        • idkmybffjill

          Super rude. Makes me think of one of the first ladies (I forget which one but Miss Manners mentions her) who smashed a tea cup to make a visiting foreign dignitory feel better about breaking one.

        • sofar

          For the record, they felt awful, especially after I had a little talk with them.

          It literally NEVER occurred to them that she wouldn’t have packed at least cocktail attire while traveling, and my MIL had some jewelry set aside for my mom to “dress up” the cocktail dress she SURELY would have brought. Most people showed up in evening gowns because, “OMG this is a big deal to meet sofar’s mother, I better look my BEST! Surely she will be wearing her best clothing as well!” The surprise element was well-meant, but not well-thought-out.

          My mom thought it was hilarious. Everyone was nice to her and she had a blast taking shots with the men.

          When I went to in in-laws home country, the FIRST THING everyone in my MIL’s family did when welcoming us into their home was say, “We will have the maid put your suitcase in the guest room so that you can change out of your travel clothes and freshen up.” This is not meant as “asking someone to change,” but a cultural assumption that the weary traveler will WANT to change into something nice and, surely, would not WANT to be wearing walking shoes and a t-shirt. When I said, “Oh, I just changed into this when we landed, I’m fine!” they were surprised and apologetic.

          • Amy March

            glad they at least felt bad about it! Reason 213 surprise parties aren’t great.

          • sofar

            They are really good about adjusting their behavior when you ask them to. They are basically a MUCH nicer version of Emily and Richard Gilmore. Re-watching the Gilmore Girls episode where Emily is shocked Rory doesn’t have a “summer wardrobe” was like therapy to me. I still feel like Luke and Dean in their household.

          • MDBethann

            Sounds like some of it with your in-laws is cultural, given the welcome from your MIL’s family when you visited them. Glad your mom took everything in stride – kudos to her! I do always try to travel with at least a nice dress/skirt and shoes because I once went to the theater VERY under-dressed on vacation and felt awkward, though with my husband, it can be hard to even get him to pack khakis & a polo shirt. When his parents went to Paris earlier this spring, I strongly suggested that my FIL (a jeans guy) pack a pair or two of dress slacks or khakis, because otherwise they would really stick out as tourists, especially in some restaurants and churches, since many Europeans don’t go about in jeans and t-shirts as much as Americans do.

          • sofar

            It’s definitely cultural. Even their lounging-around-the-house clothes are what my parents would wear to a “nice” dinner.

            And my parents totally stick out as tourists when they travel. My sister’s ex was European and his parents used to call my parents “sporty.”

      • sofar

        She actually had a good cackle over it. The only evening gown she has is one she bought in 1991 for a cruise and called it “the biggest waste of $300 ever, I should use it as a rag!” She is proud of her frugal midwestern ways. And everyone found her charming.

        Later, I explained to my in-laws (who felt awful for springing this on her) that not everyone owns an evening gown and few people would pack one for a weekend visit. They were astounded. One must be prepared for every occasion when one travels! A surprise opportunity to wear an evening gown is one of life’s greatest pleasures! She didn’t even pack COCKTAIL ATTIRE?

        • ART

          Reminds me of Jack Donaghy from 30 Rock (while wearing a tux), “It’s after six, what am I, a farmer?!”

        • idkmybffjill

          These are the people of my literal nightmares.
          These are the people I’m imagining when I think “but what will people think!”.
          These are the people who I’m hypothetically packing for anytime I go somewhere unknown. I legit always pack an LBD if I’m not 100% sure of plans because I would be so scarred.

          Your mom sounds charming AF and I’m SO impressed.

          • Jess

            I always have a LBD and heels in my bag too. I am perennially afraid of being underdressed and judged.

            But an evening gown! How glamorous!

          • sofar

            Whenever I travel with my in-laws, I grumpily pack a fancy dress and heels.

            When my husband took a vacation with my family, he started packing his suit, and I said, “My dad wouldn’t be caught DEAD anywhere you’d have to wear that, so don’t bother packing it.” He had so much anxiety, due to finding himself under-dressed in front of his parents’ circles and insisted on packing dress pants and a collared shirt. He wore it to dinner the first night at the hotel, and my dad slapped his knee and laughed his ass off.

        • Jess

          A small part of me wants to be the kind of person who packs an evening gown just in case there is a surprise black tie event (Which has never happened in my life).

          I am in love with the way your mom laughed about it and continued being charming.

          • Alli

            Yeah, part of me wants to be the “packing an evening gown just in case” kind of person, and part of me wants to be the “wears her clogs and laughs it off” kind of person. Instead I’m somewhere in the middle and filled with anxiety

          • Jess

            Isn’t that just the truth of it.

        • scw

          your parents sound like my kind of people

        • Jane

          Hahahhahahaha. Oh man. I am always trying to come up with good excuses to wear an evening gown, but I have never ever packed one for a visit “just in case.”

        • suchbrightlights

          You are describing your mother as the kind of woman I want to be. Wow. All the props to your mom for handling that with aplomb!

          Also, yes to the writing a book. I would also read it.

          • sofar

            She is amazing. She handles everything with aplomb because she don’t give a fuck about nothing. I inherited some of that, but wish I’d inherited ALL of it.

        • NotMotherTheresa

          I THOUGHT I WAS FANCY AND PRONE TO OVER-DRESSING!

          But seriously, “One must be prepared for every occasion when one travels” does not apply to evening gowns!!! Evening gowns do not travel well…you can’t exactly just throw a $900 silk dress into a carryon bag next to your flip flops and $6 paperback. (And that’s coming from someone who literally keeps a black funeral dress/cocktail dress in the back of her car at all times precisely because “You never know when someone will want to host a dinner party. Or drop dead.”

          That said, I agree with the poster above who mentioned that your stories are always amazing! Like her, I don’t envy some of your experiences, but your contributions to such domestic matters are truly top notch because of them!

          • sofar

            My MIL took two full-length, beaded evening gowns on our trip to India and Dubai.

            Glad you like my stories and don’t mind me using this site as therapy.

    • ART

      You have the BEST stories, but I don’t envy you the process of acquiring them!

      • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

        I regret not being friends with sofar in real life and being able to witness or experience ANY of it.

    • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

      This is the plot of a movie.

    • Jan

      “The next night, my in-laws threw a SURPRISE party in their mansion that featured a live band and a guest list in evening gowns. My mother wore here “good” pair of clog shoes.”

      This made my palms sweat.

      • sofar

        These types of things used to make my palms sweat, but, these days, I’ll be at my in-laws’ and there will be a ring at the doorbell, and I’ll be like, “Oh a live band/caterer? I guess I better wear black-tie for today’s babyshower after all!”

    • AmandaBee

      This is horrifying but also fantastic. Please write a book about this stuff and I will read it.

    • Sarah

      :We now ensure our parents spend as little time together as possible, and this is what I’d suggest to the LW”
      well, I wouldn’t go this far until they actually meet, people with differences can still get along!!

      • sofar

        True! I should have prefaced that with, “If they seem like they’re uncomfortable around each other, this is what I’d suggest to the LW.”

    • CrazyCatLibrarian

      That surprise party story sounds like a scene straight out of Monster-in-Law and kudos to your mom for handling it better than J.Lo!

  • Katelyn

    I’ve been in a similar position.

    We went to a mid-range barbeque place and made sure the bill came directly to me to pay. It worked out splendidly. Delicious but quintessential American food, a nice alcohol range (although my dad couldn’t get his favorite, Michelob Ultra), and friendly down to earth service.

    I think it would be a good cuisine to look into as a compromise between the parents.

  • Nichole

    Our parents met without either of us around because that was how it worked out. We live four hours from her parents and thirteen from mine and we didn’t quite get the six of us together. Otherwise the first time they’d meet would be at the rehearsal dinner.

    I have a vague idea of how it went and that vague idea said that everyone was very polite and they started to get a sense of each other’s quirks.

  • CP2011

    For what it’s worth, you don’t have to “all be family now.” That works for plenty of people, and it’s common to hear things at weddings about “joining two families together,” but that doesn’t mean it has to be (or should be) that way for you.

    • zana

      I’m pretty sure my parents and in-laws may never meet again. It.is.totally.okay.

    • BSM

      When we were getting married, we were pretty adamant that we were *not* all family now. We all get along well, but my husband and I are a family, he has his family, and I have mine. That may change in the future, but it’s what we’ve been comfortable with for the last 3 years.

      • penguin

        I feel the exact same way. At first my fiance was upset about that idea (his parents spouted a lot of drivel about “joining two families together” that I think he’d internalized), but I think he’s come around to my way of thinking on this a little more.

    • Shirley Schmidt

      Exactly! I would like my mum and my soon to be MIL to be friends, but they are fundamentally different women with different life experiences and interests from different classes. And that’s ok!
      Although it does create a bit of a weird dynamic that fiancé loves my parents and thinks of them as second parents and I alternate between thinking his mum is quite sweet and being driven mad by her fussing…

  • zana

    They’re only gotta eat this one meal together, and then you probably never have to deal with all 4 of them (simultaneously) ever again…except for the tensions over planning where you’re going to spend the holidays, and even then, the two sets of parents won’t be discussing with one another.

    If the restaurant thing goes poorly (i.e., your dad has to eat at Applebee’s), everyone will/should act like adults and you won’t have to deal with this issue ever again, if you don’t want. The parents don’t have to become best friends, or even friendly. Mine aren’t and it’s fine.

  • Cathi

    I don’t think any of our (all divorced) parents would have met each other until the wedding if I hadn’t made our moms come have dinner with me one night. When I asked my mom if she wanted to meet my future MIL her response was “won’t I meet her at the wedding? I don’t understand.” MIL’s response was about the same.

    We’ve had the moms over for a holiday dinner once or twice (both our dads have remarried, but the moms are still single), but the next post-wedding event all of the parents saw each other was at the hospital the day my daughter was born, several years later.

    Did I mention we all live in the same town?

    The point being: “we’re all family!” is a nice sentiment but it’s really not necessary. You guys can take your time planning something for everyone, your new family isn’t going to explode if they don’t meet tomorrow.

  • ML

    We are lucky to have parents that are all pretty easygoing, despite growing up around the world from each other. But the first time they met, we planned a short hike. It’s a little more free-flowing than sit-down dinner, and everyone had the chance to have smaller conversations within the large group. If your folks aren’t hiking people, maybe a walk through a sculpture garden or something related would be a nice neutral ground? Even if you all go out to dinner after that, ice will be broken a bit.

  • Staria

    I had this exact problem! Except my parents are the low key, know-what-they-like, don’t-like-fancy-restaurants parents, and my partner’s are the fancy type. I wanted to have a small engagement dinner with both immediate families including siblings and a couple of family friends (who are also the steak and fries kind), and the option to bring small children, BUT I also wanted fancy food! So I thought about all the restaurants I go to and ended up booking dinner for 14 at a local restaurant I love which is pretty homelike and casual in decor – it’s in the middle of farmland even – BUT the couple who run it are French and they do the most simple food but with high quality local ingredients so it’s amazing. (On Wednesday nights they ONLY serve steak and fries haha… it was the best I have ever had.) The other reason I chose it was that they do a three course dinner for a low set price. That’s what you need. Look around for a place that has a great reputation for food and service, but doesn’t worry so much about the decor and fish knives. It exists, I promise!

  • Do you want to hear a worst case scenario parents meeting story that happened then my parents introduced my grandparents to each other? So, both sets of grandparents were in WW2, and had continued to serve after. In fact, my mother’s dad (J) joined the army in 1919 as a teenager (my grandmother, R, a WAAF, was very upset to discover after the war over my granddad’s civilian work was… the army) and worked as an armourer. He was comfortably working class. My father’s father (D) had been in the army for the war and sometime after it, but had moved into some kind of financial business. He was an epic social climber and always wanted to be the most important person in any social situation. He and my dad’s grandmother (O) had divorced some years ago because he’d had an affair with his secretary (and subsequently married her). However, since their son was getting married, they wanted to meet my mum’s parents together.

    So, you have my parents, my mum’s parents, and my dad’s divorced parents, all in a nice little pub in Thatcher’s England. And J looks up, and says “D!” It turned out they’d all lived on the same army base in the North for some time. My parents probably passed each other in the street, bought sweerts at the same newsagents. Aww, it’s almost kismet.

    Except J had outranked D, which meant D wasn’t the most important person at the table, and so immediately started to be rude to everyone in a sulk. But it got worse, because J was a friendly sort of person and kept trying to cheer him up and make him feel important again. D had been so popular on the base. Such a ladies man, too, J told everyone, a different girl on his arm every night.

    And that’s how O found out her ex husband had been cheating on her much longer than he’d admitted before.

    • Em

      OMG.

    • Alli

      That is awful! And great – as a story. But omg so awful.

    • rg223

      Oh good lord.

    • Oh, having said this is a worst case scenario, it does have a happy ending! D’s last interaction with almost anyone in the family was the wedding (he didn’t even come to my dad’s funeral, his own son). However, O and her second (lovely, lovely) husband P had a house in a seaside town, so R and J used to see them for holidays, and after J died R would take her cousins and her own sister-in-law to O’s place for summer holidays. So, super awkward first meeting, but some life long friendships did come out of it!

    • zana

      Welp. That takes the cake.
      Cheers to being a couple degrees removed from that mess!

      • Yeah, I only met D twice in my life, I think, because funnily enough he wasn’t very popular with anyone else in the family. O was probably the only person with much sympathy for him, because he’d had a terrible childhood that definitely contributed to his inferiority issues, but she was so much better off with her second husband P (who had a grandchild named after him, he was so much better liked by O and D’s children).

  • Abs

    I have this same issue where my parents are fancy/wealthy but not really aware of it, which can lead to some issues with my in-laws, who are not.

    Anyway, Amy’s totally right that the fancy people’s desire to be fancy should be the lowest priority here, BUT I would just say to LW to trust your instincts. Just like your fiancée knows her family, you know yours–if your father being out of his element will make him behave in ways that could derail this first meeting, it’s worth trying to think creatively about that. NOT that he should be/needs to be catered to at all times, just that for this one first meeting it might be worth overthinking.

    So, if you don’t have space to have everyone over to your house…

    My solution for this was to have everyone to a restaurant that was known for being good (and quiet), but (because it was southeast Asian cuisine) was actually way below my parents’ usual price range and formality level. Obviously undervaluing of certain cuisines in American culture is all kinds of problematic, but leaving that aside for a minute–this worked because the place was Zagat-rated, so my family were on board, but everyone could wear jeans and nothing cost too much.

    And finally–in my experience after the first meeting you can relax a bit more, so look forward to that!

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  • Alli

    Late to the game here, but does anyone else have experience where your parents haven’t met because one of them embarrasses you? My parents have met my FMIL and her husband a couple of times, and they get along fine. FH keeps putting off having them meet his dad, because he’s honestly embarrassed by the way he acts. He has alcohol and prescription drug problems, nothing totally off the rails but we’ve picked him up for his grandkids birthday parties and he’s already drunk. And he just says horribly inappropriate things. FH loves him but it’s a lot for him to handle. I think the first time they’ll all meet is at the rehearsal and I’m pretty nervous.

    • lamarsh

      We have very similar issues with my FH’s mom. She also has alcohol issues and a (relatively new) pill problem, and can say unbelievably inappropriate things, even if not under any influence. We have handled it a couple of ways. First, before my parents met her, we were pretty open about what was going on with her and how she might behave. We figured if they knew in advance, they would be more understanding and not just be shocked. I think it helped for my parents to manage their expectations. For our upcoming wedding, my fiance’s (saintly) sister, will be monitoring her intake and trying to keep her under control as much as is possible. She is also going to inform FH’s mom’s brother to do the same and they will both be sitting at her table. We also are doing assigned seats for the rehearsal dinner and seating FH’s mom next to people who know her and won’t be offended or shocked by her behavior. And, at some level, we are just letting go and hoping people will understand that we do not endorse the way she acts and are trying to manage it as best possible, but can only do so much.

    • queen_atomic

      No experience as such, but I can see crossing this exact bridge in the future. I’m sure my FMIL and her husband will get on perfectly fine with my parents (even if they’re unlikely to become BFFs), but FFIL…has similar problems to those you’ve mentioned and no sense of social niceties and I just think that when/if it happens it’s going to be a car crash. Still, they live at opposite ends of the country so at least it isn’t likely to become a regular issue.

  • lamarsh

    A day late here, but we have similar issues with my fiance’s parents and my parents and also live in the D.C. area, and may I suggest Clyde’s as a great restaurant to bridge the gap? The food is good enough for my food-obsessed mom, but the vibe is casual and unpretentious enough not to feel overwhelming to anyone else. Plus there are a handful of suburban locations depending on what is convenient for you. Probably a more specific answer than you were looking for, but it worked for us!

  • TheHungryGhost

    Is these no equivalent in America of the excellent English pub? That’s where my parents will eventually meet OH’s parents. Usually in a traditional looking venue, food served at table (anything from really quite fancy to simple home food), in a non-threatening or fussy setting, costing no more than £30/head max for three courses. The great equaliser, that you’d have to jump up serious class boundaries (think, people with titles) to worry about suggesting.

    FWIW, my OH and I have managed to avoid our parents meeting for ten years. My parents are old-fashioned (style-wise), rural, academic, thrifty, bonkers. His parents are ‘modern’, suburban, not very ‘cultural’, credit spenders, and high-inteference. I really like that my OH and I seem to meet perfectly in the middle between two extremes.

    Chances are, LW, that you won’t have this big blending of families. And THAT IS OKAY. It works for us with zero antagonism – we even see our families more or less the same amount, though I live in their city that is also 3h from my parents. Yes, you’ll have a few events coming up that means they’ll meet and interact, but these events will all be focused on YOU – their only point of commonality – so you get to do what you’re comfortable with as the mid-point and de facto host. Most likely you’ll continue doing lots of stuff separately with both sets of parents.

    • Shirley Schmidt

      Brit here, and I feel that “let’s all go to the pub” is the solution to so many problems!

    • Amy March

      No we live in a barren wasteland of pubs.