Q: Dear APW,
So I never really wanted a bridal/wedding shower because my fiancx and I have been living together for five years. There’s very little we need. I wasn’t keen on getting lingerie in front of family members and it all felt like a big waste. But with some persuasion, people brought me around to the idea of a couple’s shower and my aunt kept pestering me to let her plan it. My aunt is not terribly old, but she is the most stringent etiquette police officer I’ve ever met. And she absolutely loathes my step-mother, a detail that will be important later. She has continued to pester me for “what I want the shower to be” but won’t listen to my answers. She insists it must have a theme (glassware, linens, outdoors, etc.), and that we absolutely must mail paper invitations (to thirty people).
I’ve insisted against both, because the shower will be right before Christmas and we already have a hodgepodge registry of stuff we don’t really need anyway. I think a “theme” beyond “Christmas” and “wedding shower” will be too much and tacky. I’m also environmentally (and fiscally) conscious and I think a paper invitation is pointless for something as simple as a shower when a Facebook invite would more than suffice. Instead of hearing me say that, she insists I haven’t given her any direction or answered her questions. So the other day, when I mentioned that I had sought recommendations for a locale from my step-mother, she went off the handle and accused me of being ungrateful and difficult. Is this outrageous or should I just let her plan her own party and suffer through it?
—Aunt’s Gone Wild
A: Dear Aunt’s Gone Wild,
This is majorly irritating. But if you’re accepting a shower from your aunt, you’re accepting the kind of shower your aunt will plan (which, it turns out, is a theme-y, paper invitation shower). There are limits to this, of course, and you’re the guest of honor and you get to have preferences as such. But these particular points, based on your description of your aunt, seem highly predictable. Yes, of course your old-fashioned, “etiquette” obsessed aunt wants to send formal invitations, I could’ve seen that coming from a mile. Couldn’t you?
Maybe you didn’t! Maybe when she approached you with this idea, you thought accepting would be the only graciousness asked of you, and you wouldn’t be pushed more more more to take what you didn’t want or like. You feel like you’ve already bent, and now she’s asking you to bend more. I’m just suggesting that this stuff, the invitations and themes, are all still part of that first bend: that first acquiescence to a shower-by-your-aunt includes agreeing to the kind of shower your aunt will throw.
Now that you know what she has in mind, sit and consider what’s non-negotiable to you. This is one of those “choose your battles” situations. If you’re really opposed to a theme, think about why. Are you worried it’ll cause extra expense for your guests? About the aesthetics? It’s just not your normal vibe, so you’re not feeling it? Assessing why you’re against these things might help you find a way to compromise (“invitations made from recycled paper”), or it’ll help zero in on the things you really are passionate about not allowing.
Then, plead your case. You’re not feeling grateful for this shower that you were forced into, which is fair. But you can express gratitude for the thought, the (albeit, misguided) attempt to show affection. Tell her you appreciate it. Explain that your reluctance about the other stuff isn’t because you’re not grateful, but because you have reasons. And then tell her what those reasons are.
She wants to plan you a thing, but she wants to do it her way, and she’s frustrated that you’re not allowing her to. I totally hear you about how annoying this is, but maybe it’ll be less annoying if you consider it part of the whole package. If you’re accepting a party from your aunt, you’re accepting however she’s going to give it to you (within reason).