Post # 1
With our wedding a little over 4 months away, FI’s family has made no mention of contributing to our wedding or hosting a rehearsal dinner. That’s fine — we have a nice relationship and I don’t take it personally (I think they’re mostly just clueless about these things). However, this leaves some gray area in our planning. (I haven’t wanted to make plans in case they step up, but it’s now time to move on and figure this out). Fiance and I want a simple, low-key gathering the night before for our wedding party and out-of-town guests.
My aunt, who is fairly wealthy and has a reputation for buying affection, heard that we had no Rehearsal Dinner plans so she offered to pay for a catered dinner at our house and help with setup and cleanup. She went on to say, “Just send me your guest list so I can send out invitations. I want them to go out at the same time as the wedding invitations, and I want to make sure that you invite X and Y. Oh, and you shouldn’t serve [suggested meal] for dinner and you need to make sure you have plenty of [something else].”
OK, first off, we really don’t want to have a party at our house the night before the wedding. It’s a small house and we’re doing a lot of the wedding cooking and baking ourselves. We expect to be pretty busy that day without having a houseful of company. And clearly my aunt wants not just to slip us a little money to help cover expenses, but to host the dinner and take control and credit for it (perhaps making FI’s parents look bad in the process). I told her sweetly, several times, that I appreciated the generous offer but we don’t want to do it this way and she finally (after much stress and angst) dropped the subject…
…until this week when she told my mom that she plans to send us a check to help pay for the Rehearsal Dinner. My mom strongly advised me to return the check when it arrives. I think she’s right (it’s not ‘no strings attached’ or ‘just because we love you’ money — it’s a way of inserting herself in the planning process and making it about her). It’s frustrating because I gave my aunt a few suggestions about things she could do that would actually be helpful and desired and she completely ignored me in favor of focusing on the Rehearsal Dinner.
Anyway, how on earth do I word a gracious note explaining why I’m returning her check? I realize it’s a delicate operation and I’m risking hurting feelings but I think it would be unwise to accept her money. Has anyone dealt with something like this? I’d appreciate any help writing a “Dear Aunt Busybody” letter. Thanks!
Post # 3
Well, you don’t have to physically return the check; you can just rip it up (I think that actually sending it back has a lot more symbolic impact than simply not cashing it). If you receive a check, call her and let her know that you appreciate the gesture, but that it’s taken care of. Done.
Post # 4
One option would be to accept the money, but make sure that you have the whole thing set before you thank her. It sounds like meeting at a local restaurant is about the right speed for your Rehearsal Dinner, and if you already have the reservation made, could you just call her and say “Thanks, we’ll be using it to pay for dinner at Restaurant X”? That might eliminate her ability to take control, or would she still find a way to make it about her?
If that’s not an option, you can just call and say “Thank you for the thought, but we already have it taken care of. We would love your help with X, Y, or Z.” She doesn’t need to know that by ‘taken care of’ you mean ‘don’t want your money.’
Post # 5
Just don’t cash the check! Good for you for realizing you shouldn’t have a Rehearsal Dinner at your house the night before your wedding. I think that would be super stressful.
Post # 6
I agree with not sending the check back but don’t cash it. Don’t you think a phone call may be more personal than a letter if you have this type of relationship. Just be prepared to defend your decisions on the phone. I think I would sa something like thank you for your generousity but we’ve decided to go in another direction. Maybe mention you want to keep it simple and realized you were looking for a different kind of event than what she had in mind so you took care of the arrangements and won’t be cashing the check then suggest thouse other things you would like some help with. If she wants to pay for something, maybe you could suggest she buys something that does not involve plans like the wedding cake. My aunt is paying for our weding cake as her gift to us but it was an easy process along the lines of find a reasonable cake and give me the bill and payment instructions.
Good luck, money and family are always touchy subjects. Alternatively you could avoid conflict all together and not tell her you won’t be cashing the check until after the wedding but that would most likely cause other issues.
Post # 7
Thanks so much! You guys are super-smart! It’s funny, my mom said ‘return the check,’ and I got locked into thinking I had to physically MAIL IT BACK, which meant I should write some sort of note explaining my decision, to include in the envelope so I wasn’t just returning a check. It honestly didn’t occur to me that I don’t need to mail it back to her.
But I totally agree: it makes an unnecessarily strong and dramatic statement to return the check. Instead, I’m just going to call her and talk about it. (That’s hard because, for some reason she really wants to do this thing. I think it’s b/c she has two sons and hasn’t had much say in their wedding planning so she really craves getting to be in charge of SOMETHING related to SOMEONE’S wedding.)
I called around yesterday and found a small function hall we can rent for $75 that evening. I think I’m going to ask my mom and each aunt (not just Aunt Busybody) to bring a couple of things: salad, drinks, paper plates and cups, etc. Fiance and I can make a couple of things and maybe have a caterer do a couple of main dishes.
This feels much better. First off, if I make a list and act quickly, I might be able to head off the check (which I don’t think she’s sent yet). And if I assign significant but manageable contributions to everyone who’s offered to help, then the responsibility (and credit!) is shared evenly and the night doesn’t turn into the “Aunt Busybody Show.”
This felt like a total dead-end yesterday and today it seems manageable. Yay, bees! Thanks again.