(Closed) How to politely refuse a gift without seeming ungrateful?

posted 10 years ago in Etiquette
Post # 3
65 posts
Worker bee

If it were me, I would let them know that while you very much appreciate the offer – you wouldn’t want them to spend time on things you’ve already done yourself, but you would appreciate help with ______ that still needs to be done. (Say, seating cards, for example – for the cousin).

Maybe the aunt could do a couple very simple flower arrangements for the rehearsal dinner? (Depending on location). Or, you could explain that the flowers are already covered for the ceremony/reception, but ask her to do one specially for the head table where you and hubby will be able to enjoy it up close. (Or some similar individual location – like the guest book table).

Good luck

Post # 4
192 posts
Blushing bee
  • Wedding: October 2008

That is a tough one…I would suggest talking to you Future Mother-In-Law and say that this would be really helpful but, you have had some ideas and would love to run them by the Aunt or Cousin or both if they refuse to use your ideas then that is their issue not yours it is your wedding. What if you mentioned to the cousin that you would love her help but, you already designed the cover see what she says she may still want to do it just using your idea. Or like the previous post says give her another project seating cards etc.

Post # 5
60 posts
Worker bee
  • Wedding: July 2009

I think that it’s perfectly acceptable to call your aunt to personally thank her for her offer of assistance. I would then tell her that you’d love to get together with her and bring her up to date on what you plan to do. In other words, tell her what is going to happen and let her decide if she still wants to help. Just remember that you need to know what you want and how much "help" you’re comfortable with before you meet with her. Oh and about the programs? Why not call the cousin and personally thank her for the offer of help, and then send her a copy of what you’ve already done. Maybe she can help make it better. Just be sure to use words like "suggestions" when talking to her so she gets that you’re maintaining creative control over them.

What seems to be happening with the aunt sounds less like help and more like a hijacking to me. No one has the right to hold you emotionally hostage like that so don’t let them. It is never rude to decline help, just be gracious while you’re being firm. Think Julia Sugarbaker in Designing Women. 🙂

Post # 6
350 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: July 2009

I have a question, amandopolis.  Who is hosting the RD? If you are paying for it, I’ll second what everyone else has said about thanking the aunt but not letting her hijack the event.

But if your Future Mother-In-Law is hosting (i.e. paying for) the event, I am going to gently dissent and suggest that you should let your Future Mother-In-Law and your fiance’s aunt plan the flowers.  I get that you love to craft and really enjoy planning events, but it sounds like this means a lot to your Future Mother-In-Law and her family, and if Future Mother-In-Law is the hostess the Rehearsal Dinner should really be her party to plan. 

Letting Aunt help with the Rehearsal Dinner will also soften the blow of you saying thanks but no thanks to the cousin’s offer of help — if you already have programs designed and you love them, there’s no reason for you to give that up.  Asking her to take on a different project is a great idea.  What about asking the cousin to make place cards or name tags for the Rehearsal Dinner instead?

Post # 7
813 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: May 2018

Wow, that’s a tough one. My first instinct is to say that you should gracefully decline as much as possible. If they are already trying to guilt you into doing things their way, then it will only get worse. And since they are related to your Fiance, not you, it is harder to tell them "nicely" that you aren’t happy with what they want to do. (Its easier to tell YOUR family "no" than it is to tell his family "no.") If your FI’s aunt is already crying just because the BRIDE said she would like to contribute, this sounds like it could go down a very, very difficult road.

 Perhaps you could just tell them that you’ve actually planned those details already– so you’d love to share what you are thinking, but that you’re already almost done.

I do agree with asking them to do something specific- like perhaps the Aunt could do a certain flower arrangement (place card table, gift table) or maybe even a big flower arrangement for the rehearsal dinner. And perhaps the cousin could design a little menu or something, or do some extra artwork for the rehearsal dinner or something. 

I also need to disagree with one of the comments earlier that the rehearsal dinner is the future in-law’s party to plan and that they should do everything. If the bride’s parents are paying for the wedding, that doesn’t mean that the wedding is the bride’s mother to plan. Likewise, if the groom’s parents are paying for the rehearsal dinner, that doesn’t mean its theirs to plan. Whoever is paying certainly has a say, and their ideas and feelings should definitely be considered. But I truly think that the groom’s parents should speak with both the bride and groom about the details of the rehearsal dinner. Just like the bride and groom should both have a say in the wedding even though her parents are paying, I think the same goes of the rehearsal dinner.

Post # 8
2373 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: July 2008

My Aunt in law did something very similar, but with renting table linens for the big day.  I wanted to decline and rent them myself.  Take my advice, politely decline.  She ended up getting upset about something unrelated to me and charged us an additional amount because she is spiteful

Post # 9
350 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: July 2009

Just to clarify, BeachBrideT — I agree that the Future In-Laws should consult the bride and groom even if the Future In-Laws are paying for the whole Rehearsal Dinner themselves.  I know so many friends whose Future In-Laws didn’t let them have ANY say at all in the Rehearsal Dinner because they see it as their chance to shine on the wedding weekend, and that kind of attitude is not very nice or supportive of the couple.  I guess I meant more that if the Future In-Laws are technically the hosts, Future Mother-In-Law may be just as excited about the Rehearsal Dinner flowers as the OP and will naturally want some input, and it’s probably better to try and plan with them and maybe let them have their way on at least a few things instead of trying to maneuver the Future In-Laws out of the planning entirely.

Post # 10
14 posts
  • Wedding: June 2009

With the cousin, I would say "oh my gosh, thanks so much for your offer, but I’ve actually already finished designing my programs," or something along those lines. It’s true, and it’s not insulting.

With the aunt, you have a stickier situation. The Rehearsal Dinner is typically hosted by the groom’s family. If your FI’s parents are paying for the Rehearsal Dinner, it’s really up to them who does the flowers. They’re giving you a gift of a dinner–NOT the same as parents paying for a wedding, to disagree with BeachBrideT. They’re giving a dinner to celebrate your wedding, and you are the guest of honor. That doesn’t make it your dinner to plan.

Now, if you and Fiance are paying for it, then fine, do whatever you want to do.
My experience with family is that sometimes it’s better to just swallow what you want and let someone else do something nice for you. Clearly this aunt wants to do something that will express her approval of your wedding and her desire to give you both something nice. In the long run, would you rather have a little more crafting time and some flowers you did yourself, or would you rather have an unsolicited gift of love and time from someone who wants to welcome you into the family?

Post # 11
1238 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: August 2008

I would decline the program offer by calling her and letting her know that you are doind a DIY wedding and you are really enjoing it.

As for the rehearsal dinner, you Future Mother-In-Law is supposed to plan that, so I would stay out of it and let her do her thing. That really isn’t the brides resposibility or obligation.

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