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How to handle in-laws using my home instead of theirs for their party


When our oldest son was a freshman in high school, we decided as a family that instead of having a high school graduation party, we would spend the money sending him on a mission trip overseas for a month. When we told my in-laws, my mother-in-law got upset and insisted that we had to have a party for him. Several times we brought it up, making our decision clear to them and each time my in-laws objected angrily. We sent out Graduation announcements stating we were not having a party or reception. My mother-in-law invited 25 people to our house to have cake after the Graduation and without our permission. She mentioned it to our 17 year old son, who was put in an awkward situation and wasn't comfortable with telling her no (he knew she would get upset). When we found out about it, we told her that we already had other plans for after the Graduation. She said, "Well it won't be an all afternoon thing - we'll just be there for an hour or two." We are not happy because we had plans to go to an upscale restaurant to celebrate our other child's 16th birthday and then take him shopping to choose his birthday gift, and now we have had to cancel our plans. The Graduation begins at 1:00 p.m. and will likely end around 3:00 p.m. Then photos will take about an hour. Then we would drive home to change get on the road around 4:30 p.m. and drive to the city arriving around 6:00 pm. That would have given us an hour for our son to shop around for a birthday gift. Our reservation was for 7:30 p.m. There isn't time for a 1- 2 hour party. The restaurant did not have a later reservation time available. My in-laws NEVER just stay an hour or two, plus they never help do the prep work or clean up, and they always make a mess whenever they come to our home. They are arguing that they have a right to celebrate the Graduation (we agree), but they aren't respecting that it is our decision not to have a party or reception at our home after the Graduation. I already tried to suggest they have one (Memorial Day is the day after Graduation) on Monday at their home, but they won't listen. Our home is being remodeled (the entire house!) plus we don't have extra money to pay for beverages or ice-cream or any other items that will be needed to host a party of 25 people. What's even worse is that they made their own guest list and invited everyone already! I have learned it is better to keep quiet when my in-laws are in their overbearing "control-freak" mode because ever since we got married and began to try to live our own lives, they have turned against me and made me out to be the bad guy whenever my husband and I don't do something exactly how they tell us. My husband doesn't like it either, but he is at a loss for how to let them know that they are overstepping the boundaries and disrespecting us. Any suggestions?

  1. He's at a loss? Um, they're his parents, he needs to tell them "We won't be home, we'll leave a note on the door explaining that as we indicated in graduation announcements, we are not having a party, and leave your phone number on the note in case they have any questions."

    She can't MAKE you do it, you know? She's not your boss.

    1. History: last year my in-laws insisted we had have a hog-roast in the Fall and invite a large number of family (some who aren't a regular part of our lives) because we had dug a new fire pit during the summer. We were saving up our money for the mission trip (over $3,000) and the remodel on our house, which began last summer and won't be done until this summer. We just couldn't afford it, plus our schedules were so full that we didn't have a free weekend on the calendar. We tried to explain this to them, but they wouldn't listen, so we let time pass and never had the party. They have brought it up on several occasions, the most recent being when a distant family member was diagnosed with cancer. They have a lot of money and a beautiful house and yard - perfect for having their own party at their own place. 12 years ago we moved out of state to get away from them, but 2 years after that they moved within 45 minutes of us. Nothing seems to work!

      2 Replies
      1. re: Loveoneanother

        A big fat NO should do the trick. Your in-laws are disrespectful bullies, and you've let them get away with it for too long now.

        Maybe send them on a (indefinite) mission trip far, far away, on their own buck.

        1. re: linguafood

          Bwhaha! I know of a lovely little school in Cambodia that needs help. OP just needs to nab the in-laws' credit card #....

      2. At the risk of confirming your own fears, I would keep quiet on your in-laws plans too. You won't win on this one.

        I don't think that in their mind, they are intentionally trying to be disrespectful to you. They simply want to celebrate your son's accomplishment in the manner they feel is appropriate. Indirectly, feelings may get hurt in the process.

        I would be honest with them and let them know that the use of your property is fine, but that beverages, etc. are on them, as it is their idea, and you just can't afford it at the moment.

        When my wife and I were married centuries ago, I asked my parents if I could use their house for our reception, which Swiss standards was very large. They agreed, but I supplied a bartender, catering, all food, service, and all glassware, plates, and cutlery. My wife and I even remained behind to ensure that all was washed, dried, and cleaned, and repackaged before we left on our honeymoon.

        1 Reply
        1. re: SWISSAIRE

          Nice. Thank you for the helpful response. You are obviously a good person. I'm thinking about calling her and asking how much room we should make in the fridge for the beverages and other items she will be bringing. I may also ask if she would like to bring the paper plates, napkins, etc... ahead of time and we can store them in the pantry for her until the day of her party.

        2. They can't invite people to your house. The rest is just details. If people come over, say you're sorry for the misunderstanding and give them the in laws address. Or just bring clothes to change into and skip going home. They don't have a key to your house, right? Unless they plan to break in, that makes it clear. And your husband needs to stand up to them. But that's probably not for Chowhound...

          1. Steps:
            Remake reservation at upscale restaurant for 16 year old.
            Have cakes/toasts with sparkling cider to praise his bday and his bro's graduation.

            Have your husband call his parents to say "As we said on the invitation, there is NO CELEBRATION at our house. If you arrive, we won't be in." Then follow through. Do they have keys to your house? If so, change the locks. I'm serious.

            Notes: You are not modeling good behavior for your sons. You are caving--and going overbudget--for what? For a bully?
            Your older son is starting to take after your husband in terms of being used/bullied because he doesn't want to make others "uncomfortable." There is a difference between being kind to one's elders and letting them run you over. Now, your 16 year old is having his birthday plans canceled because of this mess. STOP IT NOW!

            And let the flaming of this response begin.

            10 Replies
            1. re: pinehurst

              Your post certainly does not warrant any flame comments! You are spot on! I just cant imagine anyone doing this- and unless the OP says no- firmly- and carries through with it, these kinds of things will continue to happen.

              1. re: pinehurst

                We are Christians and therefore look for solutions that do not cause the family to fall apart. We are modeling good Christian behavior for our sons because we are teaching them to look for nicer ways to deal with issues instead of simply damaging relationships.

                1. re: Loveoneanother

                  You're wanting to teach good values to your kids, yet you're allowing your in laws to run your life and walk all over you? That's not teaching them anything good.

                  1. re: Loveoneanother

                    You are not damaging ANY relationship by respecting your bond with your sons, and promises that you made to them!

                    You are not modeling good behavior, Christian or otherwise. You can stop the damage that your disrespectful inlaws are causing by telling your husband to LEAD HIS FAMILY. Part of that leadership involves making sure that his wife and children are not disrespected by anyone---including his parents. Leadership means doing difficult tasks. He's now a husband and a father first, not a son.

                    He LEFT his parents to be your partner and your sons' dad.

                    Being Christian is not equal to being a doormat.

                    1. re: Loveoneanother

                      And if everyone is Christian, shouldn't your in-laws be treating you with good Christian behavior as well?

                      Being a Christian doesn't mean that you allow people to walk all over you and disrespect you, your husband, your children, and your home. And yet you're allowing that to happen.

                    2. re: pinehurst

                      You beat me to it. I was going to say to just not be home and let the inlaws figure out what to do with all the people they invited.

                      And, for the record, I didn't have a graduation party. My parents didn't think graduating high school was something to be celebrated... it's a given.

                      1. re: juliejulez

                        Ditto on the grad party for me, Julez.

                        1. re: pinehurst

                          Same here. End grade 12, graduate. That's it.

                        2. re: juliejulez

                          And my lovely daughter, for whom I was planning a high school graduation party, just informed me that she doesn't really want one! Woo hoo, I am off the hook! (I guess paying for college is going to be present enough, and financing that is all the stress we need!)

                          1. re: juliejulez

                            Fourth'ed, no graduation party for me either.

                        3. Tell them it's not happening. Period. Time to put your foot down once and for all. And maybe your DH can man up a little and put HIS foot down, too.

                          1. Your husband needs to develop a backbone but I seriously doubt that will happen at this late stage. If neither one of you will stand up to them then it looks like you'll be having the party as planned. Whether you like it or not.

                            1. "now we have had to cancel our plans"

                              no, you don't.

                              1. I'm with the other responses, it's time your husband started being direct with his parents. And I also think you should bring a change of clothes with you and not return home. Every time you let them push a boundary, the boundary itself gets moved, which means, this will only keep happening.

                                If you and your husband really can't stand up to them, then your option is to embrace the party, or invite them to the restaurant to celebrate there. But if you go that route, you don't get to complain about it, because you allowed it to happen.

                                1. I can't believe I'm going to quote her, but as Nancy Reagan said, "Just say no."

                                  Go ahead with your plans, but first, if your in-laws have a key to your place, change the locks. Screen the calls on your cell phone so you don't accidently answer MIL's angry call while you're at dinner, and enjoy yourselves. To quote yet another old broad, "Nobody can take advantage of you without your permission." (Dear Abby)

                                    1. I also have an upcoming graduate, w/ a large family who have expressed a desire to attend his graduation & celebrate afterwards. My opinion (which may not be popular) is to let your inlaws do this-yes, maybe they didn't handle it the right way, but you should act with grace & let them celebrate w/ your son- they love him & want to acknowledge his accomplishment.

                                      Try to be the bigger person, & not see this as a power struggle, it's a couple of hours, some cake & drinks, your son may enjoy having his extended family share his graduation, that's more important than trying to draw a line in the sand.

                                      8 Replies
                                      1. re: thistle5

                                        Do you feel that the OP should also foot the bill for this party? And what about the 16 year old son's birthday dinner and shopping expedition?

                                        1. re: hyacinthgirl

                                          No, I think if the inlaws issued the invitation they should make all the arrangements, & I would not see a problem w/ having an intimate family birthday celebration a few days earlier or later-the older son will only have one high school graduation, & how often will he see many of these people again? This sounds like a power struggle, when it should be about celebrating family ties-will the OP feel great, years later, because she 'won'? I don't like large groups of people (including tons of kids)or people trying to schedule parties for me, either, but we're having a crowd here after graduation (& admittedly, this was my choice), but the family is scheduling group photos, because they're not all in one place very often, & they all love my son, & have seen him grow up, & his younger cousins all adore him. I think the memories will outweigh any minor concerns about housecleaning or providing a bit of food & drinks. Of course, this is my opinion, & the OP is free to make her own decision on how to handle it....

                                          1. re: thistle5

                                            If it were just a case of throwing a party, the grandparents could just host one the weekend after the graduation, as the OP suggested.

                                            1. re: thistle5

                                              If you want to have a party, great, but would you schedule one at someone else's house against their wishes?

                                              1. re: Hobbert

                                                I would never schedule a party at someone's house without their approval, but this is not my dilemma-it's no skin off my nose if they leave directly after graduation & do not allow the gathering. I find it hard to believe they'll have a great birthday celebration as they sit around the table, happy that they didn't allow the grandparents to "overstep their boundaries & disrespect them'', but maybe I've just learned how to pick the battles that are important to me, & this would not be one of them-again, my opinion only, since clearly it is a minority position.

                                          2. re: thistle5

                                            Right. Give in years after the plans have been made clear to the in-laws.

                                            That's not being a bigger person, that's letting yourself be bullied, and made small.

                                            Respect for your family goes both ways, not just in one direction.

                                            Which is why the OP's handle is ever so ironic.

                                            1. re: thistle5

                                              The problem is, that line in the sand continues to be moved back, so the OP and family continues to be pushed against a wall. There comes a time where "NO" is acceptable. I think this is it.

                                              1. re: thistle5

                                                Thank you. Your response is very helpful. I appreciate it.

                                              2. Someone needs to grow a spine, because it's not healthy to be bullied, then resent it, then repeat, over and over again. No one wins. Not your ILs, who have no concept of boundaries, nor your children, who haven't been taught how to stand up to disrespectful people, and certainly not you, who have to put up with financially, emotionally, and physically burdensome events you don't want.

                                                So tell your ILs that the house will be locked, there will be no party, and right before leaving, put a sign on the door indicating that your ILs are holding THEIR party at THEIR house.

                                                They will push back, but just because they do, doesn't mean you're wrong. Your kids need to learn this before they leave the nest and you need to get your house back.

                                                1. Say no. If contacting the invitees is possible without too much hassle, advise them that the event isn't proceeding. Change the locks. Go ahead with your plans. They aren't just disrespecting you, but both of your children by trampling on your plans. At 16 I would be pretty irritated if my birthday shopping and dinner was postponed because no one could say "thank you, but it just isn't possible" to Grandma.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: ultimatepotato

                                                    I agree with the Just Say No posters completely, and I'll insert here to expand on ultimatepotato's comment: It's not the OP's responsibility to even contact guests they haven't invited, as they are the *IL's* invited guests, and it is the IL's job to advise on the state of the gathering. If anyone is going to be sporting egg-on-face, it will be the ILs.

                                                    I have had a couple of not-quite-the-same, but not-so-different situations with family members that don't need detailing here. Suffice to say, boundaries need to be drawn and sadly, the OP's been put in the position to draw hers. To Loveoneanother, I wish you the best: this kind of line-drawing really sucks, but "The best way out is always through". Otherwise, you'll be replaying the scenario forever. I have had to take a hard line multiple times, and it's always been difficult, and always worth it. Mostly, these things get forgotten (not always in my family, but I deal with that by tuning them out selectively), so a few years from now it won't matter. I had to cancel my youngest's HS grad party (after already postponing it until late August, since she spent the months immediately after grad trekking the tundra and literally didn't have time for a party beforehand. Her grad party was planned for the day after her return, and a couple days before she left for Costa Rica. She got windbound on a lake above the Arctic Circle for a few days, which meant utter schedule chaos: canceling of grad party plans, rescheduling of flights, moving plans for college-moving, on-n-on-n-on. I was the host, so I did notify everyone - what else can one do? - and while a few of my family had a little of snippiness going on, there was really nothing else they could do but snipe. Okay. A couple years later, and it's not an issue. A few of the relatives lobbied for a reschedule, but it was impossible, so we said "no." OP, just keep saying "No." It's all you can do.

                                                    Hang in there. Don't be bullied. And ultimately, it will not fester too long, if everyone is at all rational about it, y'know?

                                                  2. So let them think you are the bad guy. They sound like horrible, boorish people--how much can their opinion of you really matter?

                                                    The way you let them know they are overstepping boundaries and disrespecting you is by saying "You are overstepping boundaries and disrespecting us. This party is not happening. Stop being so rude".

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. "No." It's a complete sentence.

                                                      Seriously. Stop arguing with them. You already made plans, you aren't going to be home, they are going to have to deal with it. It sounds like there is no real reason they can't move the party to their house if they have already invited people. Obviously the guest of honor won't be there, but that's not really your problem.

                                                      1. "My husband doesn't like it either, but he is at a loss for how to let them know that they are overstepping the boundaries and disrespecting us. "

                                                        Why can't he just say THAT??? They're his parents. This is your and your husband's home. He needs to put his foot down and tell them, quite simply, NO. The party is NOT happening on your son's graduation day. You had already made other plans. They can host a party (at THEIR house) on another weekend.

                                                        1. First of all, good choice on the graduation gift. Travel is something that will be with your son forever.
                                                          Secondly, I have problematic in-laws as well and can sympathize, but you and your husband have to put your foot down. A big old "no--we've made plans and they are firm" is in order here. Please don't let yourselves be doormats. It's a cycle that will just go on and on...
                                                          ETA--They followed you after you moved? Whoa. My head would explode if that ever came to pass with me. LW and Lingua, I'll leave you in charge of my food obit should this happen.

                                                          3 Replies
                                                          1. re: alliegator

                                                            Given that the grandchildren are teenagers and they've tried to move to get away, it's a cycle that has already gone on and on!

                                                            Thinking about it more, you might also tell them that you won't be returning to your home after graduation. Thank them for wanting to celebrate but the appropriate time to do so, if they do not want to host a party at their home the following the day, will be directly after the graduation, on site, during/after pictures. They're welcome to bring cupcakes and soda if they'd like, but your family will be on the road by 4:30pm

                                                            1. re: hyacinthgirl

                                                              Good point on the kids' ages. But as they become adults, now would be a good time to set a good example in setting boundaries.

                                                          2. The OP does say his parents have a lot of money. That could very well factor into why he won't stand up to them.

                                                            6 Replies
                                                            1. re: miss_belle

                                                              I wondered that too, but then, if you can't stand the dirt, get out of the gold-digging.

                                                              1. re: miss_belle

                                                                also why they think they can do whatever they want despite other people's wishes.

                                                                1. re: miss_belle

                                                                  Money has nothing to do with it. We have tried many times over the years to stand up to them, but they use every manipulative trick in the book, sometimes using other family members to get what they want.

                                                                    1. re: Loveoneanother

                                                                      Back in the day when this happened to me there was nothing I could do but be honest. Since I married the first born (out of six) today my sibling inlaws thank us for setting the tone early.

                                                                      It wasn't easy to confront them at first. But, I have four children and my dh and I weren't about to go through the powerplay for every child and every celebration. The POWER is actually yours. Just help them recognize that if they want to spend time with their grandchildren, they need to respect their parents. Divide and conquer.

                                                                      1. re: Loveoneanother

                                                                        You allow this to happen because you mistake silence for peace. You will have no peace if you keep silent about this. You feel bad enough about it to post for a bunch of strangers, so clearly you are suffering from this arrangement. And "turn the other cheek" does not mean hand them the weapon with which to smite you. Putting up with wrong is not doing right!

                                                                    2. If you don't put your foot down now this will just keep happening over and over again.

                                                                      Politely and firmly let them know that this is not happening at your house.

                                                                      If you really are feeling generous about compromising then at the same time let them know that if they choose to have a gathering and cake at *THEIR* house you will show up so your son can greet his family but can stay no more than an hour.

                                                                      Assuming they don't have keys inform them that the house will be locked.

                                                                      If they do have keys, change the locks.

                                                                      1. Folks, this is the kind of thread that doesn't go well on Chowhound, because it's not really about the party, it's about the relationship between family members. It's already started to get testy and its only a couple of hours old. We're going to lock it now.

                                                                        1. Dear OP,
                                                                          Very sorry that this was your first time posting and you feel that generally it was not very helpful. However, based on your responses, it seems your original question is not the one you want answered:
                                                                          "My husband doesn't like it either, but he is at a loss for how to let them know that they are overstepping the boundaries and disrespecting us. Any suggestions?"

                                                                          Many on this board have given you suggestions as to how to communicate to your in-laws that they are overstepping.

                                                                          The only responses you have commented upon as being "helpful" are those who have told you to simply do as your in-laws wish, which is in direct contrast to what you had seemed to request.

                                                                          You are welcome to allow your in-laws to have a party at your house. You are welcome to tell them to bring their own food, just as you are welcome to provide the food for them if you should choose to.

                                                                          If your goal is simply to keep the peace and not upset anyone and allow this pattern to continue, I will revise my answer to say, you should absolutely have a party. As it is at your home, you should provide some food or drink, to not do so would not be particularly hospitable. If you absolutely can not afford this, you should relay that immediately to the in-laws and let them know you will be able to provide ice and nothing else and you sincerely hope they understand. Also, please make sure to warn them in advance and apologize profusely for your home being remodeled as they might otherwise feel you had not even bothered to clean up for them. It is clear you do not want to offend them. I've been in that situation before with an overbearing boss whose disrespectful and intrusive requests I had to cater to, but unfortunately for you, I had the opportunity to eventually quit and that seems unlikely in your future.

                                                                          Your youngest son will certainly understand that all plans you make with and for him are conditional depending on what more important people request of you. I'm sure that he will accept this knowing how important your in-laws good opinion is to you.