Hello:

My only son is getting married, to a young lady we like very much. When we found out they were getting married, we decided to give them a cruise as a wedding gift. We had in mind a five-day cruise in an inside cabin. This did not meet with bride's approval (claustrophobic, etc.), so we agreed to pay for a seven-day cruise in a larger cabin with a window. This cost about 50 percent more but we didn't complain.

Now we found out she expects us to pay for a rehearsal dinner for dozens of people. It appears she wants to "keep up with the Joneses" and invite dates and families of the attendants, plus others. I told my son the rehearsal dinner is just supposed to be for the wedding party. He got offended and said he'd pay for it himself if he had to. I think they are being unreasonable.

So it seems one of us will end up unhappy. I don't want to get off on the wrong foot with my new daughter-in-law, but we would probably not have given them an expensive gift if we had known she was expecting this pre-wedding party at our expense.What do you advise?

Anonymous

That you go back to your first sentence, and keep reading it aloud until people around you start to look at you funny.

Because the next sentence is when you start digging a hole.

The cruise was warm, loving and wholly ill-advised, for putting the couple in such a tough spot. If a short, inside-cabin cruise wasn't their idea of a honeymoon -- and getting the heebies in windowless rooms is hardly the mark of the spoiled -- how were they to respond? "Thanks, but no thanks"? "Whom do we see about an upgrade?"

Or were they to protect your feelings and spend their honeymoon feeling trapped, in both literal and figurative senses?

If only people went through life accompanied by emotional interpreters. Then they would have said: "We couldn't ask for better parents, thank you, but (bride) is claustrophobic so please don't take it as a reproach when we decline/tweak the gift" -- ideally at their expense.

And you would have responded: "We understand completely; here's the money we earmarked for the cruise; go enjoy the trip of your choice."

You'd also know not to touch, with a pole of any length, judgment-laced phrases like "did not meet with the bride's approval." Even if you have cause.

Especially since I'm not sure you (entirely) do. Your paying for a rehearsal dinner and their including dates and family members are both pretty standard these days for a "traditional" wedding -- and you seem to endorse the traditional thing.

They were wrong to expect you to anticipate and underwrite rehearsal-bloat.

But you were wrong to assume they'd want a cruise.

Now go save your relationship with the bride by negotiating without pointing any more fingers, not even while wearing genteel white gloves. Under mittens. "We're just wedding rookies and bought the cruise without considering the rehearsal dinner costs. We'd love either to host a small dinner, or pay X dollars toward a big one." It's not your place to judge their choices.

And remember: My only son is getting married, to a young lady we like very much.

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