Whose party is it, anyway?!

I often joke that ‘It’s not Christmas until somebody cries’, so I ought not be surprised that there’s a tad bit of friction among the whanau in the week before the jolly fat man arrives.

What it mostly boils down to is this: My mother’s job is to co-ordinate the distribution of Christmas gifts and food hampers not only to the clients they work with during the year, but also for the many other public service/charitable organisations they work alongside of. This means that she is working all the hours God gives her [and any extras she can magic up] between now and Christmas morning to make sure that the donations of toys and goods are fairly distributed, and that the gifts and food arrive at their many destinations in plenty of time for the families to gain the most benefit.

It also means that Christmas as a fun, relaxing event isn’t really on her radar yet, and won’t be until the last package is safely delivered… probably sometime late Friday. But it so happens that it’s my mother’s birthday on Friday, and the next day will be CHRISTMAS!! and well, and the rest of us want to celebrate…

You can see it coming, can’t you?

Now, you know it’s not a major, serious drama, or I wouldn’t be posting about it here, but there have been a few wee moments where the rest of the family have said “But I thought we’d…”  and “well I wanted to …” because what started as a well-meaning plan to take the youngers of family to a movie so that Dad and Mum could go quietly out for dinner has together somehow morphed into Mum wanting to chill out at the movies, too… and on it goes from there.

But in the end, what kind of celebration ignores the needs or preferences of the person you’re supposed to be celebrating?

[On second thoughts, don’t answer that, because you’ll wreck the point I’m about to make!!]

When you’re planning any kind of celebration, one of the most important things to hold in the front of your mind is who you are doing it for.

With a wedding, it’s easy to assume that the wedding is for the bride and groom, but of course, a moment’s reflection will make it clear that if a bride and groom were to be totally selfish and cater only to their own whims, it would be a pretty dull event for most of the rest of the guests!

Weddings on the whole are a celebration for the friends and family of the couple. It’s not totally altruistic, but there are many, many choices that are made with a view to accommodating the needs and preferences of the guests and family.

Of course, if you try to please everyone, you’ll end up with chaos, but it’s worth making a list [and checking it twice, just to be seasonal] of who you’re trying to impress, and how, and why.

From the choice of venue [too many stairs for grandpa to manage] to menu [substantial amounts of  food to soak up the booze for the workmates] the people you’re inviting to celebrate with you will be influencing many of the decisions you make. It’s worth taking time to make sure you’re actually hitting your target, and at the same time, not making ridiculous or unnecessary or unreasonable compromises.

It’s worth sitting down together with as many of the important players as possible, right at the beginning of the process, and talking through what you think they’d like. Once you have an idea of what’s important to the people who are most important to you, decide which things go at the top of the list as a ‘must do’ and which fall more into the ‘hope to do’ section.

There’s probably going to be a few ‘tell them they’re dreaming’ requests too, but you don’t have to do everything!

Let me give you an example. Let’s imagine a couple who are considering holding their wedding in the same church their parents and grandparents were married in, in spite of their own atheistic leanings.

They discover that they will also expected to have significant christian content to the ceremony, and six sessions of ‘what is a christian marriage ‘  themed premarital counselling. By talking it over with their families [who started the tradition] they can make an informed decision that really does honour their families and themselves. The balance will vary from situation to situation – a nominal atheist might roll with the conditions for the sake of tradition. Some families would be quite upset to think they’d be the cause of philosophical angst just for the sake of tradition. But until you talk about it, how do you know?

It’s not just the major issues, either. I mean, what if three of your elderly aunts won’t be able to walk out to the romantic spot on the end of the pier? Or your BFF is a vegetarian, but you want to have the reception in the town’s best steak-house? There’s truth in that old saying that you can’t please all of the people all of the time. In the event that the decisions you finally make will be less than optimal for your family or guests, it’s always nicer to talk it over with them than to just announce it, if that’s a practical option. You stand to make allies, rather than enemies that way – even if they don’t like your decision, if they understand your reasoning, it’s harder to take offence!

As in everything, there’s always a balance between inviting input and giving away control, and I’d be the first to agree that it can be a very fine line at times. As you walk that line, take the time to make sure that the things you’re compromising on, or going to great effort to arrange, is actually the thing that will best hit the target you’re trying to reach!

For us, having talked it over, it looks like we’re having a low-key, relaxed, do-nothing birthday and christmas. And i think that it’s going to be perfect!

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