A party invite with strings

I’m a guest! Do I have to get there early and help?

Our elder advises a letter writer who’s rowing with her husband about party etiquette.

Dear EWC

My husband and I strongly disagree about the terms surrounding attending a birthday party. We were told to be there at 1pm. The party is at least three and a half hours from our home. Then, the time was changed to 2:30 with an added postscript on the bottom of the email stating that for anyone who wants to come at 1pm, help would be appreciated. I said to my husband that we’re traveling a long way and might want to rest before arriving. Also, I’m sure family or others could help with set-up, prep, etc. He said that he would like to get there early to help. To which I responded that I work a full-time job and do a lot of chores around our home. Being a sous chef/party prepper is not high on my list of weekend events. Besides, it’s summer, I’m hot flashing and for these two reasons I’m not feeling it. Am I being mean or unfriendly? I told hubby I would drop him off early if that’s what he wants and show up around 3… hopefully after all is done and the beers are cold.

Aondrea replies

It’s funny, but my first impulse was to focus on the princess-like tone of your letter, to ask what relation the birthday party person is to you, and to wonder if you would be relaxing at a spa during the time your husband assists with set-up after you drop him off.

Then I started to visualize what a mega party this might be, and wondered if the set-up crew will be wrestling patio chairs and tables, firing up the BBQ, setting up stage and sound system, stringing outdoor lights, etc.  It began to seem overwhelming as I envisioned the scale of what this party might be and what “helping” might entail.  I almost felt a hot flash myself as I pictured you in your party dress tottering around on strappy heels and mopping sweat from your beautifully made-up brow, leaving you an exhausted mess by party time.

So now I’m not sure what to say! I do think that dropping your husband off and showing up after all the work is done would be tacky. If this is a family member or very close friend, you might want to honor the request, and wear “work clothes”, then freshen up in their guest bathroom just before the others arrive.

Some people like to be part of the preparatory interaction, but I recommend that you and your husband show up together, unless you have a legitimate reason (e.g. visiting elderly aunt in hospital) for your late arrival.

Are you spending the night at the party house, or driving for another three and a half hours after drinking beer all afternoon? That’s another matter, of course! If you are staying at the birthday person’s house, then you really do owe it to them to assist with party set-up. Otherwise, I can’t resolve the dilemma for you except to say (as a famous radio hostess used to): Now, go do the right thing!

Letter #: 426797
Category: Marriage

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