forced to give a party on short notice

toypoodlesAugust 22, 2008

My father is about to turn 65. A big number, especially after surviving a major cardiac event earlier this year.

My family has this tradition of treating each member to dinner on their birthdays, to the restaurant of their choosing. Everyone usually has a great time(son in law and grandkids too).

Because of the special circumstances, we(three daughters and wife) were planning on taking dad to an extra-nice place to celebrate this year.

But mom informs us, about two weeks ago, that dad's been dropping hints for months. He would like to have us throw him a "big party and invite all his friends and family".

He has even chosen the w/e he would like to have it. We have just under a month to do this!

Here are the sticky details (as if the short notice wasn't enough):

A)My youngest sister still lives at home. She's got a strong bond with dad, and an even stronger sense of family. She understands it'll be tough but, dad's worth it, and if he wants a party, he should get a party. Nothing else will do. Because she doesn't have to worry about many bills, or grocery shopping, she can't see a problem with this financially. And doesn't seem to think the time limitations are a problem either, "we'll just E-vite everybody". Realistically speaking she's trying to save up for her own place -and with Christmans coming, this party is going to hurt her pocketbook. She's also celebrating a major birthday next year and hopes MAYBE the favor will be returned. She'll be thirty.

B)My middle sister is a single mom with a mortgage, car payments, and lots of overtime to make ends meet. She's got a great mind for numbers and likes to plan and budget for large purchases. She also has Christmas shopping to do.

C)I'm a stay at home mom, I work every other w/e because although my husband has a great job, its nice to have a little cushion. Plus, it keeps me sane. We like to plan and budget as well. I'm also not going to be available on the w/e dad chose because of a prior commitment (he didn't choose his birthday w/e).

I suggested we take dad to a nice restaurant, known for great food and good sized portions. We ask dad for his top ten (or so) list and offer them a banquet style menu. Where the menu items are chosen by the party host ahead of time, you know "chicken, fish, or beef" salad and desert. We(the daughters)split the tab. There won't be a D.J. (which dad says he wants) but with good friends and family Im sure he'll have a good time.

I think this is much more intimate, easier to plan on short notice, and dad can spend time with those important to him, not a room full of people and their guests.

My dad's a bit of a show-off and can be a 'people user'. He likes attention when he can get it. I believe the party is more to be the center of attention than to share time with all those dear to him, as he wants to invite people who he doesn't even keep in touch with, unless he needs something.

My youngest sister is the loudest and most likely to make waves She'll fight for this party even if it breaks her bank OR never let me forget how I let dad down.

My middle sister just doesn't want to have any hard feelings. Even if it means regretfully, dipping into her Christmas fund.

I refuse to be bullied into debt for a birthday party we got very little notice about. I love my dad, but I have a financial obligation to my "core" family first.

Any advise?

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Compromise. I would have a home party for your dad, but on a much smaller scale then he wants. Reduce the invites to family and good friends. No need to invite people he hasn't seen in some time. No need for a DJ. Have a relative or friend set up a cd station and play the background/dancing music. The money you were going to spend at the restaurant, spend on catering the foods and drinks your dad likes and decorations, etc. Split the cost 3 ways like you were going to do anyway. Inform little sis that if dad is going to have a party, then this is how it will have to be. You are not going into debt over this. He still has his blow out but it won't be such a burden money wise on you 3. NancyLouise

    Bookmark   August 22, 2008 at 8:47AM
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I realize that I probably am coming from a different angle, and that my family dynamics are quite different, but my suggestion would be to give your father the celebration he wants. He may not be around much longer. So you spend more money now than you want to; in the end, you'll know that you didn't disappoint your father and I assure you that the money spent will be (or should be) long forgotten.

Regarding whether to invite people he hasn't seen in some time, I think you should. Perhaps he's facing his own mortality and wishing he'd kept up with people more. Maybe a party is his way of bringing them back into his life.

Do you really want to scrimp and push back to meet your own wants and convenience rather than give your father what he wants? Again - I'm not saying that this has to be a constant thing and you've all got to go broke making your father happy. But you've said that this is a quite an event after a major health scare. Sounds to me like a perfect opportunity for a celebration, and since it's on his behalf, it should make him happy, not make him think that his beloved family skimped.

You like to plan and budget, as does your one sister. Well, maybe this time you just don't get to.

My father and I were very close; he's gone now, and I am happy that I have no (well, very few) regrets. He knew how much I loved him and wanted him to be happy; it was reciprocated. I'd feel terrible if I knew that he wanted a party, told me or hinted strongly about his wishes, and I'd decided it was too short notice, too expensive, or too much of a bother to change a previous commitment.

But your circumstances may be very different. This is just MHO.


    Bookmark   August 22, 2008 at 2:29PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

You don't have to spend tons of money. Your Dad wants a party so he can do his thing. This doesn't mean barrels of shrimp and crab legs either.
Do something casual, maybe a cookout outside. Lots of music, hire a teenager to DJ and have several grills set up. It can still be lots of fun and cheap enough. Have some close friends make a few things: baked beans and potato salad. Buy a big cake from the grocery store for dessert.
Parties aren't all about expensive catered food.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2008 at 2:47PM
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I don't think this is short notice, it would be short notice if he said on a Wed. evening, he'd like a party on Saturday-& I think a birthday party at home, for your dad, would be much more special-although it might mean a bit extra thought, rather than just chipping in for expenses.

Have you talked to your sisters about this? You sound very ambivalent & I don't know whether it's the fact that he picked a date that wasn't convenient for you or something else...

    Bookmark   August 22, 2008 at 3:28PM
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I'm with Suzique and thistle5. I, too, am picking up on something more than just short notice and money.

The first thing you wrote was that this is indeed a big birthday, and that he survived "a major cardiac event earlier this year." So let the party be the kind he clearly wants, not what you wish he wanted or think he deserves.

You write:

"I think this [the restaurant party] is much more intimate, ... and dad can spend time with those important to him, not a room full of people and their guests."

But that's not what he wants. He wants a big party; lots of people and music, not intimacy and conversation. It sounds like you don't want him to have it:

"My dad's a bit of a show-off and can be a 'people user'. He likes attention when he can get it. I believe the party is more to be the center of attention than to share time with all those dear to him, as he wants to invite people who he doesn't even keep in touch with, unless he needs something."

You may be 100% right about him, and you may have plenty of other reasons to resent him. But he is your father. Whatever you feel he "deserves," think also about what kind of daughter you want to be. Please don't use his birthday to punish him.

It's his heart's desire to have a big party with a DJ -- not a dinner in a restaurant, no matter how nice. So if you really are doing this for HIM, give it to him. It sounds like you will be making the rest of the family more comfortable, too. You will be glad; you'll see.

As for the matter of cost and Xmas funds, etc., I think that's a read herring. Rereading your post, I don't see where he hinted for expensive food, or even a meal at all. A beer/wine & pizza or (even just munchies) party with a teen DJ, as someone else suggested, for 80 might well be cheaper than dinner for 20 in a nice restaurant. Or you could do brunch, a picnic, a BBQ ... with so many of you, you could even do some/all of the cooking yourself for any of those.

Finally, your attendance: I don't know what your conflict for that weekend is, and what you do about it is something only you can decide. Ask yourself what you risk regretting more.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2008 at 5:41PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

Yep, even take out pizza, crazy bread, and a salad from a bag can be good
with the right people. Don't stress about it!

    Bookmark   August 22, 2008 at 7:16PM
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Yeah, I'd do something bigger but cheaper. I really don't understand why the big party has to be on that one particular weekend though. If you're the one planning the party, don't you have a say in the date? It doesn't have to be when your dad says so or exactly on his bd; push it off a week or two if you must; plus it may give you some extra time to plan. your mom can take him out to eat on his real b-day. The big parties I've been to almost always fall on other days.

It doesn't really sound like any of your are really hurting for money. A 30 yr old living at home should be fine with pitching in, you've got a cushion, and I would bet no one would mind if the single mom gave a little less at Christmas time this year. Really, what is money supposed to be used for if not events like this? I, too, don't think it's too much to ask.

There's always ways to cut back expenses. Many here have offered some great suggestions. I'd go big and cheap. If the bill is divided 3 or even 4 (if mom helps out) ways, I can't see it being much more than hosting a big holiday dinner.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2008 at 1:01AM
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The top 10 list you suggested --does that mean 10 people you want to invite to a really nice restaurant?: At $30 a head, (and thats a low estimate) that would be $300 without alcohol. I know that for $500 I have done parties for 25 easily. I didn't read that your Dad wanted it at a hotel. We are entertaining 20 people tomorrow and planned it Wednesday.
I just finished baking 24 cupcakes frosted 3 different ways. Took 45 minutes. Cooked pasta for pasta salad and partially prepared and refrigerated it. Tomorrow add sliced olives, celery, mayo & shrimp & parsley, green onions.
Tomorrow morning make hamburger patties and buy buns.
Add baked beans and deviled eggs. A couple people are bringing appetisers. It would not be that much work for 35 people--just add watermelon slices & fresh strawberries, and add a 3 bean salad.
If Dad likes the fun of a party get a small keg of beer and let him be bartender. That will attract a crowd and make him be the center of attention. He could also mix Sangria instead and you can dilute that to whatever strength you like. Mine barely has any wine in it but lots of fruit juices and club soda.
Use colorful plastic plates and cups.
Somebody must have a back yard. I live by the beach near LA and nobody has smaller yards than we do. Many of my neighbors live on lots that are 30 x 90 and they manage to party often. It doesn't take money, but it does take time. We all work so its not like we have nothing else to do.
My husband recently had a cardiac problem and he's younger than your Dad. but if he wanted a party, believe me I would arrange it. I would think your Mom ought to be able to arrange a lot of this stuff--she raised several kids during a time when McDonalds was not the primary food source.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2008 at 2:51AM
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I think it's wonderful that you have the opportunity to do this for your dad, and that he should have the kind of party he wants. But the budget and menu should be decided by those who are paying the tab and doing the work.

I would think your mom would want to pay for a substantial part of the party, and also help with the planning and organizing.

There are lots of party ideas that are easy and inexpensive. If I was planning this party I would either grill hamburgers and hot dogs as someone else suggested, or my sisters and I would each make a big pot of soup or chili and I would order sub sandwiches and a big cake, and call it good. If anyone asks if they can bring something, ask them to bring drinks.

Do you or your sister have teenagers who could put together a powerpoint show about your dad's life? That would be fun. Videotape the guests reminiscing about your dad, get an inexpensive DJ, throw some cheap white Christmas lights around outdoors. Have the party at your dad's house, that way you don't have to get your own home and yard in party shape, and you should have an easy and fun party.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   August 24, 2008 at 6:08PM
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I think everyone has given excellent advice on how to throw a great party on a budget (so I don't have much to add)! I also agree that you should give him the kind of party he wants. If you divide the guest list up, make calls right away, and then send invites quickly, people will at least have a heads up of the date if you feel formal invites are necessary (and they are a nice touch!).

This week/weekend is a great time to stock up on foods, especially if you plan to throw a barbecue. Everything, even sodas, are on great sales (at least by me). Time to make a menu and get shopping!

For what it's worth, I usually make myself crazy over the perfect menu, and people really just want to be fed, it doesn't have to be super fancy or gourmet, just as long as everything reasonably flows in terms of foods meshing well with each other.

Good luck with your decision, I hope it works out for everyone logistically and financially. But you can do it!

(I have an event every year where my budget is about $90 to feed 32 men dinner (this includes paperware and beverages) and I fare reasonably well. It isn't gourmet, but it is decent and people get full.)

    Bookmark   August 28, 2008 at 7:13PM
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I agree with the others about him having the party he wants, especially with the recent health scare!

The picture show someone mentioned above would be totally awesome and I bet would mean the world to your Dad, not to mention to your whole family!

The food doesn't have to be elaborate. Just make some of his favourite dishes and the cake he loves the most. IMO, the people at the party will mean more to him than the food.

You don't say how many people will be invited, but $150 each wouldn't actually break all of you... even $100 each. Spending that amount of money at Christmas or for your Dad's birthday shouldn't be such a big deal, especially with his health as it is now.

Also, giving him the party he WANTS is your gift to him.. and he will know this too!

    Bookmark   September 8, 2008 at 12:16PM
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Does he want it to be a surprise party too? LOL.
Good luck. You'll miss him when he is gone but it doesn't mean you have to cave while he is here...compromise.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2008 at 7:58PM
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I think I can speak freely as I'm close to your father's generation (really close). Let him throw his own flippin party! I have a friend turning 60 in a couple of months and she's throwing the party of the year, because she wants to. What's with "dropping hints" about a party that someone else should throw for him? If your family tradition is to take that birthday person to a restaurant of their choice, then his "dropping hints" otherwise is outside your usual family tradition. You can get a good party together in a short period of time -- if you all really want to and if money isn't an issue (it seems to be a nagging issue here). Talk to your dad and mom; ask him directly about his wishes for his special birthday celebration and ask for participation and suggestions. Don't pretend it's a surprise party -- he's dropping hints, already; he knows it won't be a surprise! Act on that. Get a combined budget together and delegate. Your sister can't contribute much financially -- so give her other responsibilities. Do computerized invitations, but sign them and mail them (it's quick, cheap and more personal than an e-mail. Just work together as a family and you can get it done. Bottom line, IMO, dad has stepped outside the traditional box; so you have permission to change the traditional rules. Most importantly -- have a good time together getting it done.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2008 at 9:40PM
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When my Mom turned 70 I told her, if you'd like a big party with all your friends, I'll cater it and you just invite everyone you want. I think the guest list was about 50 or so who turned up. I cooked all the food and we had the party in her house. Other family members helped on the night and a good time was had by all. It was a lot of work but it was the party she wanted and in retrospect, since she didn't have a lot of "good" birthdays after that due to poor health before her death, I would have regretted it even now if I'd said, No, too much work, let's do something else.
I disagree that a restaurant is more intimate. It might be quieter but at a party you get to circulate and talk to everyone, whereas at a restuarant you tend to sit in one place and unless you like shouting down the table you really only get to socialise with the few people immediately around you.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2008 at 12:48AM
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I wish the OP would come back and finish the story. Considering that the question was asked in August, I'd hope Dad got his party. (I was amused that all the sisters were worried about Christmas shopping in August!)

    Bookmark   November 1, 2008 at 10:53AM
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I just found this thread. How I would have handled it is to tell Dad you want to give him the party of his dreams, but you can't afford to cover the entire cost of it and ask if he'd be willing to chip in.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2008 at 10:14AM
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Sounds (to me) that some people don't like their father very much. Well, maybe he's not all that likeable. Again, it's all about whatever the family dynamics are.

I'd give my right arm to "have" to give my father a party.

I'm not finding fault - just remembering how fortunate I was to have the relationship with my dad that I did.


    Bookmark   November 5, 2008 at 5:00PM
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