Conflicting Celebrations: When a birthday interrupts your wedding

by epi on April 11, 2012

Q: We are planning a wedding in February. We are the bride’s parents and have all the plans completed for the reception. The groom’s parents have requested that during the reception the grooms’ fathers’ sister have a birthday cake brought out and have everyone sing to her. It is her 50th birthday. This is a wedding with 350 guests most of whom do not know the groom’s aunt. The evening is full with all the bridal traditions-toasts, cake cutting, garter toss bouquet toss, etc. We have suggested presenting the cake at the rehearsal dinner the night before and have the band sing happy birthday at the reception. The bride and groom also would like for it to be done this way. The groom’s parents are now very upset with all of us. Please tell me if we are incorrect in assuming that it is the bride and grooms night and not a 50th birthday party celebration.

A: You are not incorrect. Although it’s the groom’s aunt’s 50th birthday, a milestone, she will hopefully have many more birthdays. In contrast, hopefully, this is the couple’s only wedding. Therefore, it would be more appropriate for as you suggested that her birthday be acknowledged at the rehearsal dinner where it is more likely the guests have a relationship with her. It is unreasonable for the groom’s parents to expect the couple to share the “spotlight” with the groom’s aunt. Furthermore, as the hosts of the reception, it is ultimately your choice whether or not to acknowledge the aunt’s birthday at the reception.

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Jerry April 11, 2012 at 8:17 am

The OP is not incorrect. But she’s not correct either. (And neither is EPI. Yes, Jody, you can jump on my back if you like.) What tips the scales is that the bride and groom want to honor the groom’s aunt’s birthday in the fashion detailed above.

It is the bride and groom’s party — if they want a cake brought out for the groom’s aunt, let them. If the OP is paying for the party, I guess the OP gets the final say. But would you really want to pick that sort of fight with your future in-laws? OP: this may be one of the last times you actually have any leverage or control. Your daughter and son-in-law will be in the driver’s seat when it comes to visits with grand kids and where to spend Christmas and Thanksgiving. Do you really want to pick a fight over this issue?

(I’d apologize to the groom’s family, tell them you were caught up in the moment, and then tell them that they can pay for the extras.)

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Chocobo April 11, 2012 at 5:15 pm

By the OP’s wording I think that the bride and groom agree with the OP, not the groom’s parents, and would like the aunt’s birthday recognized at the rehearsal dinner. I honestly think that’s pretty a pretty fair and the groom’s parents are being unusually obstinate about a birthday for a grown woman.

I think you are right that the bride and groom should pick their battles carefully. Weighing how much of a negative impact this will have on their relationship with the groom’s parents is worth considering. Ultimately the final decision is up to them, though, and it seems that they would be more comfortable sharing some cake at the rehearsal by what the OP says.

Perhaps another good compromise would be to have the band or DJ dedicate a song to the aunt on the wedding day and have cake the night before: “Happy Birthday to Aunt Tilda, who turns fifty today! This song is for you.” The song would recognize her to the whole room but not disrupt the flow of the night, which seems to be the OP and couple’s concern.

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Jerry April 11, 2012 at 7:37 pm

You’re right. I’m wrong on the reading of the question. In that case, EPI’s advice is correct and the groom’s parents should keep quiet and bear it.

Reading comprehension fail. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

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Jody April 11, 2012 at 9:25 am

I think the EPI advice is spot-on here. The focus of the reception is the bridal couple, not other family members. It helps that the bride and groom are agreeinng with you on how the aunt’s birthday should be handled. Having the band sing “happy birthday” at the reception and the cake at the rehearsal dinner is a wonderful compromise. It sounds like you (and the bridal couple) need to tell the groom’s parents “this is the way it will be done.” If you think the groom’s parent’s might go behind you to have the reception facility serve the birthday cake, maybe a quiet word to the staff that “only XYZ will be served” is in order.

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D April 11, 2012 at 10:25 am

I agree 100%, it’s a wedding, not a birthday party. I’d have a cake brought out at the rehearsal as suggested, but it really doesn’t make sense to have a mid-wedding birthday party when most people won’t know her. It’ll make other guests feel alienated, and unsure of what’s going on. Plus it brings the wedding celebrations to a screeching halt, which doesn’t make for a good flow to the night. It’s your wedding day! Big birthdays, such as a 50th, are celebrated on other days all the time! The groom’s parents have no right to be angry.

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Winifred Rosenburg April 11, 2012 at 12:04 pm

One of my friends is getting married at the end of May and his brother is getting married three weeks later. Their grandmother (who raised them and is more like a mother to them) was upset by the dates they both picked because her 75th birthday is in between the two and she said that no one is going to fly in for her birthday because they’re already flying in twice for the two weddings. To remedy the situation, my friend is throwing her a surprise birthday party the day after his wedding (she’s being told it’s a post-wedding brunch) so all the family that flew in for the wedding will still be there. If the bride’s parents are nervous about confronting the groom’s parents, maybe they can suggest something like this to give the aunt her own event instead of her birthday having to piggyback on the wedding celebrations.

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Joseph Todd April 11, 2012 at 12:25 pm

I agree 100% with EPI and think that the MOB and bride and groom are being incredibly gracious in having the band play Happy Birthday even! Since the aunt will likely be seated with in-the-know family, I would suggest having a small cake delivered to her table at the end of the main course so that her table alone might enjoy a semi-private acknowledgment of her special day; she should not stand up or be spotlightted in any way. If the aunt were a truly gracious person, she would realize what is going on, step forward, and FORBID any celebration whatsoever of her birthday at her nephew’s wedding. The groom/nephew should take the lead here and diffuse this ticking time bomb immediately. There is no need for this type of selfish, insignificant, intra-family drama to overshadow a wedding.

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Montira April 11, 2012 at 12:58 pm

“. . .the grooms’ fathers’ sister. . .” How many grooms and fathers are we talking about? I’m guessing only one groom and one father. But that is beside the point.
I don’t know that I’ve ever been to a wedding where the banquet was “interrupted” in the middle by a relative’s birthday celebration. I do think, however, that if it were my own wedding, I probably would not object to the idea–especially if my new husband and his aunt are very close. It seems like a small thing to ask. Marriage is about bringing 2 families together. The ceremony is plenty, already. The banquet is a bonus.

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Denise April 11, 2012 at 1:17 pm

I agree with neither the OP nor EPI. I got married recently and my cousin’s birthday fell on the night of the rehearsal dinner (night before the wedding); it was a milestone birthday and he and his family were spending his “birthday weekend” at my wedding rather than doing whatever else they may have wished to do. We had cake and sang happy birthday to him at the rehearsal. Had his birthday fallen on my wedding day, we would have done the same. While weddings are about the couple, they are also about family. The groom’s aunt might not even know the couple well but feels an obligation to attend her nephew’s wedding; her milestone should be acknowledged, and I don’t think a small cake and one round of “Happy Birthday” is too big to ask. At the very least, it gives the bride’s family members and other guests a reason to make small talk with an important member of the groom’s family, and shows that the couple realizes that guests made sacrifices (travel, cost, opportunities, etc.) to attend their wedding.

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Vanna Keiler April 11, 2012 at 3:44 pm

If I may weigh in also, I agree with the EPI response (and Jody and D): the bride and groom have agreed that the birthday cake and birthday wishes should be done during the rehearsal dinner. I think that is a great idea, wonderful compromise, gracious and definitely more intimate than doing this in front of many guests. If the aunt is unaware of everyone’s plans and discussions surrounding her birthday, she may very well be embarrassed about become the focus of the wedding festivities. I understand that a wedding is about family, but I also agree that this falls into another category of disrupting one event to accommodate other people’s expectations, who are not even the birthday person, to say the least. Planners have enough things to do than worry about meeting other people’s special needs and requests.

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Rusty Shackleford April 11, 2012 at 3:44 pm

The only time I have ever seen this done before was my cousin’s wedding, where it was the only time our whole family had been together in more than 10 years, and our grandmother’s 90th was the following month. The bride insisted on a cake being brought out. I agree some guest may have felt alienated, but I certainly commended my cousin on her graciousness.

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Lynn April 11, 2012 at 3:48 pm

If the aunt and this couple will be sharing milestones in the future, they should be gracious. Sing happy birthday at the reception and have an elegant cupcake delivered to her. While a wedding may be all about the bride and groom, it is also the joining of two families. It will take less than 30 seconds to celebrate the birthday and will instill goodwill for a life time.

The maid of honor had a birthday on the night of our rehearsal dinner. We had a birthday cake for her and sang “Happy Birthday”. I would have done the same if it were the day of our wedding. She is my friend and I did not want to miss the chance to celebrate with her.

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Allyce April 11, 2012 at 6:02 pm

Even though the groom’s parents traditionally pay for the rehearsal dinner, it would be a stretch to think it acceptable to note in a big way the “groom’s father’s sister’s birthday” at that event. Any acknowledgement should be done only if both bride & groom agree to have their wedding used as a platform for another family member’s milestone. However, this aunt must certainly be a revered person for all the fuss the family is making. (Perhaps she is funding the honeymoon? In that case, by all means bring out a cake in her honor.) In the South, there is a saying: “A woman who would tell her age would tell anything.” So the aunt might prefer not to have such a birthday announced anywhere, much less at a nephew’s wedding reception or rehearsal dinner! Even if the bride & groom have left for their honeymoon, the suggestion of a day-after-wedding-brunch with birthday cake for auntie seems least likely to detract from the day the couple has spent months and beaucoup dollars planning.

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Pam April 11, 2012 at 9:41 pm

How do they know for sure that another guest may be celebrating a birthday that day as well? A friend’s spouse, for instance. While I know it is a closer relative (the aunt) I agree about how much people give up to attend a wedding, so perhaps it should be ensured that no one else’s birthday is that day before they only sing to the aunt at the wedding.

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Teri White April 24, 2012 at 12:54 pm

If I were the aunt, and they chose to serve me birthday cake at their wedding reception, I would be mortified and highly embarrassed. EPI is right on.

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