Mother May I Sleep With Danger
May 29, 2011 8:18 AM   Subscribe

Wedding week, visiting parents, close quarters: my parents helped me buy the apartment my fiance and I live in. They'd like to stay on our couch for three nights before the wedding. I love them, like spending time with them, and would want them to stay with us... any other week except this one! Am I being a jerk?

This is not a "can't afford a hotel" issue. My folks and I have a pretty great grown-up relationship and we co-own a one-bedroom apartment in New York. They are exceptionally reasonable people, something I deeply admire about them. This was a tremendous and amazing thing they did for us and we've been hoping they'd visit so they could sleep on our foldout couch and experience the apartment and neighborhood.

They're coming a couple days early for our wedding this fall (both sets of parents are paying for it, as are we) and they asked if they could stay with us leading up to the day. I froze on the phone and now think I may have been totally rude and mean. Fiance and I are studiously avoiding the wedding industrial complex insanity and our motto for this entire wedding planning process is "whatever is less stressful, dude." But I worry that having my parents up in our space will be a lot to deal with.

We're going to be:
- Busy: and when things get hectic, I get snappish.
- Emotional: our parents will be meeting for the first time, which is scary and nervous-making in a good way.
- Diplomats: SO's sibling is coming from across the globe with an unplanned pregnancy and unwed foreign partner, and the family - while accepting - will be processing this all in person for the first time.
- Crazy in Love: I was also selfishly looking forward to having the little bit of time that week with my SO to be an oasis of calm and reflection on our marriage.
- Making it a Double: I want to come home that week to exceptionally large gin and tonics and a fat joint to take the "dear god we're running an eighty person circus this weekend" edge off. This is impossible with parent houseguests.
- Living Up Living in Sin: Is it too much to ask for some last raucous premarital flings in the hay?

I hemmed and hawed on the phone with them about having to ask the fiance, although afterwards he and I immediately decided, "Of course they should stay, we are all going to be family now and we want them to be here with us, and all those things we're worried about - they are part and parcel of the wedding zoo and we can stone cold handle it," and we sent an enthusiastic email right away to that effect. But I suspect they're still feeling a little hurt. In my parents' culture, a family home is belongs to all of us and it's insulting to imply otherwise - my mother cried once when I referred to the house she and my father live in as "their house." She said, "It's OUR house - yours too!"

In short: Was I a dick to even hesitate to let them stay with us? Am I being ungrateful for all the really great things they have done for us? Is this one of those situations where fiance and I just take (a not so hard) one for the team so that everyone in the family feels loved and included and happy? Should I apologize or explain?
posted by sestaaak to Human Relations (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You're not a dick, but apologizing now would just revoke any good will you created via your enthusiastic email.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:25 AM on May 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

And to add to that "I have to ask the other person who shares this home with me before I invite other people to stay in it" is a perfectly reasonable response to the question, regardless of whether you have justifiable reasons for saying yes or no. If your parents are the reasonable people you declare them to be, they will recognize that.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:28 AM on May 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Perhaps your family relationships are substantially different from mine, but I'm sort of horrified at the idea of anyone, no matter how beloved and wonderful, staying with you the week before your wedding. I'm actually shocked that they would consider this a reasonable idea.

I would have said no without hesitation when they first asked, but even though you've now said yes, I don't think it's too late to back out of it. Tell them that you've thought about it further and don't feel prepared to be a good host to them this week. Explain that you're both a bit stressed out with wedding planning and the apartment is a mess and emotions are running high, and ask if they would they take a rain check and come join you for a vacation once you're settled in as a married couple.
posted by decathecting at 8:30 AM on May 29, 2011 [14 favorites]

Best answer: Was I a dick to even hesitate to let them stay with us?

No. It's not like you have the space and time to accommodate them comfortably.

Sort them out with a hotel, promise them some locked-in time at the apartment before the wedding, but explain that you don't think you'll be able to host them in the way they deserve, and that the couch-bed is theirs for the asking in future.
posted by holgate at 8:30 AM on May 29, 2011 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: I should clarify that by "hemming and hawing on the phone" I said actually DID say in a little trailing off voice - "...but I wonder if three days is... a long time..."
posted by sestaaak at 8:31 AM on May 29, 2011

Since you agreed to let them stay (despite all of the legitimate reasons you listed as to why you hesitated), there really isn't an issue. You hesitated but did not say no. Let it go unless they mention it.

If they do, you can set a really good boundary for moving forward as a married need to check with your spouse before making decisions that will affect both of you.
posted by murrey at 8:31 AM on May 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

Are you a jerk for hesitating before ultimately accepting an unreasonable request? No.

I'd explain you'd love to have them any other time. If letting them stay, I certainly wouldn't apologize.

One caveat: I don't know anything about your "parents' culture," which is apparently a major factor in perceptions and reasonableness here.
posted by J. Wilson at 8:38 AM on May 29, 2011

How about a compromise? Tell them that you'd love to have them stay with you, but ask them if they wouldn't mind getting a hotel the night before the wedding so that the two of you can have some quiet alone time before all the craziness of the wedding happens. Your list of reasons are not unreasonable at all - in fact, I'd present most of them to your parents when you make this request (but leave out the joint and the sexytime). Best of luck, and congratulations!
posted by bedhead at 9:00 AM on May 29, 2011 [4 favorites]

I think you're overthinking it - I'd just present the same list of reasons you gave us to your parents (well, maybe not the G&T + weed aspect.) If they're reasonable, they'll agree with them wholeheartedly and be happy for you.

You can approach it from the conciliatory side if you want, maybe plan out a week sometime after the wedding where you've already checked with your fiance and your parents' schedule can (as far as you know) accommodate it, and bring that suggestion of a good time for them to come stay.

On preview: exactly what bedhead said.
posted by pahalial at 9:02 AM on May 29, 2011

What if you let them stay in the apartment and booked a nearby hotel room for you and your partner? You can say it's because you want to relax before the wedding?
posted by katypickle at 9:06 AM on May 29, 2011 [10 favorites]

I like KatyPickles idea. My parents were both up several days before my wedding to "sleep on the couch"..... they came into it saying there were there to help me with the stress, so I took them up on it, making them lists of what I needed done. It kept them busy while I was at work, my mom generously did tons of laundry, assembled favors, ironed, cleaned, cooked, while my stepdad ran errands and did little fix it type things.

The rest of the time they were out sight-seeing.

In short, I made it clear I would be too busy to entertain them, and they replied that they were there for me. So I took them up on it, and while it was a giant blur, I was glad they were there.
posted by haplesschild at 9:47 AM on May 29, 2011

seconding katypickle. Get a hotel for yourselves. It's even more fun that way for you two and that way they won't be offended.
posted by uauage at 9:47 AM on May 29, 2011

If you getting a hotel room for a few days would upset them then ask a friend to "gift" you with 2-4 night in a sexy honeymoon suite that you secretly pay for.

Otherwise you could go "shopping for gifts for wedding party" with your spouse-to-be and rent a hotel room for a day and just relax there on at least one of the days before the wedding.
posted by meepmeow at 9:54 AM on May 29, 2011

Best answer: For the record, this was not a reasonable request on the part of your parents. You were not a dick and you were not being unreasonable when hesitating.

You are, however, stuck with it because you wrote an email that was essentially a pack of lies and have made this much, much worse. You're now stuck with house guests for three days before your wedding, which will suck unbelievably. You have no choice but to suck it up and take one for the team - any other option was taken off the table by your email.

The only thing I can think of is to send an email saying "I hope you know from my last email that you are very welcome for the three days before the wedding. My only hesitation, which you may have noticed on the phone, is that like most brides I am very, very stressed out by all of the details we need to take care of that not even you can help with. We are so grateful for your help buying this apartment and really wanted your first stay here to be a fun, social time and I am very concerned that the pre-wedding timing will mean that John and I are instead consumed with tasks and obligations, stressed out and possibly snappy. What do you think is the best thing to do?"

In other words, give them a caring way to gracefully uninvite themselves. If they don't, there really isn't anything more you can do without being, yes, rude.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:18 AM on May 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I don't think you're being a dick, especially if money is not the issue.

Since you have such a great relationship with your parents, why not just talk to them about it? Just tell them, "I love you and really want you to be able to come stay on our couch whenever - but the wedding weekend thing is kind of crazy-making and I want everyone to have plenty of space." If everyone is being honest and your relationship with them is easygoing and drama-free, they will probably understand and not be hurt about it. They might even do as haplesschild's parents did and reassure you that they're there to help YOU, not to be a burden. If they're prone to thinking of their home as yours and yours theirs, a helping role rather than a guest role might be what they're assuming from the outset.

I agree with others, though, that "your parents culture" might be a factor that we don't have enough information to work with.
posted by Sara C. at 11:43 AM on May 29, 2011

I wonder if you could suddenly discover that fiance's parents would be hurt that they're not invited to stay with you too, and for fairness's sake, offer to put your parents into a hotel.
posted by galadriel at 11:53 AM on May 29, 2011

Response by poster: My parents come from Asian families where they have at least five siblings each and never had their own bedroom growing up. They have always felt that my insistence on "personal space" when it comes to our immediate nuclear family is particularly American, foreign, and a little insulting. Especially now that they have spent so many decades outside their home country, they feel particularly strongly about being welcome in each others' houses - we have to make home where we can. When our relatives visit each other, we never ever stay in a hotel. Granted, they also don't live in urban one-bedroom apartments.

Thanks for all your feedback, everyone. I feel pretty good about talking to them about it in a kind and compassionate way while still making them feel included.
posted by sestaaak at 12:02 PM on May 29, 2011

One of the best gifts we got was a hotel room for the two nights before our wedding. Get this gift for yourself, you could tell the parents it was a gift if that is the sort of thing that would work for you.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 6:04 PM on May 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

I encountered this situation just the other day with my mother. I was caught off guard by her request to stay with my boyfriend and me for "three days or so" and immediately obliged because I didn't want to be rude. My mother also has a wonderful way of requesting things in a "of course I can stay with you guys for three days, right?" kind of way, which really throws me through a loop. Within a few minutes of talking with her, I realized it was bad bad bad and tried to shorten the days she'd need to come (you can actually see EVERYTHING in this city in just two days!). It was awkward. After I hung up I realized that I was completely not ok with her staying with us at all and emailed her saying that although I'd love to have her come visit, it just wouldn't work in our tiny apartment right now and sent some links to low-priced hotels in our area.

So in my situation I didn't even have a stressful wedding approaching to use as an excuse, but it still worked out fine. Sometimes it's ok to set boundaries with your parents.
posted by side effect at 4:04 AM on May 30, 2011

What about renting a condo or other space where a number of people can stay together? "Mom & Dad, here's the plan - Cousin Terry, Aunt Sue and Brother Frank are staying in a condo 4 blocks away. It has a pool, etc., and we're hoping it will be the gathering point for the family. " so that the alternative meets their need for family closeness, but you 2 still get to have someplace quiet to de-stress.
posted by theora55 at 9:36 AM on May 30, 2011

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