Who Gets Dibs on Hosting Husband's Graduation Party?

Updated on March 13, 2017
A.J. asks from Austin, TX
27 answers

My husband is in medical school and will be graduating soon. I would love to throw him a graduation party, but am supremely stressed on how to handle DH's mother (my MIL). In the past there has been this extreme confusion on her part about who hosts parties, since it's "her thing to do". For example, she asked if she could host my DS's 1st birthday party. I told her that I appreciated the offer, but really wanted to host my son's birthday, and would let her know if she could help in any way. She could not believe that I said no and kept pushing to the point of telling me that I clearly couldn't afford to throw a party so I was a complete imbecile for not following her wishes. (I became a SAHM during DH's last year of med school, so she knows we're essentially living on loans). Well needless to say I was fuming mad, not to mention offended. Its not like I was going to throw a MTV "Sweet Sixteen" party for my 1 year old, I have common sense!

So now, moving forward with this knowledge, how do I approach DH's graduation? I've spoken to him about it, and all he says is that he's stressed about it, but still wants a big celebration. Do I just bite the bullet and let her host to avoid conflict? Oh and a joint celebration would never work because its her way or the highway, basically only she exists as the "party queen".

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So What Happened?

Thank you for your responses! Of course I want to respect the relationship between my mil and DH, and wasn't taking it from the stance of desiring to take anything away from her, I understand that. It would be easier to let her host.

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answers from Philadelphia on

I would jump at the chance to have someone else host a party.

I think it is very kind of her to offer and it is fairly expensive to throw a nice party. What a gift she is giving both of you!

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answers from Santa Barbara on

Let her have this one.

Once he is working and earning an income, you can start doing the big parties.

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answers from New York on

Does she do a good job at throwing parties? Is there always enough food and drink. Plenty of places to sit etc. if so, let her do it. If she is the kind who will plan for example one hot dog per person (like my mil would have done) you plan the party. You know best. Good luck.

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answers from Boston on

Personally if she's willing to put in all the time and energy to throw a great party for her son I'd let her do it. It will give you more time to concentrate on your family and helping your hubby as he finishes school. He'll get the big celebration after a lot of hard work and you won't have to foot the bill for it. It's a one time event so she'll keep busy doing it and hopefully be too occupied to annoy you.

As far as hosting a child's birthday? Good call on not going there for that. You don't want to have her up in your business every year for your child's party. You did a good job squashing that one. Continue on with that.

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answers from New York on

If she is able to throw a nice party with the general things you would want (including your guest list, etc) then let her do it.

YOU should focus YOUR planning on a more intimate celebration for just the two of you, like a romantic weekend away.

Remember - even if your MIL hosts, your DH is going home with you at the end of the night!!

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answers from New York on

Let his momma host this party for her son. This has been a long journey for them both, from pregnancy to graduating medical school. Wow.

You job it to make certain all of the details your husband would desire are a part of her plan. In this you probably have one up of her.

For the rest of your lives together you get to host all of the critical and huge moments for your child, future children and your husband. Let her have control and you just lay back and enjoy the party and watching your husband have his moment with his doting mother. It's not a slight to you if you can just chill out and let her and him have this time.

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answers from Honolulu on

Are you concerned that she'll throw a party with some ridiculous theme that you and your dh hate? Will the party be all pink glitter and unicorns, or all centered around some food that you're allergic to? Will it simply be "over the top" when you might prefer a simpler theme or something minimalist?

Or will she throw a boozy bash where everyone gets drunk in the first 5 minutes?

If it's just a matter of hosting, and she throws a fun or at least reasonable party with enough food and drinks and decorations for everyone, then I say let her have her party hosting duties.

After all, you're a guest of honor too, along with your husband. Sure, he got the degree, but I think that everyone knows when someone graduates from med or law school, or gets promoted to a significant rank in the military, or accomplishes anything that is difficult whether it's earning a degree or achieving sobriety or losing a large amount of weight, the spouse or partner deserves to be appreciated and recognized! It's hard work, for him and for you. You probably bore a lot of the household duties and child responsibilities alone while your husband studied long long hours and worked endless rounds in school and whatever doctors-to-be do before they graduate. There's no way I would believe that you didn't struggle at times as much as he did (unless you have full-time nannies and chauffeurs and private chefs and housekeepers and maids, and it doesn't sound like that's the case).

I suggest you let her plan it, relax and bask in the celebration of your achievements, and have fun. Be kind and appreciative. I wouldn't mention to her that you were by his side every minute and deserve to be celebrated too, but I'd mention to your dh something like "it will be nice for you to be celebrated, and it will be nice for me to enjoy the moment too. Remember that time when you were on duty for 36 hours and our son was sick? Those were some tough days and I'm proud of both of us".

Then you can show your husband how proud you are of him privately, in whatever way you choose (dinner for 2 with a babysitter to watch your ds, or a picnic in bed, or whatever fun you can dream up)!

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answers from New York on

I'd let her do it and pay for it. Getting through medical school was as much about you as it was about him. Be the honored guest and enjoy yourself! Congrats to him and YOU!!

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answers from Chicago on

It sounds like MIL has a history of over stepping boundaries. Hosting parties may be 'her thing to do' but things do change when you have adult families with their own families.

I agree with the other poster saying that it would be interesting to know the history.

But if DH has been putting off setting boundaries with MIL in the past, then this could be why you are in the situation you are now. Your marriage and medical school did not happen overnight. I bet you and husband had plenty of opportunities to set boundaries before his rigorous schedule of med school.

So if he graduates in May, you and your husband cannot make a decision over a few months period?

I would probably let this go, and let MIL host especially since finances are tight. But I would see the writing on the wall that your DH (and you) has some work to do regarding communicating and setting a united boundary with MIL.

ETA: Actually, I would probably call MIL now and just say "Did you have any ideas on a graduation party?" Add my input and let her host. Just be done with the drama of who-has-the-right-to-host, let her share in the honor of his hard work, and then get working on setting more defined and firm boundaries with her with the support of your DH.

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answers from Jacksonville on

Hmm. You said you "would love to throw him a graduation party" but did not mention anything specifically. Do you have specific ideas you want to use? Do you have the means to do so? Personally, I think I would let her run with this one. The first birthday party of your first child... that's different. That is a parent's job, not grandma's.

But a big party to celebrate husband graduation med school? Whew. I'd not want to be saddled with that task myself. And it sounds like MIL knows how to throw a bash, and WANTS to do it. Why not let her?

It isn't really a question of ownership of whose *right* it is to throw parties for your family members. His mom wants to do this, sounds like as a gift to him? Unless you have serious conflicts with who she will invite (can't you be part of deciding the guest list?) or the style... I don't see this as her taking anything away from you, but as helping you celebrate husband's hard work and accomplishment. Husband wants a big celebration, yes? So take all the help you can get. I would make a list of "must haves" you'd like to do, (don't label them that, but, make a list of such items) and talk to her. Let her know that you have some ideas you really want to have come to fruition for his party, that you know she is dying to throw a party for him for this occasion, and rather than duplicating it all, would she mind incorporating some of *these* ideas into her final plan... ?

And be grateful in your tone, not like she took your lollipop when you are discussing it with her. You still catch flies with honey.

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answers from Miami on

Please do NOT burden your husband with something so petty. He is focusing on his graduation and whatever he needs to get to that point. He doesn't need to feel like he's in the middle of a tug of war game between his own mother and his own wife. He is stressed as is! Let him have some peace and quiet. I know if someone started crabbing to me about a party they want to throw for me and trying to make me choose sides, I would say to hell with it, and to forget the whole thing, especially if I am already stressed out from tests, etc. I am not going to delve into drama or instigate a fight with two people I love. There is no way that would end well, and it will only create hostility between you two (or add on to it, if there already is some degree of hostility).

I would just let his mother plan it. She has the money, you're short on money, you can throw parties for anniversaries and birthdays, and she won't have many other opportunities to do so in the future. Avoid the fight, learn to pick your battles. You and your husband don't need the drama, fighting and stress and you certainly can use the money. Let her throw a huge, super over the top party if she wants. You can then throw him a more intimate party at home, just you and your son, or invite a few friends as well. You could also go to dinner at a nice restaurant to celebrate his graduation, or do a trip just you two or you two and your son to celebrate. That way both you and MIL get what you want, without putting him in the middle or hurting anyone's feelings. Good luck, relax, and have fun!

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answers from Beaumont on

Do you want to have the party? If so do it. It would be one less expense for you guys. However, she sounds pretty overbearing to me, her pushiness would annoy me. OR, another option would be she could host one and you could host a smaller one for close friends and your family.

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answers from Boston on

Your husband is probably stressed and exhausted with all he has to do, and if his mother stresses him out more, that's a problem. Normally, I think spouses should handle their own parents and keep the DIL or SIL out of it, but maybe he can't do that right now.

Is there any reason that the party has to be immediately after he graduates? Couldn't you wait until he's done, let him relax, and then plan something?

Or, is there any reason she can't have a party for the family and you have one for friends/neighbors and maybe some other med school grads? Two parties would let your husband know how many people care about him, and let him have more time to socialize with guests at each one? Your MIL doesn't have to know about the 2nd party, does she?

I do think you should stand your ground on the child's party - good grief, he turned 1, so there's no reason she had to turn it into a big circus. But I can understand her wanting to do something for your husband and maybe take the stress off both of you. She likes to be the center of attention, but really, can't you let her?

The other thing you could do is to let her throw the one big party for everyone (tuning out her Queen of the Ball attitude and assume that everyone sees her for who she is), and then take the money you would have spent on the party and use it for a romantic weekend or even an overnight for the two of you!

Otherwise, I think it's going to be nothing but frustration worrying about who has dibs on things. That's how she is, and annoying as I understand it to be, unless he's going to rein her in, you will have all the anxiety and stress here. Save it for your child's birthday and maybe Mother's Day/Father's Day.

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answers from Santa Fe on

It sounds like your MIL is a bit of a handful. If it were me I would tell her that yes, I would love for her to host your husband's graduation celebration and give her a list of names of people he wants to invite. She can do "her thing" and host the party and you save money...win win. PS - I understand your frustration about this too. She sounds like a boundary pusher. Good job sticking to your guns about your son's 1st birthday. You will have her in your life for a long time, so it's good to try to come to peace about things you disagree on and not let things bother you so much. When my mom is being difficult two things calm me down...1. I put myself in her shoes. For example: Would I wish to throw my grown son a party when he finishes med school? Would I wish to be a part of his life in this way and meet his friends and get to host a big celebration for him? Would I think this is helping since it would take away the financial burden from him? And 2. I remember that my mom will be gone at some point and that I will miss her when she is gone...no matter how difficult she is I will still miss her. It helps me to chill out a bit more and breathe and not let things get to me.

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answers from Binghamton on

If she's a decent person but maybe bored so has the time and also has the money,
I'd let her. You'll have so many parties to throw while she clearly enjoys it and probably doesn't have nearly as many occasions to look forward to. You could also have a small get together with just close friends if a party with "old" people isn't as exciting or fun. You don't have the money so it's just more practical for her to throw it. And likely it'll bring her so much joy. To have a son graduate medical school is a big accomplishment for her as well. Someday you'll relate to how she feels more.

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answers from Springfield on

It sounds like you would really like to throw a party for your husband to celebrate his great achievement. Can you understand a mother wanting to do the same for her son?

I don't think your MIL is trying to steal your thunder or anything. I think she's just excited, too.

Personally, I'd let her throw the party. You said you've basically been living off student loans. Ouch! You are about to face the reality of paying back those student loans, and that is not going to be pretty. It is going to mean living a frugal life for, possibly, several years. It might be wise to let your MIL have this one.

I completely understand why you might feel like she's stepping on your toes. My MIL was the same way, and it drove me nuts!!! That is, until I started just letting her have it. It made her so happy, and it lightened my load (work-wise and financially).

In the long run, it's worth it, especially if it means having a good relationship with your MIL.

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answers from Portland on

Just because your MIL has always hosted parties does not mean you can't host them for your family. Of course you can.

If you want to host it, host it. If you don't care, let her host it.

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answers from Anchorage on

If he wants a big party and you are admittedly low on funds I would let her do it if she wants to. There is no right or wrong answer here, no one owns the party except your husband who did all the hard work to get there.

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answers from Oklahoma City on

If you can afford to throw the party he wants and it won't put a hardship on your finances then plan it and don't give in to her.

If you can't afford the party HE wants them let mother in law throw it and let her do it completely. Don't offer your opinion unless asked and even then expect her to not implement your idea in any way.

Simply invite friends and let her foot the bill. Show up and have fun. No dishes, no clean up, no planning stress, nothing but fun.

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answers from Dallas on

I pick up a great deal of resentment toward your MIL. We don't know the history here.

You said yourself you're living on loans which means you're deeply in debt. You have a child and should be making financial plans for your future ( getting debt free and preparing your retirement) and college funding for your child.

If MIL is a great party hostess, why not let her throw the party as her gift to you. You can't afford it. If you can't afford it don't do it and get deeper in debt.

I've not heard of adults throwing parties for graduations. I have relatives who are surgeons who did not have parties or want big celebrations. To each his own though... it is a great accomplishment. You and MIL played a part in his successful achievement.

Try to see MIL point of view as well. You have a long time to me around her... make the best of it or you'll be miserable. Your hubby and children will know this. Think about how you want to model how you want to be treated when you are a MIL.

I never met my MIL so I have not had issues like many on this site.

Best wishes to you... pick your battles.

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answers from Wausau on

Start as you mean to continue.

If you're not going to be okay with MIL's expectations of party-hosting in the future, then don't start giving into it now.
If you decide that you'll be happy to let MIL take over going forward - some people would be - then you can let her.

You are facing a crossroads decision. Something that influences the direction of your life. Don't do what's easy today just to avoid conflict. Do what is going to give you the best shot at your desired long-term outcome.

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answers from Boise on

Have you even considered that your MIL is trying to help? I mean honestly, did she call you an imbecile? Or did you take her talking about the cost of the party, and her wanting to help, as an insult and intrusion?

Regardless of what's happened previously, it looks like you're looking for a fight before one has even happened. If you want to host a party, do it. If you don't mind letting her host a party, then let her. But don't anticipate a fight. Any reaction you get from her will be misconstrued if you're overly concerned how your MIL will react.

That's not to say she might not be an intrusive person, but give her the benefit of the doubt that she's coming from a good place. She loves her son and wants to celebrate in his happiness. Wouldn't you do the same for your children?

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answers from Denver on

This is a tough one! There's logic and then there's emotion, and sometimes it's a toss up on which one wins. I've told this story on here before, but I have a pushy MIL. She lives in AZ and we live in CO. Several years back she called and asked if she could arrange to supply DH a birthday cake since she never gets to. She would arrange with the bakery, pay with credit card, I would just need to pick it up. I said fine. I went to pick the cake up, and message on the cake said "happy birthday- love, mom, dad, and Kelsey (my daughter!!). No mention of me. Another time for his birthday they actually were in town and we went to a baseball game, she had apparently arranged for the mascot and others to come down and sing to hubby. Before that happened, I overheard FIL ask her "do you want to tell K. what's going to happen?" to which she replied "NO, she has nothing to do with it." So yeah, I get the boundary pushing.

I tell you this because despite all of that, my advice is to let MIL throw the party. Especially because DH seems to not want to pick this battle right now. Ultimately, he needs to have your back (and probably does, he's just consumed with graduation). But for this, I'd let it go. But if it were me, I would definitely have a small dinner party with either just the three of you, or with a few really close friends. That's a win-win.

The key to keeping my MIL within boundaries is that she knows DH wants a good relationship with her, but has made it clear that he is a grown up and his priority is me and our family. It's tough though! Good luck and congrats to you and hubby!

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answers from San Francisco on

Who gets "dibs"? I would think of it more as who gets the responsibility and stress. Let MIL host if she offers. Then ask her by what date she will need your (DH's) guest list. Then, all you have to do is enjoy yourself. If she doesn't offer and graduation is getting close, you plan a party and invite her. Don't overthink this or turn it into a p!ssing contest. It's not about either of you - it's about your husband's accomplishment. Congratulations to him!


answers from Norfolk on

If he were single - his mommy would throw him a party.
Since he's married - it's up to you.
HIS party is not about anyone but HIM - not his mama.
What sort of big celebration does your Hubby have in mind?
Lots of people/family/neighbors/everyone?
A nice restaurant?, a back yard barbecue?
There are all sorts of ways to celebrate - and I've seen 30 yr olds throw big parties at Chuck E Cheese.
His mom can come by and relax and enjoy it - unless she's going to be in a snit, in which case she can stay home and keep it to herself.
You can throw a party on a budget and not break the bank in the process.



answers from Baton Rouge on

Plan the party you want. Give her a specific list of tings for which you would like her to be responsible.


answers from Boston on

Has she expressed a desire to host this one?

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