I’m hoping for an objective, third party opinion regarding surprise parties. My aunt and I are trying to figure out which one of us owes the other an apology.
If you hear about a surprise party being thrown in your honor ahead of time, are you under any etiquette obligation to attend? If you walk into a surprise party, are you obligated to stay?
If you know the “guest of honor” absolutely hates parties, and has already turned down people who have asked if they can host a party for her, is it considered rude to throw a surprise party for that person? 0419-13
The first question to be asked of oneself is, “Who is being served by my possible actions?” If you know the guest of honor loathes parties and particularly a surprise party, who is really being served by hosting in defiance of that preference? The party host/ess, of course. There could any number of reasons why a party host would carry forth with party plans he/she knows without a shadow of a doubt the guest of honor would not appreciate. Selfish entitlement of their own preferences, a desire to have control over the GOH (surprise parties do have the effect of catching someone off-guard), a desire to showcase his/her hospitality skills/cooking.
Since you note that the birthday guest of honor is female, there may be an engrained perception that when women say, “No”, they really mean, “Yes”, and that her protestations are merely a show to convince others that while she may want a party, she doesn’t want to appear eager to be the center of attention. I’m not into playing those kinds of speculation games and take people at their word so “no” means “no”.
If you knew ahead of time that a surprise party was planned, you could feign ignorance of the plans and simply avoid being anywhere near the scheduled party or anyone’s attempt to surprise you. A sudden business trip would be a handy excuse. After all, you are not supposed to know about this party and can, in freedom, make alternative plans as if you had a life and lived it accordingly.
But if you are surprised and happen to walk right into the midst of a party in your honor, I’m afraid you need to suck it up and be gracious to the guests. The host/ess may be a conniving, selfish person who weaseled you into attending a party you had repeatedly stated you did not want but the other guests may not know that. You do not want to create an awkward scene which communicates guilt to the other guests who may believe they are there under good pretenses and intentions. You don’t have to party til the wee hours of morning but make your rounds to all the guests, thank them for the good wishes and being there, eat a slice of cake and graciously make your departure. And then never, ever trust the party host/ess ever again to have any regard for your personal preferences.