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Re: Thoughts, please. For an 80th bday party. UPDATE #24

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bah12:
I'd go with St Louis too and the weekend between Christmas and New Years.  Since this is a milestone birthday for her, I think it would be kind of her children and grandchildren to arrange their holiday plans around her birthday party.  That seems like a time when kids will be out of school and the weekend is a good time for those who work.

camlan:
No matter where the party is, some people are going to have to travel. No matter when the party is, someone is not going to be able to make it. I think you need to accept these things, and plan around them. I would make the guiding principle be what is easiest for MIL and what she would most likely want. Whoever is planning this is going to hear a lot of, "But X would be better for me and my family." It's good to have a stock response for this sort of thing, "Yes, I understand that. But this party is for MIL and this is what would work best for *her*."

Location: I'd make it the location that is easiest for MIL. St. Louis would be my first choice, with Chicago second, since she does visit there. St. Louis also wins because it seems like a lot of the "really want them there" people live there.

Guests: Make a list of the people who *have* to be there, the people you really want to be there, and everyone else. The date/time/location has to work for the first group of people. Everyone else, you have to be prepared to tell them how sorry you are that they won't be able to join you. You might have to practice hardening your heart on this one. But the larger the group, the more the planners have to make a plan and stick with it. Frequent changes will wreak havoc with all the other guests.

Timing: The week around Christmas seems best to me, because all the various college-aged relations (who are on the "must be there" list) will be off school. It's also far enough away that people can negotiate with their workplaces to arrange time off. And it is close to her actual birthday.

I'm with Cicero on not making this a complete surprise. Maybe tell her it's a special dinner out with some of the family, and surprise her with all the other guests. That's what we did for my father's 70th birthday. He thought it was dinner with the family, but we invited old college and Army buddies, all his siblings and their spouses and children, close friends--I think there were about 80 people.

We also asked everyone who was invited to contribute a story or photograph about Dad. We had a large scrapbook made up, with all the stories and pictures--he loved it. Several of the people invited who couldn't make the party were able to call him during the party--he heard from Army buddies he'd only exchanged Christmas cards with for the last 40 years.

peaches:

--- Quote from: cicero on February 07, 2013, 04:15:54 AM ---I would also vote for St. Louis and the date should first and foremost take MIL's schedules/needs/comfort into account.

I also vote for *not* making this a surprise. i don't know your MIL but in my experience older people, especially women, like to know about these things - maybe she would have worn a different outfit or gotten her nails done, or something that may seem unimportant to us, but can be important to them. she also might have people on her "must invite" list that you may not be aware of.

a quasi surprise could be in the form of --- digging up an old college friend and bringing him/her as a surprise guest, finding some really old photos and having them redone, finding music that she loves, an old recipe, etc

--- End quote ---

I agree with all of this.

And if MIL approves the arrangements, that can help to head off endless debate about the date and details of the event. You can say "This is the way MIL wants it - and it's her birthday".

Tea Drinker:
Another vote for not making it a complete surprise, both because the guest of honor might want to dress up for a party that is going to be focused on her, but because the risk of any surprise party is that the guest of honor might make conflicting plans. You can't push someone to set aside a date months in advance without telling them it's for something important, and if you pick a random date and don't tell her well in advance, she might happen to decide that was the perfect afternoon to schedule something medical, or even a late-afternoon hairdressing appointment that overlaps when your plans called for her to be home for the beginning of the party.

gellchom:
Another BIG vote for not making it a surprise, but having a surprise treat for her.  She'll enjoy it a lot more.  She may try to demur, but you can probably persuade her -- and if you can't, then it's good you didn't do it.

Do consider the potential for travel nightmares if you plan it for January in Chicago.

Don't know about the budget, but you might consider a short cruise or long weekend at a resort with the family.

This reminds me of something funny.  For her 80th birthday, we got my mother, who is brilliant but kind of an absent-minded professor type sometimes (nothing to do with her age; she's always been like that!), a fancy massage chair she wanted.  She unfortunately forgets what it's called and tells people, "My children got me the most wonderful vibrator for my 80th birthday!"

This sounds like so much fun!  Happy 80th birthday, Mom!

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