General Etiquette > Family and Children

When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42, #87

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Coley:
This post is sort of an add-on to the one about my Easter dinner quandary: http://www.etiquettehell.com/smf/index.php?topic=125597.0.

In a nutshell, when he arrives for Easter dinner, my brother intends to surprise my family (DH, DS, and me) with an announcement that he got married a couple of weeks ago.  He told my mother last week. She told me.

My mother informed me that he has been involved with this woman for several months, although we don't know for certain how long. My mother found out last fall from my brother's ex-W that he was living with her. My brother apparently sat on this fact for a while. When he told my mother that he was living with his GF, my mother told him that she already knew and had heard it from his ex-W. He hit the roof and was mad both at my mother and his ex. The irony is that he thought my mother should have told him that she already knew.

We saw my mother and brother at Christmas, and neither he nor my mother said a word to us about him living with his GF or that he even had a GF. The first I heard about her was last week. He e-mailed me and asked if I would set two extra places at the table for Easter dinner. I said I would. He didn't provide me with any other information except to say he'd tell me more later.

My mother isn't remotely happy about this marriage. She is very disappointed that my brother handled it this way. I'm keeping an open mind; however, I'm wondering how I should handle this on Easter when they arrive. I already know the big news, so ...

Should I:

a) Feign surprise on Easter when I meet my brother's wife (and stepson)?

b) Not acknowledge the attempt at surprise at all since I won't really be surprised. In other words, just welcome them to our home, congratulate them, and move on with the dinner plan?

c) Tell my brother now that I already know? Note: If I do this, my brother will be mad at my mother for telling me. He may be mad at me for not telling him sooner that I know. And my mother probably will be mad at me for telling him I already know.

It isn't lost on me that the big news will be announced during a dinner party that involves the couple mentioned in my Easter quandary post. It also won't be lost on this couple that we don't know my brother's wife and will likely be going through the entire getting-to-know-you exercise right there with them. This feels awkward now, and it's still 11 days until Easter.

Ugh. Any thoughts on how to make this less awkward?

hobish:

Ummm...Hmmmm...that is a toughie. How would it go over if you pressed your brother to tell you who is coming? It is your house, after all...?

Coralreef:
I would simply let him say his piece, congratulate them on the news and offer more chocolatey dessert goodness.  No need to jump up and down or go through oops.  You don't have to say  you already knew/guessed or that your mother told you.  This may be case of the less said, the better it is, specially if your brother may hit the roof and be angry at your mother for telling.

If he can keep important things from you, you can do the same, specially if it would cause useless conflict. 

Hmmmmm:
I'd try to press your brother on who he is bringing.

But I wouldn't let on that you already know about the GF, the living together, or the marriage.
I'd also tell your mother that you weren't planning to let him know you spilled the beans.

I feel so sorry for his new wife though.  How uncomfortable to arrive at a home with your son in tow and "Suprise! I'm your new SIL that your brother didn't want you to know anything about!"

Kaypeep:
I'd stay mum and let him spring his surprise.  You can all say Congratulations and wish them well, perhaps offer a toast (using beverages already on the table) and then see what they say.  If they seem willing to talk a bit about the elopement you can ask a few basic questions "When, where, how exciting for you, yada yada" and then carry on with the rest of the dinner.   He shouldn't be allowed to hijack the holiday with his wedding news.  If he wanted all the glory and attention then they should host their own celebratory dinner.

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