Manners Matter: Dealing with Expectations

Dear Mary Pat,

My niece makes her First Holy Communion this month and my sister just called to say that she is hoping/expecting that I will pay for the dress and the party since I am her Godmother. I know that things are lean right now for my sister since her husband is out of work, but I thought it was a little presumptuous of her to ask me to pay for the whole thing. Or maybe it was actually how she asked…I didn’t like the Godmother card being thrown in. I’ve always been very generous to my niece and don’t need to be reminded that I’m her Godmother. Of course I’m happy to help, but the expectation and the tone ruffled my feathers. I’m looking for an objective opinion on this situation please. What is reasonable?


Great Expectations

Sturgeon Bay, Wis.


Dear Great Expectations,

It sounds like your sister’s delivery could use a little work. Even so, it’s very nice of you to want to help. I think you are best qualified to determine what is reasonable, but here are a couple of points to ponder:

  1. Do you know how much the dress is? Just like any other event, the budget can quickly spiral out of control. There are plenty of really nice dresses in the $50 range. There are lots of affordable options out there and you might need to get creative. You can also look on eBay, at bridal shops for flower girl sample dresses, and in discount stores.
  2. Keep the party simple. You will want to invite friends and family who are closest to your niece but you don’t have to let the guest list get out of hand. What’s most important is that you are all together to celebrate as a family. If you normally cook steaks on the grill, switch it to hamburgers. And ask others to bring a dish to pass. If you splurge a little on a beautiful cake and a few decorations, you should still be able to keep this celebration super affordable. You can also get a bigger bang for your buck by offering brunch.
  3. Before you call your sister back, decide what you are comfortable spending. $200? $300? You are the one who decides what’s affordable, no one else. And since your sister didn’t mention borrowing the money, it sounds like this isn’t a loan. Give the money freely and focus on helping to make your niece’s day special.

Good luck,

Mary Pat

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