Dear Annie: Our family holiday dinner plans are getting too complicated

Dear Annie: As the holiday season approaches, I am facing a dilemma and I wonder if you have any ideas. My husband and I each have adult children from previous relationships, none together. My parents will not host any holiday gatherings at their home. If we want to have a gathering, we must invite them to our house. My husband’s parents prefer to host at their own home. So in the past, we have done two separate dinners for each holiday.

Now that the children are adding spouses with another set of families, it’s getting a bit much. This year, we asked to have Thanksgiving at our home, where we could host both sets of families comfortably. It was agreed upon, and I let family members know that we would be hosting. Fast forward a few weeks, and my mother-in-law informs us that she has changed her mind. She says it would be too much for her.

Annie, we didn’t ask her to bring anything at all, and we already always cook the turkey at our house and cut it before coming to dinner. So I know that isn’t the reason. But I have already invited my family. My husband suggested that we go to his parents’ house earlier in the day and then host ours. That’s way too much. My parents are upset that they won’t be eating with their step-grandchildren. I don’t know what else to do. Am I doomed forever to choose between having to have multiple holidays or celebrating separately? I would like to have the family together, but I would settle for getting to at least be with my husband on holidays. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

-- Not a Family Holiday in PA

Not a Family Holiday: You’re definitely not alone in your anxiety; the holidays are one of the most stressful times of year for many Americans.

First, have a conversation with your husband. Make sure you are on the same page regarding your intentions for the holiday season: your budget, your family dynamics, your concerns, etc. As long as you two are on the same team and communicating well, the holiday chaos will be manageable.

From your letter, it sounds like you two enjoy hosting and it was your mother-in-law who threw a wrench in the plan last-minute. In that case, call her up and tell her that you sincerely hope she attends Thanksgiving at your house, but that you have already made arrangements to host, so you will not be traveling elsewhere that day.

With such a big family, it’s lovely that you have adopted a “the more, the merrier” attitude; this way, you can open your home to all of your relatives, and if they opt out, or decide to house-hop and attend two different dinners, then that’s (SET ITAL) their (END ITAL) choice.

Annie Lane

Annie Lane offers common-sense solutions to everyday problems. She's firm, funny and sympathetic, echoing the style of her biggest inspiration, Ann Landers. She lives outside Manhattan with her husband, two kids and two dogs. When not writing, she devotes her time to play dates and Play-Doh. Write her: