Unexpected death of family member within days of a party

by E M
(Louisiana)

My siblings and I have planned a rather large 75-100) surprise party for my mother's 80th birthday at an elegant venue with dinner, music, flowers, etc. for her family and friends.


This is currently happening:

My mom's sister-in-law (who was invited to the party), my aunt, has become unexpectly ill and will very likely pass days before the party, could even be the day of the party.

What do we do? Do we move forward with this party that has been in the planning for months, call everyone and postpone it or what?

We are lost at what to do as we are all close to this aunt and don't want to show any disrespect.

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Celebration Plans
by: Ms P Etiquette

Dear E M~

First, let me say how sorry I am for your anticipated and unexpected loss. My heart goes out to all of you.


This is an extremely sensitive situation, as you know. In a close family, the best solution is to ask all the family members close to your Aunt. However, with this party scheduled as a surprise, you indeed face a difficult choice.


Therefore, I am simply going to ask questions, the answers to which may help you reach a solution. First, are your Aunt's immediate family, ones who are now attending to her, visiting her in hospital and/or anticipating her eminent demise, invited to the party? If so, this is the family group you need to consult. I believe it is their opinion that you need since you cannot ask your mother what she would like.


Also, knowing your mother as you do, what can you imagine she would want to do. This is not a valid question since you cannot actually receive any answer, but it can be a small part of the building blocks you use to reach a conclusion.


There is nothing disrespectful or unmannerly about moving forward with your plans as long as your Aunt's immediate family is informed and does not object. It does not sound as if your mother plans to be at her bedside, but if she did, then of course you must cancel.


I hope this has been of some help to you. Your mother is fortunate to have such loving children.


Kind regards,

Ms Practical Etiquette

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