Dear Annie: Each year, I dread Christmas Eve, which is too bad because it used to be such a special night for me.

My husband’s two siblings take turns having Christmas Eve dinner at their homes. They always throw it in my face that I never host the dinner. The truth is, I always volunteer, but I want to rent out a banquet room to do so. They act like being outside one’s home is the worst thing in the world.

Annie, my husband and I have one child, so there are only three of us. The other siblings have spouses, significant others, multiple children and grandchildren. When we are together, the little ones run through the house eating everything and making a mess.

The one time I held the event, my son was 18 months old. We had just spent nine days in the hospital. I was completely exhausted, and not one of them offered to help. They even told me what time to schedule the dinner so their adult children could make it.

I love my husband’s side of the family. They are great people and lots of fun, so I hate feeling like an outcast. What can we do to make everyone happy? — Dreading Christmas

Dear Dreading: You can’t make everyone happy. Your in-laws know you have volunteered to host this holiday dinner, and that you prefer not to have the chaos in your house. But they want the home experience, which means you will never host the dinner.

They are being somewhat unreasonable, but then, so are you.

You could probably manage to put up with the chaos and mess for one evening out of every thousand. But if you cannot handle that, offer instead to cook part of the meal or contribute to the cost, and stop beating yourself up about not hosting. The reply to their barbs is, “Yes, I’m so sorry you won’t let me host it elsewhere.”

Dear Annie: I don’t understand the expectation that people should purchase a token gift for a couple with a destination wedding. Do you have any idea of the cost per person for wedding receptions these days?

Guests should either decline the invitation, in which case a token gift is appropriate, or they should attend the wedding and give something that’s worth the cost of the dinner being consumed. Giving a token gift under those circumstances is an insult. — Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

Dear Poughkeepsie: We’re afraid you have it backward. A wedding reception is what the couple can afford as they wish to celebrate their happiness with friends and family. It should not be planned with the expectation that guests will help pay for it by giving a gift commensurate with the cost of their meal. That would be a called a “fundraiser.” Extravagant weddings can put a huge burden on the bridal couple and their parents, not to mention guests who feel obligated to give more than they can comfortably afford. We’d like to see a return to simpler affairs.

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