“My Sister Planned an Anniversary Trip for My Parents Without Including Me”

My parents are about to celebrate their 50th anniversary. My sister and I have been talking for six months about what to do for them. My parents married during a dangerous travel time in a snowy state, and with all of us living at separate ends of the state, we ALL agreed to celebrate together as a family in the Spring. Our parents told us they do not want a party, but just time together as a family.

On Thanksgiving my sister called me and asked us to please come to her home across the state for Christmas. My husband is a firefighter and could not take Christmas, or New Years, off this year. So we thanked her for the invite and assured her we would get together in the Spring. My parents went to her home for Christmas and she wanted us all to be together. They left two days later.

After Christmas my mom told me my sister planned a 50th anniversary trip with just my sister’s family on my parents actual anniversary in another state, but just as dangerous for everyone to travel to. My mom said they didn’t want to go but felt obligated to accept the gift. I was completely shocked and hurt. I cried over the phone with my mom as a reaction. Something I rarely do. I felt terrible being excluded and terrible for crying!! After all, its THEIR anniversary and a happy time!

Now I am sitting here over a week later feeling guilt, anger, resentment, and bitterness. Yes, I contacted my sister after the fact on Christmas and asked her if the trip was a Christmas present or for their anniversary? She said it was for their anniversary but was fine planning a party with me later in the year. I responded that our parents did not want a party but for us just to be together. Her response was “They say that..but…”.

She wasn’t planning on telling us either. I feel like it was a big secret. She would be angry with me if I excluded her from such an important life event with our parents. We have had a strained relationship in the past for similar issues but recently have been pretty close in communication. — Feeling Excluded

I get that you feel excluded, and maybe even embarrassed that your sister has now gifted your parents this anniversary trip while you seemingly haven’t given them anything yet. And given what you say has been a strained relationship with your sister, I can understand why it’s probably hard not to take this personally. But you can’t take this personally. It really isn’t about you.

It sounds like your sister really wanted to do something to celebrate your parents’ milestone anniversary — and 50 years is quite a milestone — a little closer to the actual date. Should she have included you? Of course. But, she probably assumed you wouldn’t be interested — dangerous travel time and all — and didn’t want to give you an opportunity to encourage her to not plan the trip.

Look at the bright side: Now there is zero expectation of you making the trip — a trip you yourself say you would not want to make. And you can still do something for and with your parents in the spring, which is what you were planning all along. The only issue here is that you feel excluded and maybe like you haven’t done enough to celebrate your parents on their actual anniversary. So, do something for their actual anniversary if it hasn’t passed yet.

I’m a little confused about the timeline of events here; has the anniversary and anniversary trip already happened? If not, contact your sister and let her know you’d like to pay for your parents’ anniversary dinner if she will tell you where they’re planning to eat. Or you can arrange to have a nice bottle of champagne sent to their table. I’m sure your parents do NOT feel like you blew them off, but, if that’s a concern of yours, write them a nice letter expressing genuine congratulations on their milestone and express how excited you are to celebrate with them in the spring. In fact, do that anyway.

As for the spring celebration, I’d just plan whatever it is you think your parents would enjoy or what you want to do for them–and THEN let your sister know what her role or contribution can be if she’s interested (or just invite her to whatever it is you plan and pay for and if she offers to help contribute, great, and if not, just be prepared for that and plan accordingly). Clearly, she’s already given her anniversary gift to your parents, so I would just assume the spring celebration is your gift to give. You seem to differ on what you think your parents want anyway, so maybe it’s best that you just do your own thing for them.

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.


  1. LW, I want to tell you something from the opposite end. So I am one of 3 children and my husband has one sister. If I do something with my parents, it isn’t excluding the other kids it is just a nice thing with my parents. If it is my husband’s family, it is always “well, we don’t want to exclude sister.” I find that if there is only one other sibling, then it becomes “The whole family is hanging out without me.” You need to re-frame this issue and get over it. This wasn’t your sister one upping you but more inviting her parents on vacation with her family. Not a big deal.

    1. Rangerchic says:

      I agree…I have 3 siblings and sometimes my parents go to one of their kids homes for dinner or whatever but the rest of us don’t feel slighted. If one of us decided to do something for them, great! However, my siblings and I now no longer have to worry about that as my parents separated last summer and have decided to get a divorce after almost 40 years of marriage. I was really sad about that.

      1. Sorry about that. No matter how old you are, it still is hard when your parents get divorced.

      2. Rangerchic says:

        Thanks…it was harder than I thought. It gets easier with time of course but it’s still weird.

  2. I think this is fairly shitty of the sister toward the LW since they’d already all decided to do something in the spring. Plus, not telling the LW is pretty dickish, too, because the sister knew the LW would be expecting to do the anniversary in the spring like they had agreed. People like this, who just steamroll everyone to do what they want regardless of what anyone else wants drive me nuts. But, what’s done is done. Have your own celebration with your parents, LW, and let your sister have hers. Your parents are not going to be upset or disappointed with you and will enjoy your time together as much in the spring as on the actual day. (Oh, and you’re under no obligation to do the party your sister suggested later in the year. She did her thing with them, you do what you and your parents want to do.)

  3. So your mom said that they didn’t necessarily want to go on this anniversary trip but felt obligated. What I would do is talk to your parents and ask them what THEY want to do in the spring. Do they want a big party with the entire family? Do they want an experience gift with just the two of them? Depending on what they want to do to celebrate, I would do that as your anniversary gift to them. Maybe they will want time with just you and your family because they would have spent time with your sister’s family on this trip. You can’t go wrong if you ask them what it is they would like to do as a celebration.

    1. Honestly, I would have the LW stay out of the middle of that. Let the mom and sister negotiate between one another. The mom might have been passive aggressive or trying to make the LW feel better (especially since the LW was crying when this was said.) I think she should say that they will plan a different dinner later and leave the sister’s plans alone.

      1. Oh I agree with you. I’m saying let the sister’s family and parents have their own thing and when planning the celebration in the spring ask the parents what they want.

      2. Oh, I misunderstood. I thought you were saying to see if the mom really wanted to go on the trip. Good point.

  4. Avatar photo bittergaymark says:

    Sorry, LW. But you only make yourself look freaking insane here! “Dangerous travel time!” What? Because of a little snow? WTF?! Hey, I grew up in the tundra of North Dakota and we all certainly didn’t stay home four five months out of the year… Frankly, you sound hard to deal with. No wonder your sister gave up trying to deal with you on this and simply went around you…

    1. Minnesota closed a ton of schools today due to severe windchills (-40). I think after last year’s crazy cold weather some Minnesota districts instated a new policy so when it gets down to a certain windchill they close. Some of my ND friends are making fun of me because they still go to school in this type of weather.

    2. Avatar photo call-me-hobo says:

      And if Tennesseans get more than an inch, schools are closed, and everybody buys milk and bread in case they get stranded. 😀

      1. In South Carolina it just has to be predicted 😉 I’ve seen how people who aren’t used to snow/ice drive though, so I completely understand now why they do it!!

      2. so funny enough it ‘flurried’ tonight and some schools are on a delay due to the cold tomorrow. it made me laugh after this conversation.

      3. Avatar photo bittergaymark says:

        But do you guys refuse to go anywhere for months and months just because it MIGHT snow?

      4. I’m originally from way Northern MN, and yes, we planned things during the 9 months of winter:)

      5. I didn’t realize you are from Minnesota, Jane!!! It gets BAD way up north too.

      6. You betcha!

      7. I once had an interview in a town 6 miles from the Canadian border, in a hardcore hockey town (you probably know which one I’m talking about). I drove there and back from the Twin Cities area in the same day — don’t think I would do that again!!

      8. I grew up on the Iron Range – and my husband thinks my parents wait until bad weather to take a road trip because they like the challenge.

      9. I had no idea there were so many Minnesotans on here!!! Even if you don’t live here anymore, once a Minnesotan always a Minnesotan. 😉

      10. Avatar photo bittergaymark says:

        Even I spent all my summers in Minnesota… at the lake — of course!

      11. The best place in the summer! 🙂

      12. I agree with you on this. I make plans and then if weather happens, adjust accordingly. Hell, my bff planned her Jamaican wedding in August… a potential hurricane time, but CHEAPER plane fare and hotel rates!
        I do, however, think that the sis planning this trip behind her back is a little shitty.

      13. Avatar photo something random says:

        I agree, it does sound a little weird. Frankly, I try to as hard as I can to get my family someplace warmer for at least part of the winter.

      14. School gets cancelled in the Seattle area for threat of snow. Or sometimes if we get like half an inch. And people are such awful drivers around here, it is kind of dangerous to travel. But that’s because we hardly ever get snow, so people don’t know what to do. I’d assume in an area where it snows alot, people know how to drive.

      15. Well, even though we get a lot of snow, there are some REALLY stupid drivers around here. People will sometimes assume that since they have 4 wheel drive they don’t have to slow down or be more careful. For example we had a lot of snow Monday night and yesterday morning there was this massive 20-car pile up on one of the major freeways. I hate when people follow me super close when there is snow/ice on the roads or when it’s slippier than normal. Gotta watch out for the other guy sometimes!

      16. Avatar photo something random says:

        Sure, I’m not saying I wait for really awful weather to go joyriding around. But to avoid planning any vacations or interstate travel for anytime there MIGHT be bad weather? That sounds like it is more cautious than a lot of people would find necessary. Clearly the letter writer doesn’t feel comfortable and that’s fine. Its probably the main reason none of them are meeting up until the spring. I don’t think the other sister is doing anything wrong if she feels comfortable traveling to a near state resort.

      17. Oh I agree. It’s stupid to assume that you can’t travel just because there might be bad weather.

      18. I was unaware that it was an option to just not go anywhere. Because… why am I at work right now? I live in WI and we get lots of snow (not this year, but it’s currently colder than a witches tit out there. Yuck.)

      19. Avatar photo LadyinPurpleNotRed says:

        In Memphis, one year while I was there, krogers ran out of chicken and bananas.

      20. Avatar photo Dear Wendy says:

        Not chicken and bananas!!

      21. As long as the Krogers still had condoms. Wait. What? Wrong thread.

      22. saracarolina500 says:

        What an interesting combo. In NC, the mere threat of snow leads to a run on bread, milk, and eggs. We figure that everyone must be making french toast.

        The problem in NC is ice. Any snow we get often melts overnight and then re-freezes, and then it’s black ice. Then you have all the people who bitch that Southerners can’t drive in the snow spinning out on the black ice.

      23. I’m in the Triangle and you are so right. Then again, after the huge Snowmaggedon we had last February, I’m inclined to be happy that everything shuts down so quickly. That was a nightmare!

      24. saracarolina500 says:

        TheLadyE, I was thinking of the ice fiasco that happened back in the early 2000’s when everything froze so quickly. I think that’s when the shutdowns ramped up. I was lucky…it only took me 2 hours to go the 25 minutes from downtown Raleigh to Clayton, unlike the folks that were stuck on the road for much much longer!

      25. Yup. It’s entertaining. 🙂 But at the same time, if the general population is not used to driving in that, and if there aren’t any plows or anything, yeah it can be difficult driving that’s for sure.

      26. Agree. As I say “I am a danger to myself and others” on icy roads. I grew up in Florida. Give me a downpour any day, but keep your ice. If roads are predicted to freeze, I stay home.

      27. I totally get that. I’m Minnesotan born and raised so I’ve always had to drive in snow. It’s totally different if you’re not used to it.

      28. Jealous. It takes about 12+ inches of snow for them to close the schools in Utah. And since I work at a university, it matters. Depending on the week (finals week or the first week of classes), it often takes even more. Last winter, we had 18 inches of snow on campus and it didn’t close. Mostly because the people in charge of making that decision lived in an area where they only got 4-5 inches. You’ve got to love lake effect snows making wildly differing snow totals.

      29. I’m in Utah, too!

      30. Another Uthan! Sweet, I’m not alone 🙂

      31. I’m a recent use transplant. I’m in SLC, hopefully Park City in the spring.

      32. Wow, I cannot spell today. More coffee!

      33. My parents moved to Park City I think two years ago and they’re so happy. Their first winter, my dad skied 100 days.

      34. My husband works in park city. And the pollution in SLC is absolutely disgusting. I really hope we can break our lease and move. Also, it’s like 10 degrees colder in park city, which would be great for me in the summer. I grew up skiing and snowboarding, but I haven’t in so long.

      35. I don’t post a lot but…. Me too!
        Although I grew up in the south – hurricaine territory. So I’m good with driving in snow or massive rain.

      36. Dw meet up! I thought I was the only one here!

      37. My folks live in Florida, so I get the massive rain too.

      38. Yeah in terms of snow it takes quite a bit for schools to close, but when it’s dangerously cold like it is right now with crazy ridiculous windchills, they usually close more readily.

      39. Avatar photo Moneypenny says:

        In California, people freak out if it rains.

    3. I dunno. I am born/raised in the Chicago area but that doesn’t mean I’d want to travel somewhere if here or there was having some major weather event. It can be hard enough getting to work when the roads haven’t been plowed on a half-hourly basis when it snows. The thought of trying to drive or fly (out of O’HARE NO LESS? LOLOL) in the snarls of winter makes me want to stay home, too.

      1. Avatar photo bittergaymark says:

        Um, but there IS NO forecasted weather event other than winter at this point…

    4. Avatar photo possumgirl says:

      Didn’t she say her husband is a firefighter and couldn’t get off Xmas or NY? Besides, I grew up in Iowa, and I stopped going home for Xmas because it was exhausting to deal with winter travel. It’s a nightmare.

      That said, LW is being a baby. If it was my parent’s anniversary and I lived near them OF COURSE I would do something. What, everyone should just ignore the milestone because one kid can’t get there? It’s immature and selfish. Have two parties. Have ten parties! For the love of god, just be happy for THEM and keep yourself(ishness) out of the equation.

      1. I remember crawling through Iowa with so much snow on the highway, and cars off the road and tagged like every fifty feet when we drove across the country in January 2009. Some of them were buried completely and had like, posts marking them. We definitely were going like 20. It was crazy!

  5. Yeah, I agree that “dangerous travel time” sounds a little weird. Drive slower? I grew up in a dangerously snowy state and moved across the country through sketchy weather in january. Was it scarymat times, yes! What is unforgettable as an adventure? Absolutely. Did we face death at every turn? No. Not even close.
    Your sister wanted to help her parents celebrate on their actual anniversary instead of months later. I don’t see why it’s such a big deal especially if you would have declined the invitation.
    I think you should do whatever you can to celebrate with them when you feel comfortable enough to travel.
    And you should probably stop comparing and fighting with your sister so much. Your parents might appreciate that for their anniversary.

    1. Avatar photo bittergaymark says:

      Yeah, the way the LW keeps dragging her poor parents into this unnecessary drama is simply NOT cool. Crying over the phone to them?! Sorry, LW. But GROW UP! You sound like a (not) hot mess!!

  6. I think, LW, that your emphasis on “we ALL agreed” is noteworthy. You seem to think that because you and your sister and your parents decided to celebrate as a whole family in the Spring that this came with some agreement to NOT celebrate any other time… and clearly nobody else got that memo.
    We all agreed to do this thing doesn’t mean we ruled out all other options and cannot celebrate otherwise. Did you not expect your parents to do something on their anniversary to commemorate it?

    Anyways, I get that you feel slighted and I can’t tell you not to feel– but you should actively work on reframing this. They didn’t go on vacation AT you, you didn’t get excluded from a trip. People are allowed to go on vacation without inviting you. Yes, even when those people are your family.

    1. When framed this way, it sounds so much better. Well done. And you’re right, changing the way you think about things does help, a lot. There’s no sense is stewing about them.

    2. Everyone who goes on vacation is going on vacation AT me 🙁 No one ever invites me on vacation. After all the trouble I go to inviting 7 billion people on each vacation with me.

  7. The only thing you should be concerned about is if your mother doesn’t want to go (weather fears) and feels pressured. Otherwise maybe you should notice that your sister did this behind your back- she thought you would act weird about it and you kind of are. I only have one sibling and he and his girl friend are welcome to plan ALL the celebratory trips with my parents they like. Sometimes one sibling simply has more in common with the parents or cares more about certain milestones. One of my SIL Planned a party for her parents (my husband’s mom and stepdad) for their 20 year anniversary and we were assumed to be the eagar co hosts and had to pay a third of the party price plus our travel costs. My husband actually had no interest in this party but what is he going to say without looking like a jerk/ making it awkward about it not being his real dad? He would not have been offended if his sister planned it locally and didn’t even let him know, and neither would I. You don’t lose anything by not going on a trip you don’t want to go on.

  8. Avatar photo Dear Wendy says:

    From the LW:

    “Update: two passes closed leading to the lodge. The vacation was postponed. They ended up going a week later. My Dad kindly asked my sisters husband to not purchase them a vacation again in the winter.

    My husband, kids, and I are traveling there in February to take them out to dinner. “

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