How to React to an Unwanted Marriage Proposal in Public, Vol. 15, Issue 13

How to React to an Unwanted Marriage Proposal in Public from Etiquetteer on Vimeo.

St. Valentine’s Day is tomorrow, the designated day to celebrate True Love, and it’s not unusual for suitors to pop the question. These proposals aren’t always accepted, which is too bad . . . or not. But it’s one thing if the proposal is made in private - in your conservatory or music room, for instance - and another if it’s someplace like a restaurant, and still another if it’s on stage at a rock concert, in a stadium during a game, or in the food court of the mall. The internet is full of marriage proposal fail videos like this one*:

They break Etiquetteer’s heart. The lady is embarrassed and/or angry, and the suitor is humiliated publicly, often before a large audience . . . and for eternity, if it ends up on the Internet.

Etiquetteer would like to offer as a suggestion some language to extricate everyone from this situation. When the proposal is finished, the lady should take the hand of her suitor, look at him lovingly (no matter how angry she might feel) and say:

“My dear, it’s such an honor that you’ve chosen me to give the gift of the rest of your life. It’s so beautiful of you - I’m overwhelmed! But I need something else from you, too. When I say Yes to you, I want to say it only to you. I want that moment to be for us alone, and not share it with all these wonderful people watching now. Will you do that for me?”

Then grab him by the arm and get outta there with a swift, unhurried stride. You can tell him when you’re alone that it won’t work out - also that you don’t like the spotlight - but this way you’ve saved him from looking like a loser in public, and you look like a lady who can take anything in stride.

But Etiquetteer hopes that if you DO get a proposal on St. Valentine’s Day, that it’s the one you want.

And with THAT, allow Etiquetteer to wish you all a Perfectly Proper St. Valentine’s Day!

*A couple of advance viewers have pointed out the heteronormative nature of this column. Etiquetteer chose to slant it that way after a cursory search of the Internet failed to disclose any marriage proposal fails from non-heterosexual couples. Obviously the advice applies to couples of all gender combinations.

smalletiquetteer

A Perfectly Proper Announcement, Vol. 13, Issue 51

Etiquetteer nodded with approval over the announcement today of actor Benedict Cumberbatch's engagement to director Sophie Hunter. The traditional method of printing a notice in The Times could not be more Perfectly Proper, as it eliminates all the unnecessary vaporings about True Love. Announcement of an engagement in itself illustrates the depths of one's emotion to one's Beloved; no further explanation is necessary . . . nor is a link to a gift registry. Couples without Celebrity Status should consider this as an example of how Restraint illustrates Good Taste. Etiquetteer wishes the Happy Couple long life and Happiness!

Broken Gifts, Vol. 13, Issue 48

Dear Etiquetteer: A wedding gift arrived in the mail today from a seller on [Insert Name of Popular Craft Website Here], a charming vintage martini set. One of the martini glasses arrived broken. Do I tell the gift giver that this happened, do I contact the seller with this information, or do I just write a lovely thank you note and forget about it. One pitcher and two glasses, so the set is mostly useless. Unless one is making martinis for oneself only.

Dear Shaken and Shattered:

Etiquetteer certainly hopes that your fledgling marriage hasn't already arrived at the state where you find it necessary to make martinis for one! Usually it takes a few years to get to that unhappy state of affairs . . . and often it's an unhappy affair that gets one to that state.

Receiving a gift that's broken is different from receiving a gift that's unwanted. In the latter case, as Etiquetteer has said so often, no one cares what you want or how you feel. Send a Lovely Note anyway and then put it in your next yard sale, regift outside your Circle of Mutual Acquaintance, or contribute it to a Worthy Tax-Deductible Cause.

But surely it was not the intention of your Benefactor to send you a broken gift to celebrate your wedding. In this case Etiquetteer recommends that you contact your Benefactor with this information right away so that he or she may resolve the situation; this means by phone or email, not a Lovely Note. You should not be asked to do more than repackage the gift to be returned and to receive the apologies of your Benefactor for the inconvenience. Etiquetteer recommends this approach since your Benefactor already has a customer/vendor relationship with the Online Vendor. For all Etiquetteer knows, your Benefactor orders frequently from this Online Vendor. News of deficient service (as well as how satisfactorily the Online Vendor responds) could impact that relationship. Indeed, you may be sufficiently satisfied to become a customer yourself.

At all times you should reassure your Benefactor of how much you appreciate his or her thoughtfulness and generosity, and then send a Lovely Note as soon as an (unbroken) substitute gift is received.

A Pre-Valentine's Warning from Etiquetteer, Vol. 13, Issue 19

With St. Valentine's Day on its way tomorrow, Etiquetteer feels it necessary - strictly in the name of Perfect Propriety - to advise you against Popping the Question Publicly. Fictionally we have the example of Vicki Lester and Norman Maine, seen here in the George Cukor film of A Star Is Born:

Now you'll notice that the situation was saved beautifully by Our Heroine who, seeing the embarrassment of her beloved, called out "Oh no, that's much too public a proposal to say no to! I accept!" And those who know the story know exactly what that got her . . .

Cruel Reality shows a different outcome:

But if you are really intent on doing this, Etiquetteer has some questions to ask first:

  • How comfortable is your beloved in the spotlight? Are you choosing to propose in public because she likes having attention called to herself, or because you want to call attention to yourself?
  • Are the manner and location of your proposal what you think she might expect of a marriage proposal? (Reviewing that compilation, and recognizing that Etiquetteer might be succumbing to stereotypes, Etiquetteer finds it hard to believe that most women want to entertain proposals of marriage at sporting events or the mall.)
  • Are you 110% sure that your beloved will say yes? And even then, Etiquetteer thinks you should reconsider.
  • Do you have a Graceful Exit planned in the (to you unlikely) event that your proposal is declined? Even if you're 110% sure your beloved will accept, plan one.

Etiquetteer asks these questions not only for your benefit and that of your beloved, but also for the Embarrassed Spectators who, if they don't want to laugh in your face, will want to turn their backs. Please, Etiquetteer begs you, consider your plans very carefully.

Now of course Etiquetteer expects to hear from several people who did witness Successful Public Proposals of Marriage, and that's just wonderful. Etiquetteer is delighted that you had that experience. Etiquetteer rather hopes that Those Who Popped the Question evaluated their situations intelligently.

You may be sure that Etiquetteer will have Shields Up on St. Valentine's Day, and if one of Cupid's little arrows gets in the way, Etiquetteer will use it as a swizzle stick for a martini.

Reflections on Wedding Invitations, Gifts, and Attitudes, Vol. 12, Issue 13

Etiquetteer has been relieved of the burden of wedding invitations this summer. Consider that sentence for a moment. Isn't it a pity that so many people consider an invitation to a wedding a burden, rather than a Happy Occasion to celebrate a Joyous Marriage with friends and relations? Etiquetteer is of the completely subjective and entirely unresearched opinion that there are two causes: the expense of attending a wedding for a guest (especially travel, which is not only expensive but inconvenient) and the selfish behavior of brides that led to the coining of the term "bridezilla" several years ago. These two causes combine in the selection of a gift for the Happy Couple. Etiquetteer was deeply sorry to read last week about a bride who was sufficiently unbalanced to call out her friends on social media for what she perceived as their inadequate generosity. First of all it's vulgar in the extreme to mention how much money was spent to entertain your guests. You invite friends (or the friends of your parents) to a wedding for the pleasure of their company, not because you expect them to cover the costs of their own entertainment*. Second, your wedding is not as important to your friends as it is to you; no doubt there are other, more important claims on their resources than your Gaping Maw of Bridal Need. And third, criticizing someone so bluntly on social media about their behavior is just as bad as, if not worse than, doing so to their faces. Brides who follow this example deserve to lose a lot of friends.

With the advent of social media, some confusion has also spread over how to interpret how one receives knowledge of a wedding -- or, to be completely candid, when to suspect that the only reason you're hearing is that the Happy Couple expects a gift. Over at Etiquetteer's Facebook page (speaking of social media), Etiquetteer recalled learning of the wedding of a Friend of Etiquetteer's Youth from Dear Mother; the invitation had been addressed to "Mr. and Mrs. [Parents of Etiquetteer] and Etiquetteer," which is far from Perfectly Proper. Why, you ask? Because at the time the invitation was sent, Etiquetteer was not only well over the Age of Consent, but also not living under the parental roof. Anyone over the age of 21 deserves his or her own engraved invitation sent to his or her own address; attempting to economize by doubling up invitations to parents and grown children makes you look shabby. Saying you can't find that person's address no longer serves as an excuse, thanks to the Internet.

This led to the question of how to respond to wedding invitations from Long Unheard-of Schoolfellows who haven't been heard from in so long that their motives are suspect. Back before the Internet (and before brides expected everyone to Travel the Earth on Command), wedding announcements were sent instead of invitations, something along the lines of

Mr. and Mrs. Fairleigh Freshness

announce the marriage of their daughter

Miss Dewy Freshness

to Mr. Manley Firmness

on [Insert Date Here].

Frequently a little address card would be included so that recipients would know where the Happy Couple would be living. You must remember that this was before the days of "Live Together First:"

Mr. and Mrs. Manley Firmness

After [Insert Date After Honeymoon Here]

5456 Cottage Lane, Apartment Six

Verdant Greens, New Jersey

Receipt of a wedding announcement was taken as information that the Happy Couple felt you should know, but not with the expectation of a gift. As much as Etiquetteer enjoys social media and other electronic communications, Etiquetteer would rather like to see engraved wedding announcements come back.

Should you receive a wedding invitation from someone you haven't heard of in many years, put pen to paper at once and send a Lovely Note of Congratulations along with your Infinite Regret that you cannot attend in person. And that concludes your obligation.

*If the costs are really bothering you, have a simpler wedding and invite fewer people.

Destination Weddings, Vol. 11, Issue 9

Dear Etiquetteer: My gay husband and I have been invited to the wedding of a very close straight family member and his bride. While the destination has not been officially decided, they are seriously contemplating booking it in a Caribbean country that is extremely unwelcoming, inhospitable, and anti-gay toward gays (to the senseless point of beatings, harassment, castrations, and even death). In fact it is the number one homophobic nation in the western hemisphere, with numerous organizations putting out dire travel warnings and advisories to the gay community.

While we wish to attend this family wedding, we have hinted to them about the extreme anti-gay nature of the country, and that we were worried a bit for our safety.

The dilemma also comes with the fact that my husband is upset with me, in that I am willing to boycott the trip to not-quite-Kokomo and miss the wedding of a family member, if it were in the destination being considered. To tell the truth, I am saddened by the prospect of not going to the wedding, but there are not enough fences around any gated beach resort community to provide me with a sense of protection, and let alone a piece of mind for what should be a joyous and relaxing day for all.

While their decision process is still going on, my fear is that, in further stating that I might not be going, that it might take away from the couples' intended destination, and I really don’t want to be responsible for them changing the destination of their dreams (and my potential nightmare).

What would be your suggestion for approaching this situation, and the proper response, for when the invitation arrives? Are there any other subtle ways of directing the destination, in their decision-making process, but still save myself from angst and fear?

Dear Wedding Guest:

Etiquetteer has never really cottoned on to the idea of the Destination Wedding. Their chief purpose sometimes seems to be to gratify the whims of the Happy Couple at the greatest expense and inconvenience possible for the largest number of people. Etiquetteer takes a dim view of Happy Couples who care more about the setting of their weddings than they do about their guests.

Many factors are considered when choosing a "resort" destination for a wedding: location, availability, weather at the time of year considered, facilities and amenities offered, and of course cost. Safety for all attendees should be at the top of the list, though it's not something often thought necessary to consider. Your valid concerns about your safety underscore its necessity in the planning.

A frank but kind conversation between you, your husband, and the Happy Couple needs to take place. Without hinting, explain that you don't in the least want to take away from the special joy of their nuptials, but that the public record shows that you and your husband would become targets of harrassment. And any harrassment of any wedding guests would certainly put a damper on the joy of the wedding, which you do not want to compromise. Explain that, should they choose to hold the wedding in this Homophobic Nation, that you feel the best way to preserve that good time would be not to go.

While Etiquetteer does understand why your husband is upset with you - to miss a wedding has become open to all sorts of interpretations - Etiquetteer hopes and expects that he will support you in this discussion. Etiquetteer also hopes that the Happy Couple will understand how sensitive you are to making sure that they have a positive experience for their wedding. Deciding not to go to the Homophobic Nation will be the Best Possible Decision; to do otherwise will merely peg them as Selfish.

Two Urgent Pleas, Vol. 4, Issue 48

Dear Etiquetteer:I received an invitation to an out-of-town baby shower a few weeks ago. Out-of-town in this case means the only way I could get there would be by plane. To top it off, the shower is on a Sunday afternoon, which bumps up nicely against the start of the work week. I have declined, and properly.Now I'm getting frosty vibes from one of the hostesses (my sister-in-law). I must attend a Thanksgiving get-together at said in-law's home in a couple of weeks. How do I contain the frost quotient?Dear Declined:By ignoring it. Please continue to treat your sister-in-law as you always have, which will only make her look like a petty and ungrateful fool. Honestly, these people!

Dear Etiquetteer:I hope you can help us. My 44-year-old daughter is marrying a 49 year-old man we believe to be a four-flusher and liar. I don't like him and never want to see him. I don't want to go to the wedding. He is not welcome in our home. One of her brothers feels the same, two don't care, and two of her sisters are supportive. My wife and I are in a quandary, 77 years old and not in the best of health. Our daughter is in tears because we don’t accept him. This is a first marriage for them both.Dear Father of the Bride:Well, looking at this strictly from an etiquette point of view, you’re making an unmistakable stand. You couldn’t communicate any better to the entire world how much you disapprove of the marriage than by boycotting the wedding ceremony as you plan to do. At anyone’s first wedding the bride’s parents are very much on display, and your absence would be lost on no one. On the other hand, absenting yourself would be better than actually objecting when the officiant calls for those who disapprove to "speak now, or forever hold your peace."You realize, of course, that this would create a complete and total break with your daughter. Once anyone chooses a life partner, that person’s allegiance is bound to be with that person, for better and for worse, etc. etc. etc. So once your daughter marries this Man You Hate, she would feel as unwelcome in your home as he would be. And Etiquetteer can only speculate what attendant fractures might appear in your relationships with your other children who support or don’t care about the marriage.Now, dropping the etiquette issues aside for the moment, you and your wife need to weigh whether your love for your daughter is stronger than your hatred for her fiancé. If Love wins, you will need to welcome this Man You Hate as a member of your family. It doesn’t have to be awarm welcome, but you couldn’t exclude him from your home or from family gatherings. If your love for your daughter is strong enough, you may find the strength to do this, buoyed by your children who are advocating for the marriage. If Hate wins, you must reconcile yourselves never to have your entire family at the same gatherings ever again, unless it’s a funeral.This is a tough choice, but Etiquetteer cannot make it for you. Of course Etiquetteer hopes that Love will win. This Man You Hate may be all the things you think he is (Etiquetteer can’t know that). If he is, and your daughter discovers so for herself a few years down the road, your acceptance of her now will make it easier for her to return to you without fearing the sting of "I told you so."And from the "Trust in God But Lock Your Car" Department, Etiquetteer suggests that you check your will to be sure that, when your daughter inherits, her husband can’t get his hands on her inheritance.

Etiquetteer cordially invites you to join the notify list if you would like to know as soon as new columns are posted. Join by sending e-mail to notify@etiquetteer.com.

 

Divorced Parents of the Bride

Dear Etiquetteer: My brother is in hell because of things going on with his kids. I don't think etiquette has changed that much in the last 50 years. Please help. HERE IS THE SHORT HISTORY: Mr. and Mrs. Original get married and have three children. Mr. Original works and Mrs. Original stays home but both basically raise the children. The oldest son completes college and gets married in a very traditional way. All is well.The next two girls complete college and move out on their own. Several years pass. Mrs. Original gets a job and is caught at work having an affair with her boss. Mr. & Mrs. Original get a divorce and Mrs. Original marries her boss (now she is Mrs. Boss). NOW THE PROBLEM: The youngest girl, living on her own for years, announces she is getting married. Mrs. Boss (formerly Mrs. Original) wants the invitations to read:

Mr. and Mrs. Boss

and

Mr. Original

Announce the marriage of their daughter, etc.

Mr. Original wants the invitation to read:

Mrs. Boss

and

Mr. Original

Announce the marriage of their daughter, etc.

The marrying daughter wants whatever her parents can agree on (or can't agree on); the fighting is ruining her wedding plans. Now the already married son is referring to Mr. Boss as his STEPFATHER. Mr. Original feels that he was the one who raised the children from birth until they moved out on their own and he is the ONLY father to these children. Mrs. Boss (formerly Mrs. Original) has, shall we say, a very "strong" personality and the children are caught between the birth parents fighting; the children don't want to upset either birth parent. QUESTIONS:

  1. What is the proper way to address wedding invitations? Does the new husband (Mr. Boss) get in on the Father-Daughter dance at the reception? Does it make a difference accordingly to who pays how much for the wedding?
  2. Should the already married son (he's over 30) refer to his mother's new husband as his "stepfather?" Am I old-fashioned, as I have always called the newer husbands by their first name?
  3. The son now has two children and is teaching them to refer to Mr. Boss as "Popsi" or something close that means grandfather. Don't the children have only two grandfathers? Isn't it an insult to the grandparent who actually raised the parent? My paternal grandfather died young, my paternal grandmother remarried, and we never called her newer husbands anything resembling grandfather.

Dear Caught in the Crossfire: Reading this sad tale, Etiquetteer’s heart goes out to the daughter’s fiancé. Poor thing, he’s now seeing a preview of what all the major holidays will be like for the rest of his life! Perhaps they can refugee to his family instead and leave the minor holidays (like Arbor Day) for her family. Weddings are supposed to be times of joy and gladness, not platforms for publicly slighting your enemies, especially enemies with whom you’ve produced children. Mrs. Boss needs to understand that stridently insisting on putting her second husband in the spotlight takes it away from her own daughter . . . and it is always a grievous offense to upstage the bride! Mr. Original needs to get used to the fact, no matter how odious it is to him, that Mr. Boss has a place in the lives of his children and grandchildren since he’s now married to their mother and grandmother. The more he can behave civilly to Mr. and Mrs. Boss in public and refrain from griping about them behind their backs, the better the impression he makes on his children and grandchildren will be. And, one hopes, the more they will want to be with him! Etiquetteer has to Wag an Admonitory Digit at both of them for causing their daughter such a lot of grief. If neither of them love their Little Girl enough to work together at burying the hatchet, then neither of them deserves to attend the wedding in the first place. Now, to answer your questions:

  1. When the birth parents of the bride have divorced and both will attend the wedding, whether either has remarried or not, the invitations correctly read:

Mrs. Ethelred Boss

And

Mr. Adelbert Original

request the honor of your presence

at the marriage of their daughter

Prunaprismia Original to

Mr. Reginald Romantic

The son of Mr. and Mrs. Beloved Romantic, etc,

Please observe that this is the language of the invitation, not a wedding announcement, sent to those out of state or uninvited, which would read ". . . announce the marriage of their daughter . . . "Now if this isn’t good enough for the Mother of the Bride, you can eliminate all the names of all the parents by substituting:

The honor of your presence is requested

at the marriage of

Prunaprismia Original

to

Mr. Reginald Romantic, etc.

And frankly, if they are all going to squabble about where they come on the bill, that’s just what they deserve. This is the bride’s day, and Etiquetteer already knows the whole town must be talking about the ugly feud between her parents instead of what people usually talk about before weddings: whether the bride is entitled to a white wedding dress.As for the dancing, oh honestly. Etiquetteer would consider if the height of rudeness of anyone, stepfather or no, to cut in on a father dancing with his daughter at her wedding. Etiquetteer finds absurd the growing list of "duty dances" announced by slick deejays at wedding banquets, and would discourage putting the bride and her stepfather in the spotlight this way. If, however, they are each willing to be seen on the dance floor with each other, there is no reason she could not accept his invitation to dance when everyone else is.Now, about the money: funny how everybody thinks that makes a difference. These days so many people contribute to the cost of so many weddings it’s like a limited corporation. Whoever pays is whoever pays, and the living birth parents of the bride are the hosts.2. Well, it’s certainly more polite to refer to him as "stepfather" than it is "that skunk who made an adulterous whore out of my mother," wouldn’t you say? If invited to call Mr. Boss by his first name, the son could do so, introducing him to others as "my stepfather, Ethelred Boss." He could say with Equal Propriety "This is my mother’s husband Ethelred Boss." Referring to Mr. Boss as "stepfather" does not imply that he had anything to do with raising him, nor does it usurp Mr. Original’s fatherhood. Etiquetteer understands completely why Mr. Original would be sensitive to this, but he should not look for offense where none is intended. 3. No, Etiquetteer can’t see an insult in referring to the spouse of one’s grandmother as something like "Grandfather." "Popsi" seems neutral enough, though Etiquetteer would prefer the 19th-century use of the prefix "Uncle," as in "Uncle Ethelred, tell us how you met Grandma!" Believe it or not, Mr. Boss gets to decide what he should be called – his wife does not – even if he’d rather have the children call him "Mr. Boss." Etiquetteer devoutly hopes that Peace and Harmony will reign supreme again before long in the extended Original family. Please write again and let Etiquetteer know what happens.

Find yourself at a manners crossroads and don't know where to go? Ask Etiquetteer at query@etiquetteer.com!