At long last we enter the final round of Etiquetteer's Spring Madness of Pet Peeves: the Preposterous Pair! Please vote today - it won't take more than a moment to choose - or will it? At this point Etiquetteer has become so excited about untreeing the white bucks and shaking out the seersucker that the dates of the voting have been Shockingly Neglected - and as the Season of Ravenous June Bridezillas comes closer and closer, Etiquetteer wants to say a few words about the Champion Pet Peeve of the Weddings division, Guests Who Don't R.s.v.p.*
In general, we as a society have forgotten how to show respect by declaring in advance what our plans are, often relapsing into the Dreaded Phrase, "I'll have to see how I feel." Now that's one thing if the invitation is for something simple like drinks on the back porch. It's still not Perfectly Proper, but not nearly as maddening as it is for a Life Event like a wedding. How can one have ambivalence about celebrating the wedding of a friend or relative?
Actually, there are a few reasons for that:
- Distant Locations: As air travel makes our global society more global, attending a wedding has become less driving across town and more driving across state lines, and more often than that flying across the country or the pond. It's much more a time commitment than the time of the ceremony and reception, and it can feel like a lot to ask. Attending an out-of-town wedding is not trivial.
- Expense: The Wedding-Industrial Complex puts a lot of pressure on Happy Couples to spend a lot on their Happy Day, which also puts pressure on their Many Guests to do likewise in terms of wedding gifts, whether on a gift registry, a honeymoon registry, at a shower, or in plain old hard cash. See also "Distant Locations" above. Travel isn't always a bargain.
- Not Really Wanting to Go Anyway: You may not like weddings. You may not particularly like the Happy Couple and/or their parents**. You may be questioning why you got invited in the first place.
- Timing: The wedding may be scheduled for an inconvenient time of year on your calendar. Certainly Etiquetteer would like Happy Couples to reconsider holding their weddings on three-day weekends. Etiquetteer once spent four or five consecutive years going to weddings on Memorial Day, and not to the beach. Yes, having a wedding on a three-day weekend does provide an extra day off for travel, but do people really want to spend a three-day weekend attending a wedding?
- Not Wanting to Say No: Declining an invitation to a wedding may sometimes feel (to the invited guest) like sending a message of disapproval to the Happy Couple - and the Deity of Your Choice Above knows that some bridezillas will receive the news that way, which doesn't help. Not saying anything at all, however, doesn't help either.
Etiquetteer can't consider any of these reasons a valid excuse for just not responding to the invitation at all. Taking the time to send a Cordial but Decisive Decline will not take that long, and provides essential information to the Happy Couple about just how many people their caterer has to feed. Even when declining to attend, a response shows respect and consideration.
What's even worse than not responding and not attending, in Etiquetteer's book, is not responding and attending. A guest can do no wrong, of course, but still . . . what were you thinking? And what's probably even worse than that is not showing up having responded that you'd be there. Unless a hospital or a cemetery is involved, you must attend. Yes, yes, yes . . . there are legitimate excuses, and Etiquetteer has heard them all so much that they sound like Bunburying. But "Oh, was that yesterday?" and "We felt like doing something else instead" are not Perfectly Proper excuses.
One way to reduce the risk of this Pet Peeve is to reduce the number of guests invited in the first place, which Etiquetteer would do on a geographic basis first. The further removed one's home address from the wedding location, the more likely to receive an announcement than an invitation. Just a suggestion.
*Really, Etiquetteer is still just a mite disappointed that "Happy Couples who don't send thank-you notes" didn't take the honors in the Weddings division, but will accept that defeat with Perfect Propriety - and continued admonitions to Send Those Lovely Notes.
**This is too bad if you're a blood relation at the first cousin level or closer.