A Preposterous Pair of Pet Peeves, and Wedding Guests Who Don't R.s.v.p., Vol. 14, Issue 21

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.

smalletiquetteer

*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.

Wedding Invitations, Vol. 14, Issue 6

Dear Etiquetteer: We have a couple of wedding invitation etiquette questions that we're hoping you can help with.

First, we want to have a "cocktail welcome party" the evening before the wedding for all family, and for friends visiting from out of town. We are trying to figure out the best way to get this info to people. I think these are our options:

  1. Include this as part of the formal wedding invitation on a separate card, thereby just inviting everyone invited to the wedding.
  2. Include an additional card in some invitations that invites particular people to the cocktail party.
  3. Send out a separate invitation entirely to those invited.

The second is our favorite option but I'm not sure how much of a faux pas this would be to include a separate card in some invites and not others. Thoughts? Would it be better to just invite everyone? We're just concerned about the number of people.

Second, do you have any thoughts about wording on the formal invitation itself for the reception? We want to include on the actual invitation that there will be "dinner and dancing to follow at ---," but also want it to be clear that this is immediately following the ceremony. Any way to do this without just putting the info on a separate card entirely, or is that our best bet?

Dear Happy Couple:

First, allow Etiquetteer to congratulate you on your coming marriage and wish you a long and happy life together. Your concern for others augurs well for a Happy Married Life!

Etiquetteer understands that your welcome cocktail party* is separate from the rehearsal dinner, to which Etiquetteer assumes only the wedding party and a smaller subset of family are invited. Before considering who to invite, let's first restate your purpose in holding this party, which should direct us in compiling a guest list. You write you want to give a party before the wedding "for all family, and for friends visiting from out of town." Using that guideline, the only wedding guests not invited are local friends. To Etiquetteer this seems perfectly sensible, though you may want to look at that list of local friends, and see if there isn't anyone there with particularly close ties to an out-of-towner who'd be there. For instance, if one of you belongs to a college fraternity or sorority, Etiquetteer would recommend that all brothers and sisters invited to the wedding also be invited to the welcome cocktail party.

Including an additional card in your wedding invitation for this welcome cocktail party would be Perfectly Proper, as has been done for wedding receptions for many years. Once upon a time, an invitation to the wedding was more sought after than an invitation to the reception; how times have changed, alas!** But considering that this party is for out-of-town guests, many of whom will have to book airline flights well in advance, Etiquetteer would encourage you to consider sending a separate invitation. That way they can schedule their flights to arrive in time (if possible, given the state of the airlines). This separate invitation would not have to resemble the wedding invitation, and could even reflect the more casual nature of the party.

As to the reception invitation, you actually included the Perfectly Proper language in your question. Your invitation should read like this:

Mr. and Mrs. Fairleigh Freshness

request the honour of your presence

at the marriage of their daughter

Miss Dewy Freshness

to Mr. Manley Firmness

on [Insert Date Here]

at the Church of the Deity of Your Choice

35 Blissful Way,

Upper Crustington, Connecticut

and immediately following the ceremony at

the Taj-Ritz Seasons Hotel Club

222 Colonial Drive

Upper Crustington, Connecticut

In the bottom left corner, put "Dinner and Dancing" along with your dress code. You may not put "And don't keep us waiting" after that.

Etiquetteer does understand that you'd like the wedding invitation to include the reception information, but encourages you to consider the separate reception invitation card.

*Please use "welcome cocktail party" instead of "cocktail welcome party." Welcome as those cocktails may be, your purpose in giving the party is to welcome the guests, not the cocktails.

**Etiquetteer sometimes wishes it was Perfectly Proper to include on a reception invitation "It will be quite impossible to admit you to the reception if you did not attend the wedding ceremony first."

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.

Husband Alone at Wedding, Vol. 11, Issue 11

Dear Etiquetteer: I am invited to a family member's wedding in another state this fall, and expect to be able to attend. I shall be attending toute seule, as two of the children are in college, one will be in the thick of things in high school, and my bride believes her place is at home, making sure he's staying on task. Although the bride and groom to be are in their late thirties, this is their first marriage, and I'm just thrilled for them.

My questions are manifold: first is the obvious what to wear. Is a dark suit acceptable? If so, white shirt or light-coloured?

Second, the rehearsal dinner is at someone's home, so is that a suit occasion, or 'smart casual,' which I tend to think of as a dress shirt, open at the neck, and dark slacks?

Is there a footwear custom of which I should be aware in New York? In Minnesota, it is customary to remove one's shoes upon entering someone's home--with snow and slush covering the ground half the year, it makes sense to doff footwear so as to avoid tracking that mess into your hostess's carpeting. But I was not taught this social grace growing up in Michigan, so I don't know whether it's regional, or just a reflection of my mother's agricultural background.

The invitations say nothing about dress, and I'm confident that if I ask my brother or his wife, they will assure me that what's important is my presence, not what I'm wearing, which is characteristically kind of them, but ultimately unhelpful.

Gift? What is considered proper these days? Since they aren't teenagers, just getting started in life, they probably don't need a silver fondue pot or a half dozen toasters, and they've had the grace to omit any mention of a registry in their invitations. Would a nice card, with a check inside it be appropriate, and if so, is there a standard amount?

The couple have arranged for a block of hotel rooms at a reasonable rate. Is it expected that I will stay there, our is it perfectly acceptable to make my own arrangements elsewhere?

Finally, my son is attending college about four hours away from the wedding location, and I would like to spend a few hours with him the day after the wedding; is it permissible to leave the reception 'early,' say, around 10pm, to get started on that drive, or is the expectation that the guests will remain until the newlyweds retire?

Dear Husband:

That's a forthright series of questions, and Etiquetteer has answers:

WHAT TO WEAR: The invitation should have the dress code on it, but since you say that it doesn't, you must ask your brother and his wife. If they, as you predict, say "We really just want you to be there, it doesn't matter what you wear!" you must ask in reply, "What are YOU wearing?" Base your choices on what they're planning to wear. (But really, Etiquetteer cannot understand why hosts for big family events like weddings neglect adding basic information guests need like what to wear.)

REMOVAL OF FOOTWEAR: It is never Perfectly Proper to expect people to remove their shoes in one's home without warning them in advance. Again, you must ask your hosts what they expect since they've neglected to include this on the invitation, but Etiquetteer rather expect they'll tell you to leave your shoes on.

GIFT: A check is always Perfectly Proper as a wedding gift. Etiquetteer is delighted to hear that registry information was omitted from the invitation! That said, you may now ask if there is a registry and purchase something from it as your gift, if you wish. Etiquetteer is not going to suggest a gift amount. That depends entirely on the means and inclination of you and your wife.

ACCOMMODATIONS: The guest block has been arranged for the convenience of wedding guests. If it's more convenient for you to stay elsewhere, then it is Perfectly Proper for you to do so.

DEPARTURE: Married couples aren't royalty (though some brides clearly think of themselves as princesses) so you don't have to wait for them to make their departure before yours. It's customary, however, for guests to remain until the couple have been showered with rice (or birdseed (for the politically correct), bubbles (for the whimsical) or rose petals (for the romantic with unlimited resources)), so you should tip off the family that you'll need to be on the road before festivities end.

Next weekend is Labor Day, the official -- and often sad -- end of Summer. Etiquetteer expect you to join him in carefully folding away your white linen and treeing your white shoes until Memorial Day comes again next year. In the meantime, please do send your autumnal questions about manners to <queries_at_etiquetteer_dot_com.>

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.

Wedding Invitations, Vol. 8, Issue 9

Dear Etiquetteer: My daughter plans to send formal invitations to her wedding and reception. My husband and I have received calls from people who cannot attend. (The save-the-date cards were sent out several weeks ago.) I think her plan is horrendous and simply looks like a ploy for more gifts. She assures me that all of her friends say it's "nice" and "people will be grateful to have them as lovely remembrances." She says people will like to see their names in calligraphy on the envelopes!

I say, "Balderdash." Can you back me up on this? My husband and I are hosting her rather wedding and reception, but she's got the stamped, sealed, invitations in her hot little hands.

Dear Mother of the Bride:

Deep in Etiquetteer's Perfectly Proper heart, Etiquetteer knows you are right. Why people would be "grateful to have a lovely remembrance" of a function they cannot attend mystifies Etiquetteer. And Etiquetteer can assure you that any pleasure at seeing one's name in elegant calligraphy is quickly shadowed by the suspicion that a wedding gift is expected. 

Two paths remain open. A veneer, however thin, of Perfect Propriety can be maintained by including hand-written notes on these invitations to the effect that "Should your plans change, I would so much like to see you at the wedding." This puts the focus squarely on the presence of the guest in person, and not the guest's presents.

A compromise between you and your daughter may also be drawn. She knows her own friends as well as you know yours, and seems to think that her friends would want to see her wedding invitation. You and Etiquetteer agree entirely that your own friends would interpret it differently. Tell your daughter to go ahead and send out wedding invitations to her own friends who can't attend, but not yours. If your daughter later finds out that her friends all think she's a greedy bridezilla, that's her funeral.

In general, Etiquetteer is not a fan of sending out invitations to those who can't make a party. Many years ago Etiquetteer used throw a large party annually that included an involved, very funny invitation. After a few years Etiquetteer got weary of hearing "Sorry I can't come, but please keep me on the list. I love getting the invitation!" You can see how this might become tiresome. Etiquetteer lives to entertain his guests, but in person, not through the mails.

Wedding Invitations and Clothes, Vol. 8, Issue 2

Etiquetteer would really rather talk about weddings today instead of the fact that Michelle Obama didn't wear a hat to the inauguration or how thankful Etiquetteer is that Jill Biden didn't display the leather merry widow she obviously had made to match her dominatrix boots, so here we go:  

 

Dear Etiquetteer:

I am putting together my wedding invitation wording and have hit a road block. As the bride, my parents are hosting the wedding. My mom, being the closet feminist that she is, does not want me to address them as Mr. and Mrs. John Smith. I find this rather archaic myself, but what is the alternative while still using honorifics and not offending any one else?

These are the options I have come up with:

 

  • Mr. and Mrs. Smith
  • Mrs. Mary and Mr. John Smith
  • Mr. and Mrs. John and Mary Smith

Which one would be the most proper etiquette? Please help me!

 

Dear Untitled:

Permit Etiquetteer to invite your mother out of the closet. Closet feminism is nothing but passive aggression that manifests itself in petty ways like this. It's cowardly, and it's annoying.

Getting her to be upfront about her feminism will also allow you to name your parents on your wedding invitation as "Mr. John Smith and Ms. Mary Smith." Under the circumstances, Etiquetteer can't think of a more Perfectly Proper way to include honorifics and keep from adding "Mrs." What a pity she doesn't have a graduate or medical degree that would allow you to list her as "Dr."!

Dear Etiquetteer:

I recently received a wedding invitation that indicated the attire to be "Black Tie Optional.”  I was planning on wearing a black silk charmeuse dress with champagne satin accents. The dress, however, is not floor length, but mid-calf. Is this acceptable for an evening, "Black Tie Optional" wedding? And further, should my husband wear a tuxedo, or will a dark grey pinstriped suit suffice? Any guidance on being Perfectly Proper would be appreciated!

Dear Charmeuse:

Etiquetteer deplores the designation “black tie optional.” It’s neither fish nor fowl. One should either dress all the way or not. Since it is always a greater sin to be overdressed than underdressed, Etiquetteer must insist that your husband wear a dark suit and NOT a tuxedo.

As for you, Etiquetteer warns that these days if you wear black to a wedding you’re likely to be mistaken for one of the bridesmaids. Nevertheless, a mid-calf or “tea length” dress is Perfectly Proper for such a wedding as you describe.

Random Correspondence Issues, Vol. 7, Issue 22

Dear Etiquetteer:I am putting together my wedding invitation wording and have hit a roadblock. As the bride, my parents are hosting the wedding. My mom, being the closet feminist that she is, does not want me to address them as "Mr. and Mrs. John Smith." I find this rather archaic myself, but what is the alternative while still using honorifics and not offending any one else? These are the options I have come up with: "Mr. And Mrs. Smith," "Mrs. Mary and Mr. John Smith," and "Mr. and Mrs. John and Mary Smith." Which one would be the most proper etiquette? Please help me! 

Dear Bride to Be: 

The honorific "Mrs." is used with Perfect Propriety only with the name of the husband, e.g. "Mrs. Stephen Haines." If your mother does not wish to be referred to as "Mrs. John Smith," then the form your wedding invitation should take is:

 Mr. John Smith and Ms. Mary Smith

request the honour of your presence

at the marriage of their daughter

Miss Perfectly Proper Smith

to Mr. Manley Firmness

Feminists everywhere claimed the honorific "Ms." in the 1970s, and it has only grown in acceptance since then. It's high time, in Etiquetteer's opinion, for your mother to come out of the closet.

 invite.jpg

Dear Etiquetteer:

I have recently gone through an interview, and sent both parties a thank-you note, via email. They mentioned they would be interviewing for the next 2-3 weeks. Since I have sent the thank-you notice, how long should I wait till I contact them again? How should I contact them, phone or email? How often should I attempt to contact them?Dear Interviewed:

Since you have already initiated correspondence with your interviewers via email, Etiquetteer suggests that you continue to correspond with them this way. So as not to appear impatient, you might wait to check in with your interviewer after 3.5 weeks have passed, making a gentle inquiry to see if you can provide additional information.

Etiquetteer wishes you well in your job search, and encourages you, after subsequent job interviews, to send a letter of thanks through the mail on crisp white stationery. It still makes a positive impression, and it also gives you more of an opportunity to proofread.

invite.jpg

Wedding Invitations, Vol. 7, Issue 14

Dear Etiquetteer:

 

During a conversation with a new business acquaintance I was invited to an August wedding in a sincere but casual manner. She said she would love to have me but had run out of invitations. I looked at my calendar and gladly accepted. My plan is to call her regarding the time and place and whether or not to be there for the ceremony. I plan to bring a lovely gift, have a good time and leave at an appropriate time. It feels like I am doing the right thing, but somehow it all feels just a bit awkward. What do you think?

 

Dear Pinned:

 

As a general rule, Etiquetteer does not like wedding invitations extended on such short acquaintance. And Etiquetteer firmly believes that if you are over the age of consent, you deserve your own printed wedding invitation and should not be shunted off to a wedding website or a photocopy. Etiquetteer is willing to give this Sincere But Casual Bride the benefit of the doubt, crediting her with being sincerely (but casually) delighted with your new business relationship rather than insincerely (but casually) trolling for more wedding gifts. Without reflecting on you at all, Etiquetteer cannot condone her lack of Perfect Propriety in this artless invitation. It bodes ill for your own reception at the nuptial festivities.

 

Sometimes Literature offers a Perfectly Proper Precedent for such predicaments. Happily Oscar Wilde gave Algernon an ideal Design for Living in his play The Importance of Being Earnest, the custom of Bunburying. Bunbury, you may recall, was his fictional friend who lived in the country. He frequently required Algernon to be with him during illness, always whenever Algernon received invitations he wanted to decline. 

 

Now you need your own Bunbury to avoid attending this wedding. Etiquetteer thinks yours should be a friend you have known for many years who is organizing a surprise birthday party that you cannot miss and which just happens to be scheduled on the same day. With sufficient advance notice, your Sincere But Casual Bride will understand. Having already accepted the wedding invitation, however, Etiquetteer thinks you still ought to send a gift.

 

 invite.jpg 


Wedding Invitations, Vol. 7, Issue 7

Dear Etiquetteer:

 

I find myself at a loss to deal with a situation involving the upcoming nuptials of my cousin. Upon hearing of her engagement, I was so overcome with excitement (One can sell the cow after giving the milk away for free!) that I offered to make the wedding cake for the reception.  I've never undertaken such an effort and have put my heart and soul into preparing for the task -- including baking, freezing, transporting and decorating a "preview" cake to serve 70 or so guests at the "Jack and Jill" shower last weekend.

 

Imagine my shock, when, upon opening the invitation, that the words "and guest" were nowhere to be found.  While my partner of eleven years and I were still having discussions about whether he would join me, my feelings are somewhat bruised at him not being included. I've received a suggestion that I submit my reply card for two, but I bristle at the thought that my own familiarity with the conventions of etiquette could be called into question.

 

Your reply is anxiously awaited.

 

Dear Burned Baker:

 

First of all, you'll be surprised to learn that Etiquetteer really does not like "and guest." If you're inviting someone to a wedding -- and not just someone's partner of eleven years, anyone -- you ought to know their name and address. Adding "and guest" to an invitation is just sloppy, and it also doesn't give hosts enough control over their own guest lists. Suppose you put "and guest" on an invitation to someone and they brought as their guest someone who is your sworn enemy?

 

But this is a sideline to the real issue you want addressed, which is the omission of your partner from the wedding invitation after you have so generously offered your love and service to make the wedding cake. Certainly your partner should have been invited! (And if you do not share living quarters, he should have been mailed his own invitation at his own address.) 

 

Assuming that Your Cousin the Bride actually knows you've been in a relationship for over ten years and has actually met your partner -- and Etiquetteer has no reason to assume that she has actually met him or knows about him -- you have a pretty serious offense on your hands. Since you know your cousin well enough to bake her wedding cake, you know her well enough to call her on the phone and ask (calmly and coolly) why your partner was not invited. Please give her the opportunity to hem and haw and be Appropriately Embarrassed and of course to extend an invitation to your partner. This is your opportunity to forgive an innocent oversight, which Etiquetteer hopes you will do.

 

On the other hand, if she indicates that your partner was intentionally omitted for whatever reason, you have an obligation not to enter rooms where he is unwelcome. Tell your cousin that you'll deliver the wedding cake, but won't be able to attend her wedding or reception. Then hang up to let her stew in her own juices.

 

Really Etiquetteer expects the former situation to be the one that prevail, and wishes you all a happy time on a Happy Day. 

Random Issues, Vol. 6, Issue 23

Dear Etiquetteer:

So, where are you really supposed to put your napkin after dinner? Do you put it on the table or on your seat? We got into this discussion after dinner one night ‘cause we were all using paper napkins and they looked gross.

Dear Dabbing:

This is why Etiquetteer really doesn’t like paper napkins. Not only do they fall on the floor, they do not hold up well if the meal is, uh, moist. One of Etiquetteer’s favorite pub foods is buffalo wings. Most of us know how easy it is to use an entire stack of paper napkins going through a plate of those!

No matter the material of the napkin, its Perfectly Proper place at the end of the meal is to the left of your plate, not on your seat. When paper napkins get particularly messy, Etiquetteer is sometimes driven to slipping them into his pants pockets, but this is really a Desperate Measure . . . and not an option for a lady in a skirt.

Dear Etiquetteer:

What is the proper way to deal with friends who blog with wild abandon, and include one's private matters in their online diaries? If one highly values one's privacy, is the only solution to curtail social contact with the blogging folks? How does one make it clear to cyber-exhibitionists that one does not wish to be the subject of their reporting?

Dear Exposed:

Your life doesn't become a blogger's property, even the parts of it you choose to spend with and/or in confide in him or her. As soon as you read or become aware of references to yourself in someone's blog, you should contact the blogger and request that those references be removed immediately. Repeat as necessary until the appropriate action has been taken, up to and including legal assistance. (Indeed, Etiquetteer became aware of an amateur photographer who had been threatened with a lawsuit if he didn't remove photos of a former friend from his blog.)

If you feel, after repeated instances of this behavior, that your private life is no longer truly private, Etiquetteer can only recommend that you no longer communicate with this person without witnesses.

Dear Etiquetteer:

A few months ago, we were talking about mailing a letter to a lawyer and his wife who's a doctor and you said the names should always be alphabetical, not Mr. first and Ms. second. But now we're down to the nitty gritty of wedding invitations and I have a few questions. I normally start with Mr. and Mrs., but here are the questions:

Mr. Arturo Swisserswatter and Ms. Igotta Cacciabutti (married couple -- should Mrs. come first?)

Mr. Galahad Familyman and Ms. Prunaprismia Amanuensis (not married, living together, one address, one invitation, but should our son Galahad come first?)

Ms. Antoinette Outlier and Mr. Lancelot Britlington (my married niece and her husband -- again, with different names, but I feel that my niece should come first).

I admit to different rules (in one case husband first, in another case the relative first). But what is the perfectly proper way to handle it? Or does it really matter?

Dear Familyman Patriarch:

Taking your examples one by one:

Ms. Igotta Cacciabutti

Mr. Arturo Swisserswatter

Yes, this is in fact correct, even though you and I were always taught that the gentleman comes first.

Mr. Galahad Familyman

Ms. Prunaprismia Amanuensis

Etiquetteer admits that ordinarily they should be listed alphabetically, but since this is a family wedding invitation and Galahad is the family member . . . well, Etiquetteer thinks that's a good enough reason to list him first. Etiquetteer has seen some universities list the name of the alumnus first and then the spouse, whether or not the last names are in alphabetical order. This seems a universal enough precedent to Etiquetteer to apply here.

Ms. Antoinette Outlier

Mr. Lancelot Britlington

Again, family may come first for a family wedding.

To answer your last question, you'd be surprised to whom it matters! People will interpret slights over the least little thing, especially at weddings.

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 <at> etiquetteer.com.

Random Issues, Vol. 6, Issue 14

This column also appeared in the March 21 issue of The Times of Southwest Louisiana.

Dear Etiquetteer:We recently went on a vacation with friends and I offered to charge the house rental to my credit card. This was done under the mutual understanding that the other couple would reimburse me for their half of the bill. They have yet to cut me a check and I'm sure it's just an oversight on their part. Still, I feel very awkward mentioning it to them. I don't want to seem miserly but it's about $400. Is there a graceful way to broach the subject or should I just wait for them to remember?

Dear Billing:

First of all, you're taking the right approach to assume there's no malice on their part. It probably really is just an oversight that they'll be happy to correct. On the other hand, if you wait for them to "remember" it might not take place until it's time to plan your next vacation. Your awkwardness is not uncommon, especially with the amount in question; Etiquetteer encourages you to use that to your advantage. With an air of Infinite Reluctance, call your friend and mention that, in reviewing your trip expenses, you don't record their reimbursement and ask if you could get it right away.

Dear Etiquetteer:

What is a tactful way to communicate the dress code to a wedding? Although our wedding will take place in a garden, it's formal and we would like all the men to wear a suit. At the bottom of our invitations can we say "formal attire?"

Dear Bride to Be:

What time of day is the wedding to take place? If it's in the evening, say "black tie" and everyone will know you mean evening clothes. If daytime, once you could have gotten away with "informal," but no one understands that it means "coat and tie" any more. Etiquetteer would suggest "Formal;" in the USA, for a daytime wedding, that should be understood as meaning dark suits for the men.

Of course, since it's a garden wedding, Etiquetteer hopes you'll encourage all your lady friends to wear picture hats and crisp white kid gloves! Etiquetteer remembers as a Very Little Boy attending a family wedding at one of those large old Southern houses complete with white columns and veranda. It was an afternoon reception with a lot of cookies and punch, and Etiquetteer still vividly remembers the young teenage bridesmaids walking on the lawn carrying huge silver trays of rice bags to offer the guests.

Dear Etiquetteer:

What do you think about saying grace in a restaurant? We always begin family meals with a prayer. Our children are getting to an age when we can take them out to restaurants now and then, but we want to keep this tradition with us wherever we go, because it’s part of our family life.

Dear Praying:

Etiquetteer adores the Freedom to Worship, both the Bedrock of our Great Nation and the famous painting of the same name by Norman Rockwell. Now you’ll recall that the painting is of a sweet old lady and a young boy saying grace before their meal in a diner. (Actually, Etiquetteer just looked it up and it’s called "Saying Grace;" "Freedom to Worship" is one of Rockwell’s "Four Freedoms.") You’ll also remember that everyone else in the restaurant has stopped everything they’re doing to watch them. Now while Etiquetteer knows this isn’t the intent, this little family group has made themselves rather conspicuous, and it is never Perfectly Proper to attract attention to oneself. (Etiquetteer certainly wishes someone would tell Britney Spears this.)

In the Holy Bible, Matthew 6:5-6 comes to mind: "And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray . . . at the street corners, that they may be seen by men . . . But when you pray, enter into your closet and shut the door . . . " So Etiquetteer doesn’t question your intention to continue a stable, meaningful ritual for your children, that they might be brought up to be Perfectly Proper. But Etiquetteer thinks that its effect – undue attention to your family in public – is not what you really want. You might instead say grace before you leave home, or even in the car before entering the restaurant.

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 <at> etiquetteer.com.

 

Bridal Issues, Vol. 6, Issue 9

Dear Etiquetteer:

We would like to avoid sending reception cards as they would be redundant. Our reception and ceremony will be at the same place. The reception will follow the ceremony. Can I just indicate on the invitation that the reception will follow the ceremony? Do I need to indicate the reception site? Do I need to state the ending time of the reception? We have the place until 8:00 PM, but want to wrap things up at 7:00 PM.

Dear Conserving:

The reception card was originally created when more people were invited to the wedding than the reception. Indeed, people preferred to be invited to the wedding. Nowadays the preference is for the reception. People would rather, to use a vulgar expression, "get their money’s worth" for their wedding gift by strapping on the feed bag.

If everyone invited to the wedding is also invited to the reception, the Perfectly Proper form to use is to add "And following in the Reimenschneider Room." If the reception were in a different place you could add the address on the line below:

And following at the Hotel California

45678 Lakeshore Drive

Etiquetteer knows from bitter experience that if you want everyone out by 8:00 PM, then an end time of 7:00 PM should definitely be indicated. A lady always knows when to leave a party, but alas, ladies aren’t what they used to be. Add the times like this: "And following until seven o’clock in the Reimenschneider Room."

Dear Etiquetteer:

I’ve been asked to play guitar and sing at a friend’s wedding. Do you have any recommendations?

Dear Stringing:

Obviously "Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring" is nice for Christian weddings – the guitar is in some ways the perfect instrument for this piece – but Etiquetteer is not aware of any vocals for it. Talk to the Happy Couple and see what they like and dislike in music. Etiquetteer attended a wedding last year at which the groom’s sister played a song by The Platters. Just please avoid "Because," "Oh Promise Me," "Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life," "Evergreen," and of course "My Heart Will Go On." Not only are they less than great for a guitar, they’ve become cliché.

Dear Etiquetteer:

I like my last name and would rather keep it after I get married. My family name is really well known, I’m extended special privileges because of it, and I’m really afraid people won’t recognize me as much with my husband’s name. Is this sufficient to keep my maiden name?

Dear Bride to Be:

Once assumed that a bride would take her husband’s name, now it’s entirely up to you what you would like to do, for whatever reasons you choose. You could, like one of Etiquetteer’s successful cousins, use both names in your married life, e.g. "Ms. Cousin Maiden Married." Observe that no hyphen is used.

But take heed from the experience of two of Etiquetteer’s lady friends. When they married each kept her maiden name, but ended up adopting her husband’s name after the birth of her second child. Each wanted to have the same last name as her children. So if you’re planning to have children, you might as well take your husband’s name when you marry and forget the bother later.

And Etiquetteer has one more thing to say to you, though you didn’t ask: if Etiquetteer ever hears you saying "Don’t you know who I am?" to get some of those "special privileges" you covet so much, Etiquetteer is going to Wag an Admonitory Digit at you.

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 <at> etiquetteer.com.

 

No Gifts Please, Vol. 6, Issue 4

Etiquetteer is going to kill two birds with one stone and respond to two letters simultaneously:

Dear Etiquetteer:

Two of my older friends are getting married much to the delight of all who know them. This perfectly-matched pair is planning a shortened style of formal wedding with about 50 people at the church followed by a large reception at the home of the groom. There will be no out-sized wedding party. The groom's two adult sons will assist with the seating to encourage guests to fill up the front pews with neither escorting anybody unless it's a handicapped person. Other than the standard candles on the altar lit by acolytes, the only decor will be two floral arrangements. A single harpist will play as the minister take his place, then the bride and groom with enter together from the side door. At the conclusion of the vows, the church bells will ring out as everybody exits. For the reception, there is a classical quartet, lots of champagne as well as two bars with separate tables for a buffet and for dessert, a traditional but not elaborate cake. Somewhere the groom's favorite jazz trio will replace the other musicians.

Doesn't all this sound lovely? I can think of no other wedding like this one. The one trouble spot for them is the invitation. And that is . . . obviously, they need nothing. They do not want presents sent and are at a loss to stay away from one of those lines "no gifts, please" on their engraved formal invitation. What is your suggestion? And what would be your preference for the wording on the card both to "request the pleasure" and the "no gift" part?

Also, our city has gotten as bad as any other in people not being careful about RSVPs. In situations like this (cost per person) would the little return envelope be too much? If you'd be so kind as to help out with the printing, this would be the best wedding in which I've ever been asked to participate!

Dear Etiquetteer:

My family gave my wife and me a lovely dinner party to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary. They sent out lovely invitations to a guest list that we supplied. It was our wish that only their presence was our desire and no presents. We wanted the invitation to indicate this but one of the hosts didn’t think it would be polite. A few guests did bring presents, much to our embarrassment. My question is: is it proper for the invitation to indicate the desire for their presence and no presents? I realize you might be telling the guest not to spend his money but what about the feelings of the honorees?

Dear Member of the Wedding and Dear Fabulous Fiftieth:

You all are backing Etiquetteer into a corner, and Etiquetteer doesn’t like it one bit. Etiquetteer has long maintained that it’s bad manners to tell people how to spend money on one, and how not to spend money on one. Both of your situations are now very typical, especially that of the Married Couple Who Has Everything Already.

When Etiquetteer has to change a position, Etiquetteer needs an historical precedent to do so. And in this case Etiquetteer found one from a most unlikely source: William Jennings Bryan. Thrice-failed presidential candidate, renowned Populist orator, and evangelist, Bryan is now most remembered as the prosecuting attorney in the Scopes monkey trial. He is not remembered for having thrown a large party with his wife Mary to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary at their Nebraska home with "No gifts please" on the invitation, but that is exactly what they did as reported in Michael Kazin’s excellent biography, A Godly Hero. Like many, Etiquetteer believed "No gifts, please" was a recent phenomenon, but the Bryans prove it is not so.

On the other side of the coin is First Lady Nellie Taft, who celebrated her silver wedding anniversary during her husband’s presidency at the White House with a party to which 8,000 of their closest friends had been invited. Etiquetteer’s beloved Ellen Maury Slayden was there and "heard a good many rather sotto voce inquiries, 'How much did you put up?' 'Are you getting your money’s worth?' etc., that made me sorry that presents had been permitted." The Tafts were showered with an abundance of sterling silver, from olive forks to punch bowls. Ordinary American citizens sent in gifts of silver coins, which the President insisted be returned with thanks; he felt that gifts of money were "unbecoming." The tide became so much that the President was embarrassed with the largesse of the world.

But what gets Etiquetteer is the way Mrs. Taft used all this silver in later life, giving it as wedding gifts in her turn or donating pieces to charitable causes. It’s true that when one is given a gift one may do anything one likes with it – and regifting is now an uneasily accepted standard – but Etiquetteer takes exception to Mrs. Taft’s blasé attitude about it all.

So with these two examples in mind, a disgruntled Etiquetteer will have to reverse himself and allow "No gifts, please" on formal invitations. Place this instruction in the lower left corner as other instructions are (e.g. dress, R.s.v.p.). For formal weddings, one requests "the honour of your presence" for the wedding ceremony and "the pleasure of your company" for the reception.And alas, reply cards have also become standard even though they are not Perfectly Proper. Go ahead and use them, but Etiquetteer suspects the Happy Couple will still be calling their guests at the last minute to get them to respond whether they include them or not. Many people are unforgivably rude no matter how easy you make it for them.

As for being embarrassed about getting a gift at a party in your honor, Etiquetteer respectfully suggests that you only have to be grateful and send a Lovely Note. You have nothing to be embarrassed about.

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 <at> etiquetteer.com.

 

Talkative Strangers and Wedding Gifts, Vol. 5, Issue 17

EXAMPLES FROM THE DAILY LIFE OF ETIQUETTEER: Many people in the world have a need to talk. But Etiquetteer has no need to listen. Two recent experiences reminded Etiquetteer that, frequently, silence is golden.On Easter Sunday Etiquetteer found himself traveling by subway to an afternoon party. While innocently standing on the platform reading American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson, an urgent young woman asked Etiquettteer the time. The time Etiquetteer gave her, however, was insufficient to send her away. "Oh my goodness, I’m late for church! And not that I go every Sunday, but the music is so good at the beginning of the service . . . " You can probably see where this is leading, but not the references to her boyfriend and her inability to pay her mortgage, which came about ten minutes later. Etiquetteer tried doggedly to continue reading, but concentration on the printed page was near impossible with this persistent flow of personal information. At the suggestion of a question, Etiquetteer saw an opening: "Oh I’m sorry, I’ve been reading my book and I wasn’t paying attention." Alas, this didn’t stop her, but the train did. (No, Etiquetteer didn't throw her under it.)Not long after that, Etiquetteer was enjoying the daily newspaper and a Cobb salad at the bar of a popular restaurant. Anyone who lunches at a restaurant bar knows that a certain amount of camaraderie between other diners is unavoidable, even welcome. But Etiquetteer finds it too much to ask to have to give up both paper and salad to focus fully on a total stranger. You see, an elderly man sitting next to Etiquetteer found his conversational opening with Etiquetteer’s lunch. "Say, that’s some salad!" he said. "Yes, it’s very good." Etiquetteer replied. "Now what all do they put in there?" he persisted. "Tomatoes, cheese – I’ll bet that’s bleu cheese – and turkey . . . " "No, it’s chicken." "OH, chicken! Oh, that’s good." Good heavens, Etiquetteer thought, must we discuss all the ingredients of this salad while I’m trying to eat it? This continued for no little time, until "Boy, the sandwiches we used to get at the [insert name of Defunct Cafeteria here]. Gosh . . . " and he just kept going on and on. Etiquetteer, exasperated, finally had to turn fully back to the newspaper and simply not respond. It was the only way to finish lunch without indigestion and still get back to the office on time.Heaven knows both of these people were harmless, but also clueless. A person with his nose in a book or newspaper should not look as though they are ready to strike up a conversation, and yet how often do we hear stories of just that happening? This may lead Etiquetteer to get an iPod . . .

Dear Etiquetteer:My husband and I found ourselves with opposing thoughts. (This rarely happens, so it's headline news around here.) One of us says that a wedding invitation can be answered with the regrets card plus a lovely congratulatory (or cute, depending on the couple) greeting card. The other one of us says no, that's what you do when an announcement is sent; an invitation obligates you to send a gift whether you're attending the wedding or not. If it makes any difference, one of us works at the same place (we couldn't even say "works with") the groom and we have never met the bride. What's correct?Dear Gifting:Now let Etiquetteer make this perfectly clear: a wedding invitation is not an invoice. If you and your husband feel you are close enough to his colleague, then by all means get the Happy Couple a gift. But only if you feel moved to do so. Otherwise send the reply card and a heartfelt message of congratulations.

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.

 

Weddings, Vol. 5, Issue 14

Dear Etiquetteer:We are getting married later this year and are preparing a wedding website. We want to post information about the Friday night reception and Sunday brunch on our website (the wedding is Saturday afternoon and evening), but we’d also like to limit the guests at those two events to people coming from out of town that we don’t see very often. How should we word the events on our website to make that clear? Some ideas we had:
  • "Friday night reception by invitation" and "Sunday brunch by invitation."
  • "Friday night reception for family" and "Sunday brunch for family" (we’d then include invitations to these events in the wedding invitation mailing).
  • "Welcome reception for out-of-town guests" and "Sendoff brunch for out-of-town guests."

Will people understand who we mean by out-of-town guests? Because, only a handful actually live in the town where we’re marrying. What a challenge. Any advice would be great!Dear Betrothed:You know, Etiquetteer’s learning quite a lot about this wedding website phenomenon, and it is just amazing what people are doing out there . . . in a good way. It’s such a help to a wedding guest (especially one who’s traveling) to be able to go to one source for hotel reservations, maps and directions to the house of worship and the reception hall, and answers to the many questions wedding guests always have.But Etiquetteer has some concerns about what you want to do. It’s never good manners to talk about a party in front of people who aren’t invited. You really can’t avoid that by referring to these additional events on a website that all your wedding guests will read. It will be easy for someone to assume they’re invited to all three events. You may be opening yourself to some confusion and hurt feelings. Etiquetteer worries that the ill-bred (and we all know ill-bred peeople) will be tempted to ask why they weren’t invited if you put "by invitation only." One should NEVER ask why one was not invited; one might find out . . .If you are bound and determined to include these events on your wedding website – and Etiquetteer isn’t entirely sure that you should – then you should be very specific and refer to them as "Out-of-Towners Welcome Reception" and "Out-of-Towners Sendoff Brunch." Etiquetteer defines "out-of-town guests" as "anyone sleeping in a bed not their own" on the nights before and after the wedding. Even so, don’t be surprised if some locals show up with the excuse "Well, we saw this on your website and thought we should be here."Readers, what do you think? Please share your opinions with Etiquetteer at query <at> etiquetteer.com.By the way, you are quite correct to send a separate card for each event in the wedding invitation. Etiquetteer wishes you both long life and happiness, both before and after the wedding!

Dear Etiquetteer:Don’t you think it would be nice for someone to champion the return of the Morning Wedding and the Wedding Breakfast? This would include a luncheon for the famished wedding party, closest family and long-distance guests who cannot readily find a place to eat lunch if they require it, and old-fashioned afternoon Reception (light tea-type foods, punch and/or champagne, cake and dancing. Couples would have much more choice of venues (churches and halls and whatnot) and it would not cost nearly as much if they did not want to spend a lot of money. And people could drive home while it was light during much of the year.Dear Early Bird:Indeed, it sounds charming! Etiquetteer has attended many weddings over the last 38 years at all times of day and night, and some of the loveliest have been morning or afternoon weddings. Etiquetteer is happy to join you in your call for a return of the Wedding Breakfast, not least because of Etiquetteer’s fondness for eggs benedict and champagne.Of course, now it’s all your fault that Etiquetteer can’t stop singing "A Frog Went A’Courtin’." 

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.

 

Weddings and Whistleblowers, Vol. 5, Issue 5

Dear Etiquetteer:Do I have to invite someone to my wedding if I was invited to theirs?Dear Engaged:Etiquetteer suggests you consider your relationship to the couple in question before using attendance at their wedding as a factor. If it’s your sister, yes, you should probably invite her and her spouse. If it’s the brother of a colleague you see at quarterly meetings, probably not.Long story short, invite the people you want to be with you, and the people your parents want to be with them. Then plan the reception based on that number of people. Yes, this might mean you can’t offer more than a thin slice of cake and thimble of champagne to each of your guests, but so be it.

Speaking of weddings, Etiquetteer found himself getting mighty annoyed reading a discussion about pregnant brides over as Smart & Sassy. (Special to Etiquetteer's mother: there's a lot of profanity, so you probably won't want to read it.) This led Etiquetteer to create a wedding survey, which you are cordially invited to take here. This does involve controversial questions about bridal pregnancy, wedding clothes, and catering, so be prepared.

Dear Etiquetteer:Do you stand by a whistleblower who is a friend? Not necessarily a friend but an honest person?Dear Ethically Challenged:Your question reminded Etiquetteer of Little Mary Haines in TheWomen asking her mother "Which is more important, Truth or Honor?" "They are equally important, darling" coldly responded her glamorous mother, played by Norma Shearer in the most memorable role of her career.If you believe the whistleblower to be not only an honest person but also accurate in the accusations, then YES, by all means, back up that person in the face of all adversity! How else are we to have a Perfectly Proper society unless innocent bystanders like yourself stand up for what is Right and True to defeat the Wicked and Evil?

EXAMPLES FROM THE DAILY LIFE OF ETIQUETTEER: Etiquetteer had occasion recently to begin a journey to a Distant City by train. One of the most distressing experiences was trying to purchase two magazines at a magazine stand from a Woman For Whom English Was Not the First Language who was much more absorbed in talking with her friend on her cell phone than in conducting any business! Transacting business in these circumstances is difficult at best, but with someone whose attention is actively engaged elsewhere . . . well, it didn’t make Etiquetteer feel like a valued customer, to say the least! A brisk "Excuse me, would you please finish your conversation later?" was definitely in order.

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.

 

Weddings and Invitations, Vol. 4, Issue 16

Dear Etiquetteer: My cousin, whom we shall call Gladys, is the youngest of a large, close family. Seven years ago, Gladys was married in a large, extravagant ceremony, with all family members in attendance. She had a large bridal party and wore a formal, white gown with a veil and chapel train.Sadly, that marriage ended in divorce. Gladys is now engaged and is planning to marry again. Much to my surprise, she is marrying just six weeks before my first wedding and, much to my further shock, is planning a large wedding with six attendants at a destination resort area. My query is twofold: Is it not somewhat inappropriate of Gladys to plan her wedding so very close to mine? And, is it not somewhat inappropriate of her to have such a large extravagant affair yet again? I cannot afford to travel to her wedding, as I am saving for my own. Further, I do not wish my family to suffer from "wedding burnout" by virtue of the fact that they are now subject to the expenses of two weddings within six weeks of one another. Dear First-Time Bride Second in Line: Etiquetteer always finds it so cute when brides think everyone should obey them and think about them first before making any decision whatsoever. Etiquetteer can just picture you, fluffy with rage that another bride has penetrated your Super Bridal Forcefield. Think of the dueling weather women in that terrible Japanese move Weather Woman (1995). Yikes!So while Etiquetteer shares your chagrin that Cousin Gladys scheduled her wedding when she did, Etiquetteer is compelled to remind you that it’s not all about you. Nor are you responsible for Gladys’s decisions, so don’t change your own wedding plans. Etiquetteer thinks your family can handle it. Etiquetteer just cannot find super-sized second weddings in the best of taste, mostly because of the national debate over the last 18 months about protecting the sanctity of marriage. Why underline that the sanctity of your first marriage meant nothing to you and that you feel it’s OK to disrespect it by marrying again with another Cecil B. DeMille Production Wedding that’s even being Shot On Location? Much better to do so in the chapel of your family church or even in your parlor, with only your close friends and relations present. You may be comforted to know that most people, when faced with a scheduling conflict, choose first weddings over second weddings. Etiquetteer wishes all of you well in your married lives.

Dear Etiquetteer: I just finished recommending etiquetteer.com to a friend who is planning her wedding and is looking for etiquette-related tips. As I was perusing the site, I came across your column from February, 2003, discussing reply cards for wedding invitations. When my wife and I sent out our wedding invitations, we did not include a reply card. Unfortunately, reply cards have become an expected part of a wedding invitation, and a rather significant number of our friends and relatives asked us, "You didn't include a reply card. How are we supposed to tell you that we're coming?" Our reply was some variant of "You just did. I'm delighted." Dear Uncarded: You are absolutely correct, as usual, and Etiquetteer could not agree more. What Etiquetteer has learned since then is that reply cards are necessary when they require more information than who’s coming. For bridal parties providing child care, you need a blank to know how many children to expect. For multiple entrée choices, you need multiple blanks (though Etiquetteer doesn’t really approve of giving a choice; the best entrée to serve is "Shut Up and Eat"). But when this sort of information is not required, a reply card is technically Not Perfectly Proper, because people are supposed to know that they respond in kind with a Proper Note.

Dear Etiquetteer: Who should be invited to wedding rehearsal dinners? If the answer is family, would that include great aunts (who are invited to the wedding)? Dear Rehearsed: Rehearsal dinners, traditionally held the night before the wedding and hosted by the parents of the groom, generally include the wedding party (attendants and clergy; musicians need not be invited unless personal friends). Technically it's given for the wedding party, but Etiquetteer thinks it Perfectly Proper and Very Hospitable to include out-of-town guests and extended family.But two other factors are at work here: the type of function and its size. Not all rehearsal dinners are dinners any more. This function can be anything the groom's family wants it to be, from a picnic to a black-tie dinner dance. Not to typecast anyone, but Etiquetteer can't see his own great-aunts (may they rest in peace) having much of a good time in a billiard hall, dive bar, or picnic ground. And generally rehearsal dinners are smaller than the weddings they precede, or verymuch larger. In other words, it's best not to be offended if you don't get invited.

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

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!

 

Public Events, Vol. 1, Issue 1

  Dear Etiquetteer:Recently we were invited guests at the Roman Catholic baptism of a six-year-old girl. We're atheists, and at a certain moment, when we were asked to raise our hands in blessing over the little girl, we felt a certain -- shall we say, lack of good sportspersonship? -- and neither of us were able to comply. The moment was awkward for us, and for the parents of the child, who saw that we were alone in not raising our hands.To the question: should we who don't believe even go to baptisms? And if we do, should we then comply with all the ritual requests? Where would one draw the line?Dear Thoughtful:Let’s consider the intimacy of the occasion first. A proper baptism is not a gala occasion, but rather a small gathering of only family and close friends of the newborn’s parents. It includes a ceremony in the family’s place of worship (which may or may not be part of a regularly scheduled worship service) followed by an all-white cake with a glass of champagne. Being invited to a baptism signifies how dearly your friends consider you. It’s an honor.Having accepted the invitation to a church ceremony, Etiquetteer considers it your responsibility to learn in advance exactly how guests are to participate. Just ask your hosts, explaining that you neither want to compromise your beliefs nor offend them. Then you can make an informed decision about whether or not to attend. Once you’ve accepted the invitation, it is your duty as a guest to participate, taking cues from other participants. Etiquetteer would draw the line at reciting a creed or singing a hymn contrary to your beliefs. In the meantime, your friends invited you to witness something very special in their family’s life, and think that you dissed their new baby. Something tells Etiquetteer that that isn’t what you want them to think. If you haven’t already, follow up with a lovely baby gift -- Etiquetteer loves “Pat the Bunny” for baby gifts -- and continue to take an interest in the child. You’ll repair the friendship.

 

Dear Etiquetteer:

 

When you get invited to a political event where the "suggested donation" reads $250 and $500, is it OK to show up with a check for $100? No check at all? And what, if anything, do you say at the campaign, to said freeloader?

 

Dear Political Operative:

 

Etiquetteer invites you to consider the nature of a suggestion. It’s a hint, a proposal; it isn’t binding. “Suggested donation,” whether used by a candidate at a fund-raiser or a museum at the front door, means “We’d really like this particular amount of money from you.” But as with any suggestion, people are free to take it or leave it.Candidates raise more than money at political events. They raiseawareness among voters. And if, for whatever legal reason it is, you have to list “suggested donation” instead of “ticket price” or “admission,” you will get some guests who don’t take the suggestion. Welcome them with open arms and your biggest smile. All you have to say is “I’m counting on your support in the voting booth.”

Dear Etiquetteer:

 

While generally not acknowledged, it is generally accepted that when a soon-to-be married couple develops the guest list for their wedding, there are two lists: the so-called A list and B list. If a guest is B-listed, the invitation may arrive somewhat later than those of A list guests. However, if a B-listed guest does not receive a printed,mailed invitation, but instead is invited via telephone, or worse yet, via a third party, is the guest required to attend the wedding?

 

Dear Erstwhile Wedding Guest:

 

Etiquetteer is delighted to inform you that you have not even made the B list for this wedding. Why go to the wedding of people who treat their guests so disrespectfully before the reception cash bar even opens? Wedding invitations are never properly issued by third parties or over the phone without an invitation sent to confirm. We are all created equal, and we all deserve a lavishly engraved invitation suitable for framing. Brides and their mothers who permit such casual inviting deserve to be showered with 37 identical toaster ovens in harvestgold or avocado green.

Dear Etiquetteer:

When someone is giving a presentation, how do you tell them that their fly is unzipped?

 

Dear Attentive Audience Member:What are you doing under the podium that you’d even notice? Get out from under there!

ETIQUETTEER, Encouraging Perfect Propriety in an Imperfect WorldTo subscribe: rbdimmick@earthlink.netTo unsubscribe: rbdimmick@earthlink.netTo submit questions: rbdimmick@earthlink.netCopyright 2002, 2003 by Robert B. Dimmick

 

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