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.

Etiquetteer's Advice to 21st Century Brides, Vol. 13, Issue 53

Dear Etiquetteer: My beloved eldest niece - she who resembles me more than either of her parents - is getting married almost a year from now. So far she has save-the-date cards ordered, but as her mother had an awful upbringing in terms of manners, expectations, etc., I know she will not be able guide the bride-to-be. What are some of the pitfalls of which a bride-to-be should be wary in 2014-2015?

Dear Aunt Bridey:

A Young Woman approaching the altar has many pitfalls to avoid, including many within herself. The saddest and most obvious is the delusion that one's wedding is just as important to everyone else in the entire world as it is to oneself. The next is that everyone in the entire world is going to spend every cent they have gratifying her every whim; this is what Etiquetteer calls the Gaping Maw of Bridal Need. Etiquetteer hates to disillusion these women (actually, that's not true; Etiquetteer is fiercely eager to shred their Veils of Deliberate Illusion), but even one's fiancé is not likely as interested in the wedding as the bride. In fact, no one cares about the bride. They care about the bride caring about them. Surprise them all, and make your wedding guests the focus of your wedding!

Etiquetteer has some ideas about Brides Today and Perfect Propriety. Dear Bride:

  1. Be a giver, not a perpetual taker. No one likes satisfying the Gaping Maw of Bridal Need. No one owes you the wedding of your dreams.
  2. Ask yourself if this is really about you and your mother and/or mother-in-law fighting to see who can come out on top.
  3. Ask yourself if you want a perfect wedding, or if you really just want to boss people around. Be honest. If the latter, get the ladder and elope.
  4. Think carefully about the experience your wedding guests are going to have and make absolutely sure that your wedding will be a party they'll remember for the right reasons.
  5. Make the conscious decision that you're going to have a good time with all these people, not have an anxious time trying to avoid them so you can be with your fiancé/husband. After all, you'll have him for the rest of your life!
  6. It's a wedding, not a chorus line. Choose the number of friends you want for bridal attendants, not vice versa. An even number of attendants is not necessary - good heavens, attendants themselves are not necessary! (And you'd be surprised how many of your friends will secretly thank you for sparing them the burden.)
  7. Don't be so selfish that you force your attendants to buy hideous dresses they'll never wear again.
  8. Don't skimp on a gift for each of your attendants, and don't let your fiancé skimp either. They're your friends after all, yes?
  9. Consider skipping the vulgarity of a bachelorette trip to Las Vegas and instead hosting a traditional bridesmaids luncheon the week before the wedding.
  10. Expect to have a tantrum, and expect to apologize afterward for it.
  11. Under no circumstances should you plan to do anything on the day of the wedding but be the bride. This means no assembly of rice bags or souvenirs or table centerpieces, no cooking, no nothing.
  12. Do not publicize information about your bridal registry until people ask, and then send it to them privately. NEVER include registry information on a save-the-date card or invitation. People do still want to believe that they've been invited for the Pleasure of their Company, and not for the Generosity of their Purses.
  13. Lay in some good stationery now and send your Lovely Notes of thanks as gifts are received. You may NOT wait until after the honeymoon, and you certainly are NOT given until the first anniversary to send these.
  14. Keep it simple. The budget for ostentatious little touches might be better spent on upgrading the food.
  15. Most important, plan to speak to every wedding guest personally to thank them for attending. They have taken a lot of time, trouble, and treasure to celebrate with you, and they expect to get to speak with you. They deserve your attention. Etiquetteer, of course, remains devoted to the idea of a receiving line - while recognizing that they are routinely abused by wedding guests (not always elderly ladies) who expect to have long detailed conversations with the Happy Couple. Another solution is to circulate among the tables during the wedding banquet.

Now, Aunt Bridey, Etiquetteer feels the need to advise you not to insinuate yourself too aggressively into the plans for your niece's wedding. If you and she are so truly alike and already have a strong relationship, Etiquetteer predicts that she will reach out to you to be engaged in some way in the planning. But it would not be Perfectly Proper to usurp the place of the mother of the bride, regardless of how accurate your assessment of her abilities is. You have a beautiful opportunity to set a good example by hosting a meal in honor of the Happy Couple's engagement for your own set of guests, with all the proper accoutrements. But let Etiquetteer be clear that this should not take place later than three months before the wedding, and it is certainly not a bridal shower. Things get busy enough the closer one gets to the Big Day.

Etiquetteer wishes joy to the Happy Couple, and peace to all involved!

The Behavior of Brides, Vol. 13, Issue 44

Etiquetteer has been fascinated with Sylvia, Queen of the Headhunters, by Philip Eade, his biography of Sylvia Brett Brooke, who married into the Brooke family, "the last white Rajahs of Sarawak." Sylvia's behavior throughout her life comes in for its fair share of disapproval - Etiquetteer can't say she was a Paragon of Perfect Propriety (indeed, Etiquetteer is just about to begin a chapter headed "To Hell with dignity") - but she did receive the praise of one dear friend for her conduct at her 1911 wedding. J.M. Barrie, best known to history as the author of Peter Pan, wrote Sylvia charmingly afterward about her beautiful consideration of others: ". . . so nice to everyone, especially to servants and waiters. I think the latter such a test of a nice woman, and I watched, and no one could have come more sweetly through the ordeal."* Reading this led Etiquetteer to reflect on the Bride of Today, who is usually so super-conscious of the wedding day being HERS, as though only her wishes and convenience needed to be considered. So many brides believe all they have to do is receive, receive, receive (but not in a receiving line): receive congratulations, receive compliments, and especially receive gifts gifts gifts (but only from the registry that has been shamelessly advertised) and money. And that they don't have to GIVE anything but orders: orders to give parties, orders to buy gifts, orders to buy ugly dresses, orders to lose weight, orders constantly to satisfy the Gaping Maw of Bridal Need.

Brides have a price to pay for all this, whether they like it or not, and it is the Gift of Themselves. Etiquetteer gets mighty tired of brides trying to wriggle out of their obligations to give back: by isolating themselves at "sweetheart tables" during the wedding banquet, by eliminating any receiving line** to avoid talking with wedding guests (many of whom have gone to considerable distance and expense to celebrate with her in person), and especially by adopting the fiction that Lovely Notes of Thanks are either unnecessary or able to be postponed until the first anniversary.

A wedding is a special occasion for everyone who participates, not just the Happy Couple, and consideration for the acknowledgement of all must be considered by brides. To Etiquetteer this means greeting each and every wedding guest personally (whether in a receiving line or by circulating among tables during the banquet, preferably both) and prompt and personal Lovely Notes to thank relatives, friends, and colleagues for their gifts (whether they were from the registry or not). Because you'll go on having to know all these people long after your wedding is over (and perhaps your divorce, too.) Don't make Etiquetteer come after you . . .

*Page 62, Sylvia, Queen of the Headhunters, by Philip Eade, 2014 (Picador)

** That said, people have forgotten that receiving lines are not places to have extended conversations. All you should say in a receiving line is "Congratulations! I'm so happy for you and you look lovely" and then give way to the next wedding guest. And lest anyone think Etiquetteer is simply a Mindless Slave to Tradition, Etiquetteer needs to emphasize how wonderful it is that the size of receiving lines has been dramatically reduced, from the Happy Couple, all four of their parents, and all the bridesmaids to just the Happy Couple.

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.

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.

Another Broke Bridesmaid, Vol. 7 Issue 17

Dear Etiquetteer: I have a bit of a dilemma! I am a bridesmaid in a coworker's wedding. This makes me infinitely happy as I adore her. Her maid of honor, not so much. I understand and appreciate her stress in aiding the bride, but I am starting to get frustrated. I have spent over $1,000 on this wedding buying a dress and two round-trip plane tickets to attend the bridal shower and wedding. Despite this great expense I am being asked for even more money for "expenses" that I do not understand. These requests range from $50 to $200. I am planning on opting out of the combined bridesmaid's gift and instead am buying a gift with my other coworkers that better fits my budget.

Is it appropriate to politely refuse to fork over any more money? I am a poor college student with little disposable income. I'm starting to think I'll have to sacrifice buying books to keep up! Help! 

Dear Broke Bridesmaid: 

Etiquetteer has heard of Bridezilla - he has even met her a few times - but never Maidzilla. Etiquetteer declares that you, and other Beleaguered Bridesmaids, need not contribute to "expenses" in which you have had no selection or decision. And really, Etiquetteer would have excused you from attending the bridal shower in person due to the distance and expense involved. Someday American women will realize that the fantasy of having a Great Big Wedding need not be based on the outmoded stereotype of a clique of 19-year-old high school graduates who all live in the same neighborhood and can band together easily for wedding activities.

When Maidzilla solicits or invoices you again, you must tell her - with Perfect Propriety and Complete Calm - that you're unable to contribute any more money to the wedding effort since funding your education is now in jeopardy, which you KNOW is not what the bride wants for you. Maidzilla may toss a little tantrum at you; while it may be tempting to respond in kind, use all your control to Remain Calm. Taking the high road will only make her look even more petty and grasping. 

The Tale of the Princess Bridezilla, Vol. 5, Issue 16

Dear Etiquetteer: Recently, I had a conversation with a friend who is in the midst of planning her wedding. I am a member of the wedding party and I found many of the things she is doing to be extremely cheap and a little offensive.1. She is adamant about not walking around to each table at the reception to greet/thank her guests for attending. (The ceremony and reception are at the same place, so there’s no receiving line before the reception begins.) She feels it is her day and she is spending so much money that she wants to enjoy it and not waste time thanking her guests. Is this appropriate or is the tradition of walking around table to table to greet your guests at the wedding reception not the current practice?2. She is not sending out a save-the-date because, again, she does not want to waste money on printing them when she doesn’t want half of her wedding guest list (from out of town) to attend because the wedding is already very expensive. I am sure not everyone sends save-the-date cards but the reasoning behind it is, again, insensitive.3. She is very adamant about not having wedding favors (which is completely fine.) She plans, however, on taking the $600 dollars she would spend on favors and only donating half to a charity. The cards on the table will read, "In lieu of wedding favors we have made a donation to [insert charity name.]" What I do not find perfectly proper is making guests believe you are so genuine when making this donation but really you are keeping half of the money for yourself. Do you agree? Is this the usual practice when a couple chooses not to do wedding favors?4. Last but not least, she told me in a curt manner that she refuses to do gifts for her wedding party (16 total for bride and groom) because it is too expensive. Even if I was not in the wedding party, I find this in poor taste not to thank your wedding party in some small way for spending so much money to be a part of your special day. Do you agree, is this perfectly proper?Dear Bridesmaid of Bridezilla:Your friend defines the Princess Bridezilla. She is evil and must be destroyed . . . which may happen after the wedding when she finds she has no friends left. Who does she think she is, Kathleen Battle? Etiquetteer was appalled with two Ps reading your letter, so let’s demolish her sanctimonious selfishness point by point:1. You’ve got it a little mixed up here. The current practice is to walk among the tables, but the traditionis the receiving line. Etiquetteer really prefers the latter (you don’t miss anyone that way) but rather likes the former, too. Princess Bridezilla will find herself in hot water if she doesn’t do either! Etiquetteer’s Wedding Survey revealed that 87% of wedding guests expect to speak face-to-face with the bride and groom. That’s not "hope to speak," but "expect to speak." Were Etiquetteer getting married, Etiquetteer would find getting to talk to everyone the most enjoyable part of the day!2. Technically one doesn’t have to send a save-the-date card, but it is a very welcome courtesy for those who will need to arrange air transportation and accommodations. If Princess Bridezilla doesn’t even want these people to come to the wedding anyway, Etiquetteer would like to know why she doesn’t just send a wedding announcement and not invite them at all. That would be more Perfectly Proper and less a back-handed compliment.3. Wedding favors are optional. Etiquetteer has received some lovely ones but also been to beautiful weddings where no favors were given. To call attention to their absence will only make the guests feel short-changed.You know, the Holy Bible is frequently a wonderful source of etiquette advice. Here Etiquetteer must turn to the Gospel of Matthew 6:5-6: "And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are; for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret . . . " Do you see what Etiquetteer means here? By calling attention to her "charity" Princess Bridezilla will make the wrong impression on her guests. And Etiquetteer would guess she’d be furious if anyone pulled that trick on her with a wedding gift!4. Really, this is the final nail in the coffin for Princess Bridezilla. A tangible expression of gratitude to one’s attendants – who, let’s face it, she’s probably made spend a lot on their dresses – is the least a bride can do. To neglect it (and the traditional bridesmaid’s luncheon) is shabby in the extreme. You and the other bridesmaids must feel quite hurt at this callousness.You did not ask, but Etiquetteer wonders if you aren’t thinking about how to get out of being a bridesmaid, or if you even want to be a friend of this woman any more. Weddings do bring out the worst in people, and she may not realize just how she appears. Since you are a bridesmaid, you have a unique opportunity to tell her, gently, that her greed and vanity are disappointing everyone around her and making her look like someone you hope she is not.In summary, where is the exchange of affection here? Etiquetteer cannot see Princess Bridezilla caring about anyone save for what they can give or do for her. In a vengeful moment Etiquetteer might tell you to give her a lump of coal as a wedding gift: "If you squeeze it hard enough it’ll be a diamond!" But that would notbe Perfectly Proper . . .

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.

 

The Case of the Broke Bridesmaid, Vol. 4, Issue 40

Dear Etiquetteer:My very dear friend moved to the other side of the country a couple months ago and is now having a shotgun wedding - albeit to a man she's very much in love with. Blessed Bride invited me to the wedding, asked me to be a bridesmaid and all those lovely things. Of course I accepted and am thrilled to be there for her special day.However, due to the time constraints, in a very short timespan I'm spending a great deal of money ($850 so far) on airfare, rental car, hotel, bridesmaid's dress & accessories (appropriate undergarments are not cheap!), wedding gift, shower gift, hairstyling, manicure, and pedicure on the wedding day, etc. I need some advice from you on some of the weekend's activities.One of her family members is hosting a bridal shower that is the night before the rehearsal dinner. She sent us the following information regarding the shower: Aunt Eccentric is hosting a dinner at a Mexican restaurant (everyone will have a choice of two dinners) the cake, drinks and the invites. Crazy Cousin is hosting the centerpieces.According to Crazy Cousin, "There is a ‘no-host bar’ meaning if you want booze, it is on you. If you gals (bridesmaids) wanted to host that part you could, but it could get costly at $20 a pitcher for margaritas. Also, dear bridesmaids, [Insert Name of Online Party Provider Here] has some cute inexpensive fiesta party favors if you gals wanted to do favors for the shower." Crazy Cousin also suggested that "one of you gals who is into scrapbooking puts together a pre-made small scrapbook that ladies can add their words of wisdom to Blessed Bride to in the captions at the shower then the shower photos can just be added once they are developed." A fellow bridesmaid said that she will host the bride's thank-you notes.Etiquetteer, please help! I’m already going broke just being there for her special day (not to mention that the Blessed Bride still owes me $500!) Can you advise me as to how much participation I should have in these events? As bridesmaids, we are going in together on a rather nice shower gift. I've picked out a perfectly proper wedding gift and even made by hand a lovely wedding card.As far as shower, rehearsal dinner, bachelorette party go, I'm not sure what I'm supposed to be doing. What is expected of bridesmaids when it comes to bridal showers? I'm sober, so I have no intention on chipping in on alcoholic beverages. Are we expected to pay for tacky maraca keychains as favors? Should someone be planning a "bachelorette party?" What is the role of the maid of honor vs. other bridesmaids? As a bridesmaid, should I offer to help out in some way for the shower by paying for some element of the shower? Would it be all right if I bought a lovely book in which we record who gave which gifts at the shower? Or, purchased/made a scrapbook as suggested?Never mind that I feel the shower is not appropriate as it is two nights before the wedding and feels like it's just an excuse for gifts. And, the baby shower will be just around the corner, right in time for the holidays. And, I did all the legwork related to bridesmaid dresses since we're scattered throughout the country. I'm trying to put all my resentful feelings aside but as a singleton I'm finding this really hard to swallow. I am so happy for the bride & groom and want to be Perfectly Proper, as you say, but I can't afford to go broke on this.Dear Broke Bridesmaid:As the ladies at Smart and Sassy say, Etiquetteer’s head exploded reading your letter. What a tangle! Let’s try to sort this out, shall we?Etiquetteer suspects this whole bridesmaid thing was a lot easier "once upon a time" when everyone concerned with a wedding lived in the same town, or at least the same county. Then it was relatively easy to arrange for gown fittings, bridal showers, and other gatherings. These days we have sacrified Proximity to Personal Choice, but the true cost of that sacrifice is felt at weddings and other such gatherings the most.Believe it or not, it’s not the best of taste for family members to host the bridal shower. That’s usually done by the bridesmaids, or even by friends of the mother of the bride. Whichever members of the wedding party live closest to the bride (maid of honor or not) ought to take the lead here, but as maid of honor you should be involved in the arrangements. But not now; keep reading.In this case, let’s be thankful that Aunt Eccentric is easing the burden. But with her parceling out donor opportunities the way she is, it doesn’t really sound like she wants to, does it? Etiquetteer really doesn’t care for this sort of thing. If you’re going to throw the party, throw the party and don’t assign people (especially total strangers) to spend money on your own ideas. So Etiquetteer thinks you should treat Auntie’s suggestions as just that: suggestions. If she really wants other people to foot the bill for a party she’s hosting, then all of you should have been involved in the decisions about where and what the party would be.Under the circumstances, a bachelorette party sounds Most Improper, so please quash that at once if someone springs that idea. Etiquetteer just can’t take the idea of a pregnant bride in some nightclub outfit riding around in a stretch limo with her girlfriends, rolling down the window at intersections to say "Pardon me, do you have any Grey Poupon?" And Etiquetteer shivers in fear to think what "hosting the bride’s thank-you notes" might mean.With the heavy commitment you’ve made merely to attend the wedding in the appropriate uniform, and all your work handling the fittings for the rest of the wedding party, Etiquetteer believes you to have fulfilled your duty apart from actually attending the wedding. What a pity, Etiquetteer notes acidly, that it seems no one offered you a room in one of their homes, knowing that you’d have to travel a distance to be there. And Etiquetteer is disappointed to see no reference to the bridesmaid’s luncheon, which the bride hosts for her bridesmaids and when she give them her gifts. Let’s hope this will be a lovely surprise for you when you arrive.

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Resumés and Receptions, Vol. 4, Issue 28

Dear Etiquetteer:In this day of e-mail resumes and cover letters, can you help me to sort out the rules?As a potential employee, if I've been given both a street address and e-mail as a contact, should I contact the employer in both ways? I certainly don't want to be a pest but if I missed out on the great job to the speedy candidates via e-mail I'd be devastated!And what about post-interview? To send a thank-you note for the meeting, can I do this via e-mail?I've noticed that as the whole recruiting process goes electronic the days of rejection letters seem to be completely passe. As much as I hate the "Thank you for your interest.... many strong candidates... you're a loser" sort of correspondence it can be settling to cross that possibility off one's list at least. Has this process fallen out of tradition or are employers now merely lazy? Dear Resuming:These days most job postings include instructions for submitting job applications, most frequently with the admonition "No phone calls." Resume submission by e-mail and fax has become standard, but Etiquetteer still believes that a crisply-printed resume on Perfectly Proper bond paper makes the best first impression. Some may Wag an Admonitory Digit at Etiquetteer for suggesting a duplication of effort, but Etiquetteer really thinks you should fax or e-mail your cover letter and resume first, and then send it via post with the superscription "Faxed/e-mailed on [Insert Date Here]."Interviewers determine how best to communicate after a job interview. Goodinterviewers will remember to tell you this, as in "We are still interviewing candidates, but I will be in touch with finalists in two weeks." They should also hand you a business card that should include their contact information. If an interviewer forgets to mention any of this, Etiquetteer permits you to direct the conversation by asking "So, what are the next steps?" and asking for a card and whether phone, e-mail, or footman is the best contact method.And now, with barely audible disdain, Etiquetteer is going to have to tell you that you never send a thank-you note after a job interview. Notes are for social correspondence. What candidates send is a thank-you letter on Perfectly Proper crisp letterhead. If more than one person has interviewed you, you send an individual letter to each interviewer. Make sure they vary a bit; you never know if they’ll all powwow and compare them. And make doubly sure you write, print, and sign them that night and mail them first thing in the morning. If possible – and Etiquetteer has done this – you may deliver them to the receptionist of the company in question, but only if you think you will not be seen by the interviewers.Like you, Etiquetteer laments the electrifying of the rejection letter. Somehow a printed letter in the mail seemed more human – certainly unmistakable – than another e-mail which could easily be spam.

Dear Etiquetteer:I have a party, or more specifically, a wedding reception-related question. Two very good friends have asked me to help with some of the aesthetic details of their wedding. This is an honor and I am very happy that they are, after 21 years together, finally able to marry like our straight brothers and sisters.Here is my question: what do you think about weddings without a meal? My friends have planned for passed hors d'oeuvres and cocktails but no meal. The ceremony is to be about 4 o'clock, at their country place. I feel they should provide a meal. I might feel differently if it were in town and did not involve travel and a hotel stay for a majority of the guests.Two of my colleagues attended weddings in another state last fall, and neither reception provided lunch or dinner. They both felt hungry and like something was missing. As one described it, she was very happy for her friends, thought the service was beautiful, and the reception location a gem, but that the event from start to finish lasted almost six hours and the hors d'oeuvres were minuscule and in short supply. As the receptions were also something of a reunion of old friends both of my colleagues felt reluctant, though tempted, to duck out for a bite.While I am guessing that there is no requirement of a meal it does in my own memory seem to contribute measurably to a wonderful event and shared experience. If my friends were just starting out in life and on a tight budget I would feel differently, but they are clearly upper-middle-class owning three homes and a successful business.Here are my questions: do you feel there is the expectation of dinner, and is it correct for me to gently raise the question?Dear Drafted:Oh dear, Etiquetteer thought he heard a parakeet just now. Didn’t you hear it? It sounded like "Cheap cheap cheap cheap cheap cheap cheap cheap cheap!"If your lady friends are so intent on dragging all their kindred and kind friends into the country for a wedding, they ought to feed them lunch or dinner. If they were keeping them all in town (much more sensible, if you ask Etiquetteer) they could perfectly well get away with hors d’oeuvres. Clearly they are not thinking about how their guests are going to experience their Special Day. You, happily, have been put into the unique position of advisors to your pair of brides, and Etiquetteer encourages you to speak with them, gently, about serving a luncheon or dinner as part of their festivities.

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.