The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Globe Life

June 5, 2010

Linda Cannon, Book Review: Miss Manners book covers current wedding etiquette


I’ve been reading Miss Manners (aka Judith Martin) for more years than I care to admit. I always learn something (sometimes a lot of things) about how to comport myself, but I really read her for fun.

Fun? Etiquette books? Well, yes. If you like humorous writing, let me recommend Miss Manners to you.

Explaining proper behavior and etiquette doesn’t have to be boring. I’m afraid Miss Manners would not approve, but when I’m reading her books, I just have to read bits and pieces out loud to whatever poor soul happens to be in the vicinity.

The latest addition to the Joplin Public Library collection of Miss Manners’ books is “Miss Manners’ Guide to a Surprisingly Dignified Wedding.” It does not quite replace “Miss Manners on Weddings,” but supplements it to bring in all the e-mail and other recent developments and trends along with much other information.

The book is co-authored by her daughter, Jacobina, who was recently married herself Ñ which I expect caused the re-examination of weddings by Miss Manners.

One of the issues this book addresses is the recent belief of brides and bridegrooms that getting married means that everyone in the world gets to fund one’s desired wedding fantasy and future lifestyle.

Dollar dances are the absolute least of it. Money bags (worn by the bride at the reception), “sponsors” for the wedding (meaning that the neighbors are importuned by the parents of one or both of the couple to pony up for some portion of the wedding expenses), registering to have friends/family/suckers pay for one’s mortgage or home down payment and registering for expensive items in order to return them for cash are on the list, which goes on and on.

Similarly, charging admittance fees to receptions seems to be a big, recent trend. Invitations on which the “guest” is supposed to mark their meal preference (with costs included) and where to send the check? Gee, sorry, I’m busy that day.

One letter to Miss Manners concerned a bride who approached one of her bridesmaids and commanded her to e-mail invoices to guests who hadn’t given her presents. Seriously.

Another issue addressed is the “Wedding as ‘My Day,’” known to many as the Bridezilla Syndrome (my term, not gentle Miss Manners’).

I do want to reproduce one piece of Miss Manners’ correspondence to give you the flavor of the book, and this is one of my favorites (speaking of Bridezillas, though our “Gentle Reader” below isn’t one herself):

“Dear Miss Manners, Through pure coincidence, it turns out that one of my cousins is getting married on the same day I am. We aren’t very close, as she was very competitive with me while growing up. She is getting married in the morning, and I am having an afternoon wedding with an evening reception. I assumed she wouldn’t be able to make it to my reception as she would be exhausted and want to spend time with her new husband. However I just received an e-mail saying she really wants to go. The catch is, she said she is not going to have enough time to change so she wants to wear her wedding attire (dress included) to my reception. How does one appropriately respond to that?”

“Gentle Reader, with the same gentleness you would use with a little girl who wants to wear her Halloween costume to school in September,” Miss Manners writes. “While brides are not encouraged to dictate guests’ clothing, they do get to be the only one in bridal attire at the wedding. Please tell her that you are sure that she will be more comfortable changing out of her wedding clothes, and that she is welcome to use your changing room to do so. Better send some family members in with her, though, so she doesn’t return in your going-away outfit.”

All manner of engagement, wedding and reception issues are covered with wit and style in this latest book.The library has six other Miss Manners books, including “Miss Manners’ Guide to Domestic Tranquility,” “Miss Manners’ Guide to Rearing Perfect Children” and her cover-all-bases book, “Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior.”

I’ve read them all and invite you to do the same. And thank your lucky stars you weren’t within earshot when I read any of them.

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