Miss Manners: Attend son’s wedding reception to signal you support him

April 11, 2013

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My son’s wedding reception will be themed around a politically charged topic on which I hold the opposite view from him. Should good manners preclude having issues, even heartfelt ones, involved in an unrelated celebration to which people of a variety of viewpoints are being invited?

Am I obliged to attend an event in support of my son where my silence may be taken as approval of something I disagree with? How can I tell him that this puts me, and other guests, in an awkward position?

GENTLE READER: You are quite right that the only proper “theme” of a wedding reception is a celebration of the marriage that has just taken place. Considering it an opportunity to enlist guests in a Save the Mosquitoes drive is, indeed, tasteless.

However, refusal to attend your own child’s wedding festivities is such a serious public statement, with long-lasting consequences, that Miss Manners supposes you must be violently opposed to his cause.

Is it possible that you only mean to say that your son is marrying a gentleman? In that case, we call it a wedding, not a politically themed rally. Your presence would not constitute a vote for same-sex marriage, but your absence would be an extreme rejection of your son.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I’m hoping you can provide some guidance for professional waiters who serve disabled guests in high-end bistros.

I work as a waiter in such, and served a family of four that included a mother, father, daughter and a disabled son. All were grown adults, including the disabled son who was physically impaired and unable to talk. He needed help walking and eating.

Each time I went to the table, the disabled son smiled at me and lifted his arms in an attempt to “shake hands.” I talked to the son as I would any other guest. I know he could hear me because when I offered him items such as chocolate milk and pasta, he smiled and waved his hands as if to say, “Yes, sir, I would very much like these items.”

Yet in the end, his father spoke for him and placed his dinner order. At the end of the meal, the father thanked me for talking to, and not ignoring, his son.

Did I do the right thing? What is the proper etiquette in this situation?

GENTLE READER: The proper etiquette in any situation is to treat human beings with dignity, which is what you did. Sadly, many people do not, which, Miss Manners surmises, is what made the father particularly grateful.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: How does one politely chastise an attendee at a social event who has not RSVPed as requested on the invitation?

Perhaps “chastise” is too strong a word, and I certainly don’t want to interrupt my own event with scolding, but this is an increasing problem that I feel should be addressed — in a polite way, of course.

GENTLE READER: Certainly guests should never be scolded; they should be greeted with enthusiastic hospitality. In this case, Miss Manners suggests exclaiming: “What an unexpected pleasure! When you didn’t answer my invitation, I figured it could only be because you were away.”

Visit Miss Manners at her Web site, www.missmanners.com, where you can send her your questions.

, by Judith Martin

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