Miss Manners: Cheerful send-off to trial is not the best approach

March 8, 2012

DEAR MISS MANNERS: A friend of mine is due to have a civil trial fairly soon. Neither he nor I believe the charges against him are true. I want to send him a note wishing him the best during the trial, but given the serious nature of the event, I feel “good luck” is too cheerful. What is an appropriate thing to say to him?

GENTLE READER: Well, yes, “good luck” does sound a bit as if luck is what it will take to resolve the issue. Miss Manners would think that “You are obviously not at fault, and surely anyone can see that” would be more gratifying.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: One of my elderly neighbors uses paper plates in her home because she thinks it’s convenient and she doesn’t want to wash dishes. I’m a staunch environmentalist at heart and always use ceramic plates in my home. I think paper plates are a waste of money and bad for the environment.

In addition, I was taught by my parents that when people come over, one should show great hospitality by using a cup, saucer and dessert plate (in the following case).

My neighbor came to my place one night, and we had coffee and cookies. She made a comment that I used too many ceramic plates. I didn’t say anything. What do I say in this situation? Do I just say that’s how I was raised and leave out the part about the environment? She’s so set in her ways.

GENTLE READER: It is all very well for her to be set in her ways, but she also seems to be set on getting in your way.

To invoke your upbringing would be to imply superiority to hers and open a discussion about flexibility for the sake of environmental concerns. It would be better to say, “Well, Emmeline, you do things your way and I do things my way. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be friends.”

DEAR MISS MANNERS: We are having a church wedding that can accommodate many guests, but our reception is limited to 100 guests.

I want to send out two different sets of invitations, one set for wedding-only guests that will make no mention of any reception, and one for the wedding/reception guests that will obviously give all the information.

I have read mixed reviews on whether this is appropriate. However, I would rather take the chance of offending someone by inviting them to the wedding only, than not inviting them at all because I couldn’t accommodate them at the reception.

GENTLE READER: There is tradition behind that idea. There is even a proper form: The invitation is to the wedding only, and a separate card for the reception is enclosed — or not.

Miss Manners, Guardian of Tradition, begs you not to do this. It was a bad tradition, clearly separating the A list from the B list. You are mistaken that it would not be offensive to be asked to witness your marriage but not to celebrate it with you. The scene on the church steps, when some people realized that others were off to enjoy champagne while they were dismissed, would not be pretty.

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

2012, by Judith Martin

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