Miss Manners: Dress code for another’s prom no different from your own

May 1, 2012

DEAR MISS MANNERS: It has been brought to my attention that if you are to go to someone else’s prom, you should wear a less attractive/fancy dress. This is because you would not want to outshine the graduates.

I used to go to this school, and although I have not been there for two years, feel quite comfortable. So now I need your opinion. I can either wear a subtle dress, a fancy cocktail dress or my prom dress from two weeks ago. (I took down all the pictures so that my classmates will not have seen the dress online.)

GENTLE READER: It is not clear to Miss Manners which of your dresses is so dazzling as to be sure of outshining the graduates.

However, your concern is misplaced. The rule is only to respect the general style of the occasion, dressing neither more nor less noticeably formally. Within that limit, you may look as ravishing as nature and art will permit. Others will be the judges of whether you have shone so brightly as to dim all other young ladies present.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have enjoyed being a part of my daughters’ weddings, walking them down the aisle and ceremonially “giving them away” to their husbands. The next wedding involves daughter No. 3, who has been living with her husband-to-be for six years.

In discussing the wedding with her, I noted that while I will be happy to be a part of the wedding party, I do not wish to walk her down the aisle. I feel that presenting her to the man with whom she has been living would be a mockery that would make fools of both of us. She agrees.

Both of us will have to answer questions from inquiring wedding guests. Any suggestion for an appropriate response?

GENTLE READER: “We both decided that it would be an anachronism,” should do it.

And so it is. Did you really feel that your other daughters were your possessions in the sense that you could give them away?

Granted that this custom is a common feature of modern weddings, Miss Manners hopes that everyone concerned takes it as a charming conceit. It is left over from times when a young lady was under parental protection, jurisdiction and roof until such powers were ceded to another gentleman.

It is not universally used, and Miss Manners would be surprised if it became a topic of wedding conversation. But if you think your guests will compare it to her sisters’ weddings and conclude that there must be a quarrel, you should devise a way for the bride to acknowledge you — and her mother — perhaps with a kiss as she approaches the altar.

However, it is a bit harsh to call the custom a mockery. The only times it looks a bit foolish are when the bride is given away by someone who never had custody of her — her young son, for example, or a distant male relative instead of the single mother who reared her.

Miss Manners has even heard of an ex-husband being drafted for the job. That actually does make sense, as he did have her and is now through with her and happy to pass her on, but it is not in the best taste.

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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