GENTLE READER: Usually, those who claim that they “don’t know what to say” mean that they are reluctant to use conventional phrases, not realizing that those are the time-proven best. However, in such cases as yours, it may be that they dimly suspect that they should shut up.
That would be Miss Manners’s advice, immediately after saying, “Glad to see you back.” There is no polite way of saying, “Wow, I see that your bosom is a lot bigger.”
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I thought I had seen everything, but recently we received a wedding invitation via Facebook.
If that was not bad enough, it turns out that the wedding couple, both musicians, decided to have the ceremony in the context of a concert performance by them. The invitation indicated that because they have decided to rent a concert hall, in lieu of buying a gift, we would be required to buy a ticket to help defray the costs of the performance.
Again, because of financial restrictions, we were instructed that we could order food and beverages off a menu at our own expense, but cupcakes would be provided for dessert.
Last week we received yet another online notification indicating if we could not attend, we may choose to donate at various levels toward the couple’s honeymoon. Depending on what amount we gave, the gift giver would be given a variety of different “thank you” responses from the couple.
I realize that times are changing, but we were flabbergasted by an invitation like this. While I don’t expect people to go into great debt to throw an extravagant wedding reception, it also doesn’t feel appropriate for guests to foot the bill.
We paid for our own simple but elegant wedding and reception, and kept it within a budget we could afford. I should add the couple are middle-age, so I would think they would know better. Any thoughts on this?
GENTLE READER: Who are these musicians? Franz Liszt and Nellie Melba?
Even then, the price would be rather steep. Especially as you are expected to bring your own Peach Melba.
Because of the deft touch about different levels of thanks, Miss Manners will do this couple the courtesy of assuming that they meant it all as a joke. However, she feels obliged to warn them not to hope to make a living as comedians.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My grandmother and I were at a restaurant that used paper napkins. Is it proper to put the paper napkin on the lap, or is that only necessary with cloth napkins? Please let me know as soon as possible.
GENTLE READER: How quickly were you hoping to trounce your grandmother?
Miss Manners’s guess is that you will be disappointed, as she presumes that the lady is gracious enough to treat that pathetic piece of paper as if it were what it pretends to be.
New Miss Manners columns are posted Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays on www.washingtonpost.com/advice. You can send questions to Miss Manners at her Web site, www.missmanners.com.
, by Judith Martin