Miss Manners: Wedding isn’t real unless it’s a really big show

July 24, 2011

Does anything strike you as strange in the following letters?

“Dear Miss Manners: The son of a friend got married somewhat hastily last year. A few weeks later, there was a small party at their home, and I brought a gift. Now, they are planning a real wedding of the elegant sort. I am in a quandary about whether another gift is in order.”

“Dear Miss Manners: My sister and her husband are wanting to renew their vows for their 10-year anniversary. They never had a “wedding,” so I wanted to know if it is proper for them to have a real wedding with the dress, cake, bridesmaids and all?”

“Dear Miss Manners: My oldest son just got married by the justice of the peace. They were planning a wedding next year, but they are now expecting and needed my daughter-in-law to have insurance.

She wanted a real wedding, but my mother said it isn’t proper to have a ceremony after the baby is born. If it isn’t, then so be it — she and the baby are more important. Please advise me in this very important decision in my life.”

What struck Miss Manners was the apparent understanding, in this and similar letters she has received, of what constitutes a “real wedding.”

That big white dresses and bridesmaids are associated with weddings is not surprising, although these are not essential. Many a bride has had a real and charming wedding wearing something more to her own taste, and not everyone chooses to be attended by a bevy of female friends.

But apparently the act of getting married is no longer considered an essential part of a “real wedding.” In such letters, the couple has already been married in a ceremony that, although legal, did not meet their definition of being real. A real wedding need be only a re-enactment of the actual ceremony, provided it is done lavishly.

We are not talking about a civil ceremony followed, in short order, by a ceremonial religious blessing. Rather, these Gentle Readers are making a distinction between the act of contracting marriage and that of putting on a showy entertainment, with the idea that the first is not the real thing unless accompanied by the second.

Now, Miss Manners has no wish to be an old meanie who disapproves of celebrating marriages and anniversaries, however lavishly one wants and can afford. Parties in honor of a newly married couple can be held practically up until the time they start celebrating anniversaries.

But for a married couple to pretend that they are getting married? And possibly to play with the feelings of their guests, who thought that they were witnessing people actually being married?

Even that doesn’t bother Miss Manners as much as the sad realization that “real,” in regard to something as important as marriage, has come to mean extravagant and fake.

Dear Miss Manners:

Is it bad etiquette for you to hear women wearing sandals or flip-flops flipping and flopping as they walk?

You seem to be asking whether it is impolite to cock an ear toward summer footwear? Well, yes, although Miss Manners must say that this has never come up before.

But perhaps you are asking whether wearing — rather than listening to — sandals and flip-flops is impolite. It depends on where. To the White House, yes (and it has been done). On the boardwalk, no.

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

2011, by Judith Martin

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