Miss Manners: Wedding showers and gifts; unwelcome host guests

Dear Miss Manners:

My husband’s nephew was engaged, and his mother planned a lovely shower for her son and his bride-to-be. Several months before the shower, the couple eloped. They held a reception about a month later.

The groom’s mother had already planned the shower, reserved space, purchased food, decorations, etc. She still wants to have the shower, but we are not sure what to call it. Is it appropriate to have a newlywed shower, or should we just scrap the whole idea?

If only Miss Manners could pry that word “shower” out of the hands of people who want to honor their relatives. Showers are properly given only by friends, and before the wedding. But this does not prohibit the family from giving parties that are not associated with presents.

Just refrain from calling it a shower. People have come to believe that having a shower is as essential to getting married as getting a license. Miss Manners keeps hearing of such social atrocities as mothers demanding them, bridesmaids going broke giving them, brides sulking because they didn’t have them, and guests being milked for multiple ones for the same couple.

Can we please return it to being a lighthearted gathering that friends give voluntarily, and not a major crowning and fundraising event? And not try to make every party a shower?

Dear Miss Manners:

On occasion my husband and I receive written invitations to attend out-of-town weddings. Normally, that is impractical to do, so we send a congratulatory card and a generous check ($50 to $100) along with our regrets.

Sometimes we don’t get an acknowledgment but do get our canceled check in our monthly bank statement.

If a later announcement, e.g., a birth notice, is received from the same couple, my husband refuses to send another congratulatory check. His theory is “No, thank you — no more checks.” He just ignores the announcement.

I feel like we are alienating some people. What is your recommendation in such cases?

If you have to pay them to keep them happy, they are not friends. Miss Manners sides with your husband about the checks but recommends a letter of congratulations — first, because that is the proper response to happy announcements, and second, because it might head off their asking whether your check was lost in the mail.

Dear Miss Manners:

Since my husband has retired and I still work full time, he has wanted to spend more and more time with his two sisters and their families, who both live a good two states away.

A few weeks ago, one of the sisters called him and made arrangements to stay at our house overnight, along with their two teenage daughters and their two friends. Their plan was just to spend the night at our home and go to a nearby amusement park the next day.

I knew nothing about it until two days beforehand. Since I had to work the day following their visit, I was not too pleased to have to provide for house guests, even though dinner was at a nearby restaurant, because of the surprise aspect.

I was not consulted about whether the visit would be inconvenient. I felt that our home was used as an inexpensive way to avoid paying for a motel. We do not have beds to sleep six adults plus ourselves. My husband spent the night on the living room sofa.

I was sorely tempted to purchase an etiquette book as a high school graduation gift for the older daughter, in an attempt to steer her future endeavors in the right direction. My husband is aware I was annoyed by the whole situation, but I think it will definitely happen again, as this is somewhat normal behavior on his side of the family.

I was brought up to believe that the lady of the house should be consulted regarding overnight stays. Have I been wrong all these years?

Much as Miss Manners would like to encourage the sale of etiquette books, she cannot see that your niece or her family did anything wrong. The person with whom you need to negotiate is your husband. And it is not a good idea to open with, “It’s my house because I’m the lady.” He probably believes that the house is just as much his — and that family conviviality amounts to more than saving the price of a motel room.

Your chosen mediator, Miss Manners, agrees with him.

However, the object here is not a victory for either of you but an agreeable home for you both. The concessions she advises you to ask are that he consult you when a visit is proposed — your consent not to be unreasonably withheld — and that he, being retired, do the major part of attending to the visitors’ needs.

Dear Miss Manners:

A friend has lent me a book about a subject that is of interest to me. I am halfway through the book (more than 200 pages so far) and find it not very well written.

Would it be impolite of me not to finish the book? My feeling is that I must finish the book in order to be truthful in saying that I did indeed read it.

Are you saying that one has to read every word of a book to claim to have read it, or, for that matter, to deliver an opinion about it? Are you trying to muzzle intellectual society?

Your friend is not going to quiz you. You need only return the book with thanks and, if possible, mumble that it had a good point or two. If not, you can always say that it is interesting to know what is being said in the field.

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

2011, by Judith Martin

Distributed by Universal Uclick for UFS

 
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