A Childproof Wedding Reception

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Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Dear Miss Manners:

I will be ordering my wedding invitations soon and hope that you can clear up a question about the proper etiquette for the wording.

I want the event to be for adults, but I have guests coming in from out of town with children. I have arranged for a child-care room at my site, complete with children's food, games, toys, movies and paid child care. I feel that by providing this, it will help those who cannot get child care, cannot afford it or simply live out of town. By providing this, free of charge, of course, I feel it would not be rude to let the guests know it's an adults-only party and that if they bring their children, the child-care room would be mandatory for them.

How do I word this on the invitations clearly enough so they know children are not allowed in the event but cordial enough where they feel the provided care is a generous alternative gesture?

"Mandatory" is not an enticing word to put on an invitation. Nor is it a good spirit in which to issue an invitation. Hospitality requires that you tell people what you are offering them to enjoy, not what you are ordering them to obey.

Miss Manners hastens to add that she does not mean that you must have children attend the wedding, charming as she happens to think that is. Technically, all you need do is to issue your invitations in the names of the parents only; that should be enough for them to understand that their children are not included.

Ha. You know those people, and they will bring them anyway. Or they will wheedle to do so.

So here is what you do: You send separate formal invitations in the names of the children only, inviting them to a children's wedding party that takes place at the same time as the wedding itself.

Note that Miss Manners specified that the invitations were to be formal. No balloons or circus animals, for once. They should be somewhat in the style of the wedding invitations and should ask for the favor of a response. On the families' arrivals, the person in charge of the children should stand at the door to greet them, and bear them off, saying, "I believe you are one of my special guests."

Dear Miss Manners:

Our 13-year-old daughter has an opportunity to take a one-week trip to Washington, D.C., this coming summer. The trip will be chaperoned by several schoolteachers. It will be a wonderful opportunity to see the White House, museums, etc.

However, the cost of the trip is not something we had budgeted. My husband and I both have good jobs and are considered middle class.

We could probably swing the cost of the trip (with some difficulty). To lighten the burden, we were thinking of having our daughter send a letter to family and close friends telling them about the trip and asking for their sponsorship. Is this tacky?

For the destitute, begging is humiliating. For anyone with income to do so is simply crass. How often have you volunteered to help these people with their discretionary expenses?

Mind you, Miss Manners understands that you want to send your daughter on this trip because you want her to have an educational experience. As rewarding as that might be, it would be far more educational for her to learn that responsible people do not incur financial burdens that they cannot afford, and that they do not expect to shove such burdens onto others.

2007Judith Martin


© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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