Miss Manner

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Shouting from the housetops now strikes Miss Manners as an admirably restrained way of reminding the world that you are getting married. Couples have since taken to firing off barrages of personal revelations, photographs, videos, computer icons, animations, instructions and requests into the inboxes and mailboxes of everyone they know and many whom they do not.

First come the mass e-mails, which are linked to the Web site. That starts out containing an emotional announcement of the engagement, biographies of the couple and the story of their courtship, all accompanied by pictures that go from their own baby pictures to romantic pictures to, in some cases, pictures of their own babies.

As the wedding plans are added, they supply commentary about their choices and decisions. Then comes the all-important gift registry, with links to suppliers whose goods the couple has chosen for others to buy for them.

Meanwhile, paper is also being distributed. There may be a so-called (because etiquette recognizes no such thing) formal engagement announcement with third-person wording roughly imitating that of the formal wedding invitation. There is almost certainly a save-the-date card, which could be a refrigerator magnet or other novelty item, and numerous invitations to showers, each with its own gift registry.

The actual wedding invitation is therefore news to no one except those who didn't get one. But its envelope is jammed with cards containing information that appears on the Web site -- in case Grandmother has managed to crash her hard drive again -- directions, notification of related events, menu choices, hotel choices, suggestions about what the guests can do in their free time and a card to use to respond. Oh, and cards from the stores at which the couple is registered for presents.

Meanwhile, the Web site continues to be updated, enabling everyone to see who has responded and what has been purchased. Even after the wedding, it continues to be updated. Wedding pictures are posted, comments are solicited from guests, honeymoon pictures are posted and the gift registry lives on.

So does the saga, as it is likely to be followed by the first home, the baby and the baby's entire life. Each with its own gift registry.

Miss Manners does not mean to suggest that none of the wedding material is useful or endearing. Guests do need to know where to go when, and might find it convenient to get the answers to nosy questions without the embarrassment of asking.

But they soon come down with wedding fatigue. People who are deluged with information on a subject in which they have limited interest (apologies to the couple, but such is life) do not become increasingly informed. Quite the opposite. They tune out. This may explain why guests who claim to have read everything keep asking the bridegroom where he is from and the bride whether she is changing her name and both of them where they are going on their wedding trip.

All that was covered at length on the Web site. Weren't they paying attention?

No, not really. So couples could save themselves the trouble of putting out all that background material. But at least, they can comfort themselves, it will be there someday for their children. That is, if the technology hasn't changed 10 times over so that it can no longer be read.

Dear Miss Manners:

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