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Tell Me About It author Carolyn Hax
Carolyn Hax
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Tell Me About It
Hosted by Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 6, 2001; 2 p.m. EDT

Afraid of becoming a Bridezilla? Flummoxed over wedding etiquette? Buried in planning details? Referring family fights? Can't figure out what is up with the Jordan almond favors anyway? Carolyn Hax is ready to talk about all things weddings. Haul your bag of troubles -- and all your hap hap happy thoughts -- here.

Carolyn will take your questions and comments about her current advice column and The Big Until-Death-Do-Us-Part questions. Her answers may appear online or in an upcoming column.

Appearing every Friday and Sunday in The Washington Post Style section, Tell Me About It offers readers advice based on the experiences of someone who's been there -- really recently. Carolyn Hax is a 34-year-old displaced New Englander and eight-year newspaper veteran with still-married parents, three older sisters, a mad-artist husband and way too many shoes. Her "expertise" (she added the quotation marks, we didn't) is in bad dates, school pressures, strict parents and dubious decisions, and she specializes in stupid teenage stunts, which she likes to call "learning experiences."

The transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.


To read the most recent responses, click "Get New Responses"
or select "Automatically Update Page."

Carolyn Hax: Hi everbuddy. I'm going to get started in a second, but I wanted to thank you first for rolling with the last-minute schedule change. I was having a Marcia Brady moment, "Something suddenly came up."

New York: My boyfriend recently proposed (yay!) and although we're not planning the wedding yet, I was curious about something: my two best friends are guys -- one is my younger brother and the other is a friend from high school. Is it appropriate for a bride to have male "bridesmaids" or best men?

Carolyn Hax: Of course. Just keep the dresses simple.

New Jersey: I'm getting married next April. My parents have been divorced since I was 11. I'm not that close to my dad, and want to walk myself down the aisle. How do I tell him?

Carolyn Hax: You resolve it in your mind that you'd rather risk hurting him than walk with him. So, is that true? Are your feelings strong enough, and justified enough, for you to put your feelings before his? I get the sense that your inability to say this to him is a sign that you're not entirely at peace with the idea. I could be wrong, of course, and if so, you just tell him that you're not comfortable wedging your untraditional father-daughter relationship into the standard traditional box.

Un-Guest Etiquette?: Hiya Carolyn! I've been saving this question for today -- a friend I haven't seen since we graduated is getting married at the end of the summer. I'm not invited, which is A-OK with me, but I would like to send her a card wishing her and her new husband well.

My gut says send it after the wedding -- I don't want her to think I'm begging for an invite or anything. Is that right?

Carolyn Hax: Works for me, but not just because you don't want to put the bride on the spot. I think it just makes sense to wait until the event has happened before you congratulate them for it.

It's a cool thought, by the way.

San Francisco, Calif.: A friend of mine got engaged back in February and asked me to be a bridesmaid for a wedding this August, they have only been dating about eight months total (including since engagement) and she has the ring and has sent me a picture of the dress. I sent her an e-mail about a month ago asking when I should fly in. I haven't got a response. I wrote her again asking about nearby hotels, no response. She normally writes back right away. I haven't heard from her at all in over a month. I am starting to wonder if the wedding is going to happen at all (she was engaged before and they broke it off). I am concerned about how she is. E-mailing doesn't seem to work and I don't have her current phone number (She moved after school let out) should I buy my airline ticket (I live far from her wedding) anyways? If the wedding is off I can always visit friends in that city, I am more concerned with finding out if she is going to get married at all, cause I am worried about how she is. Any ideas on how I can broach this subject?

Carolyn Hax: I think the finding is more the issue than the broaching, no? If you know one of her other bridesmaids, you can call her. Otherwise I'd be on the Internet ASAP, trying to find out her phone number.

Washington, D.C.: Hi,

Recently got married! The wedding was fantastic if I do say so myself and I do! Decided not to invite anyone from work. We had a small wedding and tight budget. My boss even said to me "if you can't invite everyone then don't invite anyone." So I didn't, including her. Now I think I am getting the cold shoulder and don't know what I can do to fix it, if anything. In retrospect I should have invited her but I didn't and can't change history. Any suggestions?

Carolyn Hax: Throw a dinner party at your home for your officemates. Don't attach the W-word to it in any way, just make it a generic goodwill gesture.

Arlington, Va.: My fiancee and I can not set a wedding date until his first marriage is annulled -- we expect this to happen at the end of this year or early next year. Any advice on what kind of planning we can get done now so that when we do get the go ahead, we can get married about three months later?

Carolyn Hax: Know what kind of wedding you want (size, location, budget); start gathering addresses of people you plan to invite; scout locations that would be available with a three-month lead time (stifled guffaw); think calm and realistic thoughts.

Northern Virginia: Hi Carolyn,

Your advice is highly valued in our household so I hope you can help us with a major post-wedding faux pas. It's been over a year since hubby and I got married and there are still several thank-you notes that have yet to be written. I am duly ashamed about this, please believe me. I can only say in my defense that we've had an unbelievably stressful, drama-filled year (deaths in the family, serious illnesses, surgeries, legal battles with the ex, you name it). I realize that hardly justifies my blatant lack of etiquette, but we've been putting out so many fires that I've had little time to sit down and write heartfelt thank-yous. I feel it's important that I send each person a personal note of thanks (not just some generic thank-you), even if horribly and inexcusably late. Any suggestions on how I might express my utter embarrassment for being such a ill-mannered clod?

Carolyn Hax: It isn't about your embarrassment, it's about their going unthanked. Assure them, somehow, in your own words, that your failure to thank them was in no way a failure to be extremely grateful for what they'd done.

Katy, Tex.: For New Jersey, who doesn't want her father to walk her down the aisle. She could try walking down the aisle with her husband-to-be instead. My two sisters and I did it this way, not to slight our dad, but because the man-to-man hand-off just didn't feel right to us. In New Jersey's case, walking in with her fiance would look like a change in the custom, whereas walking in alone would seem like more of an affront to her father.

Carolyn Hax: Nice, thank you.

Maryland: Please settle a debate -- is it okay or tacky to send out wedding invites addressed on the outer envelope using a computer printer with a calligraphy-style font? The inside envelope would be hand-written.

Carolyn Hax: I think it's tacky to be so caught up in petty protocol that you get offended by a computer-printed address. That said, I think the personal touch of handwriting is a beautiful and, now, unfortunately, all-too-rare touch. Is it not possible to hand-write the whole thing?

20910: So, have you ever received a wedding invitation from one of your readers? (Not a casual e-mail version -- I mean an envelope with your name in calligraphy on the outside). Would you ever consider going to a reader's wedding if you were invited?

Carolyn Hax: No, I haven't, and no, probably not. I don't think that would be right. I wouldn't belong there.

Anywhere: Hi Carolyn --

Just heard today of the cancellation of a wedding I was going to attend later this summer. I'm not a close friend of the bride, but I would like to express some appropriate sentiment. (That is, I'm sorry this had to happen, and my thoughts are with her, but in the end things are probably better this way. Probably should leave off that last part).

Your thoughts?


Carolyn Hax: Definitely leave off the last part. Those who can stand to hear that already know, and those who don't know can't stand to hear it.

If you are a close enough friend to buy her lunch/a drink/dinner, do that. What the hell, offer even if you aren't--this could be the start of growing closer. There's nothing wrong with saying you're sorry and offering to help her out in any way you can, but experience tells me that's always where it ends. The person in trouble rarely if ever says, "Yes, you can help. I'm crushed and lonely and I'd like you to take me to lunch." Think of what tangible thing you'd like to do to help out, then make the offer.

Atlanta, Ga.: A Jewish custom is to have the bride walk down the aisle with BOTH parents (I never liked the "man to man" handoff either, but alas, my mom was no longer with us at my wedding). Maybe something like that would be preferable to having just the dad walk her down the aisle? It would just show that these are the people who helped to get you there (even if they did NOTHING, that helped to get you to where you are) and now you are on to another part of your life.

Carolyn Hax: I like that too, thanks, but if mom did the post-divorce heavy-lifting (and it sounds as if she did) then she might not like that idea. Maybe she can walk with the bride?

About to Gag: I just read the Modern Bride transcript -- who is that woman? No -wonder- we have Bridezillas with advice like: "entertain kids by playing a song kids of all ages like." One song to entertain kids through a whole reception?! Geez.

And now for my question: Do you think there's any appropriate amount to ask bridesmaids to pay for a dress? A friend asked several of us recent-college-grads (i.e., poor) to pay $300+ for a dress when we all have to travel to the other end of the country and pay for a hotel while we're there. Am I being petty?

washingtonpost.com: Re: Modern Bride. Guys, it's a suggestion. There are as many points of view as there are people. Breathe. -- Lisa.

Carolyn Hax: Haven't read the Modern Bridezilla transcript, so I'll let Lisa field that one.

Re: dresses, $300 is insane. $100, $150, okay, though I can't say emphatically or often enough that


I'm guilty of it myself, mind you, and I sensed this on some level back then, and I tried to make it palatable by choosing a little black cocktail dress--and I STILL wonder what I was huffing. and for what, the pictures? How many times have you seen on the walls at MOMA a photograph of a bunch of women standing in a row in the same damn dress? The prints are still in the envelope the photographer sent them in.

Right. Your problem. Tell the bride you can't afford the dress. Enough already. Offer to bow gracefully out of the lineup.

Washington, D.C.: I have heard (from Miss Manners) that reply cards are rude. One should RSVP on their own stationary with either the number attending or regrets. However, those little cards are so convenient since they have the address and postage ready to go. Is there a more polite way to allow your guests to RSVP? Perhaps a blank note card with envelope pre-addressed with postage?

Carolyn Hax: I've always disagreed with the anti-response-card law. If it's simple and free of ride-along tackiness -- registry data or entree selections or Swiss bank account numbers -- then why not make life a bit smoother for all.

Florida: My ex is getting remarried, and our 12-year-old daughter will be part of the wedding. I'm fine with all of this (he's less fine with me because I'm the one who left).

Anyway, does one send a card? A little gift? We're in almost daily contact because we agreed to a friendly divorce for our child's sake. Plus, I actually like the woman he's marrying. Any thoughts?

Carolyn Hax: Hm. I love the idea, but at the same time, they might not be too thrilled to be, I don't know, drinking champagne out of the Ex Wife Flutes. Right? So maybe just a card, or something edible.

Washington, D.C.: Should I grin and bear it or bow out gracefully before things get ugly?

I'm to be a bridesmaid in October. The bride and I are long term friends but are currently not speaking. I do not see the situation getting better. Since it is early enough in the process for her to replace me should I offer that I am willing to be replaced? She probably thinks it would be rude to uninvite me to be a bridesmaid but at this point, I'd like an out anyway.

Carolyn Hax: Sure, volunteer -- but why don't you just try to fix this?

Washington, D.C.: Carolyn Hello,

My best friend has asked me to be his best man and I am honored. I even like his fiance which makes it all the easier. My question is, aside from the bachelor party of course, what all is expected of me? Where can I find information on when to toast the couple, etc.? Also, other than finding a very understanding date, how do I handle the probability that my attentions will focus on the couple, rather than paying her the attention normally due?

Thanks, Clueless Male

Carolyn Hax: Ask the bride, she'll love you for it; don't bring a date unless you're already in a relationship. Why bother?

Washington, D.C.: About the envelopes thing again. I'm doing a low budget wedding. Calligraphers want $1 an envelope! I have fairly nice handwriting, but it's not calligraphy by any stretch of the imagination. Is that okay?

Carolyn Hax: Of course. (See previous answer on envelope-related tackiness.)

Boston, Mass.: Any comments/suggestions on ethnically diverse weddings, and a bi-lingual ceremony?

Carolyn Hax: Why not on the former; don't use the latter to double my time in the pew.

McLean, Va.: I need help. A friend of mine is getting married this weekend. Last week, we got together for drinks and to reminisce about old times. Then we fell into bed together.

Now I'm conflicted about whether I should tell her fiance. I think I should; he deserves to know about this before he marries her. What do you think?

Carolyn Hax: I think you've done quite enough. Butt out.

For Maryland: Even though my husband and I have good handwriting, we printed out the addresses on the computer because we were worried that the post office would screw things up if the letters and number weren't totally clear. (There were a lot of overseas invites.) We printed them out on clear labels and put them on the envelopes. No one was offended.

Carolyn Hax: Actually, they were outraged. They just trashed you behind your backs.


Bridesmaid hell: Instead of having to be (oh, excuse me, having the honor of being) a bridesmaid for a bridezilla, I've got a clueless bride.

Over the last few years, the bride, through a series of social gaffes and flat out ridiculous antics, has alienated a number of her friends. She's aware of this in the same manner the Titanic was aware of the iceberg.

She knows a few people are no longer really keen on hanging out with her, she has no idea that virtually all her friends (I use the term loosely) are planning on not attending the wedding, not so much because they hate her -- the clueless thing is old news -- but because they ran out of patience in their old age, or something to that effect.

I ended up being tapped for bridesmaid duties because I care enough about her to overlook her past behavior, and because I truly wish her well.

The question is, do I tell her that certain of the guests she's counting on won't attend? Or should I let her figure it out on her own?

--Agonizing in a lavender dress

Carolyn Hax: Wait wait WAIT a minute. These non-friends are planning a non-RSVP? And the bride's considered the social gaffeteer?

I'm getting another headache.

By all means, if the bride's in for a nasty surprise, DO something. Get the no-shows to send their regrets soon soon soon.

To McLean: You were (one of?) his last fling(s). Get over yourself.

Carolyn Hax: Well said, thanks.

I don't endorse the former practice, mind you, but I'm a beeeg fan of the latter.

No state: This situation is so cliche that I'm honestly shocked that it's happening to me. My matron of honor is driving me insane! She is not a sister, but I've known her my entire life so asking her to stand with me was a no brainer. Until I asked her. Overnight, she turned into an emotional handful and amidst the day-to-day stress of an impending big day, she's put me at my wits end. One minute she says she's my best friend. The next minute she unbearable. I asked her if she wanted to go dress shopping with me and she said no, that finding a babysitter, etc. was too much for her. Totally understandable. Then, weeks later, while talking to me in front of friends, made a huge scene about how horrible I am that I wouldn't even invite my matron of honor dress shopping. This is just one of so many things that she's pulled. I'm trying not to blow my top, but I am out of my league on this one. I don't want to throw her an ultimatum but I can't take a month more of this! Please help.

Carolyn Hax: You don't need me here -- you guys just need to talk.

Northern Virginia: Hi Carolyn,

Love your column and chats, even though I'm over 30. I find your advice relevant, insightful, FUN to read, and I learn valuable things from you!

I hope you can post this in the wedding special on Wednesday. Young couple (one of them is the offspring of one of us), have been living together several years, are now planning a wedding they clearly can't afford. But that's their call.

A couple of weeks ago they announced they will be "collecting the money" for the cost-per-person of the reception dinner. After we got over our shock, we tried to tell them nicely that they can't sell tickets to their wedding. Gave them the benefit of the doubt, thought perhaps they were acting on bad advice, or really did not know any better. Bad (defensive) reaction from the groom, implying we are the only ones who have a problem with this.

Our first attempt at damage control was to offer the money for the reception as our wedding gift. Offered, but not insisted -- accept or decline, we would respect their decision. No response.

Hubby is ready to boycott the wedding, which risks a serious rift. I am more inclined to shut up, pay up, and refrain from offering any further advice, ever. My question to you, and your "peanuts": were we wrong to point out that hosts DO NOT charge admission, ever? If we didn't speak up, who would? Did we make it worse by offering the money? Any advice on where to go from here?

Mom & Dad -- hurting

Carolyn Hax: Oh boy do I feel your pain.

I also think you did what you could, and you were right about all of it. Have you tried repeating the offer privately to your offspring alone? Or maybe suggesting a form of arbitration, in which you agree to abide by the judgment of a neutral third party? Otherwise, I don't see you have much choice but to wince and go. Their humiliating themselves will be difficult for you, but not as difficult as the fallout from not going.

Arlington, Va.: Any advice for cold feet? After nine months of dating, my fiancee proposed (almost two years ago) but we have yet to set a date. He's a great guy and I know I'll never meet anyone who is a better match for me (we are both 32), but I just can't seem to get excited about getting married.

Carolyn Hax: Okay. Why? You don't need me, either -- you need to talk to yourself.

Columbus, Ohio: My Mom died last August. What are some ways that I can honor her during the wedding and/or reception without having things become too sad?

Carolyn Hax: I think a warm anecdote about her, told in the form of a toast at the reception, would be lovely.

State of Confusion: Hi Carolyn! My brother is getting married and he and his fiance want a simple wedding, which is great, but my mother in law would still like to give some sort of rehearsal dinner or breakfast brunch or something. And the fiance keeps saying "no we'll handle everything, maybe we'll do a potluck." Now the truth is that just letting my MIL find a caterer will be easier on absolutely everyone than a potluck. And she just wants to give them something, she wants to do something for them. Basically -- what should she do? I said that basically I didn't think she could do anything, except just smile and be nice.

Carolyn Hax: Yup, that's about it. I suppose the MIL could offer to run the potluck for them and then include a few caterers as guest-list ringers ... kidding ... but this is their show and if they want to make it more difficult than it needs to be, that's their prerogative. MIL might want to consider giving them a check for the amount she was prepared to spend, since her giving urge seems strong. With any luck it'll reappear in the form of a casual rehearsal barbecue.

Washington, D.C.: Carolyn,

How close to the wedding so you think the bride and groom should have their last flings?

This is important!

washingtonpost.com: Uh, before you're dating each other exclusively? -- Lisa.

Carolyn Hax: Good god.

Re: Columbus, Mom Died: There is an Irish tradition of the bride carrying a white lily for a special, deceased member of the family. If you choose to have a flower, you could then have an explanation in your program about its significance which could include something about your mother. This, in addition to or instead of saying something, which might be way too emotional on an already emotional day.

Carolyn Hax: Thank you -- bunch more to come.

Washington, D.C.: For the bride or groom who wanted to include her dead mom's memory in the ceremony without having it be too sad: I attended a wedding where the bride also had lost her mother. She mentioned in the program that she was wearing her mother's veil, and at the reception, changed into a cheongsam (a traditional Asian dress) that had belonged to her mother. Or maybe they could include a reading in the ceremony from one of the mother's favorite works.

Carolyn Hax: Thanky.

To Columbus, Ohio: What about a collage of pictures with your mother in them displayed at your reception as a remembrance? It will remind you and your guests of the good times spent with her.

Carolyn Hax: Subtle, but what a weeper.

Re: Honoring Mom: If you have a wedding program, you could make a special mention of her, or something like a favorite poem of hers. A friend of mine did this, and I thought it was quite touching.

Carolyn Hax: Again, thanks.

Adams Morgan: What is the average/longest acceptable time between proposal and ceremonies?

Carolyn Hax: No such thing, though people who start planning too far ahead really do throw the door wide open to Bridezillism. I mean, you can get a Master's degree in less time than some people spend thinking about calligraphy, almonds and birdseed.

Lorton, Va.: My parents have been divorced for 20 years (I'm 21). I have not seen or spoken to my father in that amount of time. Recently he's been trying to contact me and he even offered to help me pay for my wedding. I do not want to invite him to my special day, but is it wrong to accept any money from him?

Carolyn Hax: Yes, if you won't accept him with it.

Have you considered hearing him out?

Boston, Mass.: Hi Carolyn --

I was asked to sing at the wedding of a college friend, and, without thinking about it, said "of course."

Long story short, in college I surrounded myself with very negative, competitive, sometimes mean-spirited people, and through therapy, realized that and raised my self confidence enough to find several people who were supportive and loving in my last months of school. The bride-to-be unfortunately falls in the first category.

I have decided that for my own sanity, I would rather just send my well wishes and not go to the wedding at all (which will be full of the lovely guests who still speak ill of me), let alone sing. How would one tactfully phrase a regret for that situation, or am I just being selfish and should I suck it up? BTW, the wedding isn't till late next year.

Online only, please, and thanks in advance.

Carolyn Hax: Devil's advocate here ... any chance you're conveniently over-villifying these people? Groups can get nasty for sure, but often on the flip side there is often oversensitivity to various perceived and genuine slights.

And might it be better for you in the long run to be able to socialize with them civilly, to see the good in them and to go home in one psychic piece, vs. ducking?

Carolyn Hax: Of course, if you simply don't like these people, don't go. But elevating them to the level of dreaded tormentors does grant them enormous power over you.

Carolyn Hax: Speaking of tormentors ... enough of this intellectual salt-mining. Sayonara. Type to you Friday.


That was our last question today. Thanks to everyone who joined the discussion.

© Copyright 2001 The Washington Post Company


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