Just because Miss Manners happens to be fond of tradition, that doesn't mean she isn't willing to fool around with it. On the contrary. After all, you're fond of --
No, skip that. All that wedding champagne this time of year must be making Miss Manners giddy.
Wedding tradition has always been evolving, and Miss Manners certainly does not oppose charming and sensible adjustments that reflect basic social changes.
The set-piece wedding that is fixed in most impressionable minds -- something between a Broadway musical and an honor-yourself beauty pageant -- is neither old enough to be considered sacred nor appropriate enough to modern marriages to be adopted without a bit of customizing, as it were. In Miss Manners' opinion, one best honors tradition by examining it carefully and subtly adjusting what obviously doesn't fit.
A pattern designed for very young couples, where the bride leaves her father's protection for her husband's, is going to require a bit of letting out to be used for a bride who was, for example, brought up solely by her mother, has been living independently for some years and may have children from a previous marriage or be acquiring stepchildren.
Does that mean she can't have the "traditional" wedding? No. Miss Manners is not one of those old crabs who run around complaining that certain brides are "not entitled" to white dresses and wedding formality because of courtship details that these crabs, if properly behaved themselves, would not know or speculate about.
But a few changes would "personalize" that wedding tradition, in a way that silly paper goods stamped "Melissa and Curt" do not.
Here are a few developments in weddings of which Miss Manners approves. Some have already become part of the wedding pattern to such an extent that you will be surprised to hear they are relatively new; others are ones that Miss Manners is simply hoping will be adopted.
Children of the bride or bridegroom should be at the wedding unless there are emotional factors of divided loyalty that make this undesirable. But former spouses of the bridal couple should not be.
The bridegroom's parents, who traditionally had nothing to do between calling on the bride's family after the proposal and enjoying their hospitality at the wedding, may be allowed -- but not assigned -- to participate more. Having them give the rehearsal dinner is not a traditional custom, but it is a sensible one if feasible. (But then, as hosts, they get to decide how to do it and how much to spend on it.)
The "giving away" of the bride can be omitted altogether, as an anachronism, but if it is retained, it should be fitting. One does not seek out a male to do the job, however remote he may have been from the household. If the bride does not have a father, stepfather or other male relative who has helped rear her, she could certainly have her mother give her away. The Jewish custom of involving both sets of parents is a charming one and ought to be more widely adopted.
Friendships are no longer supposed to be properly limited to one's own gender, and mixed prewedding parties for the couple may be more appropriate for some people than female showers and male bachelor parties. Also Miss Manners has no objection to including in the bridal party gentlemen who are friends of the bride or ladies who are friends of the bridegroom, provided they do not attempt to cross-dress.
There is no reason that a bridegroom cannot write thank-you letters as well as a bride. It is extremely helpful to friends if the newlyweds find a way of indicating how they wish to be addressed -- at-home cards, with the new names, are an excellent way of doing this.
Miss Manners also likes, but by no means requires, some stylistic changes that are not as radical as they may seem. Truly old-fashioned weddings did not have special, one-time-use uniforms, but were outfitted in good clothes to be used afterward. It is much more sensible and, Miss Manners believes, attractive to have bridesmaids in harmonizing dresses that suit them individually, rather than to force them into one style. Nor does she disapprove of pastel wedding dresses (silver is actually as venerable a tradition as white), colored flowers or chocolate wedding cakes.
But you will perhaps be relieved to hear that there are some dreadful current ideas that Miss Manners absolutely can't stand:
The show-business mentality of issuing programs and applauding the ceremony.
All ideas for having a wedding one can't afford: charging the bridegroom's parents, asking for wedding presents of cash, cash bars.
Hodgepodges of formality and informality, such as third-person invitations using nicknames and omitting honorifics, rather than one style or the other.
Black wedding-party dresses, preprinted thank-you cards, RSVP cards, showers given by relatives, and bridal couples hanging around their own weddings so late that the guests want to sneak out before they do.
Now and then, Miss Manners rather likes it when a tradition is observed for its own sake, regardless of the strict appropriateness.
She thoroughly approved when a bridegroom of her acquaintance followed the marriage proposal with a formal request to the bride's father for her hand. And never mind the fact that that gentleman was tempted to reply, "Well, you've already had the rest of her, so why not take the hand?"
Q:Is it necessary when addressing an envelope to put Mrs., Ms. or Mr. ahead of the person's name?
A:Well, the Postal Service will deliver it without an honorific. But please, for Miss Manners' sake, do affix one.
Many people leave them off now, either because they don't know which one the addressee prefers (and people get so snippy when you guess wrong) or because they think it's chummier without. But Miss Manners believes it looks crude.