The old-fashioned way for people to entertain in a style beyond their means was to go into debt or to take up embezzlement. Miss Manners is not recommending either course, but she doesn't care for the new methods, either.
Nowadays, hosts with grander ideas than budgets look to their employers, their fellow citizens, or finally to their guests, to make up the difference. If they can't put the cost on the office expense account or deduct it from their taxes, they ask the guests for contributions.
Miss Manners has long been appalled by people who announce, at strictly social restaurant meals, "Oh, don't worry, my office is paying," or who go so far as to collect each person's share of the bill in order to put the entire sum on their own credit cards and claim it for tax purposes. Innocent people are often caught in these schemes, because they don't want to denounce their friends' chicanery, especially right after breaking bread with them.
But lately, Miss Manners has been hearing about a more honest, but hardly more palatable, device of charging guests for receiving hospitality. Invitations to wedding-anniversary parties, showers, grown-ups' birthdays, retirement parties, even weddings and a religious ceremonial dinner have carried a notation stating how much money each guest should contribute for the honor of attending. She saw one such invitation on which it was charmingly noted that one could pay by check, cash or credit card.
Perhaps this is a natural extension of the dreadful idea that one can harness guests' present-giving impulse and demand in advance that they buy certain items or give cash. That way, nobody has to be at the mercy of the taste of people who have demonstrated their taste by choosing him for a friend.
The style used now for paid social invitations is that of the charity function -- a quasi-social event in which efforts are made to establish the idea that guests are chosen, as if it were a real social occasion, but actually tickets are sold. At least the motivation for charity events is to raise money for others.
But that is quite different from true socializing, the soul of which consists of extending one's own hospitality. Whether that happens to be luxurious or humble is beside the point and often unrelated to how charming the event may be.
In social circumstances, the motivation for charging guests is, Miss Manners keeps hearing from the people who plan these things, to be able to do something "really fancy" that the host could not otherwise afford. The sheer greed of such an idea is sometimes disguised by the claim of doing it to please the guest of honor -- the "special" trappings that children propose to give their parents for their wedding anniversary or that parents propose for their children's weddings.
However softened, this idea is still a perversion of hospitality. One does not charge guests. The idea that the style of the party is more important than allowing hosts to exercise their generosity -- and perhaps their ingenuity in finding cheap but pleasant ways to entertain -- is a horrible one.
One of the most delightful forms of entertainment, afternoon tea, is one of the least expensive. Breakfast parties can be as lavish as dinner parties at a fraction of the cost. You can even avoid mealtime altogether and entertain people when they're not hungry, for late morning coffee or after dinner.
There are also legitimate forms of entertainment in which everyone contributes part of the food or drink -- potluck suppers or Bring Your Own Bottle parties -- but these are very informal events, practiced in circles where everyone is hard-pressed for either the time or money to do the full job of being host to all the others. One can also have a sort of club in which funds are collected and members take turns being nominal hosts.
But the unilateral declaration that you want to entertain in a more lavish way than you are willing or able to pay for, along with the demand that your guests support this, cannot be considered hospitality at all. The person who offers it is not a host but an unlicensed food vendor.
I am getting married in October. My father gave me my wedding money in September of last year and passed away a month later. My fiance' and I feel very strongly about my father's name being on the invitations. He is paying for the wedding, deceased or not.
We want to word it: "The late Mr. -- requests the honor of your presence at his daughter's wedding," etc.
My parents were divorced in 1981, and my mother and I are not on good terms. I do not want her name even to be mentioned on the invitation.
I am 30 and quite capable of issuing my own invitations, but really want my dad's name there. Please help.
Miss Manners appreciates your sentiments, but you must find some other way to honor your father. (For example, she knew a bridal couple who went off privately and quietly, after their reception, to leave wedding flowers on the grave of the bride's father.)
The person who issues the invitations is the one who will serve as host. This billing is not intended to announce the name of the financial sponsor. Miss Manners urges you to issue your own invitations, if you do not want your mother involved.
Unfortunately, your father cannot be host at your wedding. It would detract from the dignity of his memory to chill the guests by suggesting that he will do so from beyond the grave. You really do not want to use his name to give them the creeps.