Q: This is an urgent matter. My son's fiance'e and her family have asked me (demanded) to help finance the cost of a large wedding, with reception, food, dance, liquor, the works. They say they are financially strapped for money.
At this point, I have enough money to live on, and some assets, though these are not liquid. My three daughters' weddings will be at my expense.
I have offered to pay for the groom's traditional family obligations. However, they want more money, in cash. The family and my son do not wish to follow social etiquette or guidelines, stating that they are not fair.
Miss Manners cannot force your son and his future in-laws to follow social etiquette, but fails to see how they can force you to be a victim of this shakedown.
You may, incidentally, be interested to know that the traditional expenses of the bridegroom's family are zero. The young man himself is supposed to be prepared to take care of such necessities as the wedding ring, license and other fees. And while it is becoming common for the bridegroom's family to relieve the bride's family's duties somewhat by giving a rehearsal dinner the night before the wedding, this is still a charming favor, as strict tradition puts all related activities in the responsibility of the bride's family.
However, there is a much deeper and more important tradition involved here, which cannot be so easily dismissed. That is the idea that one must confine oneself to entertaining in a way that one can afford.
People who are "financially strapped for money" are hardly being "fair" when they decide to give an expensive wedding they cannot afford, by distributing the bills to others, who may or may not be able to afford it, but at any rate did not contract the obligation. Feeling incorrect? Address your etiquette questions (in black or blue-black ink on white writing paper) to Miss Manners, in care of this newspaper.