There seems to be an increasing number of people around who want to have second weddings without all the fuss and expense of divorce.
So they are staging repeat weddings, in which, as long-married couples, they "renew" or "reaffirm" their wedding vows, with varying amounts of bridal trimming.
Considering the state of marriage nowadays, Miss Manners would like to congratulate these couples. But she would like to inject a note of caution about their desire to elicit more than congratulations from their friends.
An established married couple should not lightly ask others to shower them with bridal honors -- as opposed simply to attending an anniversary party -- just because they have lived happily ever after. That is, after all, what they promised to do the first time.
It may not seem fair that those who stage repeated weddings with different partners have glutted the market, but the patience of potential wedding guests has been sorely tried. At the very least, a repeat wedding should be a decent interval after the original one -- preferably measured in quarters of centuries.
The rule about inviting people to wedding renewals is the opposite of that for first weddings:
Atfirst weddings, the more elaborate the arrangements, the more people you can invite. At repeats, one's entire circle of friends can be invited to a party that is given after the simple participation in a religious service, or during which the vows are just spoken, almost as if the couple were toasting each other.
But if there is to be a serious restaging, only people who are very closely and dearly attached to the couple, such as their descendants, the original bridal party and really intimate friends, should be expected to think them charming in their original wedding clothes -- or the outfits they had always wanted but couldn't afford when they were young.
This brings Miss Manners to the motivation for restaging a wedding, when one can have all the festivities of a celebration without the ceremonial repetition.
She supposes that the most endearing reason for wanting a repeat wedding is to act on the charming sentiment of "I'd marry you all over again today." After all, most people who have been married that long were married in an era when one had to take a leap of faith without knowing the other person's daily household habits.
Another reason may be that a couple had omitted the religious ceremony, which they now want to celebrate.
Miss Manners can also imagine that couples whose wedding vows got damaged and then repaired might crave a formal fresh start.
She should not have to caution decent people that one does not have a repeat wedding as a fund-raising drive for one's favorite cause -- such as a trip one could not otherwise afford to take or a pension to continue the marriage.
But she does have to warn those who are properly horrified that the event might be taken for such that there is no way to head off making guests feel obligated to send presents for an announced repeat wedding or anniversary party. "No gifts," or that awful pun "Only your presence," besides being a (well-meant) taste violation, will not discourage most people. Thus it will only succeed in embarrassing those who abide by it.
Only one solution is as correct as it is successful, and that is to issue party invitations -- formal or informal -- without telling people in advance what the occasion is. They will be pleasantly surprised when they get there and will keep murmuring, "I wish I'd known -- I would have liked to get you something," but that is not to be taken literally.
This may not satisfy couples whose reason for staging a repeat wedding is the entitlement argument -- that every couple is entitled to have a formal expensive wedding, and that those who didn't, through lack of opportunity, resources or appreciation for formality, are owed one. These are the couples who had better make extra sure that everyone present regards this catching up as sweet rather than vulgar.
On the one hand, older couples are supposed to have outgrown childish showing-off. On the other, if this fantasy is not actually a reflection of general selfishness, they may have accumulated enough dear old friends who would enjoy indulging them.
1990, United Feature Syndicate Inc.