Have you considered doing something unusual and individualistic at your wedding -- not personalizing it?
Miss Manners realizes how horrified most couples would be at passing up the opportunity "to show who we are and what we're all about," as they so often put it. What? Confine themselves to a traditional service followed by a celebration? No retrospectives of their lives and narrations of their courtship?
But think of all the time and trouble you would save.
There would be no debating whether your names should be in silver or gold on matchbooks and paper napkins, which you don't need anyway, as your guests should be issued real napkins and are not likely to smoke.
You would not be saddled with the assignment of composing vows and other declarations in competition with great writers of the ages, and of reciting them in front of people who have a sentimental attachment to the time-honored words.
You would not have to think of a theme for the wedding, either the popular ones, such as a (pseudo) Victorian wedding or a medieval tournament, or something reflecting your hobbies or affection for your pets. The theme, as it were, would be A Wedding, the basic pattern for which has already been worked out for you over the generations.
You would not have to hire a master of ceremonies who patronizes your parents and milks the crowd to applaud you and the entire wedding party, and you would not have to worry about his getting your name wrong.
You would not have to design the invitations, as the form of the third-person engraved invitation on white or ivory paper has been the same for as long as anyone can remember.
Nor would you discover the work involved in making an autobiographical video, or the disappointment of seeing its audience wandering off for drinks, leaving only a few relatives already familiar with the pictures and story plus some engaged couples hoping to learn from your mistakes.
And while you will naturally exercise your taste in making the arrangements, you could save yourself a lot of flak if the food and music include not only your own favorites, but take into consideration the pleasure of a variety of guests.
But none of these advantages is the reason Miss Manners urges bridal couples not to think of their weddings as opportunities to showcase themselves. The real reason is that despite what you think, and despite what you have been urged to think by the wedding industry, your wedding is not "about you."
Your courtship is about you, and your marriage will be about you. And unless you drag all your wedding guests off to an exotic destination, your wedding trip will be about you.
But a wedding is about your public entrance into the civic and often religious rituals of the society. Its emotional strength comes from long continuity -- knowing that you are repeating the steps of those who preceded you and those who will follow.
It is a shame to trade that rich and momentous step for Madison and Brad's Day to Show Off.
Dear Miss Manners:
A man returns home after a long absence. His family has gathered to greet him at the airport. Is it proper for him to embrace his mother first, or his wife and children?
He should hold his arms wide apart and hug whoever runs into them, then move on to the next nearest. But if he has reason to know that his various relatives are going to take insult over the order of hugging, Miss Manners would understand if he wanted to get back on the airplane.
Feeling incorrect? E-mail your etiquette questions to Miss Manners (who is distraught that she cannot reply personally) at MissManners@unitedmedia.com or mail to United Media, 200 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016.
(c) 2005, Judith Martin