Dear Carolyn:

My girlfriend was invited to the wedding of a friend, but I wasn't. We are both friends with the couple, although I am a new addition to the mix (eight months). This is very upsetting to my girlfriend because the reason given was not that it was a close family affair or that the facility was limited, but that they were inviting only a limited number of people to save on expenses. This was not a factor during the engagement party, the bachelorette party and the bridal shower that my girlfriend and I both shelled out money for. Am I being petty? I couldn't care less about going, but my girlfriend wants me there, and knowing that is why I consider "no ring, no bring" such a feeble excuse.

Baltimore

If neither of you wanted to go, you'd still have a good reason to consider it a feeble excuse: It's a feeble excuse.

But a forgivable one, I think. Taming the size and cost of a wedding is an ugly business. Either you include everyone, which most people can't or don't want to afford; or you exclude everyone but immediate family, which most people don't want.

Or you include everyone and make it a backyard potluck barbecue, which isn't always what a couple wants, and they shouldn't have to apologize for that.

Or you make painful choices -- to, say, include this close friend's newish boyfriend, even though it means excluding that not-quite-as-close relative. Whom you'll regret excluding two months later, when the close friend and newish boyfriend break up.

Or you try to spare feelings by drawing an arbitrary line that says, "It's not personal, it's just business." Like, "No ring, no bring."

Which you'll regret eventually, when you recall with horror that you actually said things like this, as you made decisions that were genuinely wrenching and emotional at the time, and that, 10 years later, don't mean squat.

As for the pre-parties, two of them included your girlfriend alone, so using them to make your case against the couple isn't exactly fair.

But here's a better reason not to get huffy. Although there are some notable exceptions (who, you have to admit, are at least as entertaining as they are monstrous), most brides and grooms are decent people doing their best under circumstances that are highly charged, in senses both emotional and plastic. Assume they are such people and drop it.

Carolyn:

What if your mother-in-law keeps mentioning your husband's ex in conversation? For example, we're off to a nice restaurant for dinner; MIL sighs, "Kelly used to LOVE this restaurant." What then?

Massachusetts

It may mean she preferred Kelly.

It may mean she likes you fine but misses Kelly.

It may mean she's jealous and insecure and pulled this same sorry act on Kelly, too, by sighing about the ex who preceded her.

It definitely means your MIL lacks the maturity and/or social grace to keep her mouth shut.

Which presents you with a choice among:

1.) Stooping to fight back;

2.) Ignoring her;

3.) Pulling her aside to say, "This must be hard for you; I can see how much you liked Kelly." And mean it.

4.) Expecting little of her.

The chef recommends 2 or 3, with a side of 4.

Write to Tell Me About It, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com, and join Carolyn's live discussion at noon Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com/liveonline.