Dear Miss Manners:
My two best friends are engaged to be married. Most of the group we hang out with all agree that these two should not be getting married.
I already agreed to be a bridesmaid, but now I am regretting the commitment. They fight every week and break up, and then, three days later, they get back together. One time, I got a phone call because they were fighting over if there was a difference between fireworks and firecrackers. They almost broke up over this fight.
I do not want to support a marriage that I know will not go well. How do I tell my friends that I don't want to be part of the ceremonies, because I don't support their union? Should I just mind my own business and be there for my friends, or stand up for what's right and refuse to participate?
Do you and the group have a record for predicting the success of marriages? These two strike Miss Manners as made for each other. People who care that much about the precise meaning of words are not easily found.
In any case, bridesmaids do not have veto power over the choice of the bridegroom. Nor are they responsible for the success of the marriage. If you decide not to stand up for your friend, at least do not fool yourself that you are standing up for "what's right."
Dear Miss Manners:
When visiting relatives stay at our home and we eat out, are we supposed to pay for all their food while staying with us? We always will pay for the first dinner out, but how about all the others when we visit different places? Should we just get the check, and then hope they'll contribute their share? It is awkward. We can't afford to pay for all their meals out. Thank you for your help.
When you entertain houseguests, you are supposed to give them the hospitality of your house, not provide an expense account with which to enjoy the world beyond your doors. A restaurant meal taken together during such a visit does not customarily come at the invitation of hosts, but of the guests, as a way, among others, of reciprocating.
Miss Manners suspects that your habit of taking your guests out for that first meal creates the impression that you do so much of your entertaining outside the house -- as many people now do -- that you expect this to be treated as equivalent to home meals, for which you would bear the expense. It might dispel that impression if you were to feed your guests at home the first night and let them go out on their own, if they wish, after that.
If this is not practical -- if, for example, you are committed to taking them around and cannot get home to meals -- then you should treat the situation as you would any agreement to have dinner out with others. That is to say, you do not act as hosts, issuing invitations and setting everything up without their agreement, but merely make suggestions and allow them to choose where to go, which incidentally allows them to keep within their price range. The one instance in which you should take charge is when you say to the waiter, "These will be on separate checks, please."
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