DEAR MISS MANNERS: How many wedding gifts do you give?

-- One for the engagement.

-- One for each shower.

-- One for the wedding.

Is this correct?

GENTLE READER: The answer Miss Manners will give you is not what you would hear from most engaged couples or those who aid and abet them.

They tend to believe that marriage excites their relatives, friends, colleagues and acquaintances to the point of wanting to fulfill the couple’s every material wish. And couples are rarely shy about stating what those are. They have even had the effrontery to claim that etiquette requires this matrimonial grab-fest, or at least sanctions it.

It does not. There is no such thing as a marriage tax that comes due whenever the would-be recipients declare it is.

Engagement presents were a rarity until a decade or two ago. Perhaps a favorite aunt might be so moved, or a prospective mother-in-law might give the bride a family bauble to wear at the wedding. But no one showed up with a present at an engagement party, because the purpose of the party was for the parents to announce the engagement as a surprise.

Multiple showers are warranted only when the bride or the couple has more than one distinct set of intimate friends. They should not be catch-all occasions, and nobody should be expected to attend more than one. Anyway, shower presents should be charming but trivial, and not comparable to wedding presents.

And while wedding presents are serious, those are not expected twice, either. Miss Manners has nothing to say against your feeling generous to a friend who is being married for the second or fourth time, but etiquette considers wedding presents to be associated only with first weddings.

You will have noticed that these customs date from a time when a couple would not announce their engagement on the social networks before their parents had a chance to tell anyone, and when a first marriage would represent their initial foray into joint housekeeping.

Traditions do change when there is a compelling reason for them to do so. But today’s blatant avarice does not inspire Miss Manners to declare that bridal couples are permitted to exploit their friends, relatives and colleagues.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: One of our family members invited us for his child’s birthday party. After two days he called us just to confirm whether we would be attending the same.

Let me also inform you that this type of call was made only to us, and no other guests were asked the same thing.

Do you think it was appropriate for him to have such partial treatment? I am not able to assess his real intention in asking us about our attendance.

GENTLE READER: His intention was to find out if you would be attending.

Only if you had already answered the invitation, and have a clean record of never once having accepted an invitation and failed to attend (unless run over by a truck), will Miss Manners allow you to be properly indignant about this call.

Visit Miss Manners at her Web site,, where you can send her your questions.

2012, by Judith Martin

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