DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I were recently invited to a concert by a friend, who said that his daughter had bought the tickets but was unable to use them. We were delighted and went with him. We offered to pay for the tickets; he declined, but we bought his dinner.
Knowing his financial situation, we sent him a check for the amount, but wonder if that was insulting.
GENTLE READER: Your exchange with your friend was both explicit and implicit. Allow Miss Manners to tell you what you said:
By offering to pay for the tickets, you were saying that you were unclear about whether he was taking the opportunity to be your host or merely trying to unload the tickets. You got a definite answer when he refused your money.
By inviting him to dinner, you were reciprocating his hospitality. So far, so good.
Then, by sending him the money that he had refused, you said, in effect, “Come on, we know how badly off you are. You can’t afford to be generous, but we can.”
Miss Manners would call that insulting.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: As my partner of many years and I cannot legally get married in our home state, we plan to hold the nuptials in a place where it is, in fact, legal and hold an “open house” at our home sometime later.
The invitation would be made to a goodly number of people (around 100). We plan to provide refreshments and food, and will request that no gifts be given. We are either middle-aged or getting there, and don’t wish to burden guests about what things we may need or want — we already have a well-set-up household. Our idea is simply to acknowledge the support and good wishes we have gotten from the community of people we know.
Is it acceptable to send out an e-mail invitation to the people we want to invite to attend this open house, or do we need to be more formal and have printed invitations? Is it okay for us to specify we would like no gifts, and that we would just like them to show up and accept whatever hospitality our finances allow? Is this tacky?
GENTLE READER: No. Tacky is what you are avoiding doing, even though it has become common practice: making a wedding into an autobiographical extravaganza and burdening guests by not only trolling for presents, but also assigning them host functions, such as bringing food or sponsoring the arrangements.
As you are planning an informal party, you may invite them informally. However, warning guests that they are not obligated to give you presents, while well-intentioned, merely alerts them that presents are on your mind. Also, Miss Manners is sorry to report, they rush to ask her whether they should bring presents anyway, or whether you mean that you expect to be given money instead.
It helps, in this respect, that the party is not being given in immediate connection with the wedding ceremony. Your guests are less likely to think of presents if you merely call it a party, and, during the event itself, make a short announcement about your marriage.