Dear Miss Manners: What is the latest etiquette on modern marriages? This couple has been living together for a number of years, but as they are both young, the parents financed and hosted the wedding, which had a limited number of guests.
Now the parents would like to send announcements to the many friends and relatives, but wonder if this would be quite proper. Do wedding announcements “obligate” a receiver to send a gift? Also, is it proper to include the residence address of the married couple on the announcement?
Gentle Reader: What you describe is the traditional wedding announcement with an enclosed “at home” card with their address. The recipients’ only obligation is to send best wishes, since these are presumably people in whom they have some interest.
So yes, it is proper. But is it prudent?
Correct forms are so rare nowadays that Miss Manners keeps receiving indignant letters from those who misinterpret them. All of them – about births, graduations, weddings, anniversaries, deaths – are interpreted as bids for presents.
Announcements often arouse special indignation, because the recipients feel cheated of the parties to which they assume that more favored people were invited. Some even mistake announcements for invitations that they assume were cunningly sent when the date was past.
All this speculation is nasty, and Miss Manners dearly hopes that those who are not grousing are reacting with pleasure to the announcements they receive and responding with congratulations. Some may feel moved to send presents, but that is by no means an obligation and should not be expected. (Well, presents should never be expected, but that’s a whole other lesson.)
There are things that the senders of announcements can do to minimize unpleasant reactions. For a starter, they can remember that the function of an announcement is to tell people something they don’t already know.
Sure, others may have noticed that the baby’s birth is imminent, or heard nonstop wedding talk for the past year, but things can go wrong, and an announcement confirms the event. But those who have already been called, tweeted and shouted to from the housetops may wonder why they also receive announcements – if not, they then surmise, as notification of presents due.
The true reason may be that the announcers are waiting to include photographs. That is no excuse. Photos can be sent or posted without the pretense that they accompany breaking news. Wedding announcements, in particular, should be readied before the event and mailed the day after.
Another cause for cynicism is that announcements are often sent to those who are not all that interested in the people involved. Perfectly nice people may be indifferent to the fact that an acquaintance’s daughter has finished high school. So they wonder why they are being told. A crucial question people forget to ask themselves before sending announcements is, “Will these people be delighted to know?”
What’s in a name?
Dear Miss Manners: My partner, Jonathan, often goes by the nickname Jon. When I introduce him as such, people presume he’s a John, and when they hear his last name, they tease him for being named after a particular English explorer, and question the nature of his relationship with Pocahontas. How do we introduce him such that we encourage people to use his nickname but ensure that no lame jokes follow?
Gentle Reader: If you discover a way of preventing people from joking about other people’s names, please let Miss Manners know. All jokes about people’s names are lame, and you may be sure the targets have heard them countless times before. In this case, possible protection might be achieved by using your partner’s full given name when introducing him to strangers. Just tell him not to smile when he says, “Pocahontas? Never heard of her.”