DEAR MISS MANNERS
The father of a good friend died after a long battle with cancer. At the funeral, the minister opened the service by telling us all how different this was from the tragic funeral he had conducted the week before, when he buried a 6-month-old baby.
The message seemed to be that we should not grieve too much for my friend's father, since he was old when he died.
The minister seemed like a nice young man, and I'm sure he did not intend to cause additional pain, but my friend confessed to me later that she felt defensive and even a bit angry about the apparent implication of his comment.
I admit that I share my friend's feelings; I was under the impression that one did not go about comparing the validity of someone's grief with that of someone else's, particularly in front of the grieving individuals. Are we just being overly sensitive?
GENTLE READER - Overly sensitive at being told that one should not grieve for one's father? "A bit angry"?
Miss Manners is furious, and she doesn't even know your friend or her father.
She would feel better if you took some action to see that this young clergyman does not strike again. He might just as easily have told the bereaved parents that they were luckier than someone who lost an older child, to whom they had more years of attachment, for example.
Please promise Miss Manners that you will visit him and tell him of the damage he has done. Presumably someone who has a calling to do good will be sufficiently shocked by this to take stock of himself and his way of thinking and to learn from this. If you do not feel that he understands your objections, then you must appeal to those in authority over him - on earth, Miss Manners means.
DEAR MISS MANNERS - Because of finances and my choice of location, I have limited my upcoming wedding to 100 guests. This means that some of my future mother-in-law's friends will be excluded.
She is therefore insistent on including them in the rehearsal dinner at her home the night before, to which she has invited my bridesmaids - only orally through me - and for which she has ignored the clergy entirely. She also will not permit me to send wedding announcements to any of her friends.
These are only four examples of her endless lack of cooperation with my plans. I feel that rules of etiquette exist to protect all parties in such a situation, and to prevent present anger and future discord. Am I justified in seeing these as breaches which put my parents and me in a very awkward situation?
GENTLE READER - There is an unpleasant implication that is preventing Miss Manners from entering sympathetically into the denunciation of your mother-in-law, which you kindly pair with a declaration of belief in etiquette.
It is that your case for courtesy seems to be built on the idea that you may blithely omit this lady's friends from wedding plans that you identify as yours, rather than both families'. It seems to Miss Manners that the awkwardness you describe stems from the mother of the bridegroom trying to recover from this slight.
The number of guests invited to a wedding is properly determined by the number of people whom each family wants to have present. Miss Manners is not saying that an exaggerated list cannot be argued down, but that those who are truly close to the family should not be dismissed with the claim of saving money.
The proper procedure is to pick the guests first, and then figure out how much you can afford to serve them, and where you can manage to entertain them. Surely anyone ready for marriage should understand that people are more important than menus or venues.
Or you could limit the wedding to family, and throw related parties for friends. Had there been more sympathy shown all around, it could have been suggested that your mother-in-law give a party to celebrate your marriage after the wedding trip, for example.
Miss Manners gathers that instead this lady was merely assigned the night before the wedding and is trying to make the most of it. For the sake of your future family relations, she urges you to work out a compromise that will recognize the legitimacy of her wanting to include her friends, without harping too much on the ways she has been trying to accomplish this.
Planning a wedding? If you need Miss Manners' advice on whom to invite, what to wear, who pays for what, etc., send $2, plus a long self-addressed stamped envelope, for her "Weddings for Beginners" pamphlet to: Miss Manners, in care of this newspaper, P.O. Box 91428, Cleveland, OH 44101-3428.
Feeling incorrect? Address your etiquette questions (in black or blue-black ink on white writing paper) to Miss Manners, in care of the Deseret News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, UT 84110. The quill shortage prevents Miss Manners from answering questions except through this column.