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PRESENCE AT WEDDING IS NO SUBSTITUTE FOR GIFT

SHARE PRESENCE AT WEDDING IS NO SUBSTITUTE FOR GIFT

Dear Miss Manners: When one is attending a wedding abroad, what is considered proper for a gift, taking into account the guest's traveling expense to be in attendance? Can the guest's presence be considered as a gift?

Gentle Reader: Miss Manners is curious as to what you think your presence is worth. More than a toaster, but less than a tea service?

Guests do not get expense accounts for attending weddings, which they can then apply against the debt of a wedding present. You are supposed to go because you want to be there, and to send a present that you can afford, because you want the couple to have a symbol of your warm feelings toward them. If it's not worth it to you, Miss Manners suggests you don't go.

Dear Miss Manners: When I invite my friends' children to go places, they all send ample money with their children and seem disturbed if it is not used. And it seems that my children are not invited to go out to many places, maybe because they don't pay their way.

But I was raised with the belief and practice that if you invite someone, you pay. If you only ask whether they can come along, they pay.

Gentle Reader: Miss Manners agrees with your principles, but disagrees with your acting upon them.

However peculiar this approach may be in the annals of morals, it is very useful in the practice of manners.

Yes, children should be taught to be gracious guests as well as gracious hosts to their friends. The guests' parents are right to send them with money, so they are not tempted to ask for food or souvenirs, for example, but wrong to insist that they pay their own way to the basic event for which they were invited.

Nevertheless, one cannot defy such a custom unilaterally, much less force one's children to do so.

For example, Miss Manners strongly opposes the custom of tipping, and argues in favor of reliable wages that adequately compensate workers without their having to depend on the customers' whims. But while the system is in place, she, of course, gives out tips.

So although you may certainly discourage your guests from paying, and send their parents the explanation that you wish them to be your guests, you should start sending your children with both money and instructions to pay their own way if that seems to be expected.

Dear Miss Manners: When one is the driver of a vehicle that is taken on an extended (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) shopping trip, is one required to assume the responsibility of being host?

I do not normally eat lunch and I dislike dining out, but I do enjoy driving and do so when my mother, brother or friends accompany me on shopping trips. My mother and brother feel that I should make an offer to stop somewhere around noon, either while driving or while walking in the mall, even though I will only want something to drink.

I have countered that they and my friends know my eating habits well, and that I will not be wanting to stop for myself, but that if they would like something to eat, I would be more than happy to take them wherever they wish to go.

I see little wrong with my policy of waiting for my passengers to indicate that they desire refreshments before I stop. Am I etiquette-challenged, or is this a generational difference between my mother and me?

Gentle Reader: The only generational factors Miss Manners can think of are that we now have a generation afraid to speak out to its own children, even to saying, "Why don't we stop for lunch, dear?" and that we always seem to have generations who display reluctance to accommodate their parents, even on such trivial requests.

So let's forget that angle and deal with the question of the driver's responsibility, besides, of course, going down with the ship.

Having someone in one's car is not like having someone in one's house, where refreshment should not be requested because it must be provided by the host. Yet the driver is, to a certain extent, in charge - to the extent, for example, of reminding a passenger to use the seat belt.

Either party may make suggestions about the itinerary. That your mother has an exaggerated sense of the occasion is apparent in her applying it to your walks through malls, when whatever driver responsibility you had was left in the parking lot.

But since she does feel that way, and she is your mother, Miss Manners fails to see why you can't begin the excursion by saying, "I don't get hungry, so be sure and let me know when you do."