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October 30, 2001

All Things Wedding

Dear Mr. PostManners:

My financier ... er, I mean, my fiancé and I are having a frank and forthright discussion about the proper way to handle invitations to our forthcoming wedding. It's my second wedding, and his first. I say that it's fine to say, "John and James invite you to our wedding" when we're the ones both hosting and paying for the thing; he says that our parents should be on there somewhere. (I admit, the sheer heart attack value alone of putting my father's name on such an invitation would almost be worth it.) I say that it's entirely proper to say "and Guest" on the invitation and RSVP card; he says otherwise. I'd be perfectly happy handing out invitations to those we wish to invite who live close enough; he says that they MUST be mailed. I say that it's entirely proper to have a reception line at the church, but he says not. We're disagreeing about practically everything. Can you help?


Waiting to be Wedded

Dear Waiting,

Well. To begin: using a wedding invitation to induce a heart attack is an unworthy goal. You should be ashamed of yourself. Ashamed, do you hear? (That said ... One can understand your view. But One never said that!)

You should NEVER put "and Guest" on an invitation to ... well, anything, really, but especially a wedding! For one thing, people are entirely too apt to somehow put a little S at the end of that "Guest", and suddenly, you're entertaining a football team in addition to everyone else. (Although it is quite thrilling watching One's Social Secretary herding all those big, burly people with his whip and paddle and getting them properly in line ... but One digresses.) The general concept is, if you don't know the Guest well enough to invite them personally, what on earth are they doing at your wedding? It is not only your day, but one to be shared with those you are close to. How close to them can you be if you don't know their names? (One's dear friend Gabriel is reading over One's shoulder and saying, "What on earth are you talking about? I married a whole militia! How could I know all their names?" One is ignoring him. After all, how often does a person marry an army?)

For wedding invitations, the general form when you are hosting yourself (which, technically, you cannot do, but never mind) is, "Miss Blissfully Happy and Mr Shell Shocked but Thrilled invite you to attend ... " Given your situation, of course, it will be more along the lines of "Mr Shell Shocked and Mr Even More Shell Shocked invite you to attend ...." (or whatever your specific wording is -- once upon a very long time ago, there was a specific format for such things, but One notes that these modern young people have changed things ever so much ... In any event, for second weddings [and up], it is traditional for those involved to give themselves away, invitationally speaking, rather than stating, "The parents of Mr Shell Shocked invite [or announce] ...").

For wedding announcements -- that is, you neither expect nor necessarily desire the recipient to attend -- you do not include the RSVP envelope and card, and the wording says something like "Mr Shell Shocked and Mr Even More Shell Shocked are pleased to announce their wedding on such and such a date at such and such a place ... and so forth." If there are those (relatives, usually, somehow) who must be notified, but whom you wish to be *certain* that some will not attend, the announcement is tactfully mailed the day before the wedding, so that it will not arrive in time. If said relative complains, the bride or groom merely says, "Oh, no! Perhaps it was lost in the mail. I'm ever so sorry!" Repeat as needed until said relative is sufficiently soothed. (If you are being very good, you don't even mention where you are registered. Given the opening line of your letter, one wonders ...)

As for the delivery method of the aforementioned invitations ... One notes that proper etiquette prefers mailing -- it is more formal, which is preferred for weddings. (Actually, very proper etiquette prefers them to be hand delivered on a silver salver by footmen. You wouldn't happen to have a footman or two, would you? Oh, well ...) On the other hand, hand delivery is more personal. Etiquette is generally somewhat forgiving either way. If you do hand them to a select few individuals, please make certain that they are never handed out in the presence of those whom one will NOT be inviting to the event. To do so is the adult equivalent of a playground taunt: nyah! it's my wedding and you're not invited! Of course, the other important consideration in these things is the date. If there is not sufficient lead time, handing invitations to everyone within reach may be the only plausible solution for the harried bride and groom. (Or grooms ... Wait, that wasn't entirely what One meant to say, was it? Oh, well, you know what One means.) One notes that etiquette is flexible enough to accommodate these situations, as once upon a time, it was not unusual for the bride to be marching down the aisle while in active labor. In fact, One notes that it's not all that unusual today. (Of course, this will not be your situation. One was just saying.)

Regarding a ... a card for the RSVP. Well. Properly speaking, in the Days of Auld, anyone you invited to a wedding would be drawn and quartered rather before they would do anything other than send a lovely handwritten message on their personal stationery, responding with appropriate enthusiasm or regrets. Alas, that day has gone. So. Today's Proper wedding etiquette demands --*demands*, do you hear One? -- that you include an RSVP card in your invitation! You place a small card and envelope (stamped, even) inside, pre-addressed back to yourself. (Ideally, pre-*printed* back to yourself, although that is not an etiquette requirement, as such; but how many times do you REALLY want to write your own address?) You will be delighted to know that, unlike many things that happen along the wedding path; the RSVP card has an impeccable logic behind it: if you give your invitees preprinted responses and preprinted and stamped return envelopes, they are slightly more likely to actually return it, thus enabling you to know who may be coming. (One emphasizes: *slightly* more likely. One hopes that you are planning to spend a week or two before the wedding calling those who haven't returned the card.)

If you are allowing your invitees to bring guests, you will be tempted to have response cards with a line underneath the name of the invitee, reading "and Guest" where the name of anyone they would like to bring may be written. RESIST THIS TEMPTATION! One cannot emphasize that enough! (See "Football team" above.) One has heard that some use the style, "Invitee and _____ [name of Guest]") and even those who provide a check box next to the "and guest"; since balancing the genders at the reception is no longer a concern, some feel that the guest's name is irrelevant. One shudders -- shudders, do you hear!? -- at the very thought. For one thing, One feels that this is short sighted; how can those holding the reception have place cards printed if they do not know the names of everyone who will be coming? Without place cards, how will all the guests be able to pretend to know each other's names when many of them will be complete strangers to one another? Really, the decline in modern weddings ... One is frequently quite appalled. But One digresses.) The RSVP card either has a blank space where the invitee writes their name, or, if you are thinking ahead, has the name pre-inscribed thereupon. (After all, the happy couple really do need to know who's responding, don't they?)

As for the reception ... Well. One must just gird one's loins and admit it. When One was a young etiquette maven, One ... One ... One made a ... a MISTAKE! (Oh, the shame, the horror ...) At one time, one advised a supplicant ... er, that is, a correspondent that it was entirely proper to have a reception line at a church. One was thoroughly toasted by one's fellow mavens at the following year's Association of Mavens of Etiquette annual meeting. One went back and did one's research (which One should have done first, of course), so let One put the record straight: at formal weddings, the receiving line is at the reception, and not at the church. You are not supposed to be technically able to invite people into God's house (a formal invitation requests that people attend the *reception*, with an insert card telling them where the ceremony is) which all may attend, and therefore you are not supposed to thank them for attending the wedding at god's house, either. (That said, many people getting married ignore that rule for the understandable reason that it's just far easier to handle it at that time, when everyone wants to congratulate everyone else anyway. But they shouldn't. And One was wrong wrong wrong, do you hear?)

One is SO embarrassed. One simply doesn't know what to do.

Perhaps One should do penance with One's social secretary ..... After all, he's already dressed for the occasion, and showing that lovely studded paddle to Gabriel ....

Yours flagellantly,

Mr. PostManners

October 16, 2001

Nuzzling, Canoodling, and Canadians

Dear Mr Postmanners,

I fear you'll have little sympathy for my plight, but I must write to you just the same.

My beloved, my heart, my dove... she is beautiful, wise and kind and hearty as unto a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. She is, in fact, quite Canadian herself.

When ever I see her, and she does that thing where she tilts her head to the side and gazes at me from under her lashes, I must touch her. Hold her, kiss her, yea, verily, canoodle her to within an inch of her life. And therein lies the problem.

I have been informed, gently and at length, that Canadians simply don't do such things. Er, in public, that is. In private... well, that's a story for another day, and perhaps for any number of the fine publications that turn one's mind to the -- not to put too fine a point on it -- shameless and filthy.

In any case, I am not a Canadian of any stripe, and my ardor has few boundaries. I find myself rebuffed quite often, even when "in public" can be defined as "in a room full of people who are either quite busy canoodling themselves, or already know any number of details about what goes on between my dove and I in the bedroom, kitchen, computer room, bathroom, living room, etc."

How can I convince her to allow me to lavish her with affection whenever possible?

Nuzzler in New Jersey

Well? And? The problem would be?

Oh, all right. One understands the problem perfectly well. The maiden in question has a perfect sense of propriety and how to behave in public, and perfect propriety always produces a desire for perfect impropriety. It was ever thus. Somehow, it always seems that a person who believes firmly in Public Displays of Affection winds up with another who sincerely believes that such PDAs are in poor taste. (The colloquialism "PDAs" makes the occasional kiss on the sidewalk sound like one of those handheld computers, doesn't it? One's Social Secretary informs One that they are alarmingly convenient devices. However, One digresses.) One believes that this is evidence of the absolutely perverse sense of humor of the gods of the universe. (That along with the fact that men and women reach their ... er ... well, One must just say the words, mustn't one? The fact that men and women reach their peaks of sexual desire, as it were, not only at the opposite ends of the fertility spectrum -- ages eighteen and forty-five, respectively -- but also at opposite ends of the day. Men tend to ... er, desire, as it were, in the morning, while women seem to prefer evenings and nights. But again, One digresses.)

Also, One feels pressed to note that merely being in a room of people who know perfectly well what happens when you canoodle with your Canadian is not sufficient excuse. After all, you know perfectly well what happens when your parents canoodle -- you got into this world somehow, after all -- and you wouldn't want to see that, would you? ... Well, would you? ... One thought not. There are limits.

The other problem with public canoodling, of course, is that it is entirely possible to go Just That Bit Too Far, and you may find yourself with an attractively undone blouse or shirt, a certain someone nibbling on your neck, perhaps seductively murmuring your upcoming social schedule into your ear in that wonderfully low voice, maybe with his hand down the back of your pants, and the other hand ... Ahem. Yes. Well. At which point it is not unusual to be rudely interrupted by somewhat surly people in uniform. Alas. (Never canoodle in public in Alabama. One is just saying.)

Of course, the rules of etiquette are firmly on the side of the Canadian in question. Politesse requests -- nay, demands -- that people refrain from such displays in public. Ideally, when asked to cease and desist, you should cease and desist, whilst making eyes and otherwise apprising your Canadian of what you would like to do when you are together in private. Really, some people just have no idea of how to properly tease. (Although it sounds like your Canadian has quite a good idea of that, actually. But One digresses. Again. One is just replete with digression today.) However, one is resigned to the fact that people will ignore the demands of etiquette to do what they will. Not happy about it, but resigned.

Very well. Mr PostManners will help you just this one time, but you MUST promise to behave yourself properly when behaving improperly!

The proper way to ... er ... canoodle in public, as it were, is to hold hands. This is an unobjectionable behavior even under the most stringent demands of etiquette. On the occasional moment, overwhelmed by passion, you might even gently brush your lips across the back of your Canadian's properly gloved hand. (She does wear gloves, one hopes. A person with such a wondrous sense of propriety really should. It makes impropriety ever so much more enjoyable later! But you did not hear that from One!) Then, at moments when your hands are hidden from public view -- perhaps under her wrap on her lap or with your hands behind one or the other of you -- you might perhaps trace a little pattern on the palm of your Canadian or draw a line or two with your finger on the back of the hand or ... well, what your hands get up to when nobody can see them is not officially Etiquette's business. (If you are so imprudent as to be caught, Etiquette will officially disavow any knowledge of your actions.) However -- and one cannot stress this strongly enough -- public lip contact is NOT allowed by etiquette!

That said, if you are in an environment that encourages mass canoodling ... well, one can only try to wear down one's Canadian and hope for the best. Or not, as the case may be. (One would actually encourage all Canadians to stand firm for Etiquette, but one knows how tempting impropriety can sometimes be. Alas.)

(Er ... where would one find one of those publications that you mentioned ...?)

Yours most properly,

Mr Postmanners.

October 15, 2001

One's Return!

Hello! One has returned! Have you missed One? (Wait ... don't answer that question. Of course you have missed One!)

One understands that there may be a question or two about where One has been. Well ... actually, One isn't entirely sure about all of it.

One discovered, after having published columns to great acclaim, that said columns had been cancelled. One discovered this by reading the announcement of this cancellation in the etiquette trade dailies, as One's publisher did not have the courtesy to mention it themselves. Hmph! the NERVE!

In any event .... well, One must just gird one's loins and manfully state the facts.

One went on what One is informed is called "a bender". One isn't entirely sure how long it lasted, but when One finally pulled Onesself out of One's funk, One discovered that One's social secretary and also one's dear friend Gabriel had dragged the toasted etiquette maven to Europe for an extremely extended vacation, to travel and more usefully forget one's sorrows.

And, of course, Europe was lovely and ancient, and there were buildings with crumbly bits and paintings of saints suffering hideous fates and statues with just a tad more realism in certain areas than many men would appreciate. One also traveled briefly to the Orient before returning to Europe for one last swing through what one's social secretary insisted on calling "the fleshpots." Whatever that means. We even toured what he called "the dungeons of Amsterdam"! (Er ... One must confess that for some reason, One's memory is perhaps just the teensiest bit fuzzy on what exactly that involved. One has a vague memory of a large studded paddle, a leather g-string, and someone with manacles about the wrist and ankles yelling, "Oh, beat me, daddy, eight to the bar!" Also, large insertable objects seemed to be involved. The next day, One noticed a bit of chafing here and there -- especially there -- and soreness ... elsewhere. And Gabriel and one's Social Secretary had the most remarkable smirks on their faces ... If anyone out there has better memories of this incident, do not tell One! Some things are better left unremembered, yes? Yes.)

In any event, eventually, One decided to come back to One's friends and family. And lo! upon arriving back on friendly shores, One discovered that One's publishing contract had been renewed on thoroughly favorable terms. Apparently, One's public had been demanding One's return!

So. One is BACK. And ready to dispense advise to all and sundry. Especially the sundry. After all, they have the most need of it.

For the edification of future generations, One will be republishing one's past Classic columns along with the new ones, so that one's past wisdom will not be lost to the ages!