Thursday, April 24, 2008

Emily Post would be horrified

WARNING: RANT ALERT. Proceed at your own risk.

I have been an etiquette freak my entire life. Not to say that I am always perfect, but I do try not to hit the big faux pas in life. My introduction to the tricky maneuvering in the wild world of manners was as a child, at my grandmother's house. She had a very old book of etiquette. I just *loved* reading it. I pored over it for hours at a time, memorizing wording of invitations, and place settings, and where a gentleman should be located when escorting a lady down the street (on the street side, so that if there was splashing from a passing vehicle, he would act as a blockade).

While I am very aware that times have changed, and that many of the rules dealing with proper behavior have relaxed or even changed altogether, there are many things that continue to top my list of pet peeves. I've ranted before about RSVP's, and how people today do not seem to understand what they mean, their purpose, or that really, the rules of responding to an invitation do apply to them, too.

Now enter wedding invitations.

In wedding invitations, it has become custom for a reply card to be provided along with the invitation (postage-paid, even!), so that there really is no excuse not to tell a couple whether to expect your presence at their happy event. [Originally one would have one's own personal stationery, and would immediately handwrite a response accepting or declining an invitation of any sort.]

Anyway. Reply cards. Standard reply cards give a line for the invitee to write their name, a place to check 'accept' or 'decline' and sometimes a line to indicate how many people are coming. This line is in case Mr & Mrs are invited, but only Mr is coming, or if the couple and four kids are invited, but only three total people will attend. Important for the bridal couple to know whom to expect, so that sufficient food, etc. will be available.

Now, knowing who is invited is really easy to tell: the people who are listed on the envelope. ONLY the people who are listed on the envelope. Kids aren't listed? It was not an oversight: they were not invited. One half of a couple on the envelope? The other half is not invited. And unless you see "and guest" written somewhere, the invitation is only for you. No date.

Naturally, I am leading somewhere. Brenda and Brian have been receiving their responses to the wedding invitations. The guest list was very carefully chosen and pared down and gone over and pared down some more. Some people were necessarily cut, even after concern was expressed that they may be upset at not being invited. Even so, there have possibly been more people invited than can be accommodated. (Tent size is still up in the air...pray no rain. The ceremony itself is being held on a schooner, with guest spillover on the dock.) Space is limited and they are planning on a lobster feed at the reception. Both excellent reasons for keeping a tight rein on the number of people attending.

They have thus far received three response cards that have included add-ons. Two were people adding their (older) children; children who were not mentioned on the invitation. (see above: it was not an oversight) One person who received an "and guest" invite (also referred to as a "plus-one") decided that she had an open invitation to bring a crowd: she's bringing three extra people.

People, this is just flat-out rude. R-U-D-E.

It puts Brenda and Brian in a horrible position. They now have to decide whether to let it slide or tell these people that they can't bring their extras. Saying nothing means extra expense for them in terms of food and drink, not to mention that these uninvited guests are taking spaces that could have been used by people who had real meaning to the bridal couple. Other guests who did not have their children or significant other invited may take offense.

Saying something risks an unpleasant response from the invitees. It's uncomfortable for the bridal couple. It is particularly difficult for people who are caring and generous and generally accommodating. They're just very, very nice and would love to be able to have everyone. But they can't. They don't even have the time to be properly horrified and appalled at the rudeness of these people. (Did I mention they're also getting TWO boats ready for season launch a week after the wedding? Including a new boat that needed to be completely overhauled?)

So, knowing that I would be appalled and horrified on their behalf, they told me. They were right. I am very irritated with these guests. (Not irritated enough to overcome my fear of people and offer to make these calls for them, though. Sorry. I'm chicken. I'll rant for you, though!)

PEOPLE. What are you THINKING? What could possibly be passing through your head to assume that you can change the guest list? Without even asking? Seriously, sometimes I just want to take my big, huge, enormously heavy copy of Emily Post's Etiquette and whack offenders over the head. (Big book. 846 pages. 3.5 pounds. Pretty good, but not as good as the original.) I mean, W. T. F?!?!?!?!

OK. Deep breath. Thank you for listening. And now back to your regularly scheduled reading. mk


Anonymous said...

MK - It seems like there really is no way to handle the situation without hurting someone's feelings. I (personally) would not have any problem making those calls for them. Think about it; you're doing an (unpleasant) favor for the extremely busy couple. You are a KEY member of the wedding party, so I think you'd have every right to help out. I'd say to the invitees that I was 'asked to help finalize or clarify the invitation list'....something like that!

You can do it, girly!!

I recall an entry from you a while wrote about speaking up to those guys that were standing up in front of everyone at your son's ballgame...? You sounded like you handled that prettty well!

Anonymous said... got me so worked up, too! I forgot to sign off...


Amy said...

I hate a bridezilla, but in this case, the couple should absolutely say something to these people. If she hasn't gotten all the cards back yet, it stands to reason she could get more of these.

She needs to contact these people and say, "There must have been a misunderstanding. Due to space restrictions, we can only accommodate X number of people from your party. Please let me know which guests to expect." Or something like that.

And if they get ticked and decide not to come? So much the better! At the end of the day, do we really NEED people like this in our lives, much less at our wedding?

Karmyn R said...

That is just HORRIBLE. I remember that happening at my wedding too - the only good thing was that there were enough people who didn't come that it all balanced out.

People quickly forget how expensive a wedding is - price per person really adds up when those "uninvited" start showing up.

Cynical Nymph said...

There is NOTHING bridezilla about saying something to these rude responders! They overstepped their bounds, and even if they don't know it, they need to cancel those extra guests. If you explain it in terms of budget and venue size, they may not even get that bent out of shape about it; that's just physics and accounting! They wouldn't expect to squeeze a fifteenth and sixteenth guest into a 10-person table at a $90-a-plate dinner party, right? I don't know why people don't realize this about other people's weddings.

You never get a better idea of someone's etiquette than during a wedding process. At my friend's recent wedding, neither she or her new husband, nor her parents, nor his parents greeted anyone or went around to tables to acknowledge their guests' 6 hour trip through a snowstorm to be at the wedding. They just sat there and ignored everyone, waiting to be waited on and fawned over. At my wedding, I didn't even GET to sit down I was so concerned with making sure I got face time with everyone who'd made the effort to be there.

It takes all types, I guess! Yeeha for Emily and Peggy Post and their ilk.

The Beast Mom said...

It's not rude to CLEARLY tell the uninvited that they weren't invited. We called people who added all 6 of their uninvited kids and said the kids weren't invited, that we could only accomodate adults (and children who were relatives). No one balked or blew off the wedding, if anything they were apologetic.

I think this happens at all weddings. It happened to us. It's happened to everyone I know who's had a wedding. That's what blows MY mind. It's almost always the MARRIED people (with kids) who are the biggest criminals on this. They HAD weddings. They went through this sort of thing. And yet, they so easily and conveniently FORGET. I swear some parents think a wedding reception is a free dinner for the extended family regardless of if only 1-2 adults were named.

Someone should call these people. Or write them back with a no reply postcard saying something like this: "Thank you for the prompt RSVP, but we can only accomodate Mr. and Mrs. John Smith. We look forward to seeing just the two of you on June 1, 2008. Thanks for your understanding."