5 things Miss Manners hates that I LOVE

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5 things Miss Manners hates that I LOVE
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I requested the Miss Manners wedding book (published in 2010 — not that long ago) this week from my local library. The dilemma of how to address invitations when many of our friends and relations are cohabitating without being married was confusing me way more than it should have been, and I figured Miss Manners would have something to say on the topic.

She does, of course. She also has thoughts on everything else to do with weddings. I disagree VEHEMENTLY with some of her opinions.

Small disclaimer: I didn't actually read the book from cover to cover, so these impressions are based solely on the portions I perused.

1. Registries

Miss Manners is APPALLED that the happy couple would have the audacity to ask for what they want. Perhaps she longs for the days when a newly-wed couple would have to go through the tedious process of returning four of the five fondue pots their loving guests graciously gifted them. One of my cousins lives on the opposite side of the continent, hasn't seen me in over a decade, and has never met my fiancé. Knowing her, she is going to insist on sending us a gift. She has no idea what our home is like, or what our tastes are. I wonder how Miss Manners would like her to proceed without the assistance of a registry? Granted, I find it a bit uncouth when I open a wedding invitation and five little registry cards fall out, but that brings me to my next point…

2. Wedsites

Perhaps Miss Manners is a Luddite; that's the only excuse I can think of for her opposition to wedding websites. A wedding website is a centralized location for all of the pertinent information a guest could need or want: directions, accommodations, registries, recommended attire… The list goes on! Additionally, it's the 21st century; I'm pretty sure the internet is around to stay.

3. The guest list

Miss Manners is fairly adamant that parents be allowed to invite whomever they please, regardless of whether they have ever met the couple, and regardless of who is paying. Her stance is that children should suck it up to make their parents happy. My stance is that I am not going to buy dinner for a business associate of my parents' who I have never met and will probably never see again, particularly if that means that someone I actually know and love has to be bumped off the guest list.

4. Response cards

Miss Manners finds these insulting; she thinks that they imply that your guests are not capable of using pen, paper, and postage to send their own response. Unfortunately, she does not seem to realize that some people are actually incapable of filling out their names on a card and using a self-addressed stamped envelope to send it back! If etiquette is about making things easier for other people, I see absolutely no problem with response cards.

5. Personalized ceremonies

Miss Manners doesn't want to hear anything about how the couple met, what their relationship has been like, why they're getting hitched, etc. She seems to think that every single guest will already be privy to all of those details, so rehashing them is just boring. Call me a sap, but even if I've known the couple since before they got together and was around for every stage of their relationship, I still love hearing that part of the ceremony. Let's face it: sometimes a few of the wedding guests have not met both halves of the happy couple, let alone heard the entire story of how they met and fell in love. I think that Great-Aunt Thelma who flew in from out of state for the first time in a decade might enjoy hearing those details during the ceremony.

It's not all bad, of course. Her responses for people who invite themselves to your wedding are spot-on, and there's one letter involving a trans* person that she handles quite beautifully. Overall, however, I found the tone quite judgmental and snooty.

I'm glad I didn't spend the money on this book, but I do know how I'm addressing our invitations now, so all's well that ends well.

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Comments on 5 things Miss Manners hates that I LOVE

  1. Wow! Yeah I’m there with you on all this. I chucked Miss Manners decades ago because of this kind of shortsighted, ridiculous “advice”!

  2. I had the same experience with this book but honestly it wasn’t the worst of the myriad I checked out from the library. The worst had to be the one that had a chapter about “gay marriage” and it was only one page which something along the lines of “same-sex marriage is just a fad and as such we will not waste any time discussing it”…I wish I could remember the name of the book now just so I could warn people away from it. It wasn’t even like it was an older book, it had been published in the last ten years!

    • It was Emily Post and it made me so mad I threw out my copy. They’ve updated it now to say something along the lines of WARNING: you may be invited to a same sex wedding, because they’re legal now.

    • I love a lot of her advice–so much of it is funny and sharp. She definitely sounds more fuddy-duddy based on this post, though!

    • Actually, she is hilarious. Much of her advice is tongue-in-cheek, in her wedding book she advises people to keep things simple and inexpensive, and sanctions using an iPod playlist and flowers from your garden instead of hiring an awful DJ and spending gazillions of dollars at the florist.

  3. Can we PLEASE put to rest the “no registry = 25 fondue pots, 25 chip-n-dips, and 50 toasters” myth? I had NO registry and had NO duplicate gifts, inappropriate gifts, or toasters. If you have no registry and people REALLY don’t know what to get you, they give you money. I am glad to have received some lovely, often handmade, gifts from our wedding guests.


      I keep meaning to write up something on how we didn’t have a registry and the Apocalypse didn’t come. Every, or almost every, post on registering, even here, ends with the choice to register or why you should register. And that’s cool. I’m not anti-registry. But it’s not the obviously or overwhelmingly better option for everyone: it certainly wasn’t for us. All this pro-registry stuff needs to be balanced out with some “why it’s OK if you don’t register” discussion.

      And we didn’t get any duplicate gifts either – we got money (we didn’t ask for money, but we got it).

    • We HAD a registry and ended up with multiple of some items because one of the stores we registered with under-trained the employees on how to *remove* items.

      Did it matter? no. I found them to be useful to have multiples, so we kept them.

      But, MAN, were people annoyed at this retailer when they found out they bought the same thing as someone else.

    • Just because you didn’t experience it doesn’t mean it’s a myth. My sister received no less than 9 George Foreman grills.

    • Neither my family nor my husbands’ are registering people, so of course we didn’t register. I got wonderful gifts for which I am grateful: handmade quilts, pottery, artwork, and other things that you would normally get people when they haven’t given you a list of what to buy them. I think not registering would normally result in more diversity in the gifts you end up with, not less.

  4. While I did have a registry, when 1 of my wedding showers was wonderfully hosted by my future mother-in-law, she invited all the ladies from her church; Maybe only a couple knew my groom when he was 5 (not since). Consequences: A “crap-load” of (sets of) white fluffy towels.
    Don’t get me wrong: They were (and are) of really nice quality and we do use them! Its also great they go with any decor we choose. Opening gift after gift of white towels did give all of us at the party a chuckle though.
    I guess my point is you can even have a registry and people still do their own thing!

  5. I would be curious to hear if your opinion changes any if you do end up going back and reading the whole thing or not – because having read one of her other books I could totally see how if I’d only read little bits and pieces how she could come off a certain way, but over all I do really enjoy her writing and am very surprised to hear such a bad review. I do agree with many of your points though, I like registries too! Also, it’s not ok for parents to bogart the guest list! I totally got booted from one of my friends guest-lists because her dad invited all of his friends and I think she pretty much had her bridesmaids for guests, yey.

  6. “My stance is that I am not going to buy dinner for a business associate of my parents’ who I have never met and will probably never see again, particularly if that means that someone I actually know and love has to be bumped off the guest list.”

    Be wary of this one…! Even after explicitly asking, several times, for my father NOT to invite people because it was OUR wedding and WE paid for it, he invited people anyway – and then they turned around and invited people! It was madness. There were people WE HAD NEVER MET walking around at our very lovingly crafted, small, rustic wedding eating food that my husband and I cooked for the people we wanted to be around us. Needless to say, my father got a serious earful, because seriously, wtf.

  7. Does she address when a transperson invites themselves to your wedding? Because that just happened to me.

    • What are you looking to know about? If all else fails in addressing materials to them, you can ask about preferred pronouns and honorifics.

      • Also, there’s no handling someone tacking themselves onto your party differently just due to gender presentation/identity. People’s people 🙂

  8. Well, apart from number 3, this would totally pass in Portugal where registries aren’t used anymore, I last heard of those when I was a kid, 25 years ago (it has become traditional to offer money, to help pay for the wedding itself, for the honeymoon or for stuff the couple needs), using wedsites isn’t current (I didn’t find Portuguese wedsites to be of much quality), never seen a response card and you can’t really personalise your ceremony because only State officiants can get you married (they are starting to allow a little bit of personalisation, as long as it’s nothing that takes more than 10 / 15 minutes; I guess the same thing every time becomes boring).
    So I wonder: is Miss Manners from the USA? Perhaps she’s from a place where those things are not done.

    • Seems likely. US weddings are a bit of a free for all. We have to have a state official or certified religious leader officiate the wedding for the paperwork in the presence of witnesses, but beyond that, there are no legal rules or limits to the ceremony itself. Some people in the pagan community (and others who elope) sometimes have a legal wedding and then later do a second bigger “wedding”. No one really questions that either.
      Registries are popular. I have not encountered a wedsite, but that doesn’t mean much. Ditto on the response card. I’ve only been to 2 weddings though, so that’s probably that.

  9. the whole “parents can invite whomever they like regardless of who’s paying” doesn’t strike me as a very Miss Manners-y thing to say (remember, this is the woman who, when someone wrote to her asking what she should do about her gay neighbors and how to make the neighborhood a good place again, wrote back, “you could move”).

  10. I love etiquette, love tradition, and have a special interest in Emily Post’s style, but as soon as I got engaged, I got REAL sick of wediquette and dropped it altogether. Poop on the rules. I am not a monkey on a tight rope. When I am married, I will pick up where I left off with cultivating etiquette in my life, but until then…so much to do – so little time to give a shit. 🙂

    • I cannot stand Emily Post, specifically because she gives advice that assumes you have at least a middle class income and money to spend, at least in her wedding advice.

    • Wediquette bullshit is the reason I’m here. I got so tired of people insisting it was black and white and not only wouldn’t attempt to hear arguments on the subject, but wouldn’t drop it either. You’d think I’d suggested we roast puppies at the reception.

  11. I said “F*** your definition of manners!” to the “Mr and Mrs His Name His Name” convention in invite addresses.

    Addressing ALL of your guests by name as if they are real whole independently functioning people seems far more mannerly IMNSHO.

    • When I addressed mine, which I did all of them by hand, I went by the rule of Mr and Mrs his name and her name their last name; or Mr his name and mrs her name if they did not share a last name. For my queer married guests, I looked up how to address it, as there is protocol.

      for anyone curious, what I found was for women is Mesdames her1 and her2 last name; for men it’s the same idea Msrs his1 and his2 last name.

      I also made sure to include “Mx whomever AND GUEST” if they were getting a plus one that we may not have met yet.

      • The abbreviation for “mesdames” is “Mmes” in French, and is most likely the same in English, as the plural for “mister” is “messieurs” and abbreviated to “Messrs” in both languages.

    • I agree! I never really thought about it when I was younger but when I was at one of my friend’s weddings and they introduced them as Mr. and Mrs. His First Name His Last Name I was like umm… she has a name too, wtf? But she wasn’t bothered by it so I let it go, but I do NOT want people calling me by my partner’s first name, that is not my name. Would it be ok to call him Stacey? I think not, so it’s really not ok with me to be called his name.

  12. I disagreed with her about the personalization stuff, but I thought she made a good point about registries and response cards- that registries should be given when asked, not included with the invitation (because that implies a gift is the cost of entry), and that people who won’t write their own letter without prodding also won’t send back a response card without prodding.

  13. With the registries, I put a little note on the bottom of the invitation card directing folks to THE DREADED WEDSITE for more information. Other than that, if we were asked, we told. I’m not big on requiring gifts because (1)I’ve been poor and (2)anything on there we were clearly managing without it.

    As a result, we got a fair amount of cash gifts which was really nice. 🙂

  14. I think at this point if I received an invitation without a response card I would have no idea what to do and unless I was close with the person just assume it meant it was an open party (the case with the one wedding I’ve attended that didn’t send out a response card with the invite). I don’t need prodding to send back something.

    And the only thing I love more than registries? When people send those little registry cards in with the invite so I don’t have to track that info down. Doesn’t mean I’m going to get something off the registry but I love getting that idea.

    • You jest of course. It would say RSVP with email/phone/address so that doesn’t seem too complicated.

      You might be good about responding, but response cards were introduced as a last ditch effort get people to RSVP – but it hasn’t tended to work that well if anecdotal evidence is correct.

    • Oh my gosh, yes. I love registry cards, and put one in my invitations, only to hear after the fact that they’re apparently the #1 sign that all you care about is getting gifts… then I got all paranoid about it until I realized that a) surely people can’t really think I’m only inviting them to get gifts when we’ll be feeding them, paying for some of their alcohol, and y’know, actually having them there on a day that’s super important & special, and b) I personally really love registry cards cos it’s simple and straightforward, which is how I like things, so maybe other people do too….

  15. “My stance is that I am not going to buy dinner for a business associate of my parents’ who I have never met and will probably never see again, particularly if that means that someone I actually know and love has to be bumped off the guest list.”

    That’s… actually not at all what Miss Manners prescribes in her book, and many people here have made other points I felt. The point Miss Manners makes is that your guest list should include everyone who can *reasonably* expect an invitation, including family members and close family friends who may have had something to do with your childhood upbringing, provided they haven’t given you reason not to invite them. Then, once you have your guest list, make that the basis for the kind of wedding you have–even if it means cake and punch in a city park–so that the important people will be there with you. In fact, Miss Manners’ advice is meant to empower couples to have a wedding that is absent much of the stresses of “traditions” that we at OBB choose to eschew, to be warm, charming, and intimate for those who love us and whom we love the most.

    I loved the book. It has informed my wedding attitude in so many ways to keep it simple, hospitable, and welcoming to my guests, and to give me the will to totally ignore all the people shouting about all the useless TRADITION that I am discarding.

  16. Bit controversial maybe but I really do not like getting a wedding invitation with no indication of what the bride and groom would like as a gift should I wish (which I always do) to buy one.

    I would always like to give a gift, as a keep sake, or helping hand, whatever, but being told “do not buy me a gift” or nothing at all, leaves me cold. If you don’t want anything, then I would like to give to a charity of your choice at least! Saying don’t buy anything, and then the guests who adhere to that arrive at your wedding to see others have brought gifts anyway, makes you feel like you have done the wrong thing. I personally think guests appreciate being told one way or the other such as “while a gift is not required, should you wish to make a donation to …..in honour of our day” or something of that ilk.

    • I agree; all the Powers That Be informed me in no uncertain terms that a registering was helpful and considerate and therefore completely mandatory. The same with response cards- I’ve never known anyone to get out their own pen and paper, write down “yes I’m coming to your wedding” and mail it to the couple. That’s completely inconceivable in this day and age. Maybe they’d call or text, but certainly no paper mail unless you give them a pre-filled, stamped, self-addressed response card.

      • We had email and phone and somehow everyone responded.

        In fact, as a bonus we had lovely little notes of warm wishes and congratulations. It’s really quite easy not to include response cards. So no, not necessarily pen and paper but the principle is the same.

  17. I personally cannot stand when I cannot locate registry information easily. I have no idea how to contact most of my friend’s families, and I don’t want to go harassing an engaged couple who is probably already stressing about other things concerning a wedding. I don’t want to add to that!

    • Perhaps those who didn’t include information about their registry simply weren’t registered, and you could get them whatever you wish!

  18. I see nothing wrong with registries, as long as you make it perfectly clear you don’t expect something. We’re writing (on an insert) –

    “We’ve been living together for several years now and we have toasters, towels and cutlery galore! Your attendance at our wedding is all that we need for it to be a fantabulous day. Really, we mean that. However, if you would still like to give a gift, we would very much appreciate a donation to Cancer Research UK or Diabetes UK. Please do not feel obliged by any means; the day will be entirely complete with your presence.”

  19. I generally like and agree with Miss Manners on most things, and I understand where her position on wedding registries is coming from; I think she has been so disgusted by the proliferation of registries for every event (like children’s birthdays, and I even saw a style blog recounting how she had thrown a “Back to School Shower” complete with gift registry, for a girl going off to college) and couples registering for money, complaining that people sent them things not on their registries, etc., that it has pushed her to a somewhat extreme view of registries. My wife and I did not want to register for our wedding (she had been married, and at her then-age of 33 and mine of 28 and being a guy who likes to cook, we had both already acquired all the stuff we needed to start a household), but our parents (mostly my mom) insisted. I see the logic in your argument (my mom made it too) that it’s a great resource for people who don’t know you that well to get you something you’ll like. But, a.) such logic is related to the assumption that it is obligatory for anyone who attends the wedding to buy you a gift, and b.) if someone doesn’t know you that well, why are they coming to your wedding? I strongly believe that weddings should be for close friends and family of the bride and groom, and it is the tendency for both sets of parents to invite everyone on their Christmas card mailing lists that has chiefly contributed to weddings becoming these over-the-top tens-of-thousands-dollars materialistic galas.
    Which is why I agree with you, and disagree with Miss Manners on the guest list. My wife and I wanted a small, intimate wedding in a church and reception at my parents’ beach house, but my wife and I were going to pay for everything, the food, alcohol, band, etc. No, no, my parents insisted, since I had never had a wedding they wanted it to be special, insisted on paying, and then it got out of hand, because it got out of our control. It was still a relatively inexpensive wedding by most modern upper middle class standards, but got more and more lavish, and my parents’ guest list was so big it crowded out both my wife and my friends and her parents’ friends. And most of these people were people I had seen at a few of my parents’ annual Christmas parties and whose names I didn’t know. They were coming to see my parents, didn’t care about me getting married. No matter who pays for the bill, it’s just not right for parents to turn their children’s wedding into an event to repay their own social obligations. Fortunately, as more and more people wait longer to get married and are paying for their weddings themselves, I think they have more control over the guest list, and can put their foot down about their parents’ guest lists. I’ve since learned to put my foot down with my parents, and if I were to do it all over again, would have insisted on our nice intimate little wedding we pay for ourselves.
    I agree with you on wedsites, they’re handy, they aren’t rude or in themselves asking people for money, and nobody is forced to go on one in order to attend the wedding.
    I agree with you on response cards. They’ve been a mainstay of weddings for decades now, and despite how Miss Manners thinks things should be in an ideal world, if they weren’t used, most weddings would have much lower RSVP rates, which would make planning a lot more difficult for the wedding party.
    I kind of agree with Miss Manners on personalized ceremonies. About every one I’ve been to has been awkward and drawn out – including one where I acted as officiant. There is something to be said for not reinventing the wheel. And anything that drags out the ceremony ends up being a bore for most guests, who are wearing uncomfortable clothes in uncomfortable pews or folding chairs. Looking in your direction, people who insist on a full Catholic mass at their wedding (some in my own Catholic family being guilty). Stuff about how the couple met, what their relationship has been like, can all be showcased at the rehearsal dinner, the dinner for out of town guests, and the reception. One thing where I disagree with Miss Manners is she tends to also think receptions shouldn’t be personalized, they should all be the grand formal ballroom type, should never have a theme, especially one that matches the couple’s interests, she says there already is a theme – marriage. I think that’s taking it too far. My wife and I got married on Galveston Island in August, so we wanted our reception to have a tropical aire to it, I wore a light tan cotton poplin suit, we had a steel drum band, etc. While I think it would be kind of cheesy, if a couple wanted to have a Star Wars themed reception, go for it, to each their own. My only caveat would be don’t go so far down the rabbit hole in indulging your own tastes that you forget to take your guests’ enjoyment into consideration. But I am Southern, so gracious hospitality is ingrained.
    PS, I love your statement about your “no drama comment policy” – that’s so perfectly stated.

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