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Wedded Diss 

A Social Grace first -- a complaint about a prompt thank-you note!

Wednesday, Oct 26 2005
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Dear Social Grace,

I have a friend, and I use that term loosely since we haven't been that close of friends since she met her now-fiance, who is getting married this winter. I was looking at her registry in September and saw that a couple of things were on sale, so I decided to order them and have them shipped to the address she had on file, which was her parents' address. I normally don't like to send gifts early for a wedding but didn't want to miss the opportunity of the sale. Anyway, I received a thank-you from her this past week for the wedding gift. It was on the same "cutesy" stationery she used for her bridal shower thank-yous. It had her maiden name at the top and she only signed her name.

1) Is it "OK" to open wedding gifts prior to the wedding?

2) Is it "OK" to send thank-yous for the wedding gifts prior to the wedding?

3) Is it "OK" to use "cutesy" stationery with your maiden name?

4) Is it "OK" to sign only your name and not the couple's names?

I'm curious about your thoughts on these issues.

Thanks so much,
Nicki

Dear Nicki,

Wait just a minute -- are you complaining about a promptly sent thank-you letter? This is a Social Grace first! Your disapproval of this friend does seem more general than this particular issue, even though it's finding its outlet here. In answer to your specific questions:

1) Indeed, it is not just OK but also quite common -- and often advisable (though some etiquette books note that the gifts should not be used until after the wedding).

2) It's better than OK. Thank-you notes should be sent as soon as possible.

3) I'm a big fan of "cutesy" myself, outside of formal correspondence -- and you can't blame this woman for thinking that a thank-you note to a friend is somewhat informal. And your friend isn't married yet, so her maiden name is still her name.

4) In fact, for a long time, writing thank-you notes was thought to be primarily, and properly, the bride's obligation. What's more, she would often address such notes only to the female half of a couple that had given a gift. A more old-fashioned bride can handle her letters as she sees fit.

In other words, your friend has not stepped even an inch outside the bounds of proper wedding etiquette, so you'll have to find another reason to condemn her.

Dear Social Grace,

I was wondering what the rules of etiquette require in this case: A friend of my brother's is getting married to her girlfriend (yes, it's a Boston Wedding!) and he was invited to attend. Our entire family has known her and her family for a very long time, and so my mother was wondering if it would be permissible to attend the service even if she had not been invited. She asked her sister and her mother-in-law, both of whom seemed to think that such a thing would be OK, but neither seemed particularly certain. What does etiquette say about this? If you are not invited to the wedding, can you still attend the service?

Knows Nothing About Nuptials

Dear Unacquainted Madam or Sir,

Only invitees attend a wedding, and the wedding is the service. In many cases, the people invited to the wedding are also invited to the reception afterward, but this isn't always true. The guest list may have been kept short for important reasons. Your confusion may be caused by the use of the word "service," which often describes a public event in a church or temple. I would encourage your mother, though, to send a card describing her best wishes and her happiness for the couple.

Dear Social Grace,

My daughter's boyfriend has hinted that he would like to address the issue of an engagement in the future. He is 20 and in the Army, and she is 19. If he does ask for her hand, it is my intention to have the stipulation that there be a two-year engagement, so they wait until she's 21 years old. Do you think that is an unreasonable request?

The young man hardly knew his father and hasn't lived with his mother since he was a child, though he still has an occasional visit with her. He has been raised by an uncle and aunt whom he calls "Mom" and "Dad." When sending out the announcements for their engagement or wedding, how would we word this appropriately?

Thank you,
Andrea Vassel

Dear Ms. Vassel,

Do I think that waiting until the bride and groom are in their 20s before marrying is a good idea? Absolutely. Do I think that making this waiting period a parental "stipulation" is a good idea? I'm afraid not.

Certainly, it is a parent's job to give her adult children advice. But it seems to me that almost every story I've heard in which a parent issues an ultimatum in the face of young love ends with heartbreak all around. Legally speaking, 19 is old enough to make one's own marriage decisions, as unbelievable as that may seem to a young woman's mother -- or anyone older than 30. So your ultimatum would be rather flimsy. You'd do better to explain why you think she ought to wait, and then be happy (or pretend to be so) with what she decides.

A bride's family often issues the wedding and engagement announcements. How the young man's family is described is something you'll have to discuss with him. There are several forms that could fit, and he should choose the one that makes sense for his family. (Etiquette won't forbid him from acknowledging anyone he wants to acknowledge: If he wants to list all four people as his parents, he can and should do so.) But I would suggest that if the family situation becomes too confusing and fraught with the potential for hurt feelings, the couple announce their own engagement -- a perfectly proper option that does not require a listing of the parents' names.

In any case, you may have a couple of years to ponder the matter.

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