DEAR MISS MANNERS - As a divorce attorney, it seems to me that often it is the couples who were most lavishly and ostentatiously married who are most likely to get divorced.
This seems particularly true when the parents footed the wedding bill for the children. Indeed, I suspect a strong connection: Those "children" who demand expensive weddings from others are least likely to have the level of responsibility and maturity needed for a successful marriage.I would like to suggest a new set of wedding traditions, loud protests of the Bridal Industry notwithstanding.
How about this?
1. The couple will pay for their own wedding. If they cannot afford even this, they certainly cannot afford a home, children and the other usual accoutrements of marriage. Perhaps they should wait (as we did in the old days) until they are a little better established.
2. The wedding will be paid for out of current income or assets. No one will borrow one cent to "put on" a wedding. If that means a small ceremony followed by luncheon at home, rather than the Dinner Dance of the Century, so be it.
3. No one else will be asked or expected to contribute to the pageant. It will not be some friend's or relative's expected "responsibility" to provide a shower, wedding breakfast, rehearsal dinner, etc. If you can't afford it, don't buy it.
4. No one will wear anything that they can't wear again. This means no rented "penguin suits" for the men; no outrageously expensive purple bridesmaids' dresses with the dyed-to-match peau-de-soie pumps; no $400 flower-girl dress for a 5-year-old who is immediately going to spill orange juice on it.
5. The wedding party, minister and guests will be allowed to do whatever they are supposed to do within the ceremony, and then to enjoy whatever celebration may follow, without being constantly stopped, posed and required to smile for one or more cameras so that the Pageant of the Century can be recorded for posterity. Statistically, half of these photos are going to wind up on the cutting-room floor anyway, when the two young stars divorce.
6. The ceremony itself will be short and simple, and will wed the parties. Weddings are not an appropriate place to proselytize for one's religion, lecture the bridal couple or assembled guests on the duties of a good Jewish husband or Christian wife, or provide family members with a captive audience for their musical talents.
7. Soft drinks will be served, and what would otherwise have been spent on the liquor bill will be used for a down payment on the house.
8. Guests will refrain from sexual innuendoes and from comments about a bride's known or suspected pregnancy. That kind of ill-disguised envy and malice, or simple boorishness, is grounds for immediate expulsion of the offender.
9. Brides will accept and acknowledge each gift with graciousness and gratitude. They will recognize that for a variety of reasons, not all gifts will be "new" or returnable, and they will never ask for a sales slip or suggest that they will exchange any gift, unless the giver makes the offer. (One-of-a-kind items, such as handmade gifts or artwork or heirlooms, will simply have to be stored in the hope that one's children may like them.) Guests, conversely, will recognize that their choice of gift may well be a duplicate or may be the wrong color or may simply not be to the taste of the bridal couple, and they will, where possible, say, "I got this at - and will help you to return it if it doesn't fit in with your decorating scheme."
10. Finally, close it down no later than 10 p.m. The old folks will appreciate it, the young folks who want to carouse will go elsewhere to do so, and the bridal couple can start their honeymoon sober and unhindered by Wedding Exhaustion.
GENTLE READER - Miss Manners has a question for you:
What are your patterns? She would like to send you 12 place settings in china, silver and crystal. You can return them if you like; she only wants to show her overwhelming gratitude.
DEAR MISS MANNERS - Several couples gather frequently for socialization and bridge. Recently one of the couples arranged to go out of town for an extended period. After their departure, a gathering was planned for a date during their absence, and invitations were sent out.
Unfortunately they returned early, unbeknownst to the hostess, and were quite hurt at having been "excluded" from the party. Should the hostess have issued an invitation after they had left, knowing that they would not have been able to respond or attend?
GENTLE READER - Only for major events does one issue invitations without trying to guess whether the recipient will be able to make it. Weddings qualify; bridge parties do not.
Miss Manners suggests you ask these people why they were so heartless as to exclude the rest of the group from their out-of-town excursion.
Are you unsure about tipping? Miss Manners' pamphlet, "On Tipping," explains who should be tipped and how much. It is available for $1.50 from Miss Manners, in care of this newspaper, P.O. Box 91428, Cleveland, OH 44101-3428.
Feeling incorrect? Address your etiquette questions (in black or blue-black ink on white writing paper) to Miss Manners, in care of this newspaper. The quill shortage prevents Miss Manners from answering questions other than through this column.