DEAR MISS MANNERS - My sister's fiance feels he needs to know everything about the wedding plans and have the final say-so about how everything should be done, even down to where the bridesmaids' dresses will be purchased, and what style and color they will be. He even wishes to be present when such choices are made.
Could you tell me what exactly is the jurisdiction of the groom in planning a wedding? By the way, the wedding will be paid for by the bride's parents, and each bridesmaid or her parents (for the younger ones) will pay for her dress.GENTLE READER - Some time during the usual engagement, a tearful young lady clutching swatches of material goes to pieces and asks her fiance, "What do you mean, that either the pink or the peach bows are OK with you? Don't you even care about your own wedding?"
The idea that the wedding is of equal interest to both parties getting married is pretty much a polite fiction.
The point is not who pays for it: The father of the bride would be similarly attacked by the mother of the bride if she hadn't been married long enough to know better. No form of egalitarianism wipes out the fact that ladies are more interested in the details of ladies' dresses than gentlemen are.
Nevertheless, it is the gentleman's wedding, also, and the right to participate in the planning is his if he wishes to claim it. You should be rejoicing for your sister. For the rest of her life she will be the envy, when she shops, of ladies whose husbands have dropped them off and run, while hers sits backwards on a little gilt chair and helps her choose her clothes.
DEAR MISS MANNERS - In the average day, I travel to many offices. I am frequently offered coffee or tea, and am often inclined to accept. However, before I do, I wish to know in what sort of vessel it will be served.
Given the health hazards, I will not drink out of a styrofoam cup. But can I ask in advance, "Will you be using china?" It seems rude.
Should I accept but then not drink the beverage if it is presented in a toxic cup? Or should I refuse all refreshment on the chance that the container might be lethal? If I carry a cup with me, might I produce my own receptacle on the offer of a drink, and ask that liquid be served in that?
GENTLE READER - Although she has never cared to have hot drink or food served to her in paper goods, Miss Manners had not heard the theory that styrofoam is lethal. Pray do not enlighten her on the subject.
You cannot travel about with your own cup, hoping for a liquid handout. The most she will allow you to do is to counter the informal offer with "You don't happen to have a mug around, do you?" and, if the reply is no, continuing, "Never mind, I really don't want any," as if you had changed your mind independently of the form of service.
DEAR MISS MANNERS - What is the proper way to eat a slice of pizza? For an adult to pick up a slice and bite it looks crude. Are you supposed to cut it in small bites and eat it with a fork?
GENTLE READER - A lot of factors go into determining the correct way to eat a particular food - where it is served, for example, and how it is cooked. Chicken at a picnic or fast-food establishment is eaten differently from chicken at a dinner party or a restaurant, for example, and sauteed chicken is eaten differently from fried chicken.
Now, there are gooey pizzas and pizzas that have been baked senseless. No one should have trouble eating the latter by hand under all but formal circumstances, but you are correct to guess that the age of the eater affects the way gooey pizza is eaten. Grown-ups with strings of cheese all over their faces look a lot worse than young people in the same condition. They should therefore employ forks on which to wind any hanging parts.
DEAR MISS MANNERS - A restaurant where we recently enjoyed lunch set a bread plate and an individual butter knife for each guest. Everyone used the individual knife to transfer butter from the butter dish to the bread plate. However, after seeing my friends fiddle with their butter knives on their bread, I felt compelled to resort to my dinner knife to spread my butter.
My mother feels that using a butter knife for both serving and spreading is correct then An individual butter knife is provided for each guest.
GENTLE READER - In an ideal world, there would be a butter spreader which each diner could use to transfer butter from the communal dish to the individual bread-and-butter plate. In restaurants, we all do the best we can.
Miss Manners is puzzled as to what seems to disgust you about knowing that the same butter knife that was in the common butter was also used to butter bread. Most restaurants serve butter in individual pats, rather than molds, and, anyway, it isn't as though your friends were licking their knives.
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.