February 16, 2009 in Features

Miss Manners: Follow protocol when inviting guest of guest

Judith Martin
 

A stranger is stalking wedding guest lists: The Guest Once Removed.

This is not someone whom the bridal couple or their families thought to invite or who is likely to have any emotional attachment to the occasion. Pressure from those on the regular guest list who regard a wedding as being a sort of prom that would be no fun without a date has created the expectation that single guests are entitled to bring their own guests.

Miss Manners is all for inviting coupled wedding guests as couples – indeed, there is a new rudeness, which she is trying to stamp out, of inviting only half of an established couple. Those who are married, engaged or otherwise firmly attached must be asked in tandem to social events (as opposed to office gatherings, which are still office gatherings, no matter how many drinks are served).

This is not the same as being expected to surrender control of a guest list to the guests themselves, with the result that the bridal couple may have no idea who will be showing up to attend this momentous event in their lives.

As a strictly optional choice, if they are feeling generous, they can certainly ask their unattached guests if there is someone they would like to bring, extract that person’s name and use it to issue another invitation. The considerate way to do this is individually, so that no guest feels pressured to bring a date or embarrassed about suggesting a nondate, such as a friend, local host or caretaker.

Nor should any such person feel the humiliation of being a second-class guest. Issuing invitations in these people’s own names, done as a courtesy to the unknown friends of friends, is the gracious way to indicate that such people are accepted.

They must then be treated with the courtesies due to all guests. Miss Manners has been told dreadful stories of guests’ guests being told they cannot fully partake in the festivities. One such young lady was told by the bride that she would be allowed to attend the reception only if one of the A-list guests failed to show up. Another was criticized for unintentionally catching the bridal bouquet when it came her way, and again for not turning it over to a “real” guest.

For their own sakes, those who have been invited by guests, rather than by hosts, should make sure that their benefactors were authorized to do this. Even then, it would be wise to write a note to the bride, along the lines of “Ethan has asked me to accompany him to your wedding. I would consider it a great honor to attend, but I would also understand if his enthusiasm has over-run any boundaries. In any case, I send you my very best wishes for your happiness.”

Such a gesture establishes that you do not regard her wedding as a public event at which you can amuse yourself without having an interest in the marriage taking place. And when a bride considers how many people on her list did not even respond to her invitation, she is likely to appreciate someone who took the trouble to write such a letter.

Readers may write to Miss Manners at MissManners@unitedmedia.com, or via postal mail at United Media, 200 Madison Ave., 4th Floor, New York, NY 10016 or (in black or blue-black ink on white writing paper) to Miss Manners, in care of this newspaper.


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