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In weddings ostentation is not elegance

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have both a son and daughter planning weddings within the next 2 1/2 years. They and my future son- and daughter-in-law are worrying and wondering about how to settle on a list of guests that includes as many family members as possible, but doesn’t make the cost impossible.

They aren’t looking for anything extravagant, but neither side of the family has any money to speak of, so it’s going to take a big effort on everyone’s part to pull off two modest weddings.

My husband and I both have exceptionally large families – I have five siblings and he has nine. Obviously that makes for a huge number of aunts and uncles and cousins. It has become a question of stress and concern, and we would love your guidance. Several possible solutions have been discussed, but none seem ideal. Can you please tell us a way to include everyone we should, still allowing for an event a little more formal than a cookout? My kids are caring, earnest people who each want to have a lovely, memorable reception without hurting anyone’s feelings.

GENTLE READER: Your family’s priorities are exactly the opposite of those held by most people who are planning weddings. It is now widely believed that one should first decide on the desired place, the food, the music and such, and then figure out from the cost how many people to invite.

Because you understand that is upside-down planning, and that the guests are more important than the expensive trappings, Miss Manners is especially delighted to inform you that your children may have weddings that are not only formal, but more charmingly so than the standard weddings of today.

A vast wedding industry has convinced people that a proper wedding consists of a multicourse dinner and dancing through the night, in addition to auxiliary events for days before and after.

But ostentation does not produce elegance. Traditionally, the weddings of those who could afford anything were held in the daytime, followed by a tea. As this needn’t require more than tea sandwiches, cake and champagne or punch, you will be able to invite everyone.



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