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Dad’s new girlfriend a part of child’s life

Judith Martin

Dear Miss Manners: My ex-husband and I were together for five years. Even though he wanted the divorce, it took him nearly two years to move on. He recently started dating someone again, and I am happy for him. (I kept urging him to move on – we are still friends.)

He recently sent our son a card, and his new girlfriend signed it. They have been dating (to my knowledge) less than two months. Am I being overly sensitive, or is this tacky?

What is the proper etiquette when dealing with a father’s girlfriend, who the child has never met (they live across country)?

Gentle Reader: Before Miss Manners admits that this is questionable, she would like to know what use you plan to make of the information. The correct answer would be “none.”

Yes, a child should not be confronted with a stranger taking the unwarranted, or at least premature, position of a stepparent. But let it go. Trust Miss Manners, you do not want to get into this with someone whose manners are not under your jurisdiction and who may, indeed, turn out to become a stepparent.

Dear Miss Manners: My fiance and I are on a tight budget and are planning a small, family-only wedding. My mother would like to throw us an engagement party, a work buddy wants to give me a shower, and I’d love to have a bachelorette party with my girlfriends.

Many people that would attend these events would not be invited to the wedding. I’ve heard from several sources that to not invite these people to the wedding is the height of rudeness.

Is that true? Do I really have to give up these special events because my fiance and I can’t afford a big wedding? Please help.

Gentle Reader: Help with what? The notion that every bride is entitled to a series of parties? And that people are happy to attend such events even if their presence is not sought for the wedding itself?

What you have to keep making clear is that you are not favoring some friends over others, in which case it would be extraordinarily rude to expect the unchosen to do the minor celebrations only to be excluded from the main one.

What you are doing, you must explain, is being married privately, with only family present. It would be in bad taste to plead budget considerations – there are people who simply prefer not to surround their marriage ceremonies with extravaganzas.

Then talk to your mother about who, in her circle and yours, are close enough to be delighted if she says something like, “Emmeline will be married with just the family there, but I’m throwing a little party where she and Emmet can see the people we care about.”

You should permit the work shower only if it is customary in your office to mark colleagues’ weddings in this small way without further expectations. And as for showers and other gatherings of your friends – they are not for you to propose. Should friends come forth and offer to give them, confining their guest lists to those who understand the situation, Miss Manners will not object.

Write to Miss Manners at missm anners@unitedmedia.com.
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