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June 14, 2001: A hint for premarital bliss

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It's that time of year again - when florists are frantically arranging sprays of blooms, bakers are concocting fanciful creations so overdone with sugary frosting and detail they could put a diabetic into a coma, and women all over the world are being asked by their best friends and closest relatives - and agreeing - to wear clothes that they normally wouldn't be caught dead in. Yep, it's marriage season, and this means that you, the friends and relatives of those who are about to join the world of nuptial bliss, are probably getting some of those lovely invitations in the mail. You know the ones - they come in two envelopes and have that ridiculous translucent paper in them, and took an awfully long time to stuff.

Yes, that's nice, you're saying. So what? I got this invitation to my best friend's sister's wedding and I'm gonna go. Might be an amusing way to kill a Saturday afternoon, ya know?

See, we just sent out the invitations for our wedding, and so far, the folks on the invitee list seem to all be (for the most part) really good at this etiquette stuff. However, since I'm a bride myself and I've been hearing / reading all the horror stories for years and years with all my friends and relations, I have a bit of sympathy for all those women out there who are - like me - currently waist-deep in flowers, seating arrangements, musical interludes, frantic searches for just the right shade of paper napkin, and really ugly unity candles.

So to make sure that all the other brides out there have one less reason for that nervous breakdown prior to the wedding, let's drag out our handy dandy etiquette book and see what they have to say about you, the wedding guest. Trot down to your local library and search for Emily Post (because, like it or not, I'm not making any of this up), or you can just take my word for it. Up to you. But anyway, where was I?

Oh yes, the invitation. It came, you opened it up, you either gagged over the cherubic little 'Precious Moment's bride and groom done in pastel shiny ink, went cross-eyed trying to read the print, or double-checked the names until you remembered just who the heck these people are. And then you marked the date down in your calendar and you figured out a day to head out and get the happy couple some lovely gift, and you assumed you were all set, right?

Sorry. Nope. You're not all set until you take that cute little envelope that was inside the invitation - you know, the one on top of that ridiculous little scrap of vellum - and you send it back.

See, the bride and/or her mom didn't stuff that little thing in there just for fun. It really serves a purpose - and the importance of that tiny little card and envelope hinges on two things: numbers and food. Yes, that's right. They've got to figure out how much food to tell the caterer to make, so that everyone gets their fair share of pastel-dyed mashed potatoes, wilted spinach salad, and, of course, the cake, and then numbers are important because fire marshals tend to get upset when you try to put too many people into a reception hall without a special permit.

And yes, even if you're not coming, you still need to send it in. C'mon, it's already stamped and everything. All you have to do is find a pen (well, okay, for some of us that can be a challenge, I'll admit), check the 'regrets' or 'accepts' box, write down the names if you intend to go, seal it up, and toss it into the nearest mailbox. See? Piece of cake.

Oh yeah. I said 'write down the names', didn't I. Better clarify that.

Take a look at that invitation. Chances are it came in two envelopes. The outer one had your mailing address, and if you're lucky, some charming little embossed dove on the outer seal. The inner one is the important one here, so if you were thinking of tossing it, think again. It's important because that's the one that says *who* is invited.

Yes, I said 'who'. Just because you single people out there got invited to a wedding, it doesn't mean you necessarily get to bring a date. If they intended for you to bring someone, they'll have either written his or her name down underneath yours, or written 'and one guest'. If your name shows up all by itself, then - you guessed it - you're expected to show up all by yourself. If you truly can't bear the thought of attending without your precious snookiewookums in tow, then call the bride and ask - politely - if it's alright. But don't get offended if she says no, and for pete's sake, don't just assume it's okay to bring him or her along anyway!. Chances are likely that she's already had to whittle down the guest list and exclude lots of other people she, the groom, or their parents really wanted to come.

Oh, and a special note for those of you with kids. Look closely at that inner envelope and then count the names. Wife....husband....oops? No kids? Must have been an oversight, right? Guess again. If they wanted to invite your children, the names of the little dears would have been listed right there underneath yours and your spouse's. So if those names only include just the two of you, then either your little angels get to stay home all by themselves, or else it's time to refresh your memory on just what kind of exorbitant rate that baby sitter of yours is charging you these days.

'But it's not right to exclude the kids,' you complain. Or 'you can't expect me to show up alone, can you?' Here's a news flash for you. Weddings Cost Money. Weddings are not public parties where anyone gets to come. They are private, invitation-only events, and the people throwing them have every right to invite or not invite anyone they so please. Remember what I said about whittling down the guest list? Your kids may not have been invited, or you may have been asked to come alone so that they'd have room to be able to invite the groom's favorite Great-Aunt Flo. Yes, it's 'just one person', for you, but when 20 people show up with their 'just one person', or ten people show up with their children in tow, it changes fairly rapidly from 'just one person' to a wedding coordinator's worst catering and seating nightmare.

So go easy on them this summer, okay? Send in your RSVP, show up with only the people you were asked to bring, pity the bridesmaids and their apparel silently, be ready to hand an extra tissue to your seat-neighbor when that particularly mushy bit of poetry is read during the ceremony, and above all, be polite, and be nice. That's really what that whole etiquette thing is all about, anyway.

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