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Modern Manners + Etiquette: Anniversary, Wedding + Funeral Etiquette

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


Wedding gift challenges are just part of the big event quandaries handled deftly by Didi Lorillard this week.

Solving etiquette dilemmas and squabbles when there's a Cheapskate Sibling Who Won't Send a Wedding Present, a Family Party Scheduling Conflict, a Best Friend Snubbed for Sending Her Wedding Gift Late, and Your Husband's Parents Won't Acknowledge Your Mother's Death, were all questions at Didi Lorillard's Modern Manners this week.

Dear Didi,

What do you say when you invited your brother and his wife to your son's expensive wedding and he never gave a gift, although he keeps promising one? J.M., Philadelphia

Dear J.M.,
The situation now calls for humor. Sometimes you can humor someone into anting up by saying something such as this, "If you can't find a wedding present good enough for your nephew, then write him a check. Whatever you can afford. It is the thought that counts." In other words, we don't care how much you spend, just do it. ~Didi

Dear Didi,

My husband and I have been married 25 years this August 17th, which is on a Saturday. Most of our friends will be on vacation that week as it is also the UK Bank Holiday weekend on the 24th. Our kids go back to school in the first week of September, so I'd really like to throw a party on the 31st of August to celebrate our 25th. However, my brother-in-law announced two weeks ago when we saw them at New Years that he is getting married on the 31st, although they have not yet sent out invitations, just 'save the day' cards.

My husband just got mad at me when I tried to speak to him about this dilemma. What is your advice? I feel it has been hard work reaching our 25th, and this year of all years I am determined to mark the date significantly—if I can. C.B., Surrey, United Kingdom

Dear C.B.,
Can you schedule your anniversary party to fall earlier in the summer? That's what I would do, if I were you. Get a start on the summer. Not many couples actually celebrate their anniversary on the exact date, either for work-related reasons or for a reason such as yours—a scheduling conflict. By all means jump the gun on the celebration, because until the date of your anniversary, you'll still be in your 25th year. So why not mark this significant year? Good going on that! ~Didi

Dear Didi,

My best friend and I have been friends for over 40 years. Her son recently got married and I attended his wedding with my family. She is angry and hurt that I didn't give a gift at the wedding. I sent one out a week or so after the wedding. I got a thank-you note from the bride and groom, but still she doesn't want me as her friend anymore. I would like to know how long after the wedding is it proper etiquette to send a gift of cash, etc., to the newlyweds? The reason I didn't give a card at the wedding is that I heard a lot of horror stories about how someone steals the gift box with all the cards. I would like my best friend back. It seems dumb to throw a lifetime of friendship away over this. Any help would be appreciated. D.F., Providence, RI

Dear D.F.,
It sounds as though there may have been some sort of unfortunate wager between the wedding couple's families to see which family would bring in the most booty. By the way—etiquette-wise—a guest has up to a year to send a wedding gift.

The reason for the long time span is because often guests are struggling through college and funds are limited, so a period of grace is given to the giver. Also, when a guest is invited to lots of weddings in a short period of time, there is a strain on the guest's budget. Sending a gift a week or so later is not considered tardy.

Don't give up on your best friend. Invite her for coffee or lunch and tell her what you told me. Say you didn't understand that it was about "the take" and which family brought in the most booty the fastest. Add that—in fact—guests have up to a year to send a gift. You might also add that if she had told you that you were expected to anti up at the wedding, you would have complied, but you didn't have that information.

In fact most wise guests—these days—send a gift from the bridal registry list to the wedding couple's home. The reason for this is just as you stated. Bringing a boxed gift or envelope with money or gift card can be dicey. Far too often it can go astray and then what proof do you have that you brought a gift? With a bridal registry, the store has a record of every present sent.

You also might consider that your best friend may be feeling sad because she's dwelling on thinking that she is losing her son. Women are brooders. Be supportive, give her some space, but continue to sustain the relationship. If she doesn't accept your first invitation, don't give up, ask her a second and third time until she accepts your friendship. ~Didi

Dear Didi,

My mother passed away last April. I have been married for 24 years and my mother-in law and father-in-law have never acknowledged my mother's death. Not a phone call, a card or even a mention of it in person. We had a good relationship but I am very hurt by their actions—it is as though her death didn't matter. I just do not know how to handle this as it is affecting my feelings about them and I no longer wish to be around them. I realize my mother had a good, long life—she passed away at 95, but her age shouldn't make a difference. Should my husband say something to them or should I? A.R., Newport

Dear A.R.,

Your instinct to have your husband mention your mother's death to his parents is the best solution. By him saying something such as this, "My wife (He would use your name.) was very close to her mother and she is very fond of both of you. I know she would appreciate hearing from you. It would mean a great deal to her if you talked to her about her mother or sent her a card or note."

In my experience, it is always more effective when the husband talks to his parents. In a friendly way—with the intention of reminding them that it would be a sweet thing to do—he can ask them to send their daughter-in-law a sympathy card or note, because she misses her mother very much. ~Didi


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