I’d like to think I’m a pretty easygoing person by nature, but I often find myself scratching my head wondering if I’m the only one who grasps rules of etiquette in social situations. Wedding season is upon us. Yesterday I received an invitation to an August wedding, sadly addressed to me and my ex. After I recovered from the pang of sadness and nostalgia, disappointment set in that I would be attending the wedding alone. This morning, I mentioned to a coworker that I received this unfortunately worded invitation and her immediate response was “well, at least this opens you up to bring a guest!” Um, no. That’s not how it works. “and Guest” means bring whomever you’d like. When there are specific names on the invitation, that’s who is invited. You don’t get to sub in someone else. I explained this and quickly felt pedantic. Am I too uptight about this or is it generally understood?
Towards the end of my relationship last summer, in the throes of that awful purgatory of “do I stay or do I go”, my then partner received an invitation to his brother-in-law’s son’s wedding. It was addressed to my partner “& guest”. His mother received an invitation addressed the same way. I asked my partner if we were going to attend the wedding. Was his mother going? This is when he informed me that they decided his mother’s guest would be my partner’s thirteen year old son so that we could “all go together.” Hold up, wait a minute. Children fall into their own category in regard to wedding invitations. They should either be listed by name, or a general “and family” indicates that children are welcome. They are not meant to be an (seventy year old)adult invitee’s plus one. I informed my partner of this and he shrugged it off, stating that they probably just “forgot” about his son because “planning a wedding is stressful and you don’t think of everybody.” Hmm. I’d rather think all invited parties are deliberately chosen. Nevermind the fact that many people wish to have an adult-only wedding. Still, my partner stood firm and thought he would make things better by reaching out to the groom (through the groom’s stepmother, my partner’s sister) and asking if it was ok for the son to attend. Oh dear lord, can we make this situation any worse!? This is a no-win situation: either the groom will acquiesce and say sure it’s fine, or you’re putting him in a position to potentially offend a guest by saying no when the question should never be asked in the first place! My unease mounted when I saw the groom’s own sister make a post on Facebook about how disappointed she was that her brother’s wedding was adult only and therefore she wouldn’t be able to take her son (the groom’s own nephew). The day of the wedding, I made a final attempt to convince my partner we should leave the son at home while we attended the wedding and he told me it was fine for him to attend because he “wasn’t like most kids” (ie he’s much more mature, “adult-like”, etc.) and therefore is an exception to any “rule”. In fact, my partner had the idea somehow that there would be other youngsters in attendence. Furthermore, my partner’s sister stated that if we weren’t going to take him, she would pick him up and bring him herself. I briefly considered skipping the wedding and letting them attend the adult-only wedding with an uninvited teenager, but decided I would suck it up and go. I’m not sure which etiquette breach would have been worse: RSVP’ing “yes” to a wedding and being a no-show, or inviting a kid. So I attended. And felt incredibly awkward and uncouth as the stepmom of the only person under the age of 21 at the entire large wedding, complicit in this madness. For what it’s worth, I learned that evening that metal table stands make excellent cymbals – something an incredibly mature, adult, exception to the rule teenager taught me sometime during the photo slide show.