Dear Zadie:  My mother has learned that several friends and a couple of cousins will not be attending my wedding for various reasons.  I haven’t sent my invitations yet, but my mother and I are wondering if it’s proper etiquette to send invitations to people we know will not attend?  It is my mother’s opinion people will think we are asking for gifts if we send an invitation when we know they will not be attending.  I think it is rude to let people know about the wedding and then not send an invitation.  We need a third opinion, Zadie.  The time to address and mail my invitations is coming up quickly.


Dear Maybe-Yes-Maybe-No:  Just invite them.  You and your mother are over-thinking a simple problem.  If these are people who would be invited under normal circumstances—then invite them.  It shouldn’t matter whether they have told you they will not attend.  Situations and circumstances change.  Cover it all by sending an invitation.


There is very little innocence in the invitations/asking for gifts situation.  To most people (Zadie NOT included) an invitation equals send a gift no matter what.  Zadie does not necessarily subscribe to that dictum.  I do agree that if you receive an invitation and plan to attend, you respond promptly, and send/take a gift.



Dear Zadie:  In planning the floral decor for our wedding, our florist wishes to construct a flower-covered arbor as part of an altar at our garden wedding.  When we described this to my great-grandmother, she was surprised and asked if people would think it is a chuppah.  (We are not Jewish.)  Now I’m wondering.  Somehow, I just don’t think that matters.  I have been to a couple of weddings where the chuppah was astoundingly gorgeous and I would love to have one just like either one of those, but my budget won’t accommodate that kind of cost.  I told my grandmother I would write and get your opinion since I think you two are probably the same age.


Dear Cultural Questioner:  First, as soon as the protestant minister or catholic priest enters and opens his mouth, I am certain no one will think the arbor is a chuppah.  Besides in this day and age, couples pick and choose their customs.  While I have never heard of a protestant couple having a chuppah, I am certain somewhere, somehow it has happened.  Tell your great-grandmother that Zadie sends word not to worry.



Dear Zadie:  My fiancé and I are planning a late spring wedding.  We have asked our attendants and all have accepted.  Here is my problem:  Two of my attendants live in New York City and traveling to Phoenix will be very expensive for them.  Am I obligated to pay their air fare to attend the showers and the wedding?  My wedding budget is pretty tight and paying those air fares will mean really cutting on other parts of my wedding.  No one has asked yet, but I am sure they are wondering.


Dear Tightly Budgeted:  Zadie has some good news and probably some bad news, too.  First off, the bridesmaids are responsible for their bridesmaids’ dresses, shoes, underwear, jewelry, hotel, all food except that served at official wedding parties, transportation while in town for the wedding AND travel to and from the wedding city.  I think this may be bad news because the list I just gave you is a pretty expensive one.  Do not be surprised if one or more bridesmaids drop out as they figure how much it will all cost.  In addition, they may not be able to attend your showers.


It is Zadie’s never to be humble opinion, that unless you have unlimited resources and all your friends share the same wealthy status, it might be better to have invited the two friends from New York to attend as guests; and invite some friends locally to stand up with you.  That said, if you have a little extra cash, it might be a lovely gesture to offer to pay some small part of their expenses.  The rules of who pays for what are not written in stone.  They are guidelines to be adjusted to fit the circumstances.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          



Dear Zadie:  I apologize right off for how complicated this question is, but I really need an answer.  Recently, I received a lovely wedding present from a distant cousin.  Before I could write the thank you (yes, I am writing them as quickly as I can!) my mother called and told me my cousin’s mother died right after she sent the present.  My mother insists I include a word of condolence in the thank you note.  Somehow, this just strikes me as really awkward:  “Thanks for the blender.  Sorry to hear about your mom.”  Do you have any suggestions for graciously acknowledging both situations?


Dear Gracious Cousin:  First off.  Congratulations on the thank you notes.  Finally, a bride has heard me!  Zadie would handle the situation thusly:  First, find a lovely sympathy card.  Write a couple of nice words, such as:  I am thinking of you in this difficult time.  Sign your name and mail it.  Write the thank you note, stamp and put it on the corner of your desk.  Wait three days and then mail it.  Now you have graciously covered both situations.  Better to be thought of as wanton with stamps rather than send one awkward note that really might strike your cousin as a little callous.



Dear Zadie:  My two daughters and I have been invited to attend the shower of a dear friend’s daughter. Can you tell me the average cost of a shower gift?  Should there be three gifts from us or can we do one big one?  I don’t want to seem extravagant nor do I wish to appear cheap.  I will appreciate any information you can give me, please.


Dear Gift-giver:  Showers are fraught with huge potholes for the average, well-intentioned novice to navigate.  In Zadie’s Book of Rules for Life, one is never expected to give an expensive gift she cannot afford.  The potholes are those set up by society mavens years ago and are still followed.  For instance, those stupid games!  Second, opening the gifts while everyone watches.  That just strikes Zadie as impossibly rude.  Showers should avoid making people uncomfortable about what they have given. 


Why not consider this agenda for the shower?  Welcome everyone, thank them for coming, introduce the bridal party, mothers of the bride and groom and other important guests.  Serve lunch with a glass of wine to relax everyone, followed by coffee, cake or dessert. And close with a short social hour where guests can mingle and converse with new acquaintances and old friends.  Leave the gift opening for later and don’t forget to write your thank you notes.


Now, to your questions.  Call the bride’s mother and ask where the bride is registered.  Select a gift from the list and buy it.  Sign the card from the three of you.  Or buy three modest gifts that coordinate.  As in a blender from you, and a couple of attachments from your daughters.  That way you have spent about fifty to seventy five dollars.  It is a good, useful gift and you have not broken the bank.  If you can afford a more expensive gift, by all means, buy it.  The whole point is to fall in the middle of the gift range.  Not over-the-top and not cheap either.


Zadie thanks all the wonderful readers who have sent questions and comments this month.  She hopes all of you enjoy her column.  If you have a question…Write!  Now, to pour that lovely glass of wine for herself.


Your mannered friend,


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