A term now in common usage that puzzles Miss Manners is “a real wedding.”
She recalls from 19th-century drama what a sham wedding was: A cad would persuade a virtuous lady to elope, produce an impostor to act as a clergyman and pretend to marry them, and shortly after, abandon her to ruin. The planning always seemed to take more time than the enjoyment.
More recently, and more sympathetically, people who were not legally allowed to marry held ersatz weddings, called commitment ceremonies, to mark their unions.
Silly Miss Manners would have thought that a “real wedding” was one in which a couple actually got married in a legal and optionally religious ceremony. Some sort of celebration almost always follows, but while that is called a “wedding reception” or a “wedding breakfast,” it is an add-on.
But now people want to divorce the marriage from the wedding. What they mean by a “wedding” is only the pageantry. The white dress, the costumed attendants, the “giving away,” the huge cake and, of course, the presents — these may be produced without benefit of matrimony.
These events are not staged so often by couples with no intention of actually marrying (although there are instances) as they are by couples who are already married. Some are recently married and want to repeat the event for different spectators; others are long married but complain that they now want the trappings they missed at the time.
The targeted “real wedding” guests are no more charmed by this than Miss Manners. It seems that the emotional element of witnessing a binding union is essential. The legal part is so crucial that emotions do not seem to be dampened when the bride and bridegroom have previously been living as a couple. Miss Manners cannot blame them for their lack of enthusiasm for reruns.
Dear Miss Manners: The other night, when we were having dinner at our neighbors’ house, my husband, without checking with me first, told our neighbors that they could help themselves to anything they wanted to harvest from our garden.
I was not happy about that at the time but didn’t know how to say that I didn’t want them helping themselves to my hard work. I am happy to share with them, but I would like to pick the veggies myself and take them over to them as a gift. I would also like to have plenty to give to my family members and other neighbors, too.
Now, I am finding that not only are there not enough veggies to share, there are not any for me! When I go to pick the nice tomato that I have been watching ripen, it has been picked! This happens repeatedly.
Is there any polite way I can rescind my husband’s offer?
No, but he can do so. If you tell the pickers that he was unauthorized to make the offer, you will sound mean. If he says sheepishly, “I should have asked my wife what she wanted you to leave,” he will sound sweet.
Of course this is unfair. Miss Manners wants you to know only how people react.
New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on washingtonpost.com/advice. You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, missmanners.com.