Miss Manners’ Guide to a Surprisingly Dignified Wedding
by Judith Martin and Jacobina Martin
Review by ethical bride, Sylvia Stigge
I was thrilled when I received the Miss Manners' Guide. Naively, I assumed that it would be an Emily Post-style book that would provide much needed clarification on things such as invitation wording and how to properly address my friends and family. If this is what you are looking for, please place this book back on the shelf.
What's in a name?
After reading through all 287 pages, I have found only one piece of useful information, regarding how one wishes to be addressed after being wed. Traditionally, most women have opted to take their husband's last name. Today the options are endless. You can merge one another's names, hyphenate, keep your name, or opt for your husband to take your last name.
Once you have made the personal decision on how you wish to be named, you need a way of informing your family and friends. Miss Manners suggests that your wedding invitation include a card that lists you and your future husband's name and your address. This should give others a proper time to take note of your preferred name and will hopefully decrease the amount of awkward conversations on why you have or have not taken the traditional approach.
Down with the traditional wedding
Although this was a good piece of advice, the rest of the book has minimal practical application. Miss Manners (Judith and Jacobina Martin) uses most of the book to bemoan the wedding industry and curse brides for following common traditions. They admonish brides for placing a personal touch on their wedding, the idea of destination weddings, and using response cards in the invitation mailing (just to name a few).
Good points but less whining please
There were a few places where I acknowledged that Miss Manners was correct. For example, it is rude to send out registry cards or to demand that the wedding and celebration follow your vision with no room for compromise with your partner. In an age where Bridezillas is starting its 6th season with no end in sight, someone should remind us what is proper. Unfortunately, no one who hears this message will take the time to buy this book and the offensive, consistent chidings of Miss Manners simply falls on deaf ears.
Unless you want to hear someone whine about how weddings are not like they were generations ago, this book is definitely not for you.
Review by ethical bride, Anja Schmidt
Once you get used to the strict “school-mistress” type tone used throughout, this book can be very amusing. It is largely a series of agony-aunt-style letters to Miss Manners who always writes in the second person and begins her replies “Gentle reader….”. Amongst the letters and their replies is a smattering of general advice, straight from the horse’s mouth, usually at the start of each chapter.
It's MY day
Miss Manners makes it clear early on that she abhors the recent introduction of the phrase 'It's my day' frequently uttered by the bridezilla-type and usually followed by “and I want/I’ll have”. As Miss Manners rightly argues surely it should be “our day” anyhow? She is also very scathing about attempts by couples to “personalize” their wedding with themes, videos, blogs, signature drinks, jokey self-written vows vs. “time-honoured words” and so on.
Gimme your wallet
In the chapter entitled “The Presents” Miss Manners makes it clear she is vehemently anti couples registering for gift lists and absolutely cannot tolerate people asking for money, however this request is dressed up. One very short letter simply asks her “What would be the tactful way to say “no presents but a money tree”?” to which Miss Manners’ equally simple yet caustic reply is, “Never mind all that junk – just gimme your wallet”!
I felt some of her views were rather old fashioned. After all, who doesn’t have some form of gift list/honeymoon contribution request these days, especially as many guests are insistent on giving something and seem to prefer some form of guidance? However, Miss Manners’ arguments against “registering” were very interesting and certainly influenced how we worded this section on our own invite inserts.
Rather than having what seems to be a standard (from weddings I have attended in recent years) separately enclosed card with the gift list number, store contact details and so on we decided to be less vulgar by sandwiching the relevant information amongst the local taxi numbers and accommodation options of an A4 self-printed insert.
We also stressed that we were not actually expecting any form of gift and that the invitees' presence on our special day was what was important to us. We also found her invitation templates useful when deciding on our invitation wording and layout.
A parent's perspective
Since the authors are American there was bound to be an American slant with views given on “bridal showers” and “bachelorette parties”. However, the vast majority of scenarios are applicable to an equivalent British tradition. I particularly liked the expression “bridal porn” which can certainly equally be applied to the vast array of wedding magazines available in the UK.
I must say I did, however, find it slightly irritating that the views tended to be somewhat biased towards the parent’s perspective, for example, saying that it is only natural for the couple’s parents to invite several of their friends to the wedding. Since the book is written by a mother and her recently married daughter perhaps this is not surprising.
A good read
Overall I found this to be a funny, informative and interesting read and would recommend it to any bride and groom, especially in the early stages of their wedding planning.