Miss Manners on triad-introduction etiquette
As more people face dilemmas of proper social conduct at the poly-mundane interface, newspaper columnist Miss Manners (Judith Martin) offers some advice, and exhibits her usual discreet aplomb (week of July 10, 2008):
Three's a (possibly offensive) crowd
Dear Miss Manners:
My matron of honor, my sister, will be (if all goes well) six months pregnant at the time of my wedding. Her husband will be in attendance and will want to claim his place as the father of the child. However, their wife, one of my oldest friends, will also be in attendance with her then-15-week-old baby, also born of their shared husband.
While their lifestyle is not for me, I do not find it my place to condemn them, but rather to rejoice in the happiness my sister’s choice has brought her.
It is the concern of my fiance, however, that if their relationship comes to light, older and more conservative members of his family may look upon us with ill favor or denounce us outright since we did not denounce the three of them, opting instead to invite them to our union.
My own concern is that nobody there is so socially put out that they cannot enjoy themselves and celebrate with us our happy marriage whether that be the groom, fretting for his family relations; my brother-in-law, temporarily disavowing a great happiness in his life; or my fiance’s family, trying to figure out what the world has come to, or some such.
I agree with my sister that it might not become a direct issue if we did not announce their relationship to one another in introducing them, but as the newborn will be the only child at the wedding, and my sister will be the only (and obviously) pregnant woman, the parentage of both seems to be an obvious point of conversation.
It seems that it would disturb the fewest people to have my brother-in-law practice restraint of joy for a few hours, but that it would be a more openly joyous occasion if we were not putting effort into denying the truth, and another source of joy. I have agreed to abide by your judgment, and I believe that my sister’s family will, as well.
Dear Gentle Reader:
Since it took Miss Manners three readings of your letter to grasp the situation, she rather doubts that people who are busy drinking champagne and critiquing the wedding dress will be alert enough to understand it.
However, there is a precedent for dealing with the presence of wedding guests of whom others may not approve. And that is not to deal with it. You do not tell wedding guests how to present themselves, and you are not responsible for how other guests react to this. Your sister seems to be in favor of discretion. Your chance to exercise this admirable trait would be to introduce the lot of them merely as "my sister's family," followed by their names.
That's what I'd say too. This is much like the advice Miss Manners gave the last time she addressed a polys-at-the-party concern.
Labels: advice columns