DEAR MISS MANNERS: What is the etiquette for a family member (a mother-in-law) who gets married out of the blue, and tells everyone two and a half months later? Do we send a card, or a gift?
We have never heard of the man that is now her husband. They will not even reside in the same state. I personally do not consider this a marriage, and neither does my husband. However, I would like to know what is the correct etiquette, and I don't think there is a modern-enough book that covers such a situation as this.
GENTLE READER: That is because all the traditional books already cover how the immediate family should react, after the fact, to a marriage, especially an elopement, it considers wrong on the part of one of its members. The only modern twist is that now it is more likely to be the children of the bride or bridegroom, rather than the parents, who think they should have a say in the choice.
From whichever direction, the correct attitude to be taken by the aggrieved relative is the same -- unless the bride is not of legal age to take a husband, which does not seem to be the case with your mother-in-law. It is to say, "I wish you great happiness," unclenching the teeth by force, if that is necessary in order to say this in a reasonably pleasant tone.
Generations of parents have discovered that this saves a great deal of wear and tear on all concerned. At the same time, many who do not take this advice have discovered that if the marriage fails, their having vehemently opposed it does nothing to ingratiate them with the relative whose foolishness they so accurately predicted.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: We are eloping in May, and are sending out announcements after the fact. We live in a studio and cannot possibly fit any more "stuff" into it.
Does anybody have a good way to request gifts of money? We are thinking about putting up a personal Web site about the wedding (with the Web address on our "we're hitched" announcement) and maybe having a link to Paypal. Is this really offensive? Any ideas?
GENTLE READER: You may be surprised to hear that Miss Manners is not in the extortion business, so she cannot advise you how to do this. But if she were, she might ask herself not only whether soliciting such funds is offensive (yes) but whether it is likely to be persuasive (doubtful).
Not that your plea of having too much stuff doesn't touch her heart, mind you. But neither that nor the fact that someone has gotten married without requesting her presence moves her to charitable largesse.
The inoffensive thing is to ignore the issue of possible gain. You may even do better in the end by leaving this to the voluntary generosity of your family and friends, and discreetly using the Internet to auction off the take.