DEAR MISS MANNERS: My fiance and I are fully furnished by way of traditional wedding gifts such as kitchen appliances, home-improvement items, etc. However, we are in need of cash to help us with a down payment for a new home. What is the proper way of letting our friends and relatives know that in lieu of wedding gifts, we would benefit more from money toward a down payment? Do we still need to register?
GENTLE READER: By all means. Miss Manners feels that registering with a reputable charity drive, if they will take you, is so much more dignified than going begging among your friends.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Who makes the rules, where can I find them spelled out, and why must I follow the purely arbitrary ones if they make life more difficult for all concerned?
For example, a friend recently chided me for not blackening the wicks of candles before setting them on the table. I think I understand why it is gauche to use utilitarian things as decorations, but since I was going to light the candles before we sat down, what was the necessity of preburning the wicks? She did not mention the copper watering can that I use as a vase on the patio for garden- and wildflowers. Is this subject to the utilitarian rule?
Also, it seems to have become popular for people who are being toasted to drink to themselves. It's a little odd. The idea of toasted parties offering the next toast to sort of get even doesn't seem popular anymore, either.
And why is it bad manners to lift a glass of water in a toast? There are always one or two people who, for whatever reason, are not consuming alcohol (and if the reason is a weight-reduction diet, they are not going to be drinking fruit juice or soda, either). Why must they be made conspicuous by not joining the toast? Can they use sparkling water with a bit of lemon? Who decides this (besides you, of course)?
Frankly, I think it is ruder to call attention to minor infractions that are neither unattractive nor offensive than to enforce them. But there's always someone who pipes in with a comment, and I don't know where he got his rules.
GENTLE READER: Be grateful for those rules. There is a major one that forbids calling attention to minor infractions that are neither unattractive nor inoffensive-- and Miss Manners doesn't know where your friends get their manners.
As you are kind enough to acknowledge, she is in charge of these things -- all but the ban on toasting with water, which is a superstition, not a rule of etiquette. Please be so kind as to inform your critics that she does not require their assistance. In addition to the big violation of annoying you, they are bad at infractions.
The blackened wick rule is to indicate that candles are not being used the pretentious way many people use guest towels -- for show only, never to serve their proper function. To put fresh candles on the table and light them before dinner is a perfectly proper procedure. And Miss Manners would really have to have run out of things to do to make a case against using a water can as a flowerpot.
The rule against drinking a toast to yourself will not be repealed, no matter how many people you see disobeying it. As you know, they are supposed to look modest and grateful, and then to propose a return toast. It strikes Miss Manners that the violators have a lot to be modest about.