DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am trying to save a friendship from a big social blunder. Please tell me if there is more I can do to make amends.
My husband and I have been friends for several years with another couple, one of whom is Jewish. We have spent several holidays together, including Passover Seders at their home. This year we received an invitation to attend the Seder from this couple. However, it was to be held at the house of a third couple we did not know well. We never received an invitation directly from the host couple.
For several reasons, it felt awkward to attend this event. We were feeling very stressed from our jobs, and not very social. However, we delayed making a decision about attending, so did not respond to either couple.
A few days before the event, my husband decided he did not want to attend. He said he didn't want to attend a Seder because he "wasn't Jewish." On the day before the Seder, the husband of the couple called us to see if we were coming. I said we were not, and very unwisely repeated my husband's reason, which he repeated to his wife.
The wife is very offended at the remark, and at our "canceling at the last minute." She told me this briefly when I forced a conversation, but she would not speak to my husband when he tried to talk with her. I wrote both of them a letter apologizing for our untimely response to their invitation and for my husband's thoughtless remark and my thoughtlessness in repeating it. I have said we respect her religion and are sorry to have caused offense. I have expressed a wish to continue the friendship.
There has been no response.
I cannot think of anything else to do. We encounter this couple regularly in social situations, and so the awkwardness continues. We feel sad that our thoughtlessness has caused us to lose a friendship.
GENTLE READER: First you insulted these people by ignoring their invitation. Then you insulted them by blaming your rudeness on the difference in religion. Plus you insulted them retroactively by indicating that you had not enjoyed their previous hospitality in the years that you did attend their Seders.
Miss Manners is afraid that this is not a small "whoops" that you can easily rescue. Or that you may be able to rescue at all. Short of claiming that your identities were stolen, there is no excuse for such responses to people whose only crime was to invite you to share a significant occasion.
She suggests conducting a campaign of abject apologies in which you toss in as many ways of blaming yourselves as possible. That, for example, you were afraid you would embarrass them in front of their friends because you knew so little about the occasion, even after those beautiful Seders you enjoyed with them in the past, and had meant to study up, but then...
Wait. It is not Miss Manners' job to find ways for you to grovel -- it is yours, and very much your husband's. Both of you should be doing that -- by letter, as they do not wish to talk to you about it.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I plan to have an open bar and high-school steel-drum band during the cocktail hour of my wedding reception. Gratuity is included in the amount I will pay the bartenders. I will also be paying the band, but it is a public school band, so, as you know, they are always in search of and in need of funding. Would it be rude to include in the program "Please do not tip the bartenders. However, please feel free to show the band your appreciation."
GENTLE READER: To give a fund-raising event for the school band would be an excellent idea, in Miss Manners' opinion. To give a wedding and instruct your guests to tip the people you have hired is not.