DEAR MISS MANNERS: Could you tell me about the custom of "inviting up and gifting down?" An older friend, who is somewhat of a mentor to me, acted highly offended when I offered to take her to a very nice lunch. She claimed that we are not on equal levels and the most I could do to show my appreciation, until such time as I reach her lofty status, is to invite her to my wedding, which will not happen in the foreseeable future. My gift of lunch was extremely offensive. Is this archaic rule still followed, and why?
GENTLE READER: Sorry, but your friend is no longer allowed to be a mentor, even part-time. Miss Manners has revoked her license. We do not allow snobs to give etiquette instruction.
In spurning your kind invitation, she is misinformed as well as rude. The dictum she cites has to do with professional life, where the employee should not go after the boss socially, and the boss may give, but should not expect, presents. It does not apply among friends, if you still want to call this lady that.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I was hoping that you would be able to help me with a small dilemma that has come up. My fiance and I are planning our wedding, and things are going smoothly for the most part. We will be having a traditional wedding, including the bride being walked down the aisle and given away.
However, I have three father figures in my life. After my mother divorced my birth father, she married a wonderful man who was a good father to her children. Though my mother later left this husband, I maintained a close relationship with him.
Now that I am older, my mother's third husband, another delightful fellow, is also a very dear person in my life.
How am I to be walked down the aisle by my dad when I have three of them? All of them are very important to me, and I want them all to be there in a special way on this special day.
And who is it who gives me away? My mother and her current husband, leaving my father and first stepfather in the cold? Or my mother and birth father, leaving both of my stepfathers alone? All of my "fathers" get along with one another, as well as my mother, and they will all be there.
GENTLE READER: Your mother gives you away. She is the parent in whose custody you were consistently reared.
Considering how attached brides are to the custom of being given away, they seem woefully ignorant of its point, much less its history. Fathers traditionally gave brides away if they were heads of families. In the absence of a father, it was not considered necessary to go recruit another gentleman. The mother, as head of the family, would give the bride away.
The idea is to fit the positions to the family, not the other way around. This is why Miss Manners has condoned having two gentlemen give a bride away when she is equally close to biological and stepfathers. However, three would call more attention to your mother's marriages than your own.