DEAR MISS MANNERS: My parents have generously offered to pay for our wedding. My mother also offered to take on the job of preparing invitations, about 200, for which I am very grateful. She selected wonderful tasteful invitations, and I was very pleased.
However, my mother-in-law saw the invitations and erupted in tears. The invitations stated: Mr and Mrs. Bride's Parents invite you to attend the wedding of daughter and fiance.
My mother-in-law has been divorced twice, and she told my fiance and his brother that she believed that my parents did not list her name on the invitation because of her divorced status.
I am furious. My parents would never do such a thing.
I am certain that my mother consulted etiquette guidelines when she selected the language and form for the invitations. Question Number One: Were the invitations properly drafted given that my parents are paying for the wedding?
Question Two: How shall I handle this personally with my future mother-in-law? Right now I feel angry and insulted that she would accuse my parents of such an action.
GENTLE READER: Your prospective mother-in-law's notion that her name was omitted because of her divorces is only pathetic. What is insulting to your mother is your own notion that she might think she has bought exclusive rights to be on the invitation by paying for the wedding.
That fact is that this is a simple misunderstanding about the traditional wording of a bridal invitation and a common, practical variation of it.
The form dates from when a single young lady was married from her parents' roof and protection -- a situation that, while rarely true nowadays, is still honored in the custom of the father's giving the bride away. So they -- not the couple, and not both sets of parents -- did the inviting as the hosts of the wedding.
The bridegroom did not need family identification because he was likely from the same town, or at least had conducted the courtship under the eyes of all who were likely to be wedding guests. All of them had long since inquired, "Who are his people?"
Now that brides live and choose husbands where they please, the bridegroom's family's guests may be puzzled to receive an invitation from people they don't know. So his parents' names are sometimes included. Or they may include a personal card with the invitations they send.
Miss Manners recommends that you and your mother gently explain the misunderstanding to your prospective mother-in-law, and offer to change the wording or suggest that she include her card. Or you could turn this into a full-fledged family feud poisoning your wedding, not to mention your married life.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I very recently gave birth to a stillborn baby boy. My friends and co-workers have all been very thoughtful and sympathetic; we have been sent flowers, plants, cards and meals. My problem is that I'm not sure how to phrase the thank-you cards to them. Somehow, "Thank you for the lovely plant and for your prayers" doesn't seem quite enough, yet I can't think of what else to add.
GENTLE READER: "They meant a great deal to me." Sometimes, Miss Manners assures you, the most conventional statements are both true and welcome.