DEAR MISS MANNERS: My brother is remarrying this summer, and he and his fiancee are inviting only their immediate families to the wedding and reception.
I would like to host a bridal shower to introduce his fiancee to our large extended family. My difficulty comes from wanting to avoid offending anyone.
While this is my brother's second marriage, it is his fiancee's first, so I'm not sure whether a shower is appropriate or not. The people I plan to invite will not be invited to the wedding or reception. Also, I want to avoid any implication that guests to the function should bring a gift. I would just like to have a friendly "get to know the family" party for my brother's fiancee.
How should I handle this without huge offense to the guests or my future sister-in-law?
GENTLE READER: Miss Manners is reminded of the time, just a few centuries ago, when that nice artist known as Veronese got into trouble with the Inquisition for putting supposedly irreverent figures in his painting, "The Last Supper." He was ordered to change it.
And so he did. Not the painting, but the title. He left the picture as it was and changed the title to "Feast in the House of Levi."
If you are still with us, you are wondering what on earth this has to do with your party for your brother's future wife.
Well, a shower is a party given by friends, not relatives; the guests are also invited to the wedding; and they bring presents. Three reasons that your party would be offensive.
Unless you stop calling it a shower. There is no reason that you cannot give a party to introduce your future sister-in-law to family and friends.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I are having a baby in about eight months. A relative has requested that, although we will find out the sex of the baby at about six months, that we keep the sex and name secret from her until the birth.
She has no objection to hearing all about the pregnancy and our plans -- she's very interested. But she wants us to keep back those two pieces of information until she wants to have them.
I do not think this is a reasonable request. I tried to respond politely that I would try but I didn't think I would be able to. Does a person have a right to ask an expecting mother to self-censor selectively?
GENTLE READER: You don't think it's cute that your relative wants to be surprised? Think what a huge hit she will be at playing peek-a-boo with your baby.
In any case, Miss Manners does not consider this a First Amendment issue requiring a protest against censorship. Your having announced the pregnancy shortly after it occurred suggests that you are not good at discretion. But please try to maintain the suspense with this relative, and be prepared to deliver an apologetic "Oops" if you slip.