DEAR MISS MANNERS: Lately, I cannot tell whether I am being invited to a wedding or just being informed of one.
I was told of a nephew's engagement in person; I was sent an e-mail with the date of the wedding, and that a website was coming soon -- no other information; later, I was sent a "link" to their wedding webpage, which described where the wedding was to be held (the Caribbean), which resort to book, which airport to fly into, and urged me to reserve early for "the best price"; I received a follow-up e-mail listing in detail which people had booked their rooms, and/or airfare and/or signed up for activities at the resort, and who had not; and most recently, I received an e-mail from the engaged couple informing me that in lieu of wedding gifts, they wanted cash to pay for "experiences" during their honeymoon and were signed up at a website to make donating easier for me.
In none of these communications were the words "You Are Cordially Invited..." or anything similar. I have received nothing in the mail, and do not anticipate it -- the date is only three months away, and all previous communication was by e-mail; granted, something can be said for saving paper by sending "e-vites," but I digress.
In my mind, I haven't been asked to join the couple to celebrate their union. I think registries are inappropriate as it is, and always give a gift of my choosing, rude as that makes me. But then, why should I send a gift if it will go unacknowledged, as many of my recent gifts have?
I know, because I love my nephew, not to beg thanks; but it is nice to know whether it was received or not, whether they can pretend to like it; I'll just continue to assume they didn't like my gifts -- again, I digress.
Have I been invited? Even if I have been, I have no intention of going. I find destination weddings even more inappropriate than registries.
GENTLE READER: But you are still likely to receive an actual paper invitation to this one. You may not consider this good news.
Miss Manners hardly blames you for being confused by the deluge of material you have already received, but it isn't over yet. Real wedding invitations are sent out only four to six weeks before the date because it is not nice to pin people down months and months in advance, before they have had the chance to make other engagements.
Many people erroneously believe that an advance warning, usually referred to as "save the date" card, does just that. They become desperate to make excuses for weddings they do not wish to attend. But such warnings do not obligate the guest to respond; only the invitation does, and that does not require an excuse, only an expression of regret.
Advance notice serves the practical purpose of allowing those who plan to attend (it is unthinkable not to invite anyone given such notice) to make their travel arrangements. It also allows the couple to begin panhandling from their prospective guests.
Of course you should decline this invitation when it arrives if you do not want to spend time and money on people you already know to be ingrates who ignored your previous generosity.