DEAR MISS MANNERS: Since my husband and I will be traveling from out of town to my cousin’s wedding, we have also been invited to the rehearsal dinner at a country club with a dress code.
Although my husband would like to go and visit my family, he refuses to wear anything other than a T-shirt, jeans, boots and a sweatshirt. With that attire, he will neither be allowed into the country club nor will he be meeting the semi-formal standard of the wedding. He says that if he can’t dress the way he wants, he will still come to the destination but skip the events, even though we will be in town only for those two days.
He feels that he should be accepted for who he is and not forced to pretend to be someone he is not. I know he will not compromise and put on a button-up shirt and slacks, but should he come at all?
I am trying to find a polite way to deal with the matter, preferably without upsetting the wedding party or my husband.
GENTLE READER: “Who he is” is someone who understands that the choice of clothing constitutes a symbolic system – but who is willing to use it only to broadcast himself, even at the cost of symbolizing disrespect for others and for a ceremonial occasion.
Miss Manners does not envy you.
Certainly he should not try to storm the club in defiance of its rules. Whether your family would be polite enough to ignore this slight is something you should attempt to find out in advance.
Miss Manners cautions you against using your husband’s rationale in explaining the situation to the hosts. They would interpret that to mean that he claims not to be pretentious, even though they are — which, indeed, is what he does mean.
It is not the degree of formality that is at the core of this conflict; it is the implication about the hosts who choose the style of the occasion. The disrespect would be equally true of someone who attended a highly informal wedding deliberately dressed in formal clothes, thus implying, “I’m proper, even if you are not.”
So the approach to take is that as much as he would like to attend the wedding, he feels that he should stay away because he will not be dressed for it. The response will be either to urge him to attend anyway — or not.
Flowers from a friend
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My brother passed away and had been married for only six months. My good friend sent my favorite flower to the service. I didn’t even know she’d sent them until several days later.
If the flowers are from friends of different family members who don’t know the deceased or the wife, should the widow keep them? Or should they go to the family member whose friend sent them?
GENTLE READER: Are you telling Miss Manners that you want to wrest some days-old flowers away from a bereaved bride?
The flowers were sent as a tribute to your late brother, even if the only connection to him was through you. Had they been meant as a condolence for you, they would have been directed to your home.
Your respect for your brother should be shown through kindness and sympathy to his widow. And if you can’t manage that, at least refrain from making claims that exclude her.
Judith Martin writes the Miss Manners column with help from her son, Nicholas Ivor Martin, and her daughter, Jacobina Martin. Send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.
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