Advice Columns

Weighing in on wedding-dress request

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My niece will be getting married in a few months. Her fiance is wonderful, but his mother is known to have some control issues. She offered her wedding dress to my niece, saying (as she wept) that she didn’t have a daughter (she has three sons) and that there was no pressure. My niece has decided to wear the dress after having it altered, in an effort to please her future mother-in-law. My niece’s mother doesn’t want to cause any problems, so she is staying out of it. I am of the opinion that it was entirely inappropriate to put my niece in such an awkward position. Was it appropriate for her to make such a request? While she may not have a daughter, my niece’s mother does, and the request from the future mother-in-law was, in my opinion, an insult to my niece’s mother.
Is there anything to be done, or should I just stay out of it? GENTLE READER:

Your case for staying in must be that unlike the bride, you do not care to please the mother-in-law, and unlike the bride’s mother, you do not mind causing problems. So — speaking of control issues — you propose taking control.

Frankly, Miss Manners thought the tearful offer of the dress touching. She cannot imagine how it could be construed as an insult to the bride’s mother, unless the bride was going to wear that lady’s dress, and the mother-in-law demanded that she wear hers instead.

In any case, it is neither prudent nor kind to attempt thwarting the wishes and overturning the decisions of three people more closely concerned than you.

Neighborly considerations DEAR MISS MANNERS: I live in a place where the houses are close together. When we first moved in, the neighbors on the left invited us over for dinner right away. We want to reciprocate, but my husband and I are having a disagreement over whether we also need to invite the neighbors on the right. His feeling is that because the houses are so close (and we will probably eat outside, and/or the kids will play outside before and after dinner), the neighbors on the right will hear us and be offended that they weren’t included. My feeling is that in such close quarters, you have to pretend you don’t know your neighbors’ business so they have no need to be offended, and that the only obligation is to reciprocate to the neighbors who had us over. What is the right thing to do?

While agreeing with your point about neighbors needing to ignore what is accidentally overseen or heard, Miss Manners much prefers your husband’s position.

It is true that you are not obligated to your neighbors on the right. But then, the neighbors on the left were not obligated to you when they invited you. Is your object to discharge your debt, or to have friendly relations with your neighbors?

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