Q: When my niece graduated from college, she did not send out announcements, nor did she want a party. None of the family was invited to the graduation, although it was local.
Now the graduate’s family is mad because “gifts” were not sent acknowledging the “big day.”
My take is that I wouldn’t send a gift to a wedding to which I wasn’t invited. And if it was a “big deal,” why weren’t we invited over for a small acknowledgment party (this family is not destitute)? What do you think?
A: You are far from the only person to hold the appalling idea that social milestones are commercial deals. You are not even the only person in your family to do so.
The misunderstanding seems to be that you believe a present is warranted only as payment for entertainment, and the graduate’s family believes that it is due anyway.
Miss Manners fears that it will shock you all to hear that presents are not mandatory as admission tickets to parties and can never properly be demanded. They should be given when motivated by warm feelings. So why didn’t you simply congratulate your niece?
Q: I am a much older, single college graduate and have no expectation that my friends and family send gifts for my graduation.
I am not attending the ceremony but would like to send out invitations so they can see that I have made it through this part of my journey and also as a way to send a personal thank-you note to each of them, giving them credit for how they helped me along this rather rocky road.
Is this an acceptable form of communication, since the announcements are formal, or do I just send the thank-you letters out without the announcement?
A: Certainly you should not send out invitations to a ceremony that you do not plan to attend. But even formal announcements, intended to be merely informative, are unfortunately often misinterpreted these days as indicating the expectation of more than mere congratulations.
Anyway, they are not needed to supplement those personal letters, which Miss Manners commends you for writing and which she assures you will be treasured.
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, MissManners.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.