Newport Manners + Etiquette: Same-Sex Wedding Guest Etiquette

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


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Her male cousin is engaged to another man and she wants to invite them both to her wedding, but her parents are standing in the way.

Even with same-sex marriage on the political agenda upswing, questions still make for uncertainty when it comes to Wedding Etiquette. How to tell a free-loading relative you're not their ATM. What do to when your boss strong-arms you into attending his father's funeral? And why you have to be thankful, were all questions to Didi Lorillard at Newport Manners this week. 

Inviting gay relative to my straight wedding

Dear Didi,

We're making up the invitation list for our wedding in October. My favorite cousin is engaged to another man and they hope to marry around the same time. Whether they are married or not, my parents don't want them invited. What should I do? I just don't know how to talk to him about it. Should I tell my cousin that I want him to come, but if he brings his fiancé, it would make my parents uncomfortable? I'm sure we can convince my parents that if he's invited to come solo, he'll come alone.  L.D., Providence

Dear L.D.,

In etiquette, family trumps politics. It would be insulting for your family if your favorite cousin was invited to your wedding with the stipulation that he leave his fiancé at home.  What you may find between now and October (in six months), is that your parents will get used to the notion. Studies show that a third of the population will acquiesce and accept the fact that a family member is bringing his or her same-sex partner to a family event. Give your parents the benefit of the doubt, and you may well find that by October their small stunted ways have evolved. 

This is your fiancé and your wedding and whether your parents are paying for it or not, you should be with those you love the most on your special day. Be a big girl and invite them both.  ~Didi

When asked to borrow money

Dear Didi,

My slacker brother-in-law wants to "borrow" money again. I gave him money a couple of times and told him I didn't expect he'd be able to pay me back. Since I have more responsibilities now, I don't want to loan him money and worry about whether or not he's going to repay me. How do I get out of him thinking I'm a cash machine?  D.O., Burlington, VT

Dear Cash Machine,

Shut it down. Change your pin number. If you want to help him, have a document drawn up by a lawyer that is a loan agreement with a payback schedule. If he won't do that, then your intuition may be right --- he has little or no intention of paying you back. Continue to support him emotionally as in, "I want to be your friend, but not your banker."  ~Didi

Showing appreciation

Dear Didi,

Do I need to write a thank-you note? If I do, can I just email it? My dad's friend got me an interview for a job at his family's business. I want the job and I want to do the right thing.  Tyler, Providence

Dear Tyler,

A thank-you note is one of the most powerful forms of communication. I seem to write at least one a day in one form or another. If I don't write it with my fountain pen or laptop, I use my phone. Whether you use a device or engraved stationery, just do it as soon as possible. It doesn't matter what form you use. It is better to send the thank-you note any way you can, rather than not send it at all because you don't have the stationery or think you cannot find the right words.

Let's add that the phone is a perfectly acceptable device to use to thank someone. Traditionally, of course, if the invitation arrived in a paper envelope with a stamp on it, your thank-you note would follow suit. Likewise, when the invitation is through an email, phone call, or text, your thank-you can take the same route.

The perfect thank-you note is short, sincere, to the point, and is sent as soon as you have time. Three parts, three sentences worth is sufficient. Acknowledge why you are thanking the person. What you appreciated the most. And close with a final note of thanks. Get used to it.  ~Didi

Getting out of going to the boss's father's funeral

Dear Didi,

My boss's father passed away suddenly and he sent out information to the staff about the services and where to send donations. The memorial service is on a Saturday 4 1/2 hours away. We have a very small staff and I am pretty sure that most of the people I work with plan to go. I know it sounds selfish but I really don't want to give up my Saturday to drive 4 1/2 hours each way and sit in a church for two hours. I have asked around and most of my friends think that going is asking a lot but other friends think I should go because it would look bad if the majority of my coworkers went and I didn't. 

I have asked my boss if they need anything and plan on sending a card and a donation. Do you think I still have to attend the memorial service? A.B., Winston-Salem, NC

Dear A.B.,

It can make you feel hypocritical to attend the funeral of someone that you do not know. It is not appropriate for your boss to pressure you into giving up your personal time and money. A day of your weekend to travel nine hours to attend his father's funeral is asking too much of his staff for someone they didn't know. You need not kowtow to your boss's unreasonable demands.

That said. As long as you send a small donation in memory of your boss's father and mail your boss a sympathy card to his house, you have done your due diligence. If he asks why you didn't attend his father's funeral, just say that you had a prior commitment. You need not elaborate. What you do during your personal time is none of his business. Your commitment could be as simple as doing your Saturday laundry, grocery shopping and taking a yoga class. You need not over-apologize or explain.

In your sympathy/condolence card, write one or two personal lines saying something such as this, "I am deeply sorry for your terrible loss and that I did not have the chance to meet your father." You are not the person in mourning and you don't have to pretend to be.  ~Didi

We like hearing from you at and if we use your question, we're happy to post it anonymously. Didi researches contemporary etiquette and all matters of manners for her book in progress, "Newport Etiquette," and her monthly column for "Newport This Week," Or you can ask a question on Didi Lorillard's Facebook page or Twitter. Earlier GoLocalProv columns are listed below and can also be accessed through search. 


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