Mary Killen

Your Problems Solved | 13 August 2005

Etiquette advice from The Spectator's Miss Manners

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Dear Mary...

Q. I am shortly to attend a wedding. My problem is that I feel uneasy about kissing the bride as she stands in the receiving line because I am very aware of the dozens, if not hundreds, of lips that will have distributed various germs on to the same area of cheek I will be kissing myself. Would it be in order to make a little joke of my neurosis, bring out a facial cleaning wipe and dab her cheek with it before planting my kiss? Might she, indeed, be grateful to me for stripping off some of these accumulated DNA samples?

P.E., Pewsey, Wilts

A. The bride will not appreciate your removal of her carefully applied make-up or fake tan. Instead you must get around this neurosis by arriving prepared to protect your own lips with an invisible barrier of clingfilm which you can withdraw from your pocket at the last moment and discreetly insert between your own lips and her cheek as you make your lunge. She will be too distracted by the line still lurching towards her to notice the rubbery texture of your embrace.

Q. I am an amateur (but good) church organist. Recently I played for an old family friend at a church a long way from where I live. The couple in question had asked another friend to sing and had also arranged two professional (military) trumpeters for the entrance and exit of the bride and groom. The planning and rehearsing with the other musicians took a great deal of thought, time and effort on my part, not to mention the responsibility and nerves on the day. I rather feel that this has not been fully appreciated. The groom made no mention of either organist or singer when thanking all and sundry in his speech. I understand that the trumpeters charged a fee of over £400, plus travel expenses. I was given a small bottle of luxurious body lotion.

I have since been asked to play at another friend’s wedding in the same area. Is there a diplomatic way to imply that in recognition of the not insignificant responsibility of rehearsal and performance on the day, a large something would be appreciated. (Incidentally, on these occasions, I usually give a generous wedding present as well as my services on the organ.) Or else, how do I start charging friends?
Name and address withheld

A. No one would blame you for having these thoughts, but clearly the reason you have not acted upon them so far is that your conscience is holding you back. And correctly so. It would be a shame to start commercialising areas of your friendships. The going rate for the resident church organist is about £40 or a donation to church funds. It would hardly be worth quibbling over such a nugatory sum. In the long run you will gain a much more discreet prestige through giving your time and talents than £40 could ever afford you. There would be a whiff of the overcharging funeral director were you to milk the emotional occasion for personal gain.

If you have a problem, write to Dear Mary, c/o The Spectator, 56 Doughty Street, London WC1N 2LL.