Mary Killen

Your Problems Solved | 6 November 2004

Etiquette advice from The Spectator's Miss Manners

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Dear Mary...

Q. My wife and I were recently delighted to receive what appeared at first glance to be an invitation to the wedding of the eldest son of friends. On closer examination we were less pleased to discover that the wedding is to take place in Las Vegas, and our participation is only requested in that we are invited to witness the event on the Internet. The bride and groom have included instructions on how to do this, and a link to the John Lewis website where they have a wedding present list to which we are encouraged to contribute. Am I an old fuddy-duddy in considering the entire thing insulting? My instinct is to send the couple another link to a page on my own website where they may see my ‘virtual’ present, which may be of a nice set of sheets or something. However, my wife thinks that would be insensitive and we should just contribute £50 to the wedding present fund. Your advice would be most welcome.

V.M., Brighton & Hove

A. You have been too quick to take offence. Many would count it considerate of a couple marrying in Las Vegas to excuse their guests the expense and contamination effect of having to travel to that city to attend the event in RL (Real Life). You should bear in mind these savings when contributing to the wedding present list. To have chosen Las Vegas as the venue for exchanging sacred vows suggests the couple in question may be immature and will need all the support, both material and moral, from elders in their extended social circuit if the marriage is to have a chance of surviving.

Q. While on holiday at a family resort in Jamaica during half-term, I noticed that one of the men in my group was lying on a lounger, legs akimbo, with one of the two matching components of his ‘wedding tackle’ on full display, it having escaped the netting of his shorts. The atmosphere became very tense on the beach because none of the other men in the group was there at that time. There were only women and children, and none of us felt we knew this man well enough, at that time, to say anything. What is the most tactful way for a woman to alert someone she does not know very well to the fact that he is exposing himself in this embarrassing way? The whole business was somewhat complicated by the fact that most of the women in the group found the man quite faint-makingly attractive.

C.P., London W14

A. Why not take a tip from a colleague of mine who dealt with the very same problem by announcing, ‘I’ve got a lovely free sewing kit in my room. Does anyone need anything mended? Do let me go and get it and mend those shorts for you, for example; that netting looks as though it is just about to go.’ Delivered with eyes fully shut while sunbathing, she gave the man in question time to reconfigure the offending package.

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