Expectations, Brides, Friendship, Etiquette, and a Lousy Wedding Reception

Dear Friend,

When we ran into each other at the pizza shop a year ago, it had been about 5 years since we’d seen or talked to each other. Our last conversation had been strained as you were doing a lousy job at your place of employment, and I was the volunteer Director of the organization that you worked for. Our Board had voted to ask you to step down, and as Director, I was the one who had to deliver the news to you. You told me that I’d have to fire you, as you weren’t going to quit. So, I had to fire you. Your husband called me at home a day later and yelled at me for a minute, then ended the conversation with the words, “There’s going to be a lawsuit!” before he hung up on me.

No lawsuit ever happened, but I thought you probably hated me even though I was only the messenger. So that’s why, when I saw you at the pizza place last year, I really really really didn’t know what to do or say when I realized I was not going to be able to pretend I didn’t see you. The place is small and we were waiting in the same line and it was clear there was going to be a significant wait. So, I mustered up all my courage, turned to you, and said hello.

To my surprise and relief, you seemed glad to see me and you mentioned that you had just “friended” me on Facebook a couple of hours prior to running into me. We marveled at the coincidence and caught up a bit. You had divorced your husband who, you revealed to me, had been abusive for years. You were now dating a good man and had fallen in love. You had become a grandmother as well. You seemed excited about the direction your life was headed, and I was happy for you.

So we kept in touch just a bit through Facebook – the occasional hello. Recently I saw a photo of you in a Facebook post, beautiful in a wedding dress. You’d married the good man! I sent you a note of congratulations and, a few days later in the mail, I received an invitation to a wedding reception for you & your husband at a community center in a nearby town. It said “social hour” would be at 4 PM on a Saturday afternoon, and “dinner” would be at 5 PM. I sent in my RSVP that I would attend, even though I had to contribute my own postage stamp to the cause. (Don’t RSVPs usually come with postage already affixed? Oh well.)

I thought it was just a bit tacky that you had printed right on the invitation the names of the three stores where you had registered for wedding gifts—ask any etiquette expert, and they’ll tell you this is a no-no. (Invitations should not read like requests for gifts.) But, I thought, maybe there are some items you really need and what the heck, I am going to your reception where I’ll eat food that you paid for because you invited me. So I bought you some bath towels that you registered for, knowing that you’d use them. After all, who doesn’t need new bath towels? It was fun picking them out knowing you’d like them and needed them and you could use them in your new marriage.

So, yesterday afternoon I dragged hubby (who doesn’t even know you) to your wedding reception. I’ve had a terrible cold all week, so to avoid sneezing all over everybody the entire time, I took some cold medicine before we left home and arrived at 4:45 so that I could just say hello to you, meet your new husband, and congratulate you both, then eat and leave.

You weren’t at your reception.

Your husband wasn’t at your reception.

Hubby & I stood around drinking punch for 10 minutes with about 15 other lost-looking souls, and finally I asked an approachable-looking woman where the bride & groom were. She said she didn’t know where they were or why she was standing around drinking punch with a bunch of strangers and she didn’t see the bride or groom, anyhow. She seemed to feel the same awkwardness that I felt.

We stood around for 10 more minutes thinking that maybe you were in the restroom or taking care of whatever brides take care of on busy days—food, drinks, transportation, pictures, etc. When you didn’t show up and it didn’t seem that anything was happening, we got in the car and drove back home. And that was my experience with your wedding reception. Twenty minutes with a glass of punch and staring at a some other lost strangers!

At least I signed the guestbook so you’ll know I was there and, of course, you’ll have some nice new towels. I guess you can do whatever you want during your own wedding reception . . . but I don’t really believe that. I bought you a gift, dressed up, and took time out of my precious Saturday afternoon to congratulate you, and you weren’t even there to greet your guests.

Anyway, I hope everything worked out OK at your reception and that it wasn’t an emergency or problem that took you away from it. Or was it the bar across the street? And, a note to all brides and grooms out there:  don’t invite people to celebrate with you and then skip out on your own reception, if you can possibly help it.

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