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Wedding Q.&A.

SEPT. 4, 2014

    Supported By Photo Credit Olimpia Zagnoli


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    Suddenly, a Fiancé Appears

    My (male) cousin, with whom I have a good but formal relationship, sent me an invitation to his wedding in November addressed only to me. This surprised me somewhat, as at the time I had been living with my boyfriend more than two years and dating him more than six. In addition, my cousin, his fiancée and my boyfriend had seen one another at many family events and get along very well. Since I received the invitation, my boyfriend has become my fiancé. Is there a polite way to ask that I bring my fiancé to his wedding? Or am I still supposed to fly solo?


    It is customary for an invited guest’s partner (married, engaged or live-in) to be included in a wedding invitation, even if the bride, groom or wedding hosts do not know the person. It’s possible that your cousin was unaware of this guideline when he and his fiancée created their guest list. Or it could be that this couple drew the plus-one line at “engaged couples only,” an acceptable etiquette guideline in previous eras.

    Since you have a good, albeit formal, relationship with your cousin you could ask him to clarify his intention regarding your now-fiancé. You say your engagement occurred after the invitations were sent. Perhaps he hasn’t heard your good news, and this could be an opportunity to let him know. Then bring up the question of the possible plus-one for your fiancé: “Jim, I am really looking forward to your wedding this November. I also have some good news to share with you and Clare. Sam and I got engaged two weeks ago. It’s a little awkward to ask, I know, but would you and Clare consider including him in your invitation to me now that we are engaged? It would mean a lot to me if he could be with me.”

    (It’s best to have this type of conversation either in person or on the phone. Email could come across as too abrupt and doesn’t give the opportunity for good back on forth on sticky issues.)

    See where the conversation goes from there. If the guest list is driven by budget or space constraints, there may not be room for any extra invitees, even your fiancé. On the other hand, your news may come with an immediate: “Of course we’d love to have Sam join us. Congratulations, you two.”

    Whatever the reply, accept your cousin’s answer graciously. I hope it works out, but if that isn’t to be, then I hope you can attend solo with no hard feelings.

    When and How to Say ‘Last Call’

    My husband and I are paying for our 37-year-old daughter’s reception at a restaurant. Included in the price is three hours of open bar. The restaurant says we can stay late if we want. It starts at 5 p.m. with a cocktail hour, then the bar is closed for one hour for dinner, then two more hours of an open bar. Our thinking is that after 9 p.m., we should go to cash bar, but my daughter thinks that is rude.


    It sounds as if you have arranged for your guests to have plenty to eat and drink throughout the four hours of the restaurant reception. With the beverages provided during dinner, perhaps including wine, it would round out the celebration quite aptly. Four hours is ample time for a reception. You do not need to feel responsible to keep the drinks flowing at the restaurant after 9 p.m. From a safety point of view, you don’t want your guests leaving the party under the influence.


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    I agree with your daughter that a cash bar is not a good idea. As the hosts, you shouldn’t expect your guests to pay for anything, especially food or drink. It would be awkward to suddenly announce that the open bar has closed and now guests have to ante up. Guests generally regard such a setup as annoying and less than hospitable.

    If you don’t want the bar service to end at 9, ask the restaurant to quote you the cost of another hour of bar service. If this fits your budget, it may be the simplest solution.

    Otherwise, you’ll need a plan to end the reception gracefully. Typically, the cutting of the wedding cake signals that guests are free to leave. You could end the festivities with a final wine or champagne pour for a toast to the newlyweds and the traditional cake cutting. If there is music and dancing, have the D.J. announce the last song. Or, instead of another hour of bar service, consider a coffee bar instead.

    Some couples decide to prolong their wedding celebrations by planning an after-party at another site for die-hard partyers, usually their contemporaries. The later festivities might be in a more casual place, but typically the couple pays for their guests.

    If, however, the after-party is spontaneous (“Let’s meet up at the Riverside Cafe”) and there is no specified host, then it’s fine for all who join in to pay their own way.

    Peggy Post is the author of “Emily Post’s Etiquette, 18th Edition” and a director of the Emily Post Institute in Burlington, Vt. The institute provides etiquette and relationship advice through books, business etiquette seminars and the web, and is run by descendants of Emily Post.

    Submit questions to weddingmanners@nytimes.com or by mail to The New York Times, Society News Desk, Fourth Floor, 620 Eighth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10018. Include daytime and evening telephone numbers so that Ms. Post and Times editors may follow up. Readers can also link to the column on the institute’s website, at emilypost.com/wedding.

    Your question or one very similar to it may have been answered in previous columns by Ms. Post. Use the search tool at nytimes.com/weddings by typing a key word like “gifts” and then the name “Well-Mannered Wedding” for more etiquette advice.


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