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Miss Conduct

Advice: Lessons from two wedding showers from hell

Miss Conduct on what went wrong and, surprisingly, what was right.

My future in-laws planned a wedding shower for me at a restaurant. An acquaintance (“Rhoda”) called my fiance and told him a made-up story that I had said it was inappropriate for his mother to give the shower and that I would prefer a private home to a restaurant anyway. My fiance talked to his mother and the venue was changed to this woman’s house. A few months later, before her own shower, “Rhoda” e-mailed me: “Since it is inappropriate for our families to throw us a shower, can you send out the invitations for my shower and say you are hosting? We will pay for it, but you need to send the invitations.” I did. The day of the shower, her fiance gave his credit card to the manager and then told me, “You ARE supposed to be paying for this.” We did not attend their wedding, and I never spoke to them again. Who was right?

M.S. / Newton

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Abusers and advantage-takers weaponize every social custom their twisted minds can comprehend. They weaponize niceness.

In this case: Horribly, horribly, Rhoda Rentseeker was correct that family members should not host showers. Different ethnic groups may have different traditions, and there are regional differences as well, but that’s the standard. Yet this rule is pretty much a forks-and-finger-bowls issue by now, at worst a faux pas that hurts no one. The underlying principle is that family members ought not solicit donations for one another as a way of getting themselves off the financial hook. When a family-hosted shower is the most sensible option, though, people understand. Everyone can suss out the difference between “We have the biggest living room” and “I want to freeload.”

However, taking each action in isolation, Rhoda is still horribly in the wrong. Even if everything had been on the up and up, you absolutely do not demand that someone host a shower for you. That’s infinitely worse by any standard of ethics or etiquette than having a family member host it. And you do not demand that a person pay for an event that she has been told she is not paying for.

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Good on you for cutting Rhoda Rentseeker out of your life. I expect it will be very difficult to fool you in the future.

Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a writer with a PhD in psychology.


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