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This newlywed asked Miss Manners for wedding advice, and we respectfully disagree

Published Saturday, Jan. 23rd, 2021

Recently, a newlywed wrote to Miss Manners asking if a mother-in-law’s behavior during their wedding planning was fair. Here’s what they wrote (via Mercury News): 





My fiancee (now wife) and I wanted to have a potluck wedding reception, where instead of bringing gifts, the guests would bring a dish and share the recipe. The wedding was being hosted at my mother-in-law’s house — my wife’s decision, as she wanted to be married under a particular tree.


My MIL refused to let us do the potluck idea, saying it was tacky. This has been bothering me, because it feels like she took something from us that we will never be able to have.


Would the potluck reception have been a faux pas as she believes, or is it acceptable?


Sound familiar? 


We’ve all heard stories of friends and family members (definitely not just mother-in-laws) becoming too involved in a couple’s wedding planning. Whether they’re insisting on a specific type of ceremony, or questioning a couple’s inclusion of a nontraditional ritual or reading, it can be a struggle for some couples to keep their wedding their way. 


Back to the newlywed’s dilemma… here’s what Miss Manners had to say about things: 





Being a guest and being a caterer are worthy, but different, pursuits. Miss Manners understands your mother-in-law’s not wanting to put friends and family to work, although she might have found a more tactful way to express it to your wife...” Adding “An eagerness to promote short-term grievances into long-term grudges is detrimental to family harmony..."



With all due respect to Miss Manners (she’s an icon)… we have a different answer.





Because the day has already passed, it seems important to let go of your irritation at your MIL’s meddling. That ship has sailed, and for the sake of family tranquility and happiness moving forward, it’s wise to let it keep on sailing. (On this, we agree with MM completely.)


However. We think it’s important for couples to have the marriage celebration they want - a day that tells the world who they are as a couple and what they value - and we’re sorry that yours wasn’t what you’d hoped for.


By the sound of it, your family is close. You held your ceremony outdoors at a family home, after all! And you wanted to fill your new family’s recipe book with your loved ones’ favorite foods and flavors. In our opinion, this seems no different than requesting practical household items via a registry... recipes make personal, useful gifts! 


This party was meant to start your marriage on a certain path, likely one with many more potlucks and happy gatherings ahead! We may be biased (we love potlucks), but it sounds like a creative reception. Even if a few guests (you know who you are) ended up bringing the recipe for a bag of chips and salsa from a jar. But that ship has sailed, remember? 


Thankfully, there are still opportunities to create the memories you’d hoped for.


Yes, let this one go for the sake of family harmony, and then, if your wife is into the idea, start planning a vow renewal ceremony and reception, or an anniversary party. Incorporate your potluck idea, and let people know they don’t have to bring anything complicated - you just want to celebrate you and your wife’s new life with them, surrounded by love and delicious dishes!



(Read How to stop parents, friends, & relatives from taking over your wedding plan.)





Miss Manners, otherwise known as Judith Martin, is an advice icon


Illustration of Miss Manners by Jessica Levey



FYI: Miss Manners is the pen name for beloved American etiquette expert and successful advice columnist Judith Martin. She’s been giving people advice on how to be polite and mannerly in social situations since 1978. We don’t generally have strong opinions on her column, but this topic in particular caught our eye -- and we hope she doesn’t mind a second opinion!

Jessica Levey
Jessica Levey

Lead Staff Writer & Illustrator

Jessica loves exploring the history and magic of ritual, the connections between people and places, and sharing true stories about love and commitment. She's an advocate for marriage equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and individuality, and is an ordained Minister with AMM. When she’s not writing or illustrating for AMM, she enjoys city hikes, fantasy novels, comics, and traveling.

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