Miss Manners: How do I politely decline a wedding invitation?

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Dear Miss Manners: I am a single gay man who has been invited to a number of weddings of the children of close friends. Although these are friends of long standing, we live in different parts of the country, so I don’t know the children well at all.

The wedding rituals, particularly those at many parties after the ceremony, are not things I generally feel comfortable with or enjoy. Is there a way to politely decline without offending my friends?

Miss Manners shares your distaste for wedding rituals that involve lifting (garments, not chairs), stuffing or donating. A wedding is a dignified affair, and its guests should not be coerced into any practices that are unseemly. No explanation — or need to listen to lengthy justifications of why this particular ritual is considered traditional — necessary.

Dear Miss Manners: I have a friend with whom I interact very frequently. He will tell me to meet him at his apartment at a certain time. If I arrive on time, he almost always seems put out, asking why I have arrived so early and complaining that he feels rushed.

When I ask whether I misunderstood or misremembered the appointed time, he checks the clock and acknowledges that he lost track of time and didn’t realize it was already that time.

Tiring of his crankiness, I have made it a habit of arriving several minutes late. This generally seems to have solved the problem. However, very occasionally, he will notice that I have arrived a few minutes late and ask, in a way that seems to accuse me of wasting his time, why I’m late.

I tried being honest once, saying it seemed more polite to give him a few extra minutes to prepare. That was a mistake, because he didn’t like the implication that he wasn’t usually on time, even though he is not.

Now, I just apologize and promise to mend my ways even though I have no intention of doing so, because being on time is far and away more likely to cause problems than being slightly late.

I have been wondering whether this is the best approach, though. Does Miss Manners have a better solution, short of breaking off the friendship? Although my friend is cranky about time, he has many other redeeming features, and we have many mutual interests.

You seem to be spending loads of unnecessary energy getting around the problem — by guessing your friend’s changing mood and daily schedule — rather than addressing it head-on.

“When we make plans, please let me know when would be the ideal time to meet. I tend to go by the clock, but am happy to employ another system. I just need to know what it is.”

Miss Manners recognizes that this might make your friend take offense. But given your history, that seems inevitable. At least this time you will be expecting it. Which is more than he can say about your arrivals.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on washingtonpost.com/advice. You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, missmanners.com. You can also follow her @RealMissManners.