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· Standing Firm on Ceremony ·

We've been into wedding work recently and realized, two nights ago, we had rehearsal-dinner invitations left to do. Though no big deal (they can of course be delivered verbally: "Hey, folks, let's all run over to The Greatgood Place for a brew"), maybe for prudence' sake — or propriety's — we decided, rightly, I think, to stand firm on ceremony.

A conservative decision but one fit well to the liberal tradition, too. Indeed, as we're having a Lutheran wedding presided over by a Dr. (a cell biologist happily into her second Rev. career), and by a lay Catholic deacon blessing the day a bit more sacramentally, we reasoned, quite naturally: "Yes, the ceremony demands the right balancing of two traditions, yet maybe without full deference to either." So who should pop up here to confirm our choice but the sagey Russell Kirk, whose The Conservative Mind (1953) includes this paradoxical word happily fit to our circumstances:

A man should be governed in his necessary decisions by a decent respect for the customs of mankind; and he should apply [Kirk claims] that custom or principle to his particular circumstances by a cautious expediency. . . . Even the most intelligent of men cannot hope to understand all the secrets of traditional morals and social arrangements; but we may be sure that Providence, acting through the medium of human trial and error, has developed every hoary habit for some important purpose. Russell Kirk, The Conservative Mind, from Burke to Eliot, 7th Rev. Ed., Washington, D. C.: Regnery, 1985, 37, 38.

So how did Kirk shape our invitations? Simply by reminding us to apply custom or principle "expediently" to particular circumstances. For as we employed trial and error on our own, we considered them quite serially: two real folks asking real guests on a real day to a real place in real time for some real food — beer, wine, salad, bread, lasagna, spumoni (plus toasts, talk, jokes, and gifts) — and then we thought, "Hey, we have some real Stylechoices here (left-to-right, say), a fine couple (Suave and Savvy), and some good writing to do! Let's go for it!"

But then our headaches began. Should we be Mr. and Mrs. Styles Stylechoice, or just Styles and Stylish Stylechoice, and with, or without, the two lovely Gracearts (Holy and Grail), whose soon-to-be Dr. Savvy daughter — her seldom-used first name is Nordicsmart — is, well . . . "betrothed" hardly seemed the word for her, much less "fiancée." Stylistically, we were simply overwhelmed!

Then matters temporal intervened ("'Half after' or 'half past' what?" I asked. "Let dinner do the talkin'," my wife suggested, rightly objecting to "o'clock."), plus attendant spatial matters: "Do we want a map, Styles?" Stylish asked me. "Ask Suave, maybe Savvy," I smartly replied.

Well, we finally settled on an invitation — not "right" or "left" — but "down the middle":

Styles and Stylish Stylechoice
request the pleasure of your company
at the wedding rehearsal dinner honoring

Suave & Savvy

Friday the twenty-eighth of May
Two thousand and four

The Greatgood Place
111 Middlebrow Avenue
Ourfinetown, Washington

We trust even if you're uninvited you might also enjoy our food for thought.


How nice to see the custom of printed dinner invitations so gracefully continued. What thoughtful hosts! What lucky guests! We, your loyal readers, will raise a glass to the happy couple at 6:30 pm PDT on the 28th.

Posted by loretta markle on May 11, 2004 10:28 AM

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