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Miss Manners: How do we keep a wedding small without offending family?

Dear Miss Manners: One of our granddaughters plans to be married in an outdoor ceremony at our home, with a reception to follow at a local park. My husband and I are happy to host, and have been helping with planning both the ceremony and the reception.

The bride and groom will be covering the costs themselves and plan to keep the affair very small and intimate. They are making use of many cost-saving measures and are relying on volunteer help for the wedding, while saving money for their first home.

One wrinkle in the plans is the guest list. My granddaughter would like to invite only those great-aunts and great-uncles to whom she feels closest — which would be only a fraction of my husband’s many siblings.

My husband feels sure this would not upset his other siblings. He may be right, but there is also potential for hurt feelings on the bride’s father’s side of the family. Her father (who divorced her mother many years ago) has several siblings, half siblings and stepsiblings.

The bride has never been close to these aunts and uncles, and they are not all law-abiding, upstanding citizens. She absolutely does not want these people at her wedding, and I could not agree more.

However, she worries that if she invites great-aunts and great-uncles on our side of the family, she would be obliged to invite her father’s siblings as well. Does etiquette provide any solution to this dilemma?

Etiquette allows weddings to be big or small without explanation. (They should all probably be described as “small,” unless held in a stadium.)

So one defense when excluding relatives is to claim to be throwing a small wedding — a position that is more easily defended when the number of invitations is low, or when the bride is willing to maintain, without flinching, that the wedding is small.

Although it is not an etiquette principle, Miss Manners would also recognize as legitimate the decision to exclude those with pending arrest warrants

Dear Miss Manners: Some years ago, I befriended a co-worker. Even though we do not work together anymore, we keep in touch from time to time. When his mother died, I went to the church service to give my condolences.

I gave him, his wife (who is also my friend) and his brother a hug and some words of comfort, but I did not address his other siblings. I know who they are, but I can’t remember ever having so much as a casual chat with any of them.

Should I have also given them my condolences? Was I petty in not offering them a gesture of sympathy, even though we are not acquainted?

Yes. Not knowing all of the grieving family members is not an uncommon situation, and Miss Manners is confident that those closest to the deceased would prefer an expression of sympathy from a stranger to seeing a turned back and wondering who that was.

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.

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