Invitation Only



The conversation with my future mother-in-law started innocently enough.

“MEE-dil, have you chosen wedding invitations yet?” (Full disclosure, my in-laws have strong Filipino accents. Middle? She says MEE-dil. Heat? She says HIT. Cleats? We’ve asked her to never use that word again.)

The wedding was still a year away, but my future in-laws were in town for a visit, and we were excited to share our plans with them. Pulling out the invitation catalog and the card-stock sample I’d ordered, I handed her both.

She contemplated the items silently with an expression of confusion mixed with mild alarm, as though she’d ask me for a pen and I’d happily handed her a tampon. Cutting her eyes to me she exclaimed, “But it’s so plain!”

My mother-in-law is a beautiful, vibrant woman who loves bright colors, bold designs, and contemporary style. The invitations I’d chosen were in keeping with my style. They were white with a white satin border, black engraved script, portrait orientation. Simple. Understated. Traditional.

My fiancé, keenly aware he’d have to play this carefully, interjected, “Mom, we’re having a formal, American-style wedding. This is an American-style formal invitation.”

His mother waved the explanation away as though his words were akin to a lingering fart. “You know,” she said brightly, “we have friends who own a printing company. They want to print your wedding invitations. No charge! A gift for you!”

A sense of foreboding settled over me. Pointing to the catalog, I said, “You know, my parents are actually expecting to pay for these. They want to, actually. So, uh, thank your friends for us, but-”

“No, MEE-dil! There is no need! Your parents can save their money, yes?”

I tried another angle, sure the ‘free’ invitations would be a mistake. “But this is the exact design we want, so I think-”

“They can do any design!” she cut in. “Very big factory. They own the company!” With this declaration, she took the decision out of my hands,  literally, by shoving the catalog and my beloved sample invitation in her purse, never to be seen again.

Months passed and we heard nothing on the invitation front. At my urging, my fiancé called his mother to check on the progress. Everything’s fine, she assured him, they were going to meet the printer couple for lunch this very weekend.

Monday rolls around. Future mother-in-law calls my fiancé. They can absolutely do the invitation just like MEE-dil wants. But how do we want the wording? My fiancé and I had already conferred on this. I wanted old-school, exactly the way the sample from the catalog read. My parents, Mr. and Mrs. John J. Doe, requested the honor of your presence, at the marriage of their daughter, Middle Doe, to Mr. Middle America, on this date, at this time, at this location.

His mother sputtered, “But what about our names? MEE-dils parents names are there, why not ours?”

“Mom, this is traditional wording, it’s not unusual. See, it’s so traditional, the invitation company used it on their samples.”

“But you can just put our names down there, with yours.”

“Ma, no. Mr. and Mrs. Doe are hosting, paying for the wedding, the marriage of their daughter, to me. That’s what the wording implies. They have the one daughter, the one wedding to proudly host. This wording honors that.”

“But what if people I want to invite don’t know who you or MEE-dle are? Without our names-”

“Ma! If people don’t know the bride or the groom by name, they shouldn’t be invited!”

And that was that. Or so we thought.

A few days later his mother calls back. “So … they have card stock that is exactly like what MEE-dil wants…” She belated adds, “… it just has a very small, simple, embossed flower. Very small. Tasteful!”

I’m not happy. This would not be happening if we’d stuck to our guns and ordered from the catalog as planned. But now we were in the middle of the river; this was no time to change horses.

My fiancé asks, “What, like a small, colorless, embossed flower in the center of the top border?” I think I can picture what she’s saying to him. I have to picture it–we’re running out of time and this is the era before everyone had internet and camera phones.

She affirms this is the gist of it. We grudgingly give the go-ahead.

One month later (and six weeks before the wedding), the invitations arrive. We open the box.

I’m speechless. I’m turning the invitations this way and that, trying to understand how any professional printer could interpret this as nearly a perfect match to our sample invitation.

In the place of our classic, unornamented, traditional wedding invitation, was a top-fold greeting style card, landscape orientation. The left HALF of the greeting card cover was a hot pink embossed orchid the size of a sand dollar. The right side boldly announced future hubby’s first name and my first name.




Like we were sitting in a tree.


In 64 point font. A jaunty 64 font, at that.

Then you flipped the flap up. Formal invitation wording inside.

With typos.

When I could find words, I croaked, “Call your mom.”

“Ma, we can’t use these. They’re nothing like what we asked for.”

“But they’re better, no?” she said.

No. No they were not.

“Mom, I don’t understand. We sent a sample.”

She was quiet a moment before she said firmly. “I left the sample at home. It was too plain.”

He told her our next call was to our catalog company to rush order our original choice.

“No! You have to use them!” she insisted.

Use them we did.

As coasters.