Wedding Etiquette: 7 Things to Remember When Your Friend Is a Widow

So, you've got a friend who's a widow and you want her to attend your wedding, but you're having difficulty navigating the etiquette behind asking this widow chick to come. Look no further, friends, as spring approaches and wedding season rolls in, I've got just what you need for smooth sailing with your widow friends.

1. Remember she was your friend before she was a widow.
Or even if she wasn't, her widow-ness shouldn't surpass your friendship. Look at her as a friend first and a widow later. Way later, if possible. Don't try to put yourself in her shoes. Chances are, you'll make an ass out of yourself. Instead, treat her like you always do.

2. Address her the way she chooses to be addressed.
I remember planning for my wedding and how stressful it was addressing envelopes. Miss, Mrs, Ms - why are there so many? Typically, modern etiquette rules for Ms. if you are unsure or if she is an older unmarried woman. Feminism was trying to replace the Miss/Mrs situation with the Ms, but instead folks just added it as another option and confused things more. It was a good idea (I mean seriously, why do dudes only have to deal with ONE but we've got THREE to choose from), but it can be hard to predict who prefers which title. If you're good friends with your widow, you probably know how to approach this. Here's a hint - if her Christmas card comes with a return address of "Mrs. So and So" you should probably address the wedding invitation in kind. I was really persnickety about this in my earlier days, to the point where most people know to put Mrs on anything being sent to me - I always said "I earned my R!" Not all widows feel the same. If you're unsure, it probably wouldn't offend her if you asked how she preferred to be addressed.

3. For goodness sakes, give her a plus one.
As you might have guessed, weddings can be tough for us young widows (which may be where the unsureness around inviting your widowed friend stemmed from in the first place). It's not that we're not happy our friends are finding love and getting married - we are! - it's that we also remember being happy with our spouse and how much we miss them. It's also that weddings are typically an event you would attend with a spouse, you would dance together, you would have fun together... you know. And now the spouse is gone and it's just another event to attend alone. Don't put your wedding in that category, friend. Seriously. Let her bring a plus one. Once, I was told "Only the married people get a plus one." It hurt. Okay, I am married - kinda. I didn't choose to be NOT married and neither did he. If all my friends are married and getting a plus one, and I am the only one who isn't, well that just sucks.  Yes, I can't wait to be surrounded by happy couples so I can drown my grief in your open bar. Why don't you just give her a great big neon flashing hat that says "CAUTION: SAD LONELY WIDOW" while you're at it? Don't be cheap - pay for the extra plate and let your girl bring someone, whether it be a new romantic partner, a fellow widow to help her deal, or a girlfriend to keep her company during the slow dances - don't make her be the only adult woman without a date.

4. Speaking of guys, include her new guy.
If your widowed friend is dating again, don't exclude her new partner. Whether you think it's right for her to be dating or not, it's shitty of you to pretend her new partner doesn't exist. Plain and simple. Oh, they haven't been together that long? Well, see above. Give her the plus one and let her choose if he will be her date. You don't really like him? Well, I'm sure you don't like everyone attending your wedding either. Hell, you probably don't like a portion of the people IN your wedding. As the bride, chances are you won't even have to spend more than 5 minutes with him. And if you know his name, don't put "Guest" on the table card. If she RSVPs me and Joe are coming, the name card should read Friend and Joe, not Friend and guest. Don't be a douche.

5. Don't make it weird.
Sometimes people can be overly sensitive about widow stuff. Don't go out of your way to make it weird. Don't call her up and talk all cautiously. You know the voice, "Oh... heyyy.... sooooo... I'm getting married and..." Everybody knows her husband is dead. It is no secret she is a widow. Don't act like you're keeping something from her when you're trying to talk to her. Want to ask her how to be addressed or what her new beau's name is? Ask. "Hey, do you care what title you get on the envelope?" "Hey, is Joe your plus one or are you bringing someone else?" "Hey, what's your guy's name?" Are all better than "So, I don't want to be weird or anything but... since you're husband isn't here..." Be upfront, be real, don't be weird.

6. Let her take a breath if she needs to take a breath.
There have been multiple times I've had to step out of weddings. Like I said before, although I'm happy for my friends, weddings are tough. I love weddings, but they can be a real widow ass kicker. Sometimes, that song will come on and she can't get out of the dance hall fast enough before tears erupt. Sometimes she cries a little harder at the processional. Sometimes she needs to go for a walk during the oldest couple dancing tradition. Sometimes she needs an extra drink. I am thankful that the vast majority of the time I've experienced that "Need a moment" moment, people have been supportive. Don't be upset or offended if your widowed friend needs to take a breath or needs a second to pull herself together or if you happen to catch her looking kind of sad when you glance her direction. Let her handle herself her way and be respectful that even though she loves you, she might be hurting a bit, too.
The nicest thing that anyone ever did for me pre-wedding was ask what song to avoid playing. I am super attached to our wedding song and most everyone knows it. Especially right after Jonny's death, I couldn't hear our song without completely losing my shit. It was so very kind of a particular bride to ask me. No, I don't expect that treatment and no, I don't include that as an etiquette step, I was surprised and grateful when she asked and I assured her not to change any plans because of me because I would handle myself fine. But it was a very considerate thing for her to do and I will never forget that someone spared a thought during planning their special day on my feelings. Oh, and no, she wasn't weird about it, she was just like "Hey, what's your song again? I'm going to put it on the no play list because I know it's hard for you." And I was like, "You don't have to do that but our song is..." and she was like "No, it's fine, I just don't want it coming up randomly it's not part of anything for us so it doesn't need to be played at all." Very thoughtful.

7. If your friend is a military widow and your wedding is on Memorial Day, don't be pissed if she bails.
Seriously, this one should not even have to be stated, but as Memorial Day really is a beautiful long weekend perfect for weddings, I couldn't leave it out. If your wedding is on Memorial Day and your friend declines or bails out early, you have no right to be pissed. Chances are she is going to a cemetery (or urn, wherever it's located) to spend some time with her husband, or partaking in some other grief related ritual. This tip also applies for any special dates; her anniversary, her spouse's birthday, her spouse's angelversary... if it's a tough day for her, she has every right to grieve and deal with it her way. This doesn't mean don't invite her, of course. Maybe she'll like having something to celebrate and spending time with friends to keep herself occupied. Just don't be pissed if she declines or leaves early.

I hope this helps for brides who might have some concerns about inviting their widow friends. Widows, did I leave anything out? Drop me a comment to add your tip. Think one of mine is great or unfair? Let me know. Want to share your own experience? I'd love to hear about it!

Photo: Creative Commons Rebecca Shiraev

Consistency is Key

... and mine are locked inside. Seriously, anyone got a number for a good locksmith?

Of all the times I say I'm not going to let this sit and I'll start writing here regularly again, poor Little Pink has fallen by the wayside in these chaotic times.

The truth is, between writing for school, writing at Many Kind Regards, and starting to write freelance (yup, I'm taking the plunge!), I'm pretty "write"d-out. But tonight, the call was strong and the urge was not to be ignored to hop over here to my own little space, even if just to ramble.

Things have been going, to say the least. Today was "a day," said in that tone that hints to more than just a day. It started out awesome, but then of course things started going down hill. I won't bore you with all of the details, but let's just say I'm glad to be sitting and doing nothing.

I feel like I'm approaching a crossroads, and maybe that's what motivated me coming here. So many things are happening, a lot of them good, but it has me facing a multitude of decisions. It's like there are so many paths I can choose to pursue but I kind of want them all and I kind of want none. Would it be completely ridiculous that maybe, possibly I am afraid of success? Does that even make sense? It is. It is completely ridiculous. Isn't success what we strive for? Isn't the reason for attempting anything to be successful? So what am I really scared of? Well... what if being successful, even a little bit, is too much? What if I end up completely overwhelmed? What if I can't keep up? What if I am putting my eggs in too many damn baskets because they are all just so pretty and sparkly and appealing? I suppose it inevitably comes down to... what if I fail? There it is. Success isn't the fear, it's the taste of success followed by the crush of failure.

Oh, dear anxiety, how I love you and the "what-if's" you bring to my brain. As if there aren't already too many thoughts whipping around in there, as if processing the things that are actually happening isn't enough, let's add some maybes, could be's, and what ifs to make a delicious stew of fear and apprehension. Yum.

In other less whiney news, my kid is in Kindergarten. And it's full day.

"Wait, stop the presses, what?!" those of you who've hung around all this time are saying, "Little A is in all day school already?" That's right, folks, little A ain't so little anymore. In fact, she refuses to hear anyone say they are baby sitting her - it is only Big Girl sitting these days.

Little A becomes Little Rach more and more each day. Seriously, I see myself in that kid's mannerisms, behaviors, and thought processes every day. Thank God she has her father's eyes.
The funny thing is now that I've noticed how much she is like me, I can really pick out specifics. She likes to sing randomly and make weird noises. She's constantly talking to herself or her friends (that are visible only for her). There are several times after she's gone to bed when Jesse and I are hanging out and I'll say or do something and one of us will say "Holy shit, that was so Ariana." It's quite alarming at times. The really funny part is there are so many times where she'll say or do something and I'll ask where in the world did she pick that up from?! Days, hours, minutes later it will be pointed out to me that I'm doing what I was wondering about. Hello, this is Captain Obvious calling, is Rachel there? We can't forget of course, that she does have her individuality and she's quite assertive. That kid is, as cheesy as it sounds, the light of my life. Sure, she drives me nuts sometimes (makes sense, since I drive MYSELF nuts) but she is so funny and intelligent and caring and it is just so neat watching her grow that being her mom is my greatest gift.

So, yeah, things are pretty good. We're pretty happy. We have our down days, and we're not immune to our fair share of struggles (like today being "a DAY"), but when all's said and done, we're content, we're together, and we're frickin' rockstars. And that's all that matters.

My Abandoned Garden

When I was first widowed, I searched for advice to proceed along this new journey I had been so unfairly placed upon. I read widow self-help books, what to expect books, articles, and conducted numerous searches. I wanted to know if what I was feeling was “normal,” and if I was doing everything “the right way.” There was a lot of useful information and tips in these resources that helped guide me along: not making any big decisions in the first year, financial advice and cautions, information about grief stages and emotions, and general pick-me-up and keep living encouragements. As helpful as some of these resources were, though, I still found them lacking in grit. It’s as if some subjects were too taboo to be put into written form and distributed widely, and it was often those taboo subjects I found myself most confused about. Here are some things I’ve learned along my 5+ years of widowhood that “they” aren’t likely to tell you in those books. These may not only aid a newly widowed person in handling some of the confusion, but I have hopes that they might also shine some light on what a widowed person is feeling for those who are supporting her or him. 
There have been many times over the years where I’ve been approached by the friends of a new widow asking, “What can I do?” or wondering not only how they can help but how they can better understand and empathize with their friend. Remember in reading these that grief is extremely individualized and what may help one person cope may be the exact opposite of what another needs or wants.

The Ticket That Ruined It - Writing Prompt Wednesday

Hey there, here we are again with another edition of writing prompt Wednesday (except it's on Thursday). Excuse the absence, it was spring break for my little one and therefore I was breaking from life as well.

Today's prompt reminds me of one we did in my creative writing class that I really enjoyed, where we took a family story that had been passed down and changed the perspective of the story teller. Moving your story into someone else is such a fun way to merge nonfiction with fiction, to blend what is real and what you imagine could be real for others. Without further ado...

Prompt: Choose an incident from your past - it could be an ordinary occurrence, such as a family dinner - or a significant event, such as an achievement or a mishap. Write about it from your perspective, then write about it from the perspective of someone else who experienced it with you.

It was sometime before fifth grade. I know that much because Rose moved away in the fifth grade, and she was with us, like she often was - up until fifth grade. She and I were in the back of my parents' car. Was it a van yet? My guess it was a minivan, but I could be wrong. In fact, I can't even remember if my little sister was born yet. I don't recall her being there, so I'm guessing I was probably around six years old. If memory serves, it was the light blue Dodge Caravan my mom had. It was her first minivan. We had gotten ice cream cones, as we often did in the muggy Maryland summers, and as per usual, Rose had painted her face chocolate. We stopped at a gas station. I believe it was one of the "Sunday Drives" that were a fun family outing for us when I was a kid. We would just hop in the car in drive. At each stop sign, someone would yell a direction and on we would go. There were no smart phones or portable GPS systems back in these days. There was a Rand McNally Atlas stored under the mat in the trunk space, but we never needed it. Someway, dad never got lost. I was sure he must have had maps of the whole world stored in his mind. As we drove, dad would tell ridiculous stories starring a character he'd created and named Formaldehyde and Rose and I would laugh and laugh until tears streaked the dirt and chocolate down our adolescent faces and we were doubled over in laughter cramps. We enjoyed our journeys to no where, mom pointing out her dream house along the way (a real fixer upper) and me pointing at horses. So, we stopped at a gas station. Most likely to refuel and stock up on napkins. Somehow, a lottery ticket got involved. Mom or dad bought a scratch off. I wanted it because scratch offs are so neat and so fun to do. I was told no. I was a bratty, spoiled six year old and I didn't like the word no. I threw a fit. Crossed arms over my chest, I pouted and said I was having the worst day ever. Rose tried to cheer me up, but I turned away from her. I was the world and the sun, at that moment, was the lottery ticket, without which I simply could not survive. Rose attempted to get dad to resume the Formaldehyde stories, but the magic of the moment was lost by my grumbling and grievances and the laughter was muted until we arrived back at home.

Told from Rose:
I always looked forward to time with Rachel and her family. Her dad was the funniest guy I knew and her mom was the most caring woman. Rachel was my best friend, and we always had a fun time together. They liked to go for drives in their van, along back roads and scenic routes, pointing out anything that interested them. I was just happy to be out and along with them, one of the gang, part of the family. You could always tell they liked you and considered them one of their own if they picked on you. I might have had a bit of a problem eating. In fact, it might have been a huge problem. My face just seemed to catch the food (especially chocolate ice cream) before my mouth could. We laughed and laughed at how bad I was at eating. Formaldehyde was the true star of the laughter with that family though. The adventures of Formaldehyde and her stinky misfortune were the funniest tales, I often stopped breathing mid-tale, my giggles taking precedence over airflow. While Rachel was my best friend, she could be somewhat of a... well, she had a temper. She really liked getting her way. She could also be bossy. And if things didn't go her way, well, you'd hear about it. After exhausting every napkin in the van (and trust me, there were several), we had to make a pit-stop to get gas and refill on things to catch my mess. Her parents had bought a scratch off ticket that Rachel insisted on being hers. I saw a look exchanged between the lady behind the counter and Rachel's parents. They weren't allowed to buy it for her. I guess Rachel didn't see it, because she continued to insist they give it to her. I bet they would have given it to her had she not asked in front of that lady. Something tells me someone could have gotten in trouble, at least, that's what it felt like. So we get back in the car and Rachel is in one of her moods. With a huff, Rachel plopped in the seat, arms tightly over her chest, crying and howling. It kind of hurt my ears. Even though we'd had a really fun day, Rachel forgot about all the stories and sights we had seen and declared this the "Worst day ever." I couldn't believe she had said that! "Come on, Rachie" I tried to coax her out of her bad mood, attempting to get her laughing again. "What happened next with Formaldehyde?" I asked. Her dad began the story but Rachel kept up with her sounds of disdain and the story was cut short. I ended up having to go home because Rachel couldn't get her act together, and her mom had warned her. I wasn't happy. I was supposed to spend the night that night (and I knew I'd just make it the whole night this time!) and I was having so much fun. That girl had quite a temper, I hate that she let it ruin our day.

Now I suppose it's time to go ask Rose how close I got it ;)


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