I perused my 1955 Wedding Etiquette book to see what the protocol was regarding these invitations and learned the following pieces of information:
“Both families consult and the Groom’s family contributes to the invitation and announcement lists. It should be done meticulously and precisely so that no one will feel slighted. Old address books, alumni directories, Christmas card lists, club lists and telephone directories will all help you to compile your list. For formal weddings, servants of long standing are to be included in the guest list.”
There then follows 10 pages of examples of how to address invitations properly. The book stresses repeatedly the overwhelming necessity for propriety and precision where these invitations are concerned. My eyes glazed over at the sheer volume of rigid rules:
Invitation protocol for military people. For divorced people. For widowed people. For people whose elderly parents live with them. For people whose demonic and/or destructive children you wish to exclude. If I should address something inappropriately to someone, they can take it up with me via written complaint after the wedding!
Helen left a partial list tucked into the book, written on the back of a receipt from the dry cleaners. There are about twenty names with stars next to them, but then “The Bynum Family” is circled and an unhappy face doodled next to the name. The poor Bynums. Were they a clan of boorish, backwater clods who might dress inappropriately and eat more than their fair share of cake? Were they penny-pinching tightwads who would show up for the dinner with only a rubber spatula set as a wedding gift? Or perhaps one of the Bynums was a raging alcoholic who would consume far too much champagne and cause an embarrassing ruckus at the reception.
I like to think that when it came down to it, the Bynum’s invitation got “lost in the mail” and Helen breathed a sigh of relief as her daughter’s reception played out beautifully and without awkward guests who needed to be forcefully ejected from the celebration.