Abby: Sister-in-law’s demands dampen holiday giving

Dear Abby
Jeanne Phillips

Dear Abby: My brother and his wife have been married 3 1/2 years and have an 18-month-old daughter. My sister-in-law, “Barb,” is either very rude or passive-aggressive to our mother in emails and when she thinks no one is around.

At Christmas, Barb sends out an email detailing what we are and are not allowed to buy for their daughter. If we can’t do exactly what she wants, she threatens to cancel Christmas. This includes asking her permission before we buy any toys. Barb tells my mom that because her mother doesn’t have much money, Mom can’t spend more than her mother does. So, because my family has a little more money, we are being punished.

Barb is extremely demeaning and hurtful to us. I can’t understand why my brother allows it. My husband and I are sick and tired of her acting this way, and the way she treats my mother is cruel. I’m tempted to confront her about how she has ruined Christmas for my parents. She basically doesn’t allow us to have feelings, and I can’t believe we are standing for it. Help!

Holiday Hostage

Dear Hostage: Your sister-in-law may be telling your parents not to spend more money on gifts for the grandchild because she doesn’t want her mother to be embarrassed. However, if her rude behavior extends beyond that, rather than take her on, the person you should “confront” about it is your brother.

Dear Abby: My fiance and I are in the process of ordering our wedding invitations, and the phrase “the honor of your presence is requested” versus “the pleasure of your company is requested” is causing a problem.

The woman at the store insists we use the latter because the ceremony won’t be in a church. My research on the internet says if the ceremony is a religious one, the phrase “the honor of your presence” is appropriate, and it is also our preference. However, if the ceremony is a civil one, the “pleasure of your company is requested” is the preferred one.

Our minister will be performing the ceremony in the gazebo at the country club. Although it’s not a church, the ceremony will certainly be religious. What’s the proper etiquette on this issue? Invitations are on hold until I hear from you.

Donna in Florida

Dear Donna: The salesperson at the store is mistaken. The wording on your wedding invitation is not determined by whether you are being married in a church.

I ran your letter by Lisa Grotts, a San Francisco Bay-area certified etiquette expert, who had this to say:

“The wording of wedding invitations varies, depending upon who is hosting the wedding, i.e., the parents of the bride or groom. If the bride’s parents are hosting, then the phrase ‘the honor of your presence’ is correct.

However, if you and your fiance (or other family members) are hosting the wedding, then the more modern terminology ‘the pleasure of your company’ is preferable.’’

Contact Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.