By Mitch Albom
In the old days (you know, 20 years ago), bad behavior at weddings was something whispered among friends and family.
Today, thanks to social media, it’s all over the world.
So we learn of a Minnesota couple, the Bakers, who were planning to attend a relative’s wedding when, at the last minute, their babysitter — the kids’ grandmother — couldn’t make it. Unable to find a sub, they said, the Bakers skipped the wedding.
A few weeks later, they got a bill.
The bill, which arrived in the mail, was for two dinners of herb-crusted walleye, plus tax and service charge. It came to $75.90.
Now we could spend time on important questions from this dispute, such as why does walleye cost $75.90? But most folks are focusing on the manners — particularly those of the bridal party.
“You’ve gotta be kidding me,” is what Jessica Baker, 33, told Minneapolis’ KARE-TV, when asked her reaction to getting a bill.
But “you’ve gotta be kidding me” could apply to her as well.
Getting out of the house
Look, few people are going to see sending a bill as a classy move, especially with no note and no previous phone call, just a line that read “this cost reflects the amount paid by bride and groom for meals that were RSVPed for, reimbursement and explanation for no show, card, call or text would be appreciated.”
Most parties have no-shows. Things happen. Kid-related issues especially. It’s best to plan on a percentage of the RSVPs not making it and absorb that as a cost of the event. As for the walleye, well, the couple might have taken one bite and left it on the plate. Either way it goes wasted.
So a bill was rude and unnecessary. But part of me has a bigger issue with the no-shows.
Let’s begin with the fact that they never called the bride and groom ahead of time, claiming, to ABC News, they didn’t want to bother the newlyweds “with phone calls on the day of (their) wedding.”
Fine. There are plenty of other people to call. The best man. The maid of honor. A sibling of the bride or groom. I’ve been to lots of weddings. There is no shortage of people on cell phones. You call and make sure one of them tells the couple how sorry you are, what the dire circumstance was, the good thoughts you wish them and that you have a gift that you will deliver soon.
Instead, Jessica Baker tells ABC, “We were excited to have a night out and we got a call from my mom …”
Excited to have a night out?
Doesn’t sound like being part of a relative’s wedding was the first thing on her mind.
No longer all in the family
Now in subsequent stories (and there is no shortage of stories on this incident) Baker explained that the wedding couple was “extended family” who “we’ve not heard from for the 12 years we’ve been married, so I’m not very close to the bride and groom really at all.”
In that case, why were you even going? A night out? The walleye? I never heard Baker mention that she tried to call after the wedding, or even send a belated gift.
What she did do, however, was post the bill she received to Facebook, and share it with a local TV station.
To me, that’s a far greater violation of manners than a charge for uneaten food.
Why did this have to become a news story? Why did Baker alert the media? Why did she agree to be interviewed, on camera, more than once, about her terrible grievance? At any point she could have said, “No, I don’t want to make this bigger than it is” or “No, I don’t want to embarrass the relative.”
Instead, she seems to have plenty of time to indulge in telling the world of her slight, when it would have taken a fraction of the time to explain her behavior to the “extended” family members, who now, most likely, will have nothing to do with her or her husband.
So congratulations, Bakers. You turned what used to be a whispered family issue into yet another one-day Internet story, and blew a hole in your family as a result.
The charge for that should be more than $75.
Contact Mitch Albom: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out the latest updates with his charities, books and events at MitchAlbom.com.