The Etiquette of Wedding Invitations

“Are you the groom’s sister?” I am asked by a fellow wedding guest.


“Are you a friend of the bride?”

“Nope, not a friend of the bride.”

Cue an awkward silence while she decides whether to keep guessing, and I anticipate my ultimate answer, which will almost certainly be a surprise to her.

“So… Where do you fit in? How do you know the bride and groom?” she presses. It’s such a simple, natural question, so why do I cringe?

I give her a big, friendly smile and answer directly and without hesitation: “You know the groom’s mom? I’m her sisterwife.”

Her “Ohhh” response plus her body language tell me that this answer is, indeed, not what she was expecting. I give my attention back to the two babies I’m in charge of: one mine, the other my sisterwife’s.

The woman’s husband had commented on the little ones a few minutes prior: “Are they both yours? They look too close in age to both be yours.”

He was right, in a way. The babies are too close for both of them to have come from my own body; Melissa got pregnant when I was 6 or 7 months along in my own pregnancy. At their current ages, they’re obviously not twins, but that might change in a few years.

But he was also wrong, in a way, since I claim all 7 of our family’s children as my own. So to answer the question “Are they both yours?” is not so easy for me.

My sisterwife Melissa has 3 grown children from her first marriage. I’m not particularly close to them, unfortunately. Early in Melissa’s and Joshua’s relationship, when her first batch of children were teenagers, I dared to fantasize about being a second mother to them. Alas, it wasn’t in the cards. However, the youngest son is friendly with me, and he invited me to his wedding in southern Utah.

Here’s a question for you: What should be done when a Christmas card, a graduation announcement, or a wedding invitation is being sent to a family with more than one wife?

Melissa and I have cracked the code.

Think about this: After you open the envelope, read the card, mark your calendar, and make a note to yourself to get a gift, where do you put the card?

On your fridge, of course. And you leave it up there until it’s no longer relevant.

That common habit is the basis of our rule of etiquette when mailing things to families with multiple wives.

If the wives live separately, you mail them each their own wedding invitation. If they live together and share a kitchen, just send one invitation. Easy enough.

But if they live at the same address and have their own kitchens (and hence their own refrigerators), here’s what to do: Mail to the household the same number of invitations as there are kitchens. That way, each wife gets to put the card up on her fridge. Go ahead and mail both of them in the same envelope and save yourself a stamp.

Melissa’s son understands this concept, so I got my own copy of the wedding invitation.

I found this sweet and thoughtful. I also realized that if he hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t have known for sure whether I was meant to be included in the invitation. His giving two copies of the invitation to our household made it clear that I was, for sure, invited.

Back to the wedding guest who found out I was the sisterwife of the groom’s mother. After she recovered from her initial shock, she approached me. Melissa was getting herself ready for the wedding ceremony, and I was tasked with getting her reluctant preschooler dressed in his handsome ringbearer suit, complete with a bow tie and suspenders.

I was also taking care of Melissa’s infant and my toddler, so my hands were reasonably full. The kind wedding guest helped me, all the while chatting in a friendly manner and showing that she was fine with what I’d told her. Never knowing what to expect when someone finds out about my polygamy, this experience was nice.

The wedding was one I wouldn’t have attended if I wasn’t a polygamist.

How Joshua and I Met

There he stood, in the front of our Ethics and Values classroom, curly brown hair, leather jacket that couldn’t hide his muscular arms, sexy 5 o’clock shadow, a deep voice.  He was discussing the pros and cons of capital punishment, the controversial ethical topic assigned to his group.

I had dated a lot in high school, but now that I was in college, I was trying to be pickier, trying to figure out what my type was, and I had picked up the habit of analyzing men to discern which of his physical traits I liked and which I didn’t.  I had never found a man I couldn’t improve upon, but as I sat on the back row that day watching and listening to Joshua, for the first time I couldn’t come up with a single thing I would change to make a man more attractive.  I had found my ideal man, at least on the surface.  Not only was he the most handsome men I’d ever met, but he was intelligent, well-prepared, and well-spoken.

At the end of Joshua’s presentation, I raised my hand to add to the discussion.  Was it just my imagination, or did he like what I had to say?  A little while later, I raised my hand again, but then I noticed that class time was almost gone, and I lowered it again.  He noticed the question left hanging, and he approached me as the classroom emptied and asked what I had intended to say.

We talked for a few minutes before going our separate ways.  But that was enough to get the ball rolling.

It was a series of coincidences that had led to our meeting.  You see, we weren’t exactly classmates: We were taking the same course, but we were in different sections taught by the same professor.  If things had gone according to schedule, Joshua and I would never have met.  But something happened to shake things up: My brother had been called on a mission for the LDS Church, and I wanted to go with him and the rest of my family to see him enter the MTC, or Missionary Training Center.  The end of the college semester was approaching, and since class time was being taken up with group presentations, my professor had started making class participation part of our grade to prevent attendance from declining.  If I was going to see my brother enter the MTC, I would miss my class, so I talked to my professor in advance and got permission to make up the participation points by coming to another of her Ethics and Values sessions.  I searched my schedule for a time when that would be possible.  Most school days at 1:00 p.m. I was busy as an ASL interpreter for a religion class.  Fortunately, those classes weren’t held on Fridays, which meant I was available for that one hour — which happened to be, of course, the day and hour of Joshua’s presentation in his own section of Ethics and Values.  That’s how I came to be there that Friday afternoon.

After Joshua and I had parted company.  I went to work for a few hours and then got ready for a date — a formal dance I was going to with a man named Ryan.

Now, Ryan and I were very close friends, and sometimes we acted as tho we liked each other, but the truth was that the woman he wanted to marry was away from home serving a mission for the mainstream LDS Church, and I was just a placeholder until she came home a few months later.  I wasn’t particularly into him either, but we got along splendidly, and our relationship was convenient.  We carpooled to school together, worked on our Calculus 3 homework together, hung out as friends on the weekend, and when one of us needed an official date for an event, the other person was usually available.

(As a side note, two fun stories: After his girlfriend got home from her mission, Ryan and she came together to my wedding reception, which was so romantic that they ended up getting engaged at it.  They’re still happily married and have half a dozen kids.  He’s a successful engineer, so I guess it worked out for him to study calculus with me, ha ha.  Another guy I dated met someone at my wedding reception, soon afterwards they started dating, later they were also engaged.  Have you ever heard of a wedding reception so romantic?)

I had asked my friend to do my hair in a fancy up-do for the dance with Ryan, and while she worked, I chatted endlessly about this man named Joshua I had met at school that day.  I don’t know how I came up with so much to say about someone I’d only talked to for a quarter of an hour, but you and I both know how silly girls can be.

At some point in the course of our conversation I told her, “I think I’m going to marry him!”  She responded by telling me I was crazy.  (I still have the professional photo taken of Ryan and me at the formal dance, and it’s one of my favorites because of the fond memories I have of that day and even of my hairdo.)

I couldn’t stop thinking about Joshua for days, and he must have had a similar weekend.  On Monday he got my phone number from our professor (with my permission), called me up, and the rest of our story is for future chapters.