The Grammar Belle

Spiffing y'all up, one typo at a time

A Black-Tie Affair

Hey, y’all!

From what I see in magazines and on the morning talk shows, the end of the wedding season is approaching. All those June brides are home from their honeymoons, settling in for a lifetime of wedded bliss.

Not here in Texas, though. My friends in the hospitality business have confirmed for me that our busy wedding season is starting now and runs until the holidays. Why the difference between where I live and where those magazines are published and talk shows are produced? Have y’all ever been to Texas in June? The last thing I want to do when it’s 105˚ with 89.99% humidity is put on layers of lace and tulle and satin and taffeta (and, back when I got married the first time, pantyhose).

I am convinced that the Summer Wedding Season was invented by Yankees . . . along with the Summer Grilling Season.

Are you thinking, “Why the wedding talk today, TGB? Where are you going with this? Surely you’re not going to start handing out marriage advice now!” No worries, y’all. I’m going to stick to what I know best: grammar, baseball, and alcohol. My only wedding tip for today is to not leave the proofreading of printed pieces to amateurs:


I hear this was a lovely summertime wedding in Canada, but I’d have been madder than a wet hen if the reception hall had made a typo on my wedding menu. Although I didn’t have a printed menu at my first wedding. Or a reception hall.

Now let’s tackle some grammar, OK? I used a wedding story once before in a punctuation lesson. And, for some reason, it seems appropriate again.

When two people get married, they are joined together and something new is formed. They’re simply not the same as when they were two separate people. And that makes me think of compound adjectives. (Yes, I have a problem.)

When two words come together and act as a compound adjective (word/words that describe something else), different from what they would be if they were each acting separately, sometimes they require a hyphen. That hyphen joins them together in an inseparable bond, just the banns of marriage. Now, I could give you a long list of the rules for when to use a hyphen, depending upon what part of speech each word is, where they are in relation to the word they are modifying, etc. And I could make y’all the longest and most complicated flow chart in TGB history.

Instead, I’ll get down to the basics, much like a wedding in a little chapel followed by punch and cookies in the fellowship hall. Consider this:


In the first photo, the word light modifies the color blue. It tells you more about what shade of blue—and it doesn’t tell you a thing about the dress. You have to make sure light and blue are joined together forever with a hyphen. Because when you’re dressing a mess* of Southern maids, it’s critical for them to all match.

The second photo shows a lovely gal in a light (well, lightweight) dress. It also happens to be blue. So BOTH of those adjectives modify the dress and it’s not critical to use them together. (You can, however, use a comma between them. It’s debatable, but I probably would in real life. But it messed with my illustration here so I didn’t. Artistic license.) It’s a light dress; it’s a blue dress. But it’s not a light-blue dress.

When you post on Facebook about your fun summer affairs, remember to write:

Black-tie wedding
Buffet-style dinner
High-dollar reception
Well-dressed guests
Happily married couple
Very anxious groom

“Wait a doggone minute, TGB! Where’s the hyphen in the last two?” Sweet reader, those don’t need a hyphen! Can you have a happily couple? Nope, you can’t. Nor can you have a very groom. So there’s no way to confuse things. You won’t have an anxious very groom show up at your wedding when you were expecting a very anxious groom.

What the hyphen has joined together let no writer put asunder. (Did I take the wedding theme too far?)


*I hear the average Georgia wedding has 15 bridesmaids. That doesn’t include the junior bridesmaids and honorary bridesmaids. No lie, y’all.

11 comments on “A Black-Tie Affair

  1. mamarific
    September 5, 2013

    Very informative, thanks for this! And I’m currently trying to get my children spiffed up to be flower girl and ring bearer in a good, old-fashioned, Southern wedding coming up in Louisiana. With 12 bridesmaids. Gotta love the South.

  2. outlawmama
    September 5, 2013

    I hear that the most popular month is now October. I got married in Chicago in November, which is why half my family hates me. Because SNOW. Anyway, good tips and I love a light blue dress.

    • The Grammar Belle
      September 5, 2013

      Good point there. I’ll make sure to not schedule my second wedding for November in Chicago.

  3. julie@sowsewso
    September 5, 2013

    What’s pantyhose? Just kidding. Thanks for the hyphenation help.

  4. fransiweinstein
    September 5, 2013

    I now pronounce you grammatically correct 🙂

    • The Grammar Belle
      September 5, 2013

      Ha, Fransi! L’shanah tovah to ya!

      • fransiweinstein
        September 5, 2013

        Thank you! Same to you.

  5. Dave
    September 5, 2013

    Thanks for the lesson; those hyphen things confuse me.
    I read your blog almost exclusively from the WordPress App on my IPAD. I don’t see the entire blog; I only see the current post. Today I used a real computer. I like the new (to me) look.

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This entry was posted on September 5, 2013 by in Punctuation, Southernisms and tagged , , , .

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