Witty Retorts to family, friends, co-workers and frenemies!

Cordial comebacks

People can’t help themselves; they like to voice their opinions, and sometimes those opinions are inconsiderate, or even just plain rude. Need a witty retort instead of a high five to the face? We’ve got you covered…

First thing: don’t take it personally. Realise it comes with the territory.

Second thing: don’t let them get away with it. Call them out on their callous, thoughtless and/or moronic remark with an elegant comeback. (People need to know when they’re behaving badly.)

Third thing: always keep your cool. Bridezilla meltdowns are never an appropriate response.

Now be wary of these situations:

The clanger: “Sjoe, your ring’s enormous?” or “Oh, did you choose the ring…?”

The motivation: Whether they think it’s gross and oversized or puny and pathetic, some people just can’t help themselves when they see an engagement ring for the first time. Suddenly it’s there, they’re staring at it, and words start coming out of their mouths.

The elegant comeback: Enormous ring: “I know! And I had nothing to do with it – my man arranged it all. I’m so thrilled.” Small ring: “Yes, it’s exactly what I wanted. I’m so thrilled.”

Further action required: If you get a properly bitchy comment – as opposed to a more innocent foot-in-mouth reaction – take a mental note and seat her with your cousin next to the toilets.

The clanger: “Have you set a date yet?”

The motivation: The subtext here is “You’ve been engaged forever, get a move on,” and as time passes the question itself may become, “When are you going to set a date?” or even “Are you ever going to get married?!” Whichever it is, it can be surprisingly annoying, as if the asker doesn’t realise it’s on your to-do list.  

The elegant comeback: “Not yet, but you’ll be the first to know when we do.”

Further action required: None – but if you haven’t set a date after six months… set a date!

The clanger: “You’re getting married? Better you than me!” or “Are you sure you’re ready? Haha.”

The motivation: A comment along these lines may be one of the first unthinking insults you get en route to the altar (perhaps – if you’re really lucky – on the day of your engagement). Accept it for what it is: a cynical barb of self-loathing disguised as a lame attempt at humour. The clue is in the person delivering the line; inevitably a disillusioned divorcée or your ever-single sad-sack cousin who’s just turned 40.

The elegant comeback: Don’t skip a beat; don’t even consider the possibility of any veiled meaning – just take the high road and play dumb. Give your doubter the broadest grin, say “Absolutely!”, and move swiftly on to someone else.

The clanger: “Can I bring a date?” or, even worse, “Can I bring my children?”

The motivation: A combi-nation of poor etiquette and general chancery.

The elegant comeback: Be Firm!  “I’m afraid not. No children or animals, and we’ve already turned down my cousin’s request.” Feel free to leave off the second sentence.

Further action required: Don’t bat an eyelid in situations like this. They often cause a storm in a teacup for a day or two and then everyone has fun on the day. But it does become problematic when your guest simply arrives with two kids in tow…

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The clanger: “The bridesmaid dress looks terrible on me, boohoohoo!”

The motivation: It’s nothing new for a bridesmaid to hate her dress, and the reasons could be varied. Maybe the cut doesn’t suit her, or she doesn’t like the colour, or she’s jealous that you’re getting all the attention, or she’s mad in the head.

The elegant comeback: It’s not so much a comeback as a conversation, and it starts something along the lines of, “You’re my bridesmaid because you’re one of the closest people in the world to me. Let’s find out exactly what the problem is and make a plan to sort it out.”

Further action required: As long as she really is one of the closest people in the world to you, and she’s not secretly the devil and you always doubted your decision to choose her, then this should sort itself out. Just keep talking and being friends.

P.S. Letting the bridesmaids choose the cut and/or shade of their dresses often pre-empts this little problem.

The clanger: “Sheesh, who’s paying for all this?”

The motivation: Jealousy, envy, the green-eyed monster. Call it what you will, some people just hate to see others having all the fun.  

The elegant comeback: “Not you, my dear, so please do enjoy yourself.”

Further action required: Nothing much. Just let them see that you’re having the best (guilt-free) day of your life.

The clanger: “I don’t think fairy lights [or insert your desired wedding requirement here] are quite the right idea. Let’s go with fake-flame candelabras on stakes [insert something else that you think is equally appalling].”

The motivation: This is a classic events-planner “I know better” fob off. And it bodes poorly. Because if you show her weakness in one area then she’ll take advantage elsewhere. Next thing you’ll have lilies and baby’s breath adorning the aisle instead of the roses you’ve always wanted, and the meal will be roast chicken and boiled potatoes rather than the charcuterie spread of your dreams. There are two potential motives: either it’s just less effort, or they’re one of those egomaniacs who find their own ideas world-class whereas yours “simply won’t work, I’m afraid”.

The elegant comeback: You can be breezy, disingenuous, light-hearted – as long as you’re as firm as the rock of Gibraltar. Something along the lines of, “On the contrary. I’ve always dreamed of fairy lights at my wedding and I know they’ll be perfect.”

Further action required: Your relationship with any service providers for your big day should be trusting and mutually respectful. Of course you should consider their opinions, especially if you’re not entirely sure what you want. But if you get the feeling that your wedding planner (or caterer or whomever) always thinks he or she knows better, seriously consider firing them. It may be the best decision you make – and FYI, your fiancé is duty-bound to do the firing.

The clanger: “So, am I invited?” or even, “I’d better be invited, hey?”

The motivation: No one, you may think, could ever be this blunt. But you’d be surprised. We South Africans can be an indelicate bunch, and there are a fair few social climbers among us. Often this enquiry can be fairly easily brushed off, but it can be troublesome when it has to do with an event within the overall event: if, for example, it’s an outing with close girlfriends to try on wedding dresses, or you’re intending on having a small ceremony (with a larger reception to come later). Whatever the case may be, someone is wanting a bit of your action and you shouldn’t be obliged to give it to them just because they’ve put you on the spot.

The elegant comeback: You can reject any random chancer, most likely a tactless work colleague, with a straightforward, “I’m so sorry, we’re having a really small wedding – only close friends and family are invited.” (Even if there are 300 people coming, “small” is a relative term, as are “close” and “family” if needs be.) It can be trickier when a friend, or even a frenemy, tries to muscle in on an intimate event, but a more specific version of the above still works: “Sorry, only bridal party and siblings are invited.” More important is for you to realise that anyone who makes you feel uncomfortable in such a situation shouldn’t be cracking the nod in the first place.

Further action required: If your “friend” has put you in an awkward position, you may want to follow up with an email to clarify the situation and pre-empt any unnecessary gossip. Be straightforward and include something along the lines of, “I do appreciate your understanding at this important time in my life.” If she still causes trouble, it simply justifies your decision in the first place. (And you can bin her without remorse.)

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