Open thread

by EPI Staff on March 9, 2011

Welcome to Etiquette Daily

This open thread is your space to use as you like.  We invite you to discuss current and traditional etiquette. Feel free to ask questions of each other and the community moderators here.

{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

Just Laura March 9, 2011 at 2:17 pm

Friends,
Please let me know how we should have handled this.
My very small, modest wedding is on Friday. The reception is only slightly larger, but still very modest in size (fewer than 60). Because I went to college/grad school over 1,000 miles away, nearly all people in attendance are on the Groom’s side.
The Groom has two friends, Jack & Jill, with whom he is friendly, though not close. We see them maybe once/month. They were not on the wedding’s guest list – again, keeping it small and with close friends and family.
Last week, Jill began texting one of my friends, one of the Groom’s friends, and the Groom himself to find out more about the reception. The Groom was uncomfortable and didn’t know what to say, so he showed me the text. It read, “Hey are Jack and I invited? lol when/where is the reception???” He didn’t want to say, “no, you aren’t invited because this is for close friends and family only.” He believed that would hurt their feelings. But he didn’t like that they assumed they were invited. After much consideration, he decided that since some people can’t make it, he will invite Jack & Jill. Now, I realize that we’ve just committed the egregious offense of the A & B Invite List. But we didn’t intend to do this.
What was the correct course of action?

Reply

Alicia March 9, 2011 at 2:22 pm

I think the breach has been on their side. They should never have asked this. In this case the fact that you opened the guest list up is not a rude B list but instead a kindness.
What should have been done? Well it depends: Did you two really want them there and you were only not inviting them due to space limits? If so then what you did was fine. If you really are not that close and you did not really want them there then calling and saying ” No sorry our wedding is very tiny and mainly family with only the smallest number of friends, but we would love to hang out with you soon”
You are fine.
Congrats on your upcoming nuptuals.

Reply

Graceandhonor March 9, 2011 at 2:35 pm

I have never understood “A & B” lists; someone is either on the guest list or they are not; it is insulting to consider filling seats as opposed to seeking someone’s company. That being said, I understand your predicament, Laura. In today’s busy lives, seeing someone monthly is fairly often, so if you have openings in your guest numbers, then invite them and don’t give it any further angst or thought. You’ve handled your wedding plans admirably throughout the whole process. I hope you both will be very, very happy.

Reply

Just Laura March 9, 2011 at 3:05 pm

Ladies,
As always, thank you for taking time to respond.
Yes, there were openings, and space isn’t a major issue, so inviting them won’t make anything cramped, or cause us to run out of libations.
Alicia, no, I can’t say that I wanted them there. They aren’t bad people, but we have… different values. I could go into it, but then I’d just be heaping dirt on those who are not here to defend themselves. Perhaps I should have grown a spine and said “no,” but mutual friends will be there, which is why I’m sure they assumed they were invited. They weren’t invited to anything else (no pre-wedding parties) and we didn’t attend their wedding, so I don’t know what other reason they would have.
Thanks again.

Reply

Country Girl March 9, 2011 at 5:37 pm

A huge congratulations to you Laura! First off, I am agasp at someone texting the groom, and essentially inviting themselves to your wedding reception! (And not to mention just moments before the wedding, when you must have plenty more pressing matters at hand) While this couple may be somewhat close aquaintances, a physical invitation card is obviously how they would have received the news of the reception location (had they been invited guests). And had this wedding-crasher spoken with mutual friends first, the friends could have easily relayed this basic wedding etiquette tactfully before this matter ever reached you or your to-be groom. To me, it isn’t just if you have space to “squeeze them in”, it is the fact that they were not in fact on your invited list (as I’m sure were many others with whom you are friendly). Choosing a guest list is a daunting task that affects the overall feel and tone of the whole gathering, and these people did not respect your decision to not invite them.

All in all, of course you did the polite thing, which was to do to add them. (However, you would have been completely justified in not doing so.) I’m not sure how exactly you handled this, but I would have approached it by having groom call (not text) and say something like..

“I am very sorry that we were unable to extend you and John an invition to our reception. We cut the guest list down to a very small number and there were many friends we wished we could have included, but were unable. ((you owe them no explanation on why)) Of course we would like to have you and John celebrate with us. My bride and I have done some work and made some special arrangements in order to include you in the reception. We look forward to seeing you there.”

IMO this couple needs a bit of a reality check, or their rude self-inviting may have no limits. Afterall, it is not just that “We must have misplaced your invitation of course you may come”. It is more “You were clearly not on the guest list, and unfortunately now have dubbed me to reiterate the obvious reality to you. Of course since we are civil folks, we will now go out of our way to accomodate you.” This may sound a little harsh, but I think the truth is always much less awkward than a “beating around the bush,” half-hearted invitation.

~Many congratulations and best wishes on your special day!~

Reply

Marianna March 9, 2011 at 6:42 pm

Although understandable under the circumstances, I think it is best in these situations to stick to your original guest list. That way you won’t have others offended because these people were invited and they weren’t. Every bride needs to learn to emphasize that she is having a “small wedding.” I don’t care if you have 10,000; it’s still a small wedding when asked by anyone who isn’t one of the 10,000.

Lin March 10, 2011 at 5:23 am

I think sticking to the guest list would have been the better of the two solutions (inviting versus not). It would be more fair, and cut out others questioning your list – why Jack and Jill and not Barb and Bob (yes I think it is rude to ask a couple about their choices of whom they invite, but many people do it anyway). It would also cut out last-minute changes to your planning (seating charts, favors, catering counts, etc.).

That being said, don’t sweat what you can’t change, appreciate the important elements that are in place, and have a wonderful wedding and a safe honeymoon (if you are taking yours right away)!

Marianna March 9, 2011 at 3:55 pm

Sometimes I’ll be on a subway sitting uncomfortably close to the person next to me. The car will then empty out and become less crowded, but the person next to me is still there. In these cases, would it be appropriate for me to move away from the person giving us both more personal space?

Reply

Graceandhonor March 9, 2011 at 4:00 pm

It is absolutely fine to move and a lady should do so at her first opportunity.

Reply

Sara Z March 9, 2011 at 4:37 pm

I somewhat disagree with G&H. To move without saying anything would be to imply that the person is distasteful to you. A simple, “Just moving to give us both a bit more space,” said with a smile should remedy that implication.

Reply

Lin March 10, 2011 at 5:09 am

Or just say it subtly with your body language. Stretch if room permits, or act like you’re tending to a stiff joint or muscle, just don’t go over the top with it. If the person doesn’t care that you’re moving, it shouldn’t bother them; if the person wants an explanation, they should notice in your body language that the move is about you wanting room, not them being offensive in some way.

Reply

Eddie March 9, 2011 at 4:47 pm

The person you moved away from prolly won’t give it a second thought. It’s not like you actually know each other, heck you may not even see each other again.

Reply

Nina March 9, 2011 at 5:08 pm

I think this might depend on the location, but what G&H described is exactly what I see every day. Actually, gentlemen do it too–they don’t like to infringe on a lady’s space anymore than we like to be infringed upon. But I would be very surprised for someone to offer an explanation, as Sarah suggests. In 10+ years on the subway, I have never encountered this, and I probably wouldn’t try it myself because most people on the subway are reading or listening to music, and I wouldn’t want to interrupt them. But if someone *did* say it to me, I certainly wouldn’t mind. It might be a local custom; I’m a subway rider in Toronto and Montreal.

Reply

Alicia March 9, 2011 at 5:09 pm

I would on the DC metro be very inclined to say something like ” I just want some more elbow room ” as I moved away. However, moving away with or without a copmment as long as you are not wrinkling your nose and such would be fine in my opinion.

Reply

Marianna March 9, 2011 at 6:39 pm

On New York subways it’s understood that everyone should talk to people they don’t know as little as possible. It’s not because New Yorkers aren’t friendly. It’s because we respect each other’s privacy, which is particularly important when your elbow is in someone’s stomach. =)

Eddie March 9, 2011 at 7:48 pm

I’d find it very out of place for someone to offer an explanation for moving. Ya know, like are you saying that because you mean it? I’d would think anything of someone moving away from me, unless they DID say something, kinda planting a seed of doubt, so to speak.

Jody March 10, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Marianna — it’s definitely not rude to move. I ride the DC Metro every day. In the evenings I usually have to share a seat with somebody. Sometimes after several stops the car empties out and there are several free seats; in those cases I move to the free seat, thus giving us both room. No explanation is given or needed, I think it’s understood by everybody that the reason for moving is to have more room.

What does bug me is people who plop their bags on the empty seat next to them, even though the subway car is full, and resent it when riders ask them to move their bags.

Reply

Jen March 9, 2011 at 8:41 pm

I agree with Marianna, San Francisco riders just move and not say anything. It’s just automatically assumed that you are given the other person space. Also, people will generally be reading, listening to Ipod or on their cell phones, so it would disturb them to say anything.

Reply

Maggie March 9, 2011 at 11:34 pm

I think what is making you self-conscious about moving is the the same thing that makes walking into a crowded party or dining alone in a restaurant a bit uncomfortable–we all assume that the rest of the world is as aware of us as we are of ourselves. One of the best pieces of advice anyone ever gave me to get over these moments (and a lot of self-consciousness at social events) was, “Remember, nobody is worrying about what you’re doing–they’re all busy worrying about what everyone else thinks of THEM.”

I’m with Eddie and wouldn’t volunteer an explanation and draw attention to the fact that you’re moving at all. They probably aren’t thinking about it. However, I’ve been in this situation (both the mover and the person being moved away from) and to avoid any awkwardness, my general practice is to wait until a stop to move so the person will just assume I’m getting off the bus or train. If their eyes follow me and they happen to notice that I only moved seats, I’m able to make eye contact and smile at them so they know it was nothing personal.

Reply

Sandi March 10, 2011 at 4:37 pm

My partners 22 year old son occasionally comes to stay with us for a period of 2-3 months to work. We have talked to him on numerous occasions to keep his room somewhat clean and to stop eating at the table as if he was a dog…mouth to bowl, shoveling then burping. When we asked him to stop he looks at us like we’re the villians. His excuse is that since he pays a small amount out of his paycheck to live there he can eat as he is use to. He lives with his mother the other months and grandma lives right around the corner.

Reply

Alicia March 10, 2011 at 5:14 pm

I think you need to have a discussion of roomate house rules before he comes to live with you again. Even when I had roomates we always had house rules written out when we split the rent. Sit down and the group of you need to determine what the house rules are. You are a combo of romates and landlord as well as parents. Give him some input on the house rules but write it into the rent contract.
Also Parents are responsible to teach table manners. It is to a certain extent your and your partners role to weather the dirty looks and teach table manners no matter what. Ideally this would have been done in the 4-6 year old age range but since it was neglected then now is the time to do it. Peter Post has a nice book on Manners for men. http://www.amazon.com/Essential-Manners-Men-What-When/dp/0060539801/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1299777213&sr=8-1 This might be a good gift for him. Polite manners are something that can really help a young man get ahead in life proffessionally as well as romantically

Reply

Marianna March 10, 2011 at 8:22 pm

When children reach adulthood, the leeway parents have to critique their children’s manners is heavily restricted. You may do so only in ways that are sure to not cause offense, such as “I’m trying to read; would you mind trying to eat less noisily?” You may also find the use of looks of disgust useful.

You do have some additional rights as landlords to set house rules, such as requiring him to clean up after himself; however, he should be given a reasonable amount of leeway within his own room provided it doesn’t reach the point of being unsanitary or affecting the other rooms of the house. You can also require when he leaves for an extended period of time to stay with his mother that he leave his room tidy.

Reply

Vanna Keiler March 10, 2011 at 7:50 pm

Regarding Just Laura’s guest invite situation, I agree nothing is gained by speaking up now. It’s unfortunate when people push their way into an event uninvited, there’s no excuse for this behavior, whether they felt slighted or have entitlement issues, or whatever their motivation is. I am glad Just Laura came to a conclusion she felt comfortable with. I hope you won’t even think about this/were not thinking about this on your great day. Congratulations on your wedding!

Reply

Mark March 10, 2011 at 10:42 pm

Let me know If this was right or wrong.
I have been engaged for almost 4 years. My fiancee and her father have been talking about her wedding day since she was very young. When It was time to start planning the wedding, her mother said they couldn’t afford to pay for our wedding. For the past 3 years we have been to all of our friends big weddings waiting till her father got back on his feet fiscally. After the second year past we started talking about not having a big wedding. Then we decided we’ll just have the wedding in our back yard and have at most fifty people. The x-mas of the 3rd year came around and one of the presents was a card from her parents saying they will give us 5,000 towards the wedding. So we started talking about the backyard wedding which neither of us wanted to do. We had many different ideas and came up with a destination wedding with just our immediate family. I started planning the wedding for May when both of our families would be able to go. When she spoke to her mother to see if that date would work for them, her mother said they cant go. They didn’t have enough money to go and they cant give us the 5000 either. After my fiancee stopped crying I told her I would come up with the money and pay for everything. I started doing all the calculations and I wouldn’t be able to pay for her parents to go. It would have been another 8-10K. So now my fiancee and I are going to the islands by ourselves and getting married and staying a couple extra days for our honeymoon. My parents can’t come because it wouldn’t be fair to hers. I said I will have a video and pictures of the ceremony and we can have a big celebration when we get back. My parents are completely fine with our choice but her mother is making her feel terrible every chance she gets. Now her parents live in a huge house and her mother doesn’t work and spends a bunch of money on junk. My mother works an average of 100 hours a week and don’t have a dollar to their name. My parents were going to pay their own way and now they cant go at all. We went from planning a huge wedding to going away alone and me paying for everything. Does anyone think this was fair to us. Or if I could have done something different to make everyone happy. Im just making my fiancee happy because I feel so bad for her.

Reply

Graceandhonor March 10, 2011 at 11:13 pm

Dear Mark,

My heart breaks for you and your fiancee and agree, at this point, that you should do whatever you need to do to make your wedding as happy as possible for you both. I cannot understand her parents’ behavior and repeated broken promises. However, if your parents can manage to attend, you both should encourage them to do so as it is unfair to bar their presence simply because hers cannot budget to attend. I know this is a painful situation for you and your fiancee, but I hope you’ll take heart in knowing that despite this, you’ve stuck together and this bodes well for your marriage succeeding. You’ve already shown quitting is not an option and that is the foundation for happy marriages.

Supportively, encouragingly,

G&H

Reply

Country Girl March 11, 2011 at 12:57 am

It seems so far that you have done a good job being there for your fiance in this difficult time. I obviously don’t know your specific reasons for not wanting a backyard wedding, but if you and/or fiance think you may regret not having your families and some friends in attendance for your vows, there might be other free location options available besides a backyard wedding. You could choose a local or national park. (Even if it is an hour or two from where you live it would still be doable for most guests.) You might be able to utilize a garden center for little or nothing, and have the perfect, beautiful back. This suggestion may not be your taste, but if you proposed to her at a particular venue/restaurant you might even be able to write the business a letter explaining your engagement story and they may agree to let you use their location for free (if it is an unusual location they would even be able to get some great publicity for it). Then you could just use your trip as your honeymoon.

If you and your bride are set on the destination wedding and don’t care as much about who is there, then by all means that sounds lovely as well. As Graceandhonor said, your parents shouldn’t have to miss out just because her’s won’t be able to attend. And sadly it sounds to me as though her parents are choosing not to make their daugher’s wedding their top priority. Unfortunately, perhaps fair is fair, and this will play into whether or not you make them YOUR top priority when planning. Whatever you do, make sure the day is about you and your bride and what you both want.

Good luck Mark, and best wishes!

Reply

Mark March 11, 2011 at 4:14 am

G&H, Country Girl,
Thank you both for your kind words and respective suggestions. Unfortunately, there are many other situations that I should include in the post. Her heart has been broken so many times when it comes to our wedding. I should really tell some of the crazy stories we’ve been through our engagement ride. You would not believe some of the painful selfish things she has had to get through. I probably don’t have to tell you that my to be mother in law has the worst relationship with her mother. We have to go get my fiance’s grandmother for all the holidays because her mom doesn’t want her around. Her grandma is so sweet she gave my fiance her wedding band. That was something very special between my fiance and her grandmother. She is getting very old and has recently had to move into a home. The mother got mad at my fiancee for not giving her the ring. She yelled at her and wouldn’t talk to her for a couple weeks. I have so many ridiculous stories. I decided I’ve had enough and she certainly has had enough. So she is going to be treated like a princess for the rest of her life. Our wedding will be more amazing then she ever dreamed. The sweetest girl in the world will have all the smiles and happiness she deserves. We will be married overlooking the teal waters of St. Thomas on the grounds of the Ritz-Carlton. I’m going to bring my parents since her and my mother are best friends and my parent love her like the daughter they never had. Thank You Both

Reply

Graceandhonor March 11, 2011 at 4:34 am

Dear Mark, you are a wonderful man and your fiancee is very, very blessed to be marrying you. I hope you’ll have a lovely wedding and let us hear how it goes! Best wishes for a long and happy marriage! G&H

Reply

Country Girl March 11, 2011 at 7:33 pm

Absolutely agree. =) It seems as though she is very lucky to have you as a stable, loving force in her life. Your wedding plans sound incredible. Congratulations and please enjoy your day as well as the rest of your life with this wonderful woman!

Vanna Keiler March 15, 2011 at 6:29 pm

I also agree with Country Girl and G&H. It sounds like your in-laws family is somewhat disfunctional, and possibly regardless of what you do to accommodate them, it may never satifsy them (in their minds). Adding to this, it sounds like they will continue to change their minds no matter what their initial choices/decisions, which in essence, is holding you both hostage on finalizing plans.

To this end, I say have the wedding you are now able to have to make your future bride happy and for you to enjoy also, and definitely invite your parents who sound like the supportive family members. Please don’t be made to feel guilty for trying all these years (it seems) to accommodate your in-laws and finally throwing in the towel. You need to move on with your lives and your plans. When you return from your trip, providing you have the budget and time, perhaps you can host a large family and friend get-together to celebrate your wedding, something a little informal, less expensive and more relaxed? Just a suggestion if this would be feasible for you.

Alicia March 11, 2011 at 12:30 pm

I think you and your fiance need to have a talk about your wedding priorities. Is having both sets of parents there a bigger priority or is having the fancy destination wedding. Clearly your future in laws are broke and have been living beyond there means likely for years. The bride and groom are the ones ultimately fiscally responsible for their own weddings. Yes it would be nice to get teh gift of money but it should not be something you expect.
Options I see
A: Go back to backyard wedding idea or courthouse or church all parents get to attend without being a burden on guests
B: Do destination wedding forgo the few days honeymoon and use that to fly future in laws in
C:Do destination wedding realizing that this prevents in laws from coming
Personally I think any of these can be fine but I woudl be inclined to A largely because I could not imagine excluding my parents from attending my wedding because I would rather the more expensive option. Yes your inlaws are fiscal flakes. By the way I would go into that eyes wide open that in a few decades you and your wife will likely end up supporting your in laws.

Reply

Dianne March 12, 2011 at 1:52 am

I agree with Alicia. The in-laws have no obligation to pay for anything. Plan around them and enjoy the wedding you can afford. It will still be your day.

Reply

Just Laura March 10, 2011 at 5:44 am

Thank you, Lin.
Yes, honeymoon to Auckland (woot!) immediately. We decided that since space isn’t a huge issue, just letting them come would be fine, and would keep from bad feelings later. But would you know if there is anyway I can gently suggest that such overtures were unwelcome? If you all agree that any mention is rude, consider me silent on the issue. But the Groom is still irritated that his acquaintances were edging their way on to the guest list, and we are both uncertain how to deal with that. Perhaps staying quiescent is the best solution. It irks me to do that, but that’s why I turn to cooler heads on this site.

Reply

Jody March 10, 2011 at 12:46 pm

Laura, congratulations on your wedding. I think it was very gracious of you to squeeze in this other couple, and extremely rude of them to hint for an invitation. My personal opinion is that you shouldn’t say anything further to this couple about their rudeness (unless, for some reason, they raise the subject). Since both you and your groom are irritated at the other couple’s behavior, maybe a cooling-off period is in order, where you don’t see the other couple for awhile.

Reply

Elizabeth March 10, 2011 at 12:57 pm

It’s clear that they were very rude to have basically invited themselves to your wedding. However, once you did choose to extend that invitation, I don’t see how you can subtly make your guests feel unwelcome, to say “we only invited you because you pushed yourselves on us.” What would be the point of that? Would you like to make them feel like you are barely tolerating their presence at your celebration? That you are not as good of friends as they imagined you all to be? Whatever relationship you have with this couple will basically be over if you choose to express such a sentiment. At this point, what’s done is done – if you wanted to draw a line, the time to do so was before extending the invitation. Now it’s time to be a gracious host.

Reply

Marianna March 10, 2011 at 3:42 pm

It’s too late to take back the invitation. For that matter, it’s generally considered rude to correct the manners of others. It’s best to say nothing.

Reply

Just Laura March 10, 2011 at 2:13 pm

Ladies, then I won’t say a word about it – not to them, and not to others. :)

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: