39 Comments

  1. Katie K

    Since so many of the regular posters here are planning weddings or are recently married, this seems like a good place to ask this question: What do you call your in-laws? Do you call them Mr and Mrs, do you use their first names, or do you call them by the same name (i.e. Mom and Dad) that your spouse uses? Or maybe something else all together?

    • Have you asked them what they’d like to be called?
      After marriage, I called my m-i-l, “Dr. Smith.” She said, “Goodness, we’re family now! You will call me Jane.” (My father in law, also “Dr. Smith” passed during our engagement so I’m sorry I don’t know what he might have preferred.)

      • Jody

        I agree with Just Laura — whatever the in-laws want to be called is what they should be called. If you’re uncomfortable using their preferred form of address, maybe a nice compromise can be reached.

        One of my brothers-in-law wasn’t sure what to call my dad after the wedding. I think he used “sir,” “Mr. Carlson” and “Jack” all in the same sentence — which gave us a good laugh. (for the record, my dad said to call him Jack)

    • Winifred Rosenburg

      I agree with Just Laura. Air on the side of formality, and they will correct you and tell you what they wish to be called.

      • Katie K

        Actually, I am the MIL :-)

        My own MIL called her MIL Mrs Lastname for 40 years, but she preferred that I call her, “Mother”.

        One of our daughters-in-law calls us by our first names. Our other daughter-in-law is new and as of yet doesn’t call us anything :-)

        We have told her that we are comfortable with first names or “Mom and Dad”, or frankly, whatever names are comfortable for her. We’re not offended and we’re very patient. We’re sure she’ll come up with something soon.

        But, after reading the recent thread about how children should address the parents of their friends, I just wondered what the current trends are for in-law names.

        • Well you write young! :D
          My mother calls her in-laws “Grandma and Grandpa” now (I assume to help my brother and I with correct forms of address when we were little).
          My father calls his in-laws “John and Jane.” My parents are in their early 60s, if that matters.

          My mother and father were very strict about my friends using “Mr. and Mrs.” when growing up, but asked my husband to call them by their first names. Most of my friends (we’re all around 30) still refer to my parents by “Mr. and Mrs.” – my mom was their teacher and it’s a tough habit to break!

          • Katie K

            Thank you! I try to keep up :-)

            I’m still Mrs Lastname to many of my children’s friends, even though I encourage them to use my first name.

            I’m familiar with the trend of calling the in-laws by grandparent names, so since I’m reluctant to be known as “grandma” to people in my children’s generation, my “grandma” name is “Mimi”. And I’m okay with anyone (including the new DIL, if she’d like), using that name.

            I’m reminded of the old saying, “Call me anything you’d like; just don’t call me late for dinner” :-)

    • Jerry

      Ever since graduating college, any time the relationship was serious enough to meet the parents, I’ve always called them by their first names. Only once was a problem — my then girlfriend told me her parents took offense and I told her that I would address her parents by their titles as soon as they addressed me by my title.

      I would never call my in-laws mom or dad — I already have one mother and one father and don’t need to call another set of people by that name.

    • Vanna Keiler

      Many people own pets and this is a great question for this site. I don’t know what was traditionally done in the past, but nowadays when a friend’s dog dies, I call them to express my condolences and send an appropriate card in the mail. The call allows the friend to express his or her grief to me on the phone and provides support and comfort to the grieving friend. Many people who do not own pets (and those of us who do) are unsure if it is necessary to call or to send a card, but I think it is a nice gesture to send a card in addition to calling. However, I think it all really depends on your friend’s reaction to the death and what you perceive to be appropriate. My condolences to your friend.

    • Elizabeth

      I think a card is a really nice and simple way to make a passing that is often unremarked upon but is a real loss to those who experience it. I know that when my dog died unexpectedly a couple of years ago, those condolence cards meant the world at the time.

      • Pam

        I will never forget those who called and/or sent cards when my beloved schnauzer passed away last year. They probably didn’t realize how much it was going to mean to me, but it meant a tremendous amount and was a great comfort. It meant the knew me and how much she meant to me. When in doubt, send the card.

    • Polymathamy

      If the friend is very close, I write a short note their pet will be missed and leave it at the family’s doorstep with some red carnations (from the supermarket – thoughtful but not expensive).

  2. Karen

    Proper attire for ballet.

    I grew up in Dallas, TX and have travelled across the US. Nothing irks me more than when I go to an event such as a ballet, or Broadway shows, than seeing someone dressed in shorts and a T-shirt. I think it is disrespectful to the arts and the artists. So imagine my horror when at a recent ballet performance that my own daughter had a part in. Her grandparents flew in, teachers came to this event, etc. And it’s a nice area of Mississippi. Upscale families. Everyone dressed nice. Not suits, but proper attire. My FIL however, had his boat shoes on, shorts, and a tacky, ill fitting T-shirt on. It was also freezing cold out, and he did not have a coat, and he could not fit in anyone elses. Now you may ask, maybe he can’t afford it? No, he is cheap but has millions. He managed to dress appropriately at our wedding. He did this at 2 performances. Should my husband say something? We know he has Khakis’ and a nice coat. How would he go about telling him that it is disrespectful. I was so embarrassed and I’m sure my daughter was as well. I don’t want to invite him to another performance because of this.

    • Winifred Rosenburg

      You shouldn’t say anything about what he has worn in the past. If you invite him to future performances, tell him “the ballet company sent out notices to all the parents requesting that audience members dress in semi-formal attire” or something like that and possibly give him an example if you think it is necessary. It’s possible he actually didn’t realize how someone should dress for this sort of thing. Making it sound like the request is from the ballet company will be less embarrassing for him and makes it sound like it’s normal for people to be unsure of these things and they’re just being helpful and providing direction.

    • Michelle

      Karen,
      Maybe your FIL did not know what the proper attire was when he was invited, and did not have the proper clothing along with him? Does he dress like this at other events, showing he really just does not care about what is appropriate dress?
      If you are truly considering not inviting him to his own grandaughter’s performances (I did get that lineage correct, right?) you should certainly give him another chance to make it right first, perhaps just a gentle nudge is all he needs to dress the way you want him to. Do not tell him it is disrespectful, tell him you want to make sure he is comfortable and fits in with how everyone else is dressed. Don’t tell him you were horrified and embarressed.
      Michelle

    • Rusty Shackleford

      Tony Bennett recently remarked about how people wear jeans to the opera now and, in his time, nothing less than a tuxedo was acceptable. Fine arts like ballet, symphonies, and opera are definitely art forms that not everyone is familiar with, and allowing for more casual dress allows removes one of the barriers that allows the arts to attract a greater following. I am personally torn, I like that the arts have become more accessible, but yes, wearing shorts is taking it too far, and is disrespectful. For a child’s recital, I would say khakis and a shirt with collar should be the minimum. If this was a concert, where people are in an auditorium, etc., I would expect adults to wear a dress shirt and/or sportcoat.

  3. Jerry

    My wife lost her grandfather late last week. (He was 82 and had been in poor health.) No one from her office has said anything or even sent a sympathy card. Fast forward to today — one of her co-worker’s mother died. (Mom was in her early 90s and had also been in poor health.) Everyone has now rallied around co-worker, suggesting that the office go to the wake and/or funeral and circulating a sympathy card. My wife has been guilted into attending one of these events, even though she is still grieving.

    Now given that my wife’s grandfather was in Ireland when he passed, it would be impossible for anyone in her office to attend the funeral. However, someone should have said something! I don’t know that there’s a good solution (although I know that some of her co-workers read this blog, and I hope they will feel guilty when they do), but I throw it out to the community. Is there anything that can be done other than to be the so-called “bigger person”?

    • I had this problem earlier this year. My grandfather died (while I adored the man, he was ready to depart). I didn’t even get to take off of work since there was no one to watch the office that week. I received no cards (and yes, my supervisors knew about it). Six months later, a coworker’s mother died at the age of 101. There was a card sent around for her for the entire department to sign!
      When I married last year, my boss gave me a card (which was nice of him). The department did nothing – not even a mass email. A coworker got married last August and they threw a shower for him, plus we were all guilted into bringing food and donating toward a generous gift card for the happy couple. I get along with everyone at my work, and several of us socialize outside of work. These are all otherwise nice people. But what’s the deal???

      Jerry, my point is that I don’t know why this kind of behavior is tolerated in a professional setting. I believe it lowers morale and breeds resentment. But what can one do? Usually this problem is a top-down issue in that the top allows/encourages this unprofessionalism. I’ve kept my mouth shut, and have since been promoted. Still, I’ve never received a card from my department for anything. I suggest your wife take out her anger at the gym and calm down with a glass of wine. As frustrating as this is, there are worse problems in the workplace.

      Also, I’m sorry for your family’s loss.

      • Elizabeth

        I’m wondering in both of your cases (Jerry’s wife and Laura) whether a quiet word with a work friend isn’t the best way to deal with it? I don’t think it would be odd or inappropriate to ask a colleague with whom I am friends, “Hey, did you think it was weird that my wedding passed by totally unnoticed while Cheryl in Accounts Receivable got a whole shower??” Or, if someone came to ask me to go to a funeral, I might say, “You might not have realized this, but I also lost my grandfather just last week, and I’m just not in any shape to go/participate.” Once one person has been told, word would certainly get around and I have to imagine the oversight would be rectified. In both of your cases, I have to believe that these are oversights and were not deliberate, especially if you are on reasonably good terms with your coworkers! That would just be unconscionable.

        • Elizabeth – I agree with you! I actually did mention this to several coworkers after people were asking why I wasn’t chipping in for the gift card for the other couple, since everyone knows I do like this couple. “I’ve already bought them a wedding present as I’ll be attending, and I’m still dealing with paying for my own wedding a couple of months ago, so I didn’t feel the need to contribute to the gift card.” This was met with, “Oh my, you did just get married!” *silence* “That’s weird nothing was done for you.” Completely brushed by it. The woman who planned their whole showers/gift card said, “I didn’t know. I would have planned a party for you too.” But nothing else; of course, what else could she do? If I bring it up too often, I look like a cranky coworker who is not appropriately focused on the job.

          My closest coworker friend, who recently left, said simply, “I don’t know why you expect anything different. The Head-of-Department plays favorites all the time.” When his grandmother died, no one sent around a card for him either (I brought him some of his favorite candy).

          • Elizabeth

            Wow. Well, given the situation, it does seem as if the moment had passed. In that situation, I may have said (to the woman who organizes things), “I know you take on a lot of responsibility to organize these things, and people around here do appreciate it. However, it is hurtful when some people are missed. I wonder if there’s a way to set up a company-wide social calendar with everyone’s birthdays, etc, so that you’re not having to keep track of everything on your own?” I mean, if she is going to take on this role at the company, however informal it is, she has to be held accountable for doing it for everyone.

            The other option would be for you (or someone else other than this self-proclaimed social director) to fill in the gaps. For instance, when your closest coworker’s grandmother died, what was the barrier to you sending around a card?

          • There was no barrier for my sending around a card other than I think that such things in the workplace are forced, and a far better demonstration of sympathy or congratulations is best done privately. The reason why is because someone will always get left out, which is not conducive to our university’s business. I do want to point out that I didn’t think a thing of it when my workplace didn’t officially recognize my wedding, as that’s a personal event. It only started bothering me when I learned of the big shower during office hours and repeated emails soliciting money for the other coworker getting married.

            I guess my big whine is more that these things are done on company time, and we are all expected to contribute even though not everyone is treated equally. If it happened after work or quietly between coworker friends, I know it wouldn’t bother me.

          • Vanna Keiler

            As most business situations, it’s best to let this go and let office politics play itself out, away from you. Obviously there is a lot of favoritism in these environments, and it rears its ugly head on some occasions. If you are not part of the office “planning committee” I would leave it alone. Alternatively, you could volunteer to create one and/or help out with the planner(s) so that you help create a more even playing field.

          • Elizabeth

            Fair enough. I can certainly understand your position, wanting work to be about work. Having spent some time in Germany, I know that’s very much their attitude as well: work and home life are two paths that do not cross!

            I myself am a bit more ambivalent about it. I’ve always worked in small offices, I invited my entire small office to my wedding, and I’ve always liked the celebration of special events in the office. (But I have never run into the kind of thing you’d experienced, and I’m positive it would sour me on it as well.) My most recent experience with this kind of thing was also very sweet: my husband came down with a semi-serious illness, and a bunch of people in his group signed a get-well card and dropped it in our mailbox. I mean, we spend more hours of the day with our coworkers than our families, it’s understandable that boundaries would be blurred.

          • Vanna Keiler

            Oh Elizabeth, I agree with you entirely: the best and most ideal jobs are those where all employees treat each other like family. After all, eight hours of our lives are spent with our colleagues. However, when these issues do arise (and I bet they do in even the best of environments, with employees coming and going on occasion), I believe the best, yet toughest position would be to try to rise above the pettiness (others). Excluding others from events or subtle snubs lead to resentments and these could all have been avoided if the office planners and managers were a little more etiquette savvy.

          • Elizabeth

            I agree completely. I think it’s easier to rise above it if you believe that the snub was unintentional, though, rather than if you felt you’d been excluded or not-feted on purpose. In a slightly different context – I’m in a department where there are a lot of dinners. I tend to be pretty active in my program, so I get invited to a good number of them. Recently, though, I wasn’t invited to something I thought I would be. My first instinct was to be a bit insecure and wonder why I hadn’t been invited. But then I thought – you know, I’ve been kept so busy with school stuff, I’m just happy to have a night off! And so I was.

    • anon

      I’m not saying I agree with it, but do you think perhaps the difference had to do with losing parents vs. losing grandparents? While I know some people are as close to their grandparents or more so than their parents, many are closer to their parents. Perhaps a death in the immediate family is treated differently than in the extended family?

      As for the difference in the wedding showers, I agree that wasn’t right because it’s the same thing (a wedding) for 2 co-workers and it should be treated the same.

  4. Andrea

    I would like to coordinate a no-host get together with some friends and acquaintances before I move away from the area. I’m unsure about a location for the event but was thinking I could ask folks for their input. My plan is to extend the invitation via Facebook as it is informal and efficient. I’m mainly concerned that putting together my own going away party is tacky, especially in light of the fact that I am unable to foot the bill. Any input will be greatly appreciated.

    • Elizabeth

      Andrea, I would suggest that you find a place that is easily accessible and large enough to accommodate a group of whatever size shows up (like a big sports bar, or other casual place where you won’t need a reservation and which won’t fill up). It will just get confusing if you ask for input (some people will want to go for dinner, others just for drinks, etc.) Avoid all of that by deciding on something easy, inexpensive and convenient. Then, in your invitation, say that you would love to see everyone and have one last hurrah before you move, and that you would be honored if they met you at Joe’s Bar, 8pm, Friday night for one last night of revelry. This isn’t a “party in your honor” so much as it is a chance for you to hang out with all your friends before you depart.

  5. Mother of the Bride

    My daughter is getting married out of state with immediate family only. My other Daughter, brides maid, wants to have a bridal shower for her but most of the people being invited are not invited to the wedding.
    The reception will be the following weekend at the bride & grooms home which will be informal and many will be invited for that too but not the ceremony.
    Is this ok to do now a days? This is the first marriage for both the bride & groom.

    • Alicia

      All those invited to any prewededing parties ( showers , bachlor or bachlorettes) should be invited to the wedding. As they are only inviting immediate family to the wedding there should only be immediate family at the prewedding party. By inviting guests to shower and reception but not wedding the message is give us gifts but we really dio not want you there at the important part the wedding, we love your presents more then you. I’m certain that is not what is meant but that is what the message of only imviting to teh gift giving occasuions conveys.

    • Zakafury

      Calling the party a week later a “wedding reception” is tacky. They will not be receiving their wedding guests. They are welcome to come up with another name for the party, but calling it a wedding reception gives the impression that they are attaching a gift obligation to the event, which is inappropriate.

      Shower invitations should certainly go only to those attending the wedding.

      I think there is some flexibility for bachelor(ette) parties, so long as everyone knows what’s going on ahead of time. The younger, closer friends of the couple probably already know the wedding will be small, and would enjoy the night out even though they won’t all be at the ceremony.

      • Alicia

        I disagree with Zakafury that calling it a wedding reception is tacky I think that is perfectly appropriate as one can have more then one wedding rweception and one does not have to be invited to a wedding in order to be invited to the reception.
        I also disagreee that excluding the bachlor and bachlorette oparties from teh traditional only those invited o the wedding as modern bachlor and bachlorettes involve a lot of outlay of money from the guests and it is a lot when you do not even want these people at your wedding to ask them to celebrate for you.

        • Elizabeth

          You know, I think it depends on the kind of bachelorette party we’re talking about. If you want people to travel to Vegas for the weekend, it will naturally be limited to close friends who will be invited to the wedding itself. However, if it’s a local event without a lot of financial outlay, my attitude is “the more the merrier.” I myself was invited once to the bachelorette party of a friend of a friend – a girl I didn’t know very well, but who I liked, and I was happy to spend a fun evening with a nice group. I never expected to be invited to the wedding, before or after the bachelorette party.

          I think the question of the wedding reception also is more nuanced. Sometimes people must marry quickly or in a particular locale where it is not possible to have a big reception. For example, if a couple lives in Europe and needs to have their wedding performed there, but then their family and friends live in the states, I’m not sure why it would be improper for the couple to travel to a place that’s convenient for their guests to celebrate. One can also imagine that a couple might want to marry before one of them deploys, and then they can have time to plan a larger party when that person returns.

          I think that if you plan to invite someone to a reception where you will treat them to a nice evening to celebrate a wedding, and since the wedding is only the week before (and not months later, which changes things) I think it is perfectly acceptable to invite those people to shower activities. After all, it seems that the couple is making it easier for their guests by not inviting them to an out-of-town wedding and rather holding a reception locally.

  6. Molly M

    Recently I was on an airplane when the passenger sitting next to me, a thirty year old male, removed his sandal and placed his bare foot crossed over onto his right knee. His bare foot was was facing me, and crossed over into ‘my space’ as his toes were next to my folding tray. In this situation, is it ok to say something and ask the person to remove their foot, or at least to put their shoe on, or should one not say anything? If you do say something, what should you say? I found it incredibly rude and distasteful, no one wants to see the bottom of someone else’s feet, especially in such a tight and restricted area such as an airplane!

    • Vanna Keiler

      Hi Molly. I’ll take a stab at your question. Were I in your shoes (or sandals), I would probably have had a similar “ick” response to having a bare foot in my sight, especially when I was in the process of eating. However, the fact that you did nothing probably lends itself to your wonderful etiquette style. I would probably have done nothing myself. What can you say? “Could you please move your bare foot out of my view? I’m trying to eat/relax.” Telling airline staff and having them deal with it would probably create more tension than not saying anything. It’s an unfortunately crowded space already and like an elevator, sometimes it’s best to just wait until it’s over and move on. Hopefully you will not encounter another bare foot experience on flight again.

    • Elizabeth

      Molly – EWEWEWEW.

      If I could keep my cool, I would definitely go with what Vanna suggested. But I’m not sure I could manage anything better than a “Dude, could you please put your shoe back on, that’s really unhygienic.” (said with an extremely disgusted look on my face)

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