Open thread

by epi on July 6, 2012

Welcome to the 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.

{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

Gail July 6, 2012 at 9:53 am

Is there any proper etiquette as to how and when or if to congratulate a grandmother on the birth her first grandchild?

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Alicia July 6, 2012 at 12:42 pm

Verbally when she tells you that her grandkid was born.

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Mary July 6, 2012 at 11:43 am

My daughter is getting married. They are having a per plate dinner served to the guests at the reception. We have a limited budget for this. The problem is that some of the guests have RSVP they are bringing someone with them, when in fact the invitation never allowed for them to include another guest. How do we respond to our invitees that have taken liberties to invite another party?

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Just Laura July 6, 2012 at 12:05 pm

Call them immediately.
Let them know that while you are thrilled that they are able to attend, the invitation was only for those mentioned, and unfortunately you are unable to accommodate any additional people.
They may argue (though they should not). Please stick to you guns! Explain that the fire code won’t allow for more, or that you only have a certain amount of seats, or that you simply can’t afford extras. It is not only rude, but also not very nice for guests to invite other people to your daughter’s wedding. They can invite all these extra people to their own wedding.

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CC July 10, 2012 at 3:04 pm

I’ve heard of this happening before, and I agree with Just Laura. Something like: “We are so delighted you can come, and wish so much that we could accommodate your guest. Unfortunately, we can’t as we have space limitations. We appreciate your understanding, and can’t wait to see you at the wedding!”

I don’t think people understand how rude this is, especially young people who may have never planned a wedding. They mean no harm, but it is poor manners nonetheless. (As an aside, the rule at our wedding was unless a couple was married, engaged, or living together, we did not feel any need to invite a friend’s boyfriend or girlfriend. We felt that, given our budget, if our friend wasn’t willing to commit, neither were we. A very close friend was upset by this, but a year later she had broken up with her boyfriend, and looking back, I am glad I stuck to my guns.)

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Winifred Rosenburg July 10, 2012 at 3:21 pm

I agree with the previous responses. I would like to add that you can also say that you want it to be an intimate event and not have guests you are not well-aquainted with. This is what I did when this came up with my wedding. Two people complained a little and said they’d “never heard of not being able to bring a date to a wedding” but in the end agreed to not bring a date. The other two we had to confront immediately said it was fine. I blame TV and movies for having characters always trying to find a date to a wedding.

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Theresa July 6, 2012 at 12:33 pm

Hi Emily
We received an invite to a party which states “no stiletoes” on the invite. It is as semi-formal but the host loves her hard wood floors. How do you feel about this strident rule or other similar ‘remove your shoes’ policies for parties.
Signed
Cold Feet

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Alicia July 6, 2012 at 12:38 pm

No stilletoes is a reasonable rule when they could damage the surface or put the person at risk ( many historic homes , lawns, boats, ect) So just wear a different pair of shoes your feet will be more comfortable anyway. No shoes however is a different matter entirely and utterly not appropriate for a formal or semiformal event.

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Rusty Shackleford July 6, 2012 at 12:44 pm

Alicia is right on the money here. Not only is a no-shoes rule not appropriate for a semi-formal gathering, but in general, can open a huge can of worms over foot odor, runs in hose, people who were not expecting to remove their shoes and therefore didn’t paint their nails, not matching socks, etc. No stiletoes is probably a very good rule to balance the host’s needs and to see to the comfort of their guests. My understanding is that a stiletoe, by definition, has a high, metal heel (glad I’m a man). I’m sure you’ll find an alternative that looks great and feels better.

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Elizabeth July 10, 2012 at 3:51 pm

A stiletto is just a high-heeled shoe with a very thin heel. The ends of the hells themselves are not metal (at least, not usually). However, when you have 100 pounds of weight or so coming down onto a square centimeter, concentrated into a very small area, the forces are enough to create divots in some wood flooring. But there are lots of high heel shoes without stiletto heels – anything with a wider heel has much less a chance of harming the floor. Since it’s summer, go with a wedge – more comfortable and the host will appreciate it.

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Alicia July 6, 2012 at 2:18 pm

My boyfriend and I are both pescetarians. That being said, when a waiter or waitress begins to tell the daily specials, we have no need to hear the multiple meat options for the day. Is there a polite way to let your wait staff know that you do not eat meat? If yes, at what point in the dining process do you do so? I feel this would save both parties time but don’t want to come across as aarogant or disinterested. Thank you!

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Winifred Rosenburg July 6, 2012 at 4:00 pm

I don’t really see a good way of stopping them that wouldn’t take longer to explain than to listen to the specials. In many restaurants the servers risk being reprimanded if they don’t list each and every special so it may put your server in an uncomfortable position if you try to stop him anyway. Just listen politely; it shouldn’t take more than a minute.

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Vanna Keiler July 7, 2012 at 12:28 am

I agree with Winifred. Furthermore, this gives you a good segue, after the wait staff has explained the specials, and asks if you have any questions, to enquire which menu items have any hidden meat ingredients in them, and which items would be your best bet. Many salad dishes, for example, add meat juices or meat pieces to add an extra level of flavor to them. If you bring your dietary needs to the waiter’s attention after their descriptions, they can help you ensure you are eating what you expected.

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Rebecca July 10, 2012 at 10:05 am

Also agree with Winifred – plus, in my experience, the listing of the daily specials isn’t all that long anyways. The server will list three or so meals, giving the basics about them, then looks at the diners to gage interest, at which point if they were, the server would go into more detail. So it seems much simpler and polite to give the server the thirty seconds of listening, then simply say, “No thank you.” I’m sure they don’t care about the WHY of declining, so a mere yes or no is all that’s needed.

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Country Girl July 10, 2012 at 2:44 am

While I do agree with Winifred; of course that if they have started to ramble off specials obviously it is too late, but I don’t think it would be too hard to ward off the spiel before that point. When you are being seated or offered drinks, if by your waitress, you might mention “We are both pescetarian, would you be able to tell us the fish or vegetable specials for tonight?” I sometimes feel sorry for the waitresses and waiters who have to try to recall and recite a long list of specials, so they might be thankful when you speak up. A waiter is not a hostess, so they will appreciate knowing your preferences so they can better serve you and possibly earn a better tip! (*Added bonus- He/she can then also clue you in if there is hidden bacon in the dressings or other such things.)

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Elizabeth July 10, 2012 at 3:55 pm

I would actually guess that most diners are not super interested in hearing the specials – they are often more expensive and more complicated than what you were going to order in the first place. Unfortunately, your dietary restrictions don’t really get you a get-out-of-hearing-the-specials free card. The awkward moment, after the waiter has lovingly detailed the $36 sea bass and the $45 bison filet when you just order a $12 burger – it’s awkward for everyone, whether your burger is a boca or beef burger. Plus, I would not count on the waiter necessarily understanding your exact dietary orientation. Everyone has their own way of defining what they do or don’t eat. Maybe you’re a pescetarian that will look the other way if there’s chicken stock in the risotto, maybe you’re a vegan who makes an exception for artisanal bacon. Anything is possible. If your aim is to get through ordering with the least fuss, just listen politely then order what you were intending to.

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Becky July 6, 2012 at 3:02 pm

I was recently married in my home town in Wisconsin though I live currently in San Francisco. Many of my dear friends from California came to the wedding to celebrate with us which involved plane tickets and hotel rooms. Though we had events and meals provided for most of the weekend, it was still a large expense for my friends from California to make it to Wisconsin for the weekend. These friends also bought us generous gifts. Now, some of these friends are getting married here in California at local weddings that will not involve the same travel and lodging expenses. When purchasing their gifts, how should I compensate for the extra expenses they incurred when coming to our wedding? How much is enough to show them that I appreciated the extra expense it required to celebrate with us so far away?

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Rusty Shackleford July 6, 2012 at 3:23 pm

I wouldn’t factor in their past expenses at all when it comes to their gift. You should give a gift that you and your husband are proud to give, and reflects the affection, and well wishes you have for the happy couple. That advice may be of no help to you, and for that I apologize. But consider this, the tradition of giving a gift to a couple on their wedding stems from the tradition of a couple, specifically the bride since it was largely uncommon for unmarried women to live outside their parents house , literally moving from their parents house to their new household with nothing but their clothes. Gifts were intended to be the household items to get the happy couple started. Of course nowadays, that’s not the case, with many couples even living together already. Yet today, the wedding gift is sometimes offered out of a sense of obligation, or even as a ticket to the wedding, neither of which are terribly good reasons. Hence I say give a gift you’d be proud to give, and not out of a feeling of obligation.

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Alicia July 6, 2012 at 4:55 pm

Gifts are a reflection of your closeness to the couple, budget, happiness in the union, and perception of what would make them the most haoppy. How much or little they gave you is unrelated to what you should give them. The way to show them that you appreciated their gift was a prompt thank you note gushing about how much their traveling ment to you and how fantastic their gift was.

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Rebecca July 10, 2012 at 10:13 am

I agree with Alicia – gifts reflect your closeness to the recipient(s) and also your budget. It’s really impossible to go tit for tat, although heaven knows many people try.

For example, I am a single, childless women. As you might imagine, at this point in my life (early thirties) I have given numerous generous gifts to various friends for their special occasions, and some friends — let’s say those who have married, become homeowners, had a child or several, etc. — have gotten many gifts from me. Let’s say if I were suddenly to get married. Would my friends start factoring, “Let’s see, in just the past few years, Rebecca gave me gifts for my engagement, my bridal shower, my wedding, my baby shower, my baby’s christening, our housewarming…let me give her something equal to that!” Somehow I doubt it.

Plus, on another note, as traveling to wedding locations is becoming more and more popular these days, it’s pretty much understood that there’s a bit of a disclaimer involved (in other words, as close as you may be to the happy couple, you don’t go unless you really can afford it.) One of my best friends had a destination wedding. It was in the continental US, so it wasn’t all THAT expensive comparatively. But since I wasn’t employed at the time, it really would have presented a hardship, so I had to beg off. She wasn’t happy, but hey.

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Karen July 6, 2012 at 5:34 pm

PARTY “NO SHOWS” I just had a Fourth of July pool party and selectively invited 20 guests. All said they would attend – but only 10 showed up. The other half didn’t even bother to phone (or even text) that they would not be attending. I spent a lot of time and dollars on this party. My etiquette question is: what do I say to those who did not attend? I don’t want to respond to rudeness with more rudeness – and I suspect the best thing is just to say “I missed you!” But I’m nonetheless very irritated, and have a hard time biting my tongue. Any suggestions?

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Winifred Rosenburg July 7, 2012 at 12:27 am

If you do so very soon after the event, you can call and express concern about what kept them. Act as though you assumed they wouldn’t not show up unless something bad happened. You will probably succeed in making them feel guilty even if you don’t get an outright apology. This also protects you in the unlikely event that one of them actually had a legitimate excuse for not showing up. The only other thing to do is to remove them from your future guest lists.

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Vanna Keiler July 7, 2012 at 12:42 am

Hi Karen. I’m sorry to hear about your non-attending guests. It is very bad form and terrible etiquette to not call if they cannot attend. The odds that each of the ten guests met with such unusual circumstances that notifying you of their intended absence seems a little mind-boggling. To add insult to injury, you incurred a financial loss due to their absence and your planning for their attendance. I don’t know if there is anything you can do until you communicate with them again. Naturally, they may volunteer an explanation for their absence when you next meet, but until then, I don’t know if there is a polite way to enquire about their absence and lack of notification without getting more upset if their reasons do not placate you. On a positive note, the 10 guests who did attend are surely more reliable and better know how to be good friends and good guests, so maybe next time invite only them and save yourself some money too. :)

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Elizabeth July 7, 2012 at 10:53 am

Karen, I too would be mystified if half my guests didn’t show up. I don’t see anything wrong with a short email, even a few days later. “Hey Bob and Sue, we missed at the BBQ this weekend. Are you alright? You said last week that you were going to come, so I was worried when you didn’t show.”

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Karen July 9, 2012 at 10:52 am

Thanks, all, for your replies. I have since discovered the following: 1 person went to a different event with her friend (I discovered this via her Facebook posts); a family of 3 also went to a different event; a couple were out of town and had not yet returned; and a work friend just decided not to make the drive! I suspect that if I “confront” them at some point, I am likely to show my irritation and perhaps be rude in return. So I’m thinking the most gracious thing to do is acknowledge that I missed them at the party. If I want to push it, I could perhaps ask them in return if they also had a good time at their other event. (?) And yes, I agree, I unfortunately now have the clear message that these are not the folks to keep on my guest list. :(

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Elizabeth July 9, 2012 at 7:20 pm

Ugh, those are all terrible reasons. It only takes 5 seconds to text. I’m sorry that these crappy are in your life, but now you know what kind of people they really are and how much effort you should make towards them in the future (none).

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Rebecca July 10, 2012 at 10:19 am

In my experience, this boils down to the “only me” syndrome – as in, “Oh, it’s fine if I blow off this party without calling! It’ll be only me doing that; they’ll have plenty of other guests and never notice the difference” or “Oh, it’s fine if I wait til the day before the wedding to RSVP! It’ll be only me doing that; I’m sure everyone else RSVP’d in time, so it’s no big deal for them to squeeze me in.” But, unfortunately, you end up having LOTS of people thinking it’s “only” them, and that’s where chaos kicks in.

Also, not to judge your friendships or anything, but I would guess the invitees were not all that close friends, were they? If you do consider them as such, and they blew you off, I’d definitely re-classify those friendships.

CC July 10, 2012 at 2:55 pm

Karen, I just want to say your feelings are totally justified, and I’m sorry this happened to you. If I were in your shoes, I would feel the same way. Your instinct to just graciously say nothing seems sound. I know I would have a hard time letting go of this discourtesy, and I hope you have an easier time with it than I would.

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Karen July 22, 2012 at 1:57 pm

Thank you again, everyone! I appreciate your validation, and also agree with Rebecca that it might have been a lot of “just me” shenanigans (except the family of 3??) LOL In any event, I DID decide to mention simply that I missed them at the party and wished they had been able to make it. They are not “close-close” friends per se, but good enough “friends” to extend an invitation to. Plus, I live in the South (TN, for the past two years) and had heard that southern manners were better than this (especially when it comes to accepting/declining invitations). An interesting note: Of the people who DID come, they are native southerners; Of the no-shows, they are “transplants”. I feel better that I did not burn bridges with “no-shows” — I still have to associate with them now and then and feel more comfortable with having been gracious. And I *did* learn something about these folks that I didn’t previously know. <3

Stacie July 7, 2012 at 10:53 pm

I’m having my daughters second birthday party in a few months. Last year we asked for non-perishables instead of gifts that we donated to our church. our church has a food pantry and this year they asked for specific items since those are the items they put in the baskets for those that need it (peas, tuna, fruit cups, etc). How can I word it to ask for the specific items? I just feel like they have to still go shopping even though it is for a good cause.

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Katie K July 8, 2012 at 11:12 am

Hi Stacie, This kind of question comes up quite often on this site. Most posters agree that it is in poor taste to mention gifts at all (even gifts to charity) in an invitation.

Your motives are good, but rather than mention your church’s food pantry in the invitations, it would be more polite to share that information only with people who ask you about what kind of gift your daughter might enjoy. If they express interest in donating to the food pantry, that would be the time to tell them of the specific items that are being requested.

I’m sure it will be a wonderful party!

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Alicia July 9, 2012 at 7:29 am

I agree your heart is in the right place but this is not the way to go about this charity. Telling people not only that they must bring food for a kids birthday party but that they must go out on a specific shopping trip and give peas is a bit much. A 2 year old does not expect much of a party if she is not lead to expect this. I would let people bring whatever they want to bring and seperate the charity from the party. If you still wish to give to the charity then do so from your own resources.

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Karen July 9, 2012 at 11:04 am

I agree with the former responders. Part of the joy of celebrating someone’s birthday is finding and giving the perfect gift that you know will delight them! I always feel it somewhat presumptuous and disappointing when directed what type of gift to give – even if it is for a good cause or a charity. The birthday party and the charity should be kept separate. Perhaps you could host a food drive party at another time (I could see many people welcoming the opportunity to participate in a good cause, that is not very expensive)?

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Rebecca July 10, 2012 at 10:22 am

Plus, I doubt a church’s food drive means anything to ANY toddler. If you really wanted to go this route, perhaps you could pick something that your daughter could relate to even slightly, i.e. the local animal shelter. That way you could tell her that “this is for the doggies” and maybe even take her along when you drop the things off.

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Ashleigh July 10, 2012 at 11:07 am

Just to piggy-back on that… Most people really only think “people food drive” but don’t really take into consideration that some pet owners may end up going hungry so that they can give their people food to their pet or afford to buy pet food. Pet food/supply drives have been popping up all over the place because of this problem. I agree with Rebecca – your daughter would be much more likely to relate to this type of situation.

Lisa July 8, 2012 at 10:36 am

As a recent guest to one of these parties, I appreciated the good thoughts, but I felt it was not in the best of tastes to ask guests for specific gifts. Granted, they are not for the child but it us not too big a difference between “bring 4 cans of tuna, please” and “bring a sparkle bright Barbie doll”. I enjoy giving children gifts and if I find a toy for a specific child over the course of the year, I go ahead and buy it in anticipation of his or her birthday. I feel disappointed when invited to a party but am not able to give the gift to which I had given much thought. It just ends up going to Toys for Tots (which also makes me happy) and I have to make an unplanned trip to the grocery store to do someone else’s shopping.

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Chris July 12, 2012 at 11:01 pm

Hi,
My sister always sends out invitations for pool parties and barbecues and then adds in that we will be celebrating one of her child’s birthdays, and then another ones graduation etc. We feel this is a birthday party and should bring gifts, but when we respond she always asks us to bring a dish and some liquor for the bar. Even though I feel that if it Is a pool party or barbecue get together we should contribute something, I feel that it is inappropriate for her to expect us to contribute if she is hosting a celebration party for one of her children or spouse. Am I wrong ? I never ask people to contribute to celebrations for my family members. I feel people should bring gifts for the guest of honor.

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Rebecca July 23, 2012 at 10:56 am

Would you normally give a gift for your nieces or nephews on their birthdays or graduations? If so, you can just bring it to the party.

If not, then it very well may be that your sister is having a “just your presence is gift enough” kind of occasion. In that case, I’d just bring some food – I never go empty-handed to any event like that – and so this would be no different.

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