Open Thread

by epi on July 12, 2012

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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.

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Maxie July 12, 2012 at 11:17 am

I received an single card invitation in the mail for what I thought was a wedding. Looking at it, it said “x & y’s Wedding” in fairly big font – however upon closer examination, it appeared that the only information was “please joing us for Dessert & Dancing” at 8pm and gave the address of that location. No where did it indicate where the ceremony was and/ or the time of the actual Wedding. There was an smaller insert card that asked “if we had to particular food concern to let them know”.

Am I to assume that I’m only invited to that part of the reception? Since I didn’t receive a formal invitation to the actual Wedding – am I obligated to purchase a gift? It was for the daughter of a long time high school friend, whom I only see maybe once a year -however I barely know the daughter. Is it possible that the actual Wedding invitation was accidentally left out? What should I assume or how should I handle it? Any advice on the etiquette would be appreciated. Thank you.

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Lilli July 12, 2012 at 11:55 am

It’s possible that the couple already had to get married and this is just a reception. Some people do the quicky town-hall weddings for various reasons (military deployments, citizenship issues) but still want to have a big party and celebrate with their loved ones. I actually appreciate when people are upfront about these types of situations instead of reinacting a wedding that already took place. If you think that this isn’t the case I don’t think it would out of line to call your friend and ask for clarification in case there was an error in stuffing the invitation envelopes. If you attend the reception (even if not the actually wedding ceremony) you should still send a gift.

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Rebecca July 12, 2012 at 12:56 pm

Do you have any mutual friends who are a bit closer to the bride and her family? You could contact them and maybe they might have some more info. Otherwise, I would suggest simply getting in touch with your friend or the bride. I don’t see anything wrong with getting some clarification if you don’t really know the full picture, and are concerned with doing the right thing.

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Pam July 12, 2012 at 12:29 pm

Was the card in an envelope or was it just a postcard? If the card fit perfectly in the envelope then nothing else was probably missing. Perhaps the wedding is just dessert and dancing…maybe the ceremony will take place quickly at 8pm. If you don’t feel close enough to the mother of the bride to ask “is a ceremony taking place at this location?” then I would just decide if you want to go to dessert and dancing. If you do, then bring a gift (worth an amount that you feel is appropriate) and if you don’t want to attend then just send your regrets.

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Zakafury July 12, 2012 at 12:29 pm

Indeed, it sounds like you are invited only to the reception. That’s very tacky, because it looks so much like a gift grab.

If you decide to go, you ought to bring a gift – one in line with your infrequent contact and scant relationship to the happy couple. If you don’t go, there’s absolutely no need to send anything, since it’s not even a wedding invitation you’re declining.

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Elizabeth July 12, 2012 at 1:57 pm

I think to call this type of event a “gift-grab” is going a little far. As Maxie described it, she has been invited to a dessert and dancing event in celebration of a wedding. It seems a bit like bad form to impute something negative to a perfectly nice invitation. I think it’s a nice alternative to the hours-long wedding celebration. And aren’t couples told right and left to stay within their budget? If I were invited to something like this (and I wanted to go), I would bring a modest gift and enjoy the evening.

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Rusty Shackleford July 12, 2012 at 3:40 pm

As others have said, there are definitely some very good reasons why you may not have been invited to the actual ceremony to include size of the venue, religious prohibitions, the ceremony was elsewhere, etc. And it is possible that the couple only had the budget for a desert reception. But the clues on the invite seem to suggest there was a ceremony and possibly dinner beforehand. It seems to me, if the desert and dancing was the main attraction, it would be called a “desert reception.” Its also at a fairly late hour, and I don’t know why a desert reception would ask for food concerns. In this economy there is a rising number of weddings that essentially have events in waves. Group A to the ceremony, Group B to the reception, Group C for deserts/cocktails, etc. If that is the case here, then yes, its very tacky. But you asked what you should do. I suppose if this really bothers you, you could investigate on thenest and try to find their registry to see if it lists a ceremony date and location that was not on your invitation. If you are comfortable attending the desert reception, then I’d say go, have a good time, and give a gift as you see fit.

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Elizabeth July 12, 2012 at 4:11 pm

Fortunately, I don’t know of anyone who has ever attempted that kind of “wedding in waves.” Given all of the potential awkwardness and hurt feelings, not to mention the necessity of rigorous scheduling (and sticking to that schedule), I can’t imagine how anyone thinks this is a good idea. However, given that they’re not planning on feeding the invitees dinner, but that it’s dessert and dancing (and probably cocktails), the 8pm start time sounds about right.

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Just Laura July 12, 2012 at 4:14 pm

I don’t know why a desert reception would ask for food concerns.

Some people have allergies to tree nuts or chocolate, or have gluten concerns.

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Rusty Shackleford July 12, 2012 at 4:21 pm

True, but usually a desert reception has a diverse enough selection that such a question is not necessary. A desert buffet usually has cakes, cupcakes, ice cream, and fruits, crackers, and cheese. The food concern question seems more relevant when an entree is served and a guest only has 2 or 3 choices.

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Just Laura July 12, 2012 at 4:30 pm

I have a friend who happens to be blind, and if he is within a few feet of a peanut, or shakes the hand of someone who has touched one, he may have to be taken to a hospital. Anytime friends invited him to anything in our homes, we had to make sure there weren’t peanuts in the room (because it’s not like he can see them and the service dog didn’t point them out). I agree with you about the chocolate or gluten part being a matter of simply choosing another dessert.

Elizabeth July 12, 2012 at 4:36 pm

That kind of dessert buffet sounds lovely, but it could just as well be more modest. Impossible to know. My point is simply that, in the absence of genuine information, it’s best not to assume the worst of people.

Chocobo July 17, 2012 at 1:07 pm

Rusty, I must disagree with you. The size of a venue is not a good reason to not be invited to a ceremony, or the ceremony location for that matter. The guest list is always to be determined first, then the rest of the details — size of venue, how to feed them all — are planned around that.

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Chocobo July 17, 2012 at 1:02 pm

Personally, given your tangential relationship to the couple and the fact that you are apparently not considered important enough to attend the ceremony, I would decline.

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Jody July 12, 2012 at 2:36 pm

I agree with Elizabeth — if I wanted to go I would, and bring a gift that fits within my budget.

I’m wondering if this might be a case where the bride was married elsewhere and is having a reception in her hometown for those who could not make the wedding.

In my church (LDS), weddings are normally held in the Temple; not everybody can go inside, no matter how much the bride and groom might want them there. It’s very common to have a smaller group at the wedding itself and then a larger group at the reception/party. This might be a similar situation.

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Maxie July 17, 2012 at 5:06 pm

Thank you for all of your responses! I decided to sent a quick email “RSVP for my invitation for Dessert & Dancing” for x & y’s Wedding” stating that I might not be able to attend. (What I had forgot to mention in my earlier posting, was that this was being held out of town, an hour away from my home at 8pm). The response I got back from the Mother was that “if I couldn’t make it to the Reception, they would understand”. Later there were postings on her Facebook page about “getting into town with the Wedding Dress in tow” – so I was able to determine that it was only Dessert and Dancing that I was invited to attend. I decided not to go and did not purchase a gift.

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Elizabeth July 17, 2012 at 7:29 pm

Thanks for the follow-up, we love hearing how things turn out. Sounds like you made a choice you could feel good about, and for that I commend you.

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M.K. July 12, 2012 at 8:29 pm

I have an ethics question: My son has been taking piano lessons from M. at the local music school since January. Many students elect to take the summer off, and though I initially declined to sign him up, I later made arrangements for his regular teacher, M., to give him private lessons in our home during July and August. The plan was for my son to then return to the school in September.

Both my son and I are enjoying having the teacher come to our house (I also have two other younger children at home). Is there any way that I could ethically retain the teacher for private in-home lessons come September? I don’t want to “steal” him away from the school or put the owner under duress, as she also has to pay her bills.

Any help you could provide would be greatly appreciated.

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Rusty Shackleford July 13, 2012 at 8:06 am

No. Its actually unethical for the teacher to teach privately in your home as it is if he/she is already paid by the school to teach your child. If your child attends a public school, this is most likely a written rule somewhere. Bottom line, you wouldn’t even know this teacher if your child wasn’t in the school, therefore, the teacher is making money on the side teaching your child private lessons on the goodwill he/she earned while working for the school. Its generally acceptable etiquette for a parent/student in a school setting to inquire of a teacher to recommend a private teacher, but that your school teacher should not be giving you private lessons. It also raises ethical questions about whether or not one child will get preferential treatment once school starts again. I’m sorry if that’s not the answer you want to hear.

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Pam July 13, 2012 at 9:53 am

I’ve never heard of teachers not being allowed to give paid private tutoring after school hours. Many times it is not the child’s current teacher, but another teacher in the district. But as far as this question, to me it seems that M. has a job at the music school and also gives private lessons. Wouldn’t this just be M. having a second job?

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Rusty Shackleford July 13, 2012 at 10:11 am

Its different because the school is the one that started a business, obtained the equipment, facilities, advertised, etc., and hired the teachers. So the student base was generated through the school. So M. is really just piggy backing on the school’s goodwill for personal gain. Of course if M. wanted to get a second job, and teach students not affiliated with the school, I’m sure that would be fine. But that’s not the case here. In fact, I know that many arts schools actually make their teachers sign non-compete agreements, in which case M. could actually get in trouble for teaching school students privately for additional money. I also know many music teachers in the public schools that are strictly forbidden from teacher private lessons to any student that attends school where they teach (they can teach students from other district though). So in conclusion, even though M.K. isn’t doing anything wrong, and certainly cannot be faulted for wanting the best for their children, the best solution would be to contact the school directly and ask about obtaining a private teacher for their children.

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Pam July 13, 2012 at 12:38 pm

This is very true, Rusty and I agree. It’s not like she worked for them in the past, resigned and is now teaching only privately. The customers only have the good music teacher b/c they found her through the music school, but now the music school is no longer benefitting from the lessons. I wonder if it would work the same for a hair dresser. Is it unethical to have a hairdresser whom you use at a salon come to your home instead and pay only them?

Alicia July 13, 2012 at 10:01 am

It seems to me that if you ask the teacher if he would be willinng to continue to teach your son music in your home in the fall and the teacher says yes then everything is fine ethically. If the teacher says no that he needs your son to go to the music school then that needs to be accepted. As long as you accept whatever answer the teacher gives without pressuring t hem then I see no ethical problem or ettiquette problem in simply asking for in home lessons to continue in the fall.

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Winifred Rosenburg July 13, 2012 at 10:15 am

Rusty, I think you misunderstood the question. It sounds like this is not a regular public school. It is a school for private lessons to be taken after school. In other words this teacher was hired by the school to give private piano lessons to children. Most of these schools have a policy that teachers are not allowed to “steal” students from the school. (I’ve worked for these types of places before.) So really it’s unethical for the teacher more than it is for you. However, it would probably be best for you to not encourage the teacher to be unethical.

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Jerry July 13, 2012 at 2:29 pm

No, it is not unethical for you to continue to pay the teacher for private lessons! (Or, in more positive parlance, it is perfectly acceptable for you to pay the teacher for private lessons as opposed to continuing with the school!)

Now it may be that the teacher doesn’t want to give private lessons during the school year. But, in a free market economy, it’s perfectly acceptable for you to ask if you can continue your current arrangement!

That you originally met the teacher at a school doesn’t change the analysis. It’s not unethical to cut out the middle man.

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Winifred Rosenburg July 13, 2012 at 10:24 pm

It is unethical when it violates a contract, which from my experience it almost certainly does. The teacher could get sued by the school, and the school would win.

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M.K. July 16, 2012 at 8:57 am

Quite a quandry, and I thank you all for your insightful comments. It seems that the best thing to do would be to return to the school in September. Alternatively, if I want to have the teacher continue to come to our home, to make arrangements through the school.

Thank you all, again!

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