Open Thread

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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.


  1. Kirth W Steele

    I am wondering what the proper etiquette is for referring to someone as “Doctor”? Does this apply to only earned medical degrees or the PhD and other earned doctorate degrees? Can someone refer to themselves as “Doctor” if given an honorary doctorate degree?

    • Winifred Rosenburg

      There is a lot of debate on this issue. In business/professional situations, anyone with any doctorate degree should be referred to as “Dr.” In social situations, there are different opinions but ultimately you should refer to someone as they would like to be referred. In other words, if you’re not sure, ask.

  2. Nancy B.

    My daughter prefers a less formal, more modern wording to her wedding invitation. I have seen wording such as “We invite you to join us as we celebrate the marriage of our daughter, Marie Anne..” but they do not actually mention the bride’s parents names. We are hosting, so would it be appropriate to say, “Mr. and Mrs. Smith invite you to join us as we celebrate the marriage of our daughter, Marie Anne to John Doe”.? If not, what would be more preferable and grammatically correct?

    Also, is “half after” preferable to “half past” in a less formal invitation?

    • Elizabeth

      You would not refer to yourselves in the invitation as “Mr. And Mrs. Smith” but rather Nancy and Bob Smith.
      “Half after” is not ever used, it is simply incorrect, so it would either be “half past six” or “6:30.”
      I would recommend that your daughter to double check with her fiance and his parents to make sure they do not expect to be listed on the invitations. It is a common source of complaint when they are left off.

      • Nonnie Mowse

        Elizabeth, I’m curious. When did mentioning the groom’s parents become ‘expected’ even if they weren’t contributing financially to the reception? My MIL has never really forgiven me for not mentioning her and her ex-husband (they were divorced at the time) on our invitations. (It didn’t help that my alcoholic uncle said he was ‘surprised to meet her, he thought she/they were dead because she/they weren’t on the invitations’. I found this out a good 15 years later.) At the time, I consulted the etiquette books I owned, the bridal magazines, and the staff person at the venue where we ordered our invitations. All the sources (early 1980s) seemed to be the traditional ‘bride’s parents were giving away their daughter/throwing the party’ and were the only names necessary on the invite as hosts. Her son and I both told her this years later, but she’s never fully accepted it.

        My in-laws also didn’t know they were traditionally responsible for the rehearsal dinner and the other little things in-laws have done, and my MIL also told me that her daughter “really should be in the wedding” (one of my bridesmaids, even though I didn’t know her at all). I had already asked my bridesmaids and had things set, but asked my future SIL anyway because I didn’t want to rock the boat. (She was not a very nice person, and didn’t know what being a bridesmaid entailed and was very resentful at being asked to help my MOH who lived in another state.) I was very uncomfortable informing them they would have to spend money because neither of my husband’s parents were that well off, so I scaled back our wedding so they wouldn’t have to go into debt (they also don’t know this). They truly didn’t know what ‘having a wedding’ meant, and I was too afraid to open my mouth, I didn’t want them to feel embarrassed. I just tried to keep the peace and a smile on my face.

        I’m not trying to be flip by asking, but what has prompted the change in mentioning the groom’s parents? What are the guidelines now? I agree it is a thoughtful gesture, but I have to admit I’d be a little annoyed if they got thanked for the occasion, if they didn’t do any of the work. But if I’m missing some point (and I often do) please tell me so I can navigate this recurring theme of hurt feelings better.

        • Elizabeth

          It’s a good question you ask. For weddings, there is a difference between who is “hosting” the event (which can be a symbolic or financially-involved role) and who is paying for the wedding. Some couples pay for the wedding themselves and still want their parents on the invitation as host. Seeing parents’ names on the invitation does not automatically equate to “that’s who’s paying for it.”

          Every aspect of weddings has some traditional aspect to it, and the reasons for those traditions have long since changed. It used to be that the bride’s family “gave her away” to the groom’s family, the bride’s family would pay for the wedding and would supply her with a dowry because a marriage was more advantageous for the woman than the man. You can go on and on with these sexist and outdated reasons, and yet the *customs* that they produced remain. Why do brides’ families still pay for weddings? “Because its tradition” is a terrible reason. I would advocate for listing both sets of parents no matter who pays for what because both children are being married, and invitations are going to both sides. (Another way to look at it: Why are only the brides’ parents listed, as if she is still a child whose identity is dependent on her family of origin, while the man’s name stands on its own as a self-sufficient adult?) Yuck.

          It sounds to me like your ILs were not particularly well-educated about these matters, and also prone to hold a grudge (15 years!?). I think you did well in trying to keep the peace, and I hope you enlisted your husband in this as well. It sounds like you did your due diligence and consulted all the right people. At this point, it’s your MIL’s problem if she’s still upset about it.

          Edited to add: I don’t think people who only list the brides’ parents are doing it wrong. I’m just suggesting that the groom’s parents may have an expectation of being listed, and one should check before ordering!

          • Nonnie Mowse

            Thank you Elizabeth, I really appreciate your answer. The other thing to consider was, my parents and I were paying for the wedding and reception (and discreetly the things my in-laws never came forth about), and my parents came from the age of ‘custom’ of bride’s family is the only one listed, the only hosts. My in-laws are 10 years younger than my parents, and a lot can change in society in 10 years. My parents were city/suburbs lower middle class folk born around 1930, and my in-laws were ‘country poor’ (their words, not mine) and born around 1940. Their growing up took place during very different eras in history, in addition to the other logistical stuff.

            And an aside, my MIL gets upset about everything etiquette. She bemoans how she never learned or was taught anything, her most frequently used phrase is ‘Well I didn’t know’ and gets upset about something because she’s embarrassed… and yet she’s never researched the subject! (She does it with everyone outside the family, not just me.) She’s more comfortable making people feel bad for wanting some formal touches to things. And by formal, I mean paper hors d’oeuvres plates for the munchies. Twice now at her home, guests been expected to carry the fruit or cheese or whatever snack around in their hands. Or eat it over the display where it’s served. The second time, at least they had napkins. It’s frustrating.

        • Winifred Rosenburg

          I agree with Elizabeth and would like to add the most common wording that includes the groom’s parents is “Bride’s parents invite you to join us as we celebrate the marriage of our daughter Bride to Groom, son of Groom’s parents.” This way they are listed as the parents of the groom but not as the hosts. When I got married two years ago, I also consulted etiquette books to see how to word the invitations and found the same thing you did. I then showed my proposed wording to my mother who told me I should add the groom’s parents’ names because that’s what she would want if it were her son getting married. Like you, it hadn’t occurred to me, but I’m glad my mother told me.

          • Elizabeth

            I like that wording.

            I have also seen: “Jane Doe and Robert Smith, together with their parents Alice and Alex Doe and Jules and Johanna Smith, invite you to celebrate …” or “Alice and Alex Doe and Jules and Johanna Smith invite you to celebrate the marriage of their children, Jane Doe and Robert Smith…”

            There are a lot of ways of including both sets of parents.

          • Nonnie Mowse

            Thanks Winifred. I’m remembering slowly (it’s been thirty years, so I’m fuzzy), trying to consider how to word all three sets of names of parents. Part of the problem was, my FIL’s common law marriage may not have been legally considered that at the time (and he’s on his 3rd or 4th wife now, we quit counting), and there was still divorce tension between the parties involved. There wouldn’t have been room for the wording we wanted to put inside the invitation, and list all the names with one of them potentially not being relevant by the time the wedding happened. The whole situation was just messy and prickly when it came to dealing with my future in-laws and their re-marriages and not-re-marriages.

  3. Nessy

    Trust me Elizabeth, you peeve someone off about a wedding (parents, siblings, other family etc) you are going to live with the grudge for a long, long time….. 15 years is nothing! Mention both parents then no-one will feel excluded or looked over.

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