Open Thread

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.


  1. Dawn

    I work in a small administrative office consisting of two universities and 4 people. Recently, a former congressman joined the group. I was last to meet him when he was still a congressman. Everyone else in the office calls him by his first name. However, I haven’t had an opportunity to address him. My supervisor said I should not call him Congressman X. I always thought you call the person Congressman X, as a sign of courtesy and respect, until he (or she) says, “Please call me ______”. In the past few months, I have seen this person five or 6 times. What do you suggest? Thanks.

    • Winifred Rosenburg

      Actually “Congressman” is not a title to be used with a person’s name the way “Senator” is. Congressmen instead use their normal social titles (Mr., Dr., etc.). Until this person indicates that you should do otherwise, it is polite to use that title and his last name.

  2. Clara

    Hello friends. I have a workplace dilemma. I have been in a new position for just over a year. I enjoy working with 99% of my colleagues. However, this past week has been distressing. I work with a condescending, unpleasant individual on Monday mornings. I try to just put my head down, do my work and enjoy when he goes home and I am free of him for the next week. This past week, however, he became very upset when he realized that he was not being called in to cover when people are sick–that other people are called instead. I am not his supervisor (my supervisor is on a leave right now). He heard me call someone else and flipped out. He went to our boss to complain. Next thing I know, the secretary, instead of asking me what happened, came in accusing me of “stirring up trouble” because when this unpleasant co-worker asked me why he isn’t called, I said I was just doing what my supervisor told me to do (and also what is in writing in our schedule book, which he has access to). I never said that my supervisor said NOT to call him, I just said that she told me to start with certain people. I was flabbergasted. I am well respected and liked here, or so I thought. That situation died down, and now today, another employee called in sick for the second week (he does this twice a year) which creates more work for me. So I said “he’s out again?!” and with an attitude she said “he doesn’t feel well.” Meanwhile, I’m the only person who treats this individual with respect…everyone else calls him an idiot and stupid behind his back, which I have never done. I think that, perhaps, it goes back to the initial incident. She has perceived me as throwing my supervisor under the bus, so as soon as I expressed dismay at his being out (it also leaves me by myself all day) she gave an attitude. What should I do?

    • Elizabeth

      I’m not sure that there is anything to do, honestly. I don’t think you were throwing your supervisor under the bus when you explained that you were just following orders. It seems like this secretary does have a little issue with you, but unless s/he is a person you really need in your corner, I would just ignore the drama and let it die down. Least said, soonest mended and all that.

      In the future, when someone comes charging at you accusing you of things instead of broaching the subject more professionally, you can ask for a pause and a change of venue. You can say, calmly, “Secretary, hang on a second. I don’t think you have all the facts. Can we go into your office to discuss this?”

  3. Jan

    A friend has lost her young adult son. The funeral is being held on her birthday. What is the appropriate acknowledgement of her birthday?

    • Alicia

      Grief trumps adult birthday. This will not be a happy birthday and to wish her such would be unkind. Ignore her birthday this year and be there for her as a grieving friend.

    • Jody

      Jan, how terrible for your friend. I agree with Alicia that it would be great for you to be there for her, but not necessarily to ignore her birthday. Watch for any clues your friend sends out; she’ll understandably be upset about the loss of her son, and having people ignore her birthday could make her more upset. If she wants to ignore it, you should ignore it; if she seems to be open to best wishes, give those wishes on her birthday.

  4. Kim VonBlon

    I had a situation regarding my husband niece who was having a baby shower for her first baby. His niece said that her Uncle Rick, my husband, was her favorite Uncle. I was planning on buying her an Amish quilt. I was hoping she was going to have a boy because I had seen this one quilt that had an Amish boy with his black hat and suspenders hold a fishing rod with a fish and beside him was a bucket of worms. The reason for this is because her Uncle Rick loves fishing and this is something they would have loved to received from him because it described fishing which is all my husband talks about. I’m sure I do not have to tell you about how expensive Amish quilts are. What I have an issues about is that his niece decided to have a gender specific baby shower and the sex of the baby was not given unless you were at the shower. I guess you will call me crazy, I told my husband that I was not going to drive 5 hrs to see her and drink punch,eat cake, play silly games and them watch her open presents like car seats, high chairs, breast pumps, and diapers. I saw her registry and no clothes were listed at all. I could have gotten her a Amish quilt but I wanted this to be special and gender specific sorry. You may have gathered already, I do not approve of this practice. I have always enjoyed going to shower and looking at the cute things that are given clothes, mobiles, baby books, etc. I sure they can use everything on there register but it’s like you are playing dress up with you baby and you want to buy the clothes. How does the Emily Post Institute feel on the subject of gender specific baby showers. I do appreciate you letting me vent, I hope I have not offended anyone to much. Thank you.

  5. Kim VonBlon

    Dear Clara,
    Yes, I could have purchased the quilt as a gift after the baby gender was given at the party. You have brought up a very good question, I guess I have to ask myself what I’m I going to get out of this gift. Let me see if I can explain to you and maybe you can help. With an Amish quilt they are made by hand by Amish ladies ( live in PA, OH, IN for example). Time is involved with this 4-6 weeks on a baby quilt, you have to pick the pattern, color, and how many other quilts are being worked on ahead of yours .No sewing machines are used. The cost on the one web site alone ( pattern with the boy fishing) the cost started out at $300.00 and they could go as high as $750.00 for a baby quilt.)People love the quality of Amish quits but the cost as you can see is rather high. This is why I wanted the quilt to be gender specific due to the cost and it was my husband’s niece first baby. They are very beautiful. I also wanted to, I guess you will say I’m a bit selfish, I come from Lancaster PA and this is part of my heritage, I just didn’t want her to think that I was just getting her any quilt from Macy, or Dillards. This is special, not because of the the cost, but because of the history of the Amish. I wanted to tell her about this. I guess I’m feeling slighted. So, back to you question of when the sex of the baby was given. If I have chosen to have a quilt made, my husband’s niece would be home in Iowa and I could send her the gift in the mail, but I guess I could explain about the Amish quilt in a letter I don’t know if she would really care or appreciate it. My husband’s niece is very special and I wanted to share this with her in person. This, I guess, I have to get over. Please, I will not be offended if you call me ” pig headed and stubborn”. I guess you will think that this is something I wanted instead of what the shower stood for. Maybe so. I see if as a beautiful missed opportunity. Thanks for listening.

    • Elizabeth

      If I understand you correctly, the mom-to-be was going to reveal the gender of the baby at the baby shower. Is that correct? I do not think that is rude of her and her husband to decide that. Frankly, it’s her decision whether they find out the gender at all, and it’s their decision when and where and how they tell people. Their registry contents, as you’ve described them, are not rude. They have a range of gifts and various price-points. Further, just because someone has a registry doesn’t mean you are obligated to buy from the registry. There are plenty of cute baby clothes that are not gender specific. You are free to buy the baby whatever you like within your budget. It is nice of you to want to gift them with something so unusual and expensive, but please consider that the gift is also rather useless – it is too expensive to be used as an actual baby blanket. If it doesn’t go with the decor of the nursery, it probably won’t even be displayed it’ll probably end up on some shelf somewhere. The point of these events is to give the mom something useful, and to celebrate the impending arrival with friends and family. It’s nice that you wanted to make a grand gesture, but I think you got wrapped up in it rather than just going with the event for what it was. Your niece was not rude on any count, so far as I can tell.

  6. Kim VonBlon

    Dear Elizabeth,

    Thank you for your comments. You did make me smile. Just wanted to add some feedback. I agree with your comment about having a registry doesn’t mean you are obligated to buy from it. Elizabeth, you do not know the family I have been married into for 15 years. I have lived with graduations, birthdays, weddings, and baby showers. If a registry is involved, you best be following it to the letter. I have seen this family trash gifts that are not exactly on the registry. No they don’t return them to the party that gave them the gift. So, I know your next question, then why the Amish quilt? First, it’s expensive, this family goes for more expensive the better. Second, it is very different, you used the words unusual, family loves this.Third Amish quilts are high quality and are usually past on to generation to generation. They love family heirlooms. I know you said it was useless item and if it didn’t match the nursery it would just sit on a shelf somewhere. Elizabeth, maybe in a “normal” family but I beg to differ in this one. I know you said that I should give the mom something useful. I agree but if I can’t sway from your list ,go buy it yourself. Thank, Elizabeth. Take care.

  7. scdeb

    I agree with Elizabeth’s advice. Your husband is the favorite Uncle but you will be the favorite Aunt if you buy a gift that is exactly what the new mommy wants for her baby. New parents are nervous enough about becoming parents and that is why shower guest should honor the gift registry. These items have been carefully selected and will be appreciated.
    I personally would adore having the Amish quilt–but it is something that is extremely expensive & very specific. Although your feelings matter a new mother’s feelings should come first right now.
    Once you know the gender & the colors of the nursery the quilt would make a wonderful gift. Even though they are expensive I think they are meant to be used not stored in a closet. I think the idea of sharing your love of Amish quilts etc. with the new mother is an excellent idea. Hopefully you could present it to the family when you visit after the baby is born sometime in the first year. Good luck!

    • Alicia

      If you want it to be heirloom then gender neutral is the best idea. That said kids ruin items and expectations of something lasting through several babies are unrealistic. Amish quilting is nice but mom and dad will want something washable and durable and that can deal with drool and pea etc. Also kids are not supposed to have blankets in crib for first months due to crib death instead swaddling until can turn over. Truly a quilt is a much nicer wedding gift then baby gift.
      Sounds more like you want to give this then something the parents or baby would like.

      • jazzgirl205

        I understand what you all are saying, but there has to be some joy in giving. Kim is not only excited about the baby but also about about sharing some of herself and husband with the new family member. That says that she expects to be lovingly involved in the child’s life. There is more to life and childhood then mere practicality. I wish more new parents understood this. Personally, I would be disappointed with a room full of practical useful things. I would use the Amish quilt for outings and church. My dd used the sterling toddler spoon and the Portmerion china baby mug (not a chip, thankyou) and I also let her handle the beautifully illustrated books. How else are they to develop tastes above the mundane? BTW, dd still uses the spoon to stir her coffee.
        Go for it, Kim.

  8. Tarah

    Good afternoon! I have a question about my rehersal dinner. Should I wait to send invitations to people for the dinner until they have RSVPed for the wedding? The list is quite long so I don’t want to burden my future MIL (and the guests) with people that aren’t going to be in town. Thank you!

    • Elizabeth

      Usually the guest list for rehearsal dinners are quite a bit smaller than the regular guest list: the wedding part, the parents, and perhaps some out of town guests. However, lots of people do it differently. Are you inviting all of your wedding guests to come to the rehearsal dinner? If so, then by all means put it in the wedding invitation. Are you only inviting a portion of your guest list? It still makes sense to include it in the invitation, because that way people will know how to make their travel plans and how much work they need to take off. It might be difficult for some people, having made travel plans early, to find out that they actually need to be there a day earlier. You could help ease your MIL’s burden by asking the guests to RSVP to a special email address that you set up for the event. Tarah& or similar. While traditionally, the invitation to the rehearsal dinner comes from the host (your in-laws), many people do include it in the wedding invitations just so things are clear. You can do it as a separate insert, and it can read as from the in-laws.

      • Tarah

        Thanks for your thoughts Elizabeth! We were planning to invite only wedding party, immediate family, and out of state guests. However, that adds up to 75+ people since we have so many out of state friends. I planned to have my MIL send her own invitation since our wedding invites are formal and the rehearsal dinner is casual.

        • becky

          Don’t wait until you get replies. As Elizabeth points out, your guests need to know about all events as they make their plans. You may opt to wait a week after the wedding invite so you are sure it arrives before the rehearsal invite. it is nice that you think of your MIL, but the other alternative is not to invite all of the out of town guests to a rehearsal dinner. It is a nice gesture for those making the trip, but is not a given that they must be invited to the dinner. The rehearsal dinner is typically wedding party, relatives and close friends (from in or out of town). If these out of state friends lived in town, would you still include them on the rehearsal dinner guest list or is it merely their out of town status?

          • Elizabeth

            You could include some kind of insert in the main invitation that is like a “save the date” for the rehearsal dinner – a kind of heads-up that the dinner invitation is forthcoming…

  9. Elizabeth S.

    I have a question about wedding etiquette. My fiance and I originally had planned on having a wedding with about 100-120 guests (including wedding party members). We each asked 6 people to be in the wedding party (1 MOH, 5 bridesmaids; 1 Best Man, 5 groomsmen). We asked them a couple of months ago, and they have all said yes. However, in my search this week for a reception venue, I quickly discovered that we would most likely not be able to afford to host a proper wedding with 100-120 guests with our tight budget. We are considering cutting down our guest list to about 30-40 people; this would only include immediate family members and close friends. If the final head count is only 30 people, about half of them would be in the wedding party and that doesn’t make much sense. How do we best proceed in terms of determining perhaps a different number of people in the wedding party and how to go about telling people that since circumstances have changed, we no longer need them in our wedding party? I think that with such a small wedding, just a MOH and a Best Man would be sufficient. It looks like we have put ourselves in a sticky situation. Any suggestions?

    • Alicia

      There is no way to kick people out of a wedding party without ruining friendship likely forever. You asked these people to be your wedding party they should remain your wedding party even if much smaller wedding.

    • Jodi

      Hi Elizabeth,
      If these people are close enough friends that you have asked them to stand up for you at your wedding, they are close enough friends for you to have an honest conversation with and explain the change in circumstances. Your reason for cutting back is more than understandable, and quite frankly, if they choose to be upset, perhaps they should remember that this wedding is about the bride and groom, not the attendants. (This is a sore subject for me as a young friend is getting married next weekend and it is heartbreaking to watch her friends and family members throw tantrums because they are not getting what they want, while the bride is putting aside her wishes to make others happy. )

      Having a MOH and a BM is a perfect idea for a smaller wedding. Do make sure the others are included on your guest list, no matter how small your wedding, and let them know how much you value their friendship. The very best to you in your future life!

      • Jazzgirl205

        It seems you really want a larger wedding. Have you considered cutting back in other ways? I had my reception at home with heavy hors d’oeuvres and a hired pianist. If your house would be a tight fit, a garden reception might be nice. A florist and a good rental agency can do wonders (trust me, I’ve seen amazing transformations). Instead of an open bar, you could also do champagne and a signature drink. A wedding reception is sharing your joy with friends and family. I’d hate to see you have to cut back on your guests.

      • Alicia

        If they were close enough to ask them to be in your wedding in the first place having a smaller wedding does not make them worth less to the two of you. Better to have a large wedding party at a small wedding then to basically tell your friends that they were just pageantry to begin with and you do not care as much for them as you thought due to having a smaller wedding.

        • Jodi

          Excuse me, I’m confused. Where in my answer did I even hint that not having all attendants in the wedding party makes them worth less to the couple, let alone that they were considered “pageantry”?

          Elizabeth is right in that the wedding party making up nearly half of the guest list doesn’t make sense. There is a need to scale back for financial reasons; I fail to see how this translates to “you do not care as much for them as you thought due to having a smaller wedding.” Does this mean they should spend more than they can afford? If the bride and groom were to choose to elope, does this mean they don’t care about anyone at all? I would hope their friends have a better strength of character than that.

          • Alicia

            Asking someone to be wedding party should be because you care about them standing up for you. If due to smaller wedding you kick them out the message you will be sending them is you did not pick them due to your love for them but instead as wedding accessories. This will insult your friends and hurt them badly. There is almost no cost to having someone in your wedding party. Better to make it look unbalanced then to insult those who should be your closest and your husband to be closest. They will be hurt and it will likely be bad enough that you and your husband will start your wed life minus friends or at the very least with them feeling that you do not view them as valuable as the pageantry. I am saying this to help because I saw it occur in a wedding my ex was a groomsmen in. They cut half the wedding party and only one of the then excluded wedding party was willing to attend the wedding or speak to bride who was the one who cut the groomsmen ever again. Bride lost all her cut friends groom lost two friends and had every friend trying to convince him to call off wedding and none of the groomsmen attended the wedding not even the brides brother. Cutting people is not about money. They cost you nothing more then flowers and you can skip those. Instead have a simple cake and punch reception
            Cut costs not your own relationships and those of your groom. I know this sounds blunt but please think how would you really feel if a good friend cut you from their wedding party ? I am trying to help you not be mean. Please do not be that bride that values bling over people.

          • Elizabeth

            I think there’s a solution someplace in the middle. I think a lot of people understand that being a bridesmaid is a symbolic thing, and I agree that it looks a bit silly to have a huge bridal party at an intimate wedding. I would not get rid of the bridesmaids, but instead explain that you’re having a much smaller and more casual wedding than you originally thought, and that you are not going to ask the bridesmaids to wear a special bridesmaids’ dresss, but rather something of their own choice. I would still get them a corsage or some kind of flowers, and I would still list them in the program. However, instead of marching up the aisle and standing up with you, have them walk up the aisle and sit down. This may be necessary if you have a smaller venue anyway.

    • becky

      ditto Elizabeth’s comments regarding opting for morphing the roles and attire for a middle ground. The timing as Audra points out is critical, as is the way in which it is approached. Humility and honesty go a long way…and must be unanimous from the couple. Though they would gladly do it, the attendants may actually appreciate not having the expense associated with the formal role. And remember when it all boils down to it, a “proper” wedding is one in which you end up married – there is no proper number about how many friends and family you share it with.

  10. Jodi

    Hi Alicia,
    I’m very sorry that happened to your ex; it sounds like the experience was bad for everyone involved. I would agree that “kicking” or “cutting” people out of a wedding party would be very hurtful, especially if a bride or groom seems to be making the decisions on his/her own as to who stays and who goes. I do see this as a completely different situation in that the entire style of the wedding is being re-designed, and again, not because of friendships, but for financial reasons. If handled sensitively, I believe there would not be a loss of friendships, (especially in that ALL bridesmaids and groomsmen positions are being omitted). Personally, if my close friends could not understand my situation (as explained by Elizabeth S.) I would question the depth of their friendship — I’m in it through thick and thin, and hope they are too.

    • Alicia

      Well I hope I am wrong but I truly think that it will result in everyone who you remove from the wedding party being very hurt and the majority of them being mad. Not to mention likely bad feelings from some other friends and family. Best case scenario is that everyone lets it go and forgives you and hides that it is all ok. So best senario is that they are willing to be hurt due to how much they love you but they will be hurt. You love these people so much as to want them in your wedding party why you would consider hurting them and making your groom hurt his guys over the perception that it looks silly for a small wedding is putting looks over people and I just do not understand. You picked them continue with them they are not costing you anything. So the idea of cost is silly. Normally in a wedding as a wedding party member you pay for own attire, travel, lodging, and host parties often to tune of about $500-1K. For the happy couple they pay for rehearsal dinner ( if have a rehearsal that is optional and skippable) flowers( if have them carried but this is optional I was in a wedding that just asked us to fold our hands in front of us and another that had us carry white dollar store candles), and you are invited to the reception( I would assume these 12 closest people and their spouses would still make the closest 40 people at the reception)
      So net cost is nil and removing them with excuse of money is not true removing them because you think it looks weird with small wedding is what is going on. Do not do this. But I’m done trying to make you see that this is not how to save at the expense of being mean to your closest friends.

  11. Andra

    Re: decreasing the wedding party. I believe a lot of this has to do with timing (How far out is the wedding, how involved has the extended wedding party been in the planning?) and grace. Your explanation makes sense re: smaller wedding, not having the wedding party be half the guest list. I like the idea of honouring these friends in some way to show their significance to you. An easy way is to involve them in the ceremony in some way. Have friends do readings, have them walk Great-Grandmother So-and-So down the aisle and serve as ushers, have them serve as greeters at the wedding or reception. I think a key point would be cutting back to just the Maid of Honour and Best Man though, as that is an easy delineation that has already been made and doesn’t require you to reveal the hierarchical nature of these friendships.

  12. Maria

    How would you address a children’s birthday party invitation to the parents and child of an unmarried couple? ie: Jane Smith, John Doe, Baby Doe

    The rest of the invitations I am sending to “The X Family”

    Thank you

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *