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. Second-time around

    We are both over 50 and marrying after being together 20 years. Our wedding party consists of one couple, and we are not having a rehearsal dinner. My question: When do we give the two attendants their gifts? Before the ceremony or after?

    • Elizabeth

      For the sake of convenience, I would give the attendants their gifts before the ceremony rather than afterward, and probably not immediately beforehand. They will want to secure the gifts and giving them right before or after might be inconvenient for them as they are preparing themselves and you for the ceremony. I gave my attendants jewelry to wear during the ceremony, so that had to be given beforehand, and I think my husband gave his attendants engraved flasks which he gave in the hours before our ceremony so they had time to stow them in their cars.

  2. Nessy

    I would be grateful for some tips in handling a situation. Every three months or so a lady I know through church rings me out of the blue and tells me that she has some nice flowers in her garden and wants to bring some around to me that day. I know she is only trying to be kind but we have had a difficult friendship in the past and the calls are very awkward. I also suffer from health issues that result in me not actually wanting a visit. In the past I have said “yes – thank you that is very kind” but she doesn’t arrive at the set time and it becomes a real chore. I find these impromptu calls stressful and I end up feeling I am doing her the favor by accepting. Is there a way I could tell her that these calls/visits are not welcome? I feel guilty when I say “no” or use my health as an excuse.

    • Elizabeth

      You are perfectly within your rights and the bounds of politeness to decline a visit, especially with a person whose company you do not enjoy. You have a few options. You can simply decline the visit. You can say, “Actually, I’m not up for visitors today.” or “That’s very kind of you, but I have other plans.” (your plans may be to watch a Grey’s Anatomy marathon) There’s no reason to feel guilty about saying no or using your health (or anything else) as an excuse. You could also say, “Sure, I’d love to see you at 2pm. However, I have plans at 3, so if you can’t make it by 2, we’ll have to do it another day.” If she shows up at 4, you don’t have to let her in. “I’m so sorry, but now’s not a good time, I thought we agreed on 2? Maybe next time. (close the door).” You actually don’t have to give any excuse to decline the visit. If she pushes you to give a reason why you can’t, you can just repeat, “I’m sorry, I have other plans” or “I’m sorry that just doesn’t work for me.” If she presses, you can truthfully say “That’s personal, and I won’t/can’t discuss it with you.”

  3. Cat

    I read in a post here from a while ago that it is not good etiquette to use bread to sop up the liquid left over from dinner, say leftover gravy or soup. Is there a reason this is so? Sometimes I am still hungry and find that the bread helps, and I do not want to waste the liquid.

    • Jody

      Cat, I think it depends on the meal setting. If you’re dining at home (either alone or with your own family) I think it’s perfectly OK to sop the liquid with bread and I do it myself all the time. If you’re at somebody’s home for dinner I’d follow the host’s lead. If you’re out at a nicer restaurant I’d refrain.

      • Cat

        Thank you Jody. Only if I am at home and still hungry will I get some bread out, as at a restaurant I just have a main course as I have found it fills me up nicely.

  4. Kay

    I am wondering if it is inappropriate to sell a used item or piece of furniture (on Craigslist or the like) that was given to you by a friend. They could have sold it used themselves, but instead gave it to me. While I appreciated the gesture at the time, it no longer goes with my home’s decor and I’d prefer the money to replace it with something that does.

    What about clothing that is handed down for my children from a friend? There are brands that I know I could sell at a consignment sale, but things that my children will not wear. Is it wrong to sell them and use that money to buy clothes my children will wear or should I feel obligated to donate what was given to me?

    • Elizabeth

      The items were a gift to you, so you may dispose of them however you like. However, if your friends catch wind of what you’re doing, they could feel taken advantage of or they could feel entitled to a piece of the action. If the items were given long ago, you are in the clear. However, if they were recently given, you could offer the furniture/clothes back before selling it. You don’t have to be specific about your plans. Something like this would suffice: “Dear Friend, it turns out that the clothes you gave me for daughter/son won’t work out after all. Would you like them back, or would you like me to take care of them?” You don’t have to say whether you’ll sell them or donate them. Even if your friend says, “Yes, go ahead and give them to Goodwill,” you can still do whatever you like with them – they are your property.

  5. Tala

    I have 3 kids and two of my daughters are sharing birth month. They have been sharing bday parties somewhat every other year (13 &12 atm). They don’t mind (me) doing that since they have the same circle of friends mostly at school to invite to their party. Also, in our situation that I am a single parent working FT in a food establishment.
    In a few months, they will be sharing another chapter of their lives and now preparing for the Sacrament of Confirmation. The event also falls on their Birth month April (now they will be turning 14 and 13). I start saving up for the event and planning to do a celebration with family and friends. As a request from my girls, all they wanted for their birthday is for me to send them both to school educational 3 days trip to Montreal at the end of May and it cost few hundreds for each child.

    The reality is, I cannot do both expense: the party and the trip. I asked my very close relative of what she thinks of “gifts towards the trip” kinda thing. She said she like the idea to help the girls with the school trip because we are close relatives and she knows the kids all their life, but she is not sure what the other guests will feel about it.

    I really need your honest opinion about this… and also, can you give me ideas how to attain both goals?

    • Elizabeth

      I would imagine that most guests would give the girls money as a gift without being told that they are saving up to do something specific. However, I don’t know that you can count on gifts totaling a few hundred dollars for each child without a huge guest list. I would not risk it in any case, and it is improper to ask your guests for gifts when that is not the point of the event. I would recommend scaling back the celebration so the girls can go on the weekend.

    • Alicia

      Skip the conformation party and simply have cakes after mass for your family. Friends will also be being confirmed that day and unable to attend anyway. Spend money on trip instead.

  6. Sands Crosby

    Is it appropriate for a first-time bride age 50 to expect her parents, who are divorced, almost 80 and living on fixed incomes to pay for her wedding?

      • Sands Crosby

        Thank you, Elizabeth. Actually, I mis-spoke. The word I meant to use was “obligated”, as in “are the parents obligated.” Your answer suffices for both words it seems to me.

        • Elizabeth

          I think you are correct on that count as well. No one is obligated to pay for a wedding, especially people in the situation you described.

          • Joanna

            I think the original tradition of the bride’s parents paying for the wedding stemmed from most brides being relatively young at the time of their marriage – i.e. not having had time to save up their own money, or else coming from time periods/cultures where they wouldn’t have held jobs at all – and so the parents paid. Presumably, at 50, you have worked, resided somewhere, saved up a bit of cash, and so has your groom, so IMO, regardless of official etiquette, the circumstances here are a bit different.

  7. Pam

    My daughter is marrying a man whose mother recently passed away. He would like his godmother , his aunt, to dance with him for the “mother/son” dance. That is a wonderful idea however he would like her to wear a dress the same color as mine and possibly the same for his other aunt. What is appropriate for this situation? My daughter doesn’t want them to “overshadow” me, but yet she doesn’t want anyone’s feelings to be hurt.
    Thank You!

    • Alicia

      The mothers usually go out of way to avoid dressing alike so I fail to understand why he wants the group of you to dress alike. That said to avoid the issue no need to discuss your dress with anyone.

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