Empty Handed: Proposing Without a Ring

Q: I have a question regarding the etiquette of proposing to my girlfriend: Is is acceptable to propose without an engagement ring, but with a smaller ring instead? My girlfriend is somewhat particular about her tastes, and I want her to be involved in picking out an engagement ring. But, to me, it seems that asking her to be part of the process ruins the surprise of the proposal. Instead, I’d like to propose with another, smaller ring (a nice, small 18 point diamond ring, that she likes as a ‘right-handring’). So, what is proper etiquette in this case? Propose with the small ring or not?

A: It is fine to propose without an engagement ring, and then select one together. You can always present her with a “symbolic” ring, but it needn’t be another diamond ring – it could even be a cracker jack ring – if you would like to have something to slip on her finger when you propose.

Takeout Tipping: Should you tip When Getting Food To-Go?

Q: I am in a quandary about tipping. What is the proper etiquette if you place an order (at a restaurant such as Cracker Barrel) and YOU go pick it up as take out? Should there be a tip?

A: No, there is no reason to tip unless the counter clerk has gone out of his or her way to be of assistance and you would like to acknowledge that extra service. Many counters now feature tip cups, and of course it counts as revenue to the workers, but a tip is still not obligatory when you pick up your own food at a take-out counter.

Right Handed World: Which Way do you Pass Food Around the Table?

Q: At a family meal recently there was some friendly discussion regarding the passing of the food. So, which way is it? Do you pass to the Left or the Right?

A: You pass to the right, or counter clockwise. You pass it from your right hand to the person on your right’s left hand. He then can hold the bowl or platter in his left hand and serve himself with his right hand.

Intimidating Introductions: Do you Need to Define Relationships?

Q: What is the proper way to introduce a girlfriend/boyfriend to friends / family / coworkers etc that you are involved in a romantic relationship with. (I’m a divorced male dating a divorced female, we both have children that are often with us from the previous marriage)

A: You don’t need to define every relationship when making an introduction. It is fine to simply say “I’d like you to meet Susan Smith. Susan, this is Mrs. French.” If Mrs. French simply has to know what Susan is to you, you can tell her. But this way you aren’t using defining terms that are not comfortable, whether girlfriend, boyfriend, significant other, or whatever you might feel defined the relationship.