Thursday, April 16, 2009

Are You a Polite Host? Party Etiquette Part One

Party EtiquetteNow that spring is coming we Alaskans are beginning to crawl out into the sunlight and meet again as friends and neighbors which means parties and get-togethers. However, with all the socializing going on you'd think people would be better at following the rules of etiquette. Or not.

The thing about etiquette isn't that it's there to restrict and confine and cause issues for good people such as yourself, it's really about how to interact with your fellow men and women in a way that encourages good will. Etiquette is the art of gracefully making someone feel comfortable and at ease.

In fact, if we were all to keep that last sentence in mind we wouldn't really need books on how to properly host a party or throw a wedding. Courtesy would take care of itself if we just asked ourrselves, "How should I handle this situation to make the other person or my guests the most comfortable?"

So as a practice, I'm doing a couple of posts about party etiquette. This first is a quiz on the proper procedure for throwing a party (and it really doesn't matter if we're talking a birthday party, wedding reception or cocktail reception, if you're inviting human beings the rules are basically the same) and next week I'm going to follow up with the second half which is about how to be a proper guest.

It's designed as a quiz, once you've picked your multiple-choice selection click and drag your cursor over the blank area below the selections and you'll magically be able to see the answer. Slick huh?

I'm just trying to make y'all comfortable (like my homey use of the word "y'all"? It's a bonus.)

1. You're hosting a dinner party and want to serve the meal at 7:00 pm. Should you . . .

a) Serve things at 7:00 pm, no matter what. After all, "you snooze, you lose."
b) Hope to serve the meal at 7 but if people are late you can plan to delay to 7:30 or so.
c) Plan on h'ors d'oeuvres at 6:30, dinner at 7.
d) Tell everyone it's at 6:30 to make sure they all get there on time (you know Aunt Bessie is always late).

The answer is A. "Eat on McDuff, eat on."
As a host you really should do things when you say you'll do them otherwise you're inconveniencing your guests who have arrived on time which is the greater sin. If the invitation says dinner is served at 7 then baring a national emergency it should be served at 7. After all, what about the guests who expected their meal at 7 and planned accordingly?

You don't want anyone to go into insulin shock or something do you?? Kidding.

Perhaps an exception could be made if someone is unintentionally delayed (by "unintentionally" I don't mean "habitually") and notifies the host that they will be a few minutes late (and by "a few" I don't mean "40") then the host can gracefully delay the start of the meal by a few minutes until that guest has arrived. But this is rarely done and should be avoided.

2. You want to throw a casual party for your girlfriend and invite mutual friends but are running short on cash. Should you . . .

a) Ask the guests to contribute $10 toward the evening's food and entertainment.
b) Host a potluck to cut back on expenses.
c) Forget it, you can't afford it so don't do it.
d) See if you can get corporate sponsorship.

The answer is C. If you can't do the time don't do the crime.
That's the simple answer--tough but simple. If you can't afford to throw someone a party then you really shouldn't be throwing a party--or at least an expensive one. Find another event to celebrate your friendship. Perhaps inviting friends over for dessert rather than a full-blown meal?

I cannot emphasize enough the tactlessness of asking your guests to contribute to their own meal. You must not, under any conditions, ever ask a guest to pay for what you as a host should be providing. That's what being a host is people! If a party cannot be confined within your budget then find another option but to require your guests to contribute through money or food is so embarrassingly rude I'm surprised I have to mention it at all but oddly enough this comes up all the time.

My daughter was invited to a party just this winter where she was asked to bring money for the food leading to the question "What is the host actually doing if not providing the food?" She was also told to buy a gift to exchange as part of the evening's entertainment which made the whole thing terribly hard on her slim income and she had to turn down the invite. Tacky folks.

3. You're throwing a fancy cocktail party and want to make sure everyone is appropriately dressed. You should . . .

a) Make sure it says "semi-formal attire" on the invitation.
b) Don't mention anything about the dress because "cocktail party" says it all.
c) Offer ties at the door for guests who may have missed your subtext.
d) Make sure it says "business formal" on the invitation.

The answer is A. Ignorance is NOT bliss.
Yes there was a time when the answer would have been B but unfortunately with the trend toward the casual and informal unless you specify the standard of dress for your party you are pretty much guaranteed to see all sorts of misfires which might lead to your guests feeling inappropriately uncomfortable about how they're dressed, even if they were the ones who got it right.

A cocktail party used to mean at the very least semi-formal dress (depending on how large and whether it was a seated or standing event) and would be understood as such but nowadays if you want your guests to arrive dressed up you'd better let them know. And let them know your expectations in realistic terms--what in the world is "business formal" supposed to mean?

4. You're throwing a 25th anniversary party for your parents and don't want people to feel compelled to bring gifts. You should . . .

a) Provide a discreet "money tree" for those who'd like to contribute in other ways.
b) Say nothing, if the gifts come, they come.
c) Specify "no gifts please" on the invitations.
d) Include an insert card with the invitation, listing your parents' favorite charity in lieu of gifts.

The answer is C. How many ways can I say this?
While technically guests at a 25th anniversary party are not expected to bring gifts at all, this will not be generally known. Most people will likely think that a gift is expected (not unless it's at least a 50th anniversary and the party is very large is a gift expected) and plan on bringing one. While it's not rude for people to show up with a gift you run the risk of making those who didn't bring one feel embarrassed as if they've done something wrong (ironically enough). Again, the whole purpose of etiquette is to gracefully make people feel comfortable so answer B is out.

And once again, if you missed my rant before, it is rude under any conditions to require your guests to contribute

Asking for food, asking for money, asking for a gift, asking for a donation--all of these things are wrong so answers A and D are out--though it's maddening to see how creatively people milk their guests for cash and gifts. Life isn't about gifts and "stuff."

*UPDATED* Apparently I was wrong on this one, that it is considered tacky to even say "no gifts please" because any mention of a gift on the invitation is in poor taste.

5. You're hosting a dinner party and want to properly seat guests. You must remember:

a) To never sit husbands and wives together.
b) To alternate men and women in seating order.
c) To seat guests according to interests and personality.
d) All of the above.

The answer is D. Was this one too easy?
This one is a little different because while there's nothing inherently wrong with men sitting next to men or husbands sitting next to wives (if I'm hosting a small party I usually seat spouses next to each other) the thinking is that if you sit someone next to another person that they are too comfortable with then they'll only speak with that person. A husband will end up talking with his wife and ignore the person on his other side.

There is some truth to this. I've sat at plenty of formal dinners where Andrew and I have been seated next to each other and it's much easier to lean toward him and talk with my best buddy rather than working at drawing out the stranger next to me in conversation. Don't seat twins together (and by that I mean people with the same backgrounds and interests) but look for ways to mix things up and draw out your guests.

So I'd add to this that the rule of thumb is probably that the more casual your party and the more acquainted your guests are with each other the more this rule can be fudged but if you're hosting a formal event you really should break up those cliques so people can get to know each other and have fun.

6. Your child is getting married and you're sending out wedding invitations. Which of the following is acceptable for including in the invitation?

a) A card mentioning where the couple is registered for gifts.
b) A card asking the guest to "save the date."
c) A card asking the guest to "RSVP."
d) Any of the above.

The answer is C. AND ONLY C.
I should write a book on wedding invitations. So many are sent, so few are polite.

What have I said numerous times? Thou shalt never ask thy guests for money or gifts. NEVER.

If you send a card showing all the places the happy couple is registered that is asking for a gift. It's saying--in effect--"You'd better show up with a present. And not just any present. We will only be happy if your present is from a place we deem worthy, see below. "

I know I'll get comments from people raving about how convenient this is as a guest, to have a notice showing where and how to shop, effectively taking pressure and stress out of the process. Ah, that's where you're wrong. Yes it may take pressure off--the pressure of putting any thought into a gift that shows your congratulations of the wonderful event.

Gifts are about thoughtfulness.

So what if you have to actually call up the mother of the bride and ask for suggestions for gifts? So what if you have to spend a little more time online hunting down the perfect present? That's what people who care do.

And don't stick in those stupid "save the date" cards. They're ridiculous. Where does it end? Sending them out a year in advance? That's how long many engagements take.

7. You've just hosted a large dinner party and the guests have adjourned for drinks in the next room. You should . . .

a) Tidy up in the kitchen quietly then go to attend your guests.
b) Ask your husband to clear the table and help while you join your guests.
c) Ask a few of your closest friends to lend a hand before joining guests.
d) None of the above.

The answer is D. This is the time to forget the dishes.
A host or hostess' first duty is to his or her guests. You're looking after their comfort, remember? So leaving them alone is not good. Ignoring some guests in favor of others is not good. Spending time in the kitchen will either leave them to fend for themselves or make them feel guilty they're not helping you out (which they shouldn't be doing). Ditto for your spouse who--presumably--is co-hosting the party with you and is not hired as the servant for the evening. Let the dishes sit and enjoy the evening.

Maybe, just maybe, if you've got a family event where you don't want the burden of clean up or providing the meal to fall on one person you can divide up the work and guests can help, but that's family. You have to be pretty close to someone to expect them to do their own dishes.

8. You're hosting a dinner party but are concerned about the guests approving the menu. Should you . . .

a) Check with your guests to see if there are dietary restrictions.
b) Serve three main dishes from which guests may choose.
c) Serve what you will because there will always be someone with a food allergy.
d) Go with chicken. Everyone will eat chicken.

The best answer is A. Yes, I'm tricky.
If there aren't a mob of guests and it's feasible to do so the best thing is to find out if they have food restrictions--it's the most polite. However, if this isn't a possibility (say you have too many guests such as at a wedding reception) then it's better to serve things as a buffet so guests can select their own food.

I've seen several parties where pretty little labels are stood next to each dish, describing what the dish is, i.e. "Sausage and crab stuffed mushrooms" which has the double benefit of allowing guests to see what the ingredients are
and further tempting them with a savory description of what their mouths can expect.

9. You want to throw your husband a surprise birthday party. You should . . .

a) Invite guests but don't tell them it's a birthday party, that way it will really be a surprise.
b) Invite guests but don't tell your husband.
c) Invite guests but don't tell your landlord.
d) Invite guests but don't tell them how old he will be.

The best answer is A. Oddly enough.
You may not be aware but just as it is considered rude for a person to throw himself or herself a party it is also rude for one's spouse to throw their husband or wife a party. The thinking is that a husband and wife are a pair and share everything so just as it's wrong to throw yourself a party, expecting people to bring you presents, it's impolite for a wife to do the same so people will bring her husband presents.

Now I know plenty of people who have done this and I've hardly condemned it as a faux pas but the whole point is that whenever you throw a birthday party it is expected of your guests to bring a present, it's the equivalent of asking for gifts. Throwing your kids a birthday party every year can not only be a burden on their friends but teach your kids that it's all about them. Nearly every one of my children's friends have a birthday party every year which not only wears out my pocketbook but it makes me roll my eyes that parents feel compelled to teach their children that they're the center of everyone's universe for that two or three hour period.

If you really want to celebrate your husband's birthday go ahead and invite friends but don't make it into an event where guests are expected to bring something. Alternately, be happy with letting another year go by without throwing a party at all--adult birthday parties get true etiquette experts riled up, they tend to look at it as a very juvenile activity. (Sorry, if that irritates. Don't blame me, I'm just the messenger).

10. You're hosting a birthday party for your mother at her favorite restaurant but want to be able to tactfully inform guests that they will be responsible for their own alcoholic drinks. You should . . .

a) Request a separate bill for the alcohol which you will split among the guests who drink.
b) Discreetly inform individual guests that they will be responsible for their own drinks.
c) Suck it up and pay for it anyway.
d) Request from your guests that no alcohol be consumed. After all, your mother doesn't drink anyway and it will make her uncomfortable.

The answer is C. If they suck down the liquor you should suck it up and pay.
Your mother may not approve of drinking but if it offends her that much don't invite people who drink. Likewise, if you can't afford to host this meal don't invite guests who eat (or drink). I don't know how many other ways there are to say that it is rude, no matter what the circumstance, to ask your guest to pay for their meal or their alcohol. If you absolutely cannot control yourself and simply must throw a party you can't afford have the decency to declare so on the invitation by telling guests ahead of time what they can expect so they can politely turn down your invitation if they wish.

11. Your sister is expecting her fourth child and you want to throw her a baby shower. Would you:

a) Ask her for a list of friends to invite.
b) Do nothing. Wait for her best friend to throw the shower.
c) Ask her to help host the party with you.
d) Forget it. Take over a nice gift when the baby arrives and call it good.

The answer is D. Yup, that's all.
Once again the trend in society is to throw people parties right and left. It has always been customary to host a baby shower for a new mother (whether a mother by birth or through adoption) and perhaps--at a stretch--for a mother who is expecting her second child IF the child is of a different gender than the first or possibly if the mother is now living in an area different from where her first shower was given.

However, you just don't give showers to women who have had a couple of children already. The whole purpose is to "shower" the mothers with gifts and attention and I'm afraid that once you've been supplied with onesies and diapers and bottles that's all the etiquette experts will allow you. Sorry, you'll have to find happiness elsewhere I guess.

It is also considered rude for a sister to throw the bridal or baby shower, that task falls to a close friend or co-worker (see the explanation for question 9 for details) but the whole fourth-child faux pas trumps the second smaller faux pas which is commonly ignored anyway.

But I see no reason why this should bother anyone, after all if you have a friend or a sister who is having her seventeenth child I see no reason why it's not perfectly acceptable to take over a gift on your own. Who need s a party for that kind of thing?

12. You're having a party and someone brings a hostess gift of a bottle of wine (or a loaf of fancy bread if you don't drink). You should:

a) Thank them and serve it up with the meal.
b) Thank them and congratulate yourself on having such polite friends.
c) Thank them and save it in the kitchen for later.
d) All of the above are correct.

The answer is D. You're safe.
If the gift is something that complements the meal then it's fine to serve it up. If it's something that is best saved for later, that's acceptable too. It just doesn't matter so long as you're gracious and let your guest know you appreciate their thoughtfulness.

So how did you do? Here's the highly scientific breakdown for your score:

10-12 correct. You deserve a party--only you're too polite to throw yourself one.
7-9 correct. You aren't a total clod and are probably a very nice person.
4-6 correct. Well, you're probably a better guest than a host, right? I hope?
1-3 correct. You're lucky to get anyone to come to your parties if you treat them like that.

Sponsored by Pink and Blue for unique baby gifts to make them "ooh" and "ahh."


Jolanthe said...

Good advice with a pinch of funny thrown in. :)


Tracey said...

Good info for me in #9... I've always felt a little guilty for not throwing birthday parties for my kids. We have a family party with cake and all, but only invite close family friends if anyone. I like how it makes them feel special but doesn't spoil them with 30 mins (or more, good lord) of opening gifts and having *everything* be about them.

Blessed said...

I so agree with #11 (and a bunch of the rest of them too...) I'm expecting my 2nd child and a friend of ours is expecting her 4th. Our church is throwing us separate showers and it just feels weird to me. My friend has 3 boys and this baby is a girl and everyone is really excited for them so she's having a pretty big shower and is inviting several other people. For me - my 2nd baby will be a boy, my first was a girl and I don't mind having a shower but it felt weird to invite a bunch of people so I didn't - it's just the church ladies and our family - more of a "sprinkle" than anything!

Oh and #9 is good too - we have a "family party" and only invite the family that lives locally.

Aimee said...

Love this!! I learned a few things, but I was also surprised to find out that I knew more about etiquette than I gave myself credit for.

I should throw myself a party! Ooops . . . or not ;)

But this does seriously make me want to invite my friends over for a dinner party :)

Janelle said...

You know, when I got married, I had only ever seen wedding announcements that included the registry cards. I thought it was normal. I'd never read anywhere that it wasn't. My mom insisted that it wasn't appropriate, but my fiance and I prevailed upon her to let us include them. Part of our reasoning was that we were inviting (or at least announcing to) people from -- literally -- all over the country. Family and friends have become spread out over so many years and so many moves. Putting the cards in reduced the likelihood that every gift we received would be from a different local boutique. Selfish? Yes, but practical.

Oh, and I thought the point of "save the date" cards was to send out a year in advance, although I think that's stupid (and a waste of money -- who needs two wedding invitations?) because really, who has their schedule so packed a year in advance that they need notice already or they won't be able to attend their niece's wedding?

On the baby shower thing, I think there is one more scenario that is acceptable besides the first child or first of a different gender. What about when a person has a child much later in life and all their other children are at least teenagers, and they've gotten rid of all their baby stuff? My mother-in-law had a baby when her then-youngest of four was 15 years old.

Laura said...

I think it has always been considered rude to mention a gift on a invitation even if it says "no gift". Other than that I agree with most of your answers.

Heather said...

We do throw our kids birthday parties every year. It's more about getting together with friends and having fun than about presents. I thought it was tacky to mention a gift too, so the "no gifts" thing doesn't really work either. A lot of people ignore that anyway too.

The Source said...

Good post! Lots of good guidelines for good manners!

Scribbit said...

Laura and Heather--turns out you're right. I had heard it was fine to do it that way and had checked and found that it was the appropriate option but when I went to Emily Post and Miss Manners direct after you suggested otherwise turns out I was wrong. Oops!

cndymkr / jean said...

Well, this explains why I don't have parties. I got a 6. Good lord, I stink. I am the reason etiquette books are so popular.

Anonymous said...

Hmm...I'm going to disagree with number one. If you start spot-on at 7, you will disconcert your international guests. In France, it's polite to come at 7:15 not 7, and anyone from Africa may or may not show up till 8, depending. We always start with "snackies," hors d'oeurves, for the Americans and Germans, and plan to serve the main food a bit later. After all, part of being a polite hostess is understanding a bit about where your guest is coming from ;)

And number 9 (bday parties) also depends on context, I would argue. Inviting close friends who would buy a gift anyway? Obvious. Live overseas where there's literally nothing else to do? PLEASE throw your kid a party every year, preferably an overnighter. Inviting every kid in the suburb to some enormous event where it takes 30 min to open all the gifts? Wow. I want someone to throw me a party like that ;) But I see your point.

Thanks for a fun post!

Scribbit said...

Well planet nomad, I thought about that actually--that many of these are culturally specific however while they said it was acceptable to be "fashionably late" for some events a dinner should always be on time.

Anonymous said...

We've had this baby shower debate in our church. And (for now) we have come to a consensus. Even though it is "wrong" according to proper etiquette.

Babies are blessings whether they are the first or fourth one born to a family. The baby shower is a way to celebrate their birth. It is also a way to celebrate the mother. We hope the shower will show the mom, newbie or experienced, that she has a group of women surrounding her with friendship, practical advice, listening ears, prayers, and humor.

I enjoyed this quiz and learned too. I forgot to mark my points because I was so enthralled with how the answers showed up. How do you do that?

Jen R. ( said...

I'm a down to earth person who likes to have fun with her friends without being all stuffy.

We love potlucks. LOVE THEM. We can trade recipes, the financial burden is lessened (none of us are doctors or lawyers for pete's sake), and the stress of cooking for 15 people is spread out among everyone.

I think I'd rather hang out with my type of people then worry about how upset someone is that I included a registry card or requested no gifts.

That said, it was interesting to read the responses.

Blushing hostess said...

great questions and I truly hope some of the lesser choices are not actually the case and you write from having witnessed these...

Mean Mommy said...

9! Hooray for me and my non-clodhood. I really annoyed my mother on #6 when I got married. She wanted to put in the registry cards. I refused to even register at all. Yeah, we got three blenders and hand mixers, but we also got some really unique and thoughtful gifts. I've always been happy we did it that way.

CountessLaurie said...

it IS amazing people come to my parties. i am an etiquette failure!! good grief!

Scribbit said...

Well Jen R, I can see your view--no one wants to feel as if they're being judged inferior because of how they handle a social situation. That said, however, I think etiquette isn't about feeling superior, it's about thinking of someone besides yourself and not merely how "comfortable" YOU are at an event.

I think this trend away from traditional etiquette and toward the more informal has created a few causalities. First, instead of making everyone more comfortable it just lessens the importance of what should be substantial events and second, when people are more casual what that usually translates into is a failure to think of the other person. It translates into being lazy rather than being genuine which I think is unfortunate.

Seems like we live in a time when it's becoming more acceptable to be late, dress inappropriately casual, expect the other person to do all the work and then expect lots of gifts. Just look at the trend with weddings and the emergence of "Bridezilla" or the woman who thinks her wedding is a day for people to worship at her feet.

And Fruitful Words yes, every baby is a blessing but since when did it diminish a human being by not receiving adulation and gifts? Parties just aren't a necessity and they've been so overdone to the point of diminishing them as a whole.

Kathryn said...

When I got married my Dad wanted us to register online with a program of his. I was too nice to say no (even though I did know that it was in poor taste) and we ended up having to send these instructions that were very hard to understand just so the guest could access the gift registry. It was awful. I still regret it! Oh well. You better believe that none of my kids will be including them.

tara said...

well, shoot, i had no idea i wasn't supposed to throw my sister's bridal shower, nor she my baby shower. oops! i think i'm okay otherwise. enjoyed the quiz.

Jen Rouse said...

I've got to disagree with the "no potlucks" one, at least in a circle of good friends. I almost always ask "what can I bring?" When I'm invited to dinner at someone's house. If they say nothing, that's fine. If they say, "Sure, bring a salad," then I happily bring a salad.

I think having a meal at which everyone contributes probably does lessen the formality of the affair, but ups the community feeling it can create. I agree with my fellow Jen R. in her comment that it's a great way to trade recipes and adds to the fun of the evening.

jacjewelry said...

I've been waiting for the Etiquette posts! Thanks for the quiz - I am unable to see the right answers, so I'll have to go use another computer to figure out how good/bad of a host I am. :)

jacjewelry said...

The "right answer" feature won't work for me - I tried 2 different computers and 3 different browsers... Any chance you can post the right answers? Thanks!

Mean Mommy said...

jac - there's not really a technical feature. Just highlight the white space with your cursor. The text is all there, just with a white font color.

Fawn said...

I think that the "rules of etiquette" are a bit like grammar - even when society evolves, there are those who insist "that's not the way it's supposed to be". I like good grammar, myself, but sometimes I have to recognize that things have moved on.

Also, if we're doing our best to make others feel comfortable and make that the rule, we WON'T be late or dress like slobs. But we'll also enjoy having potluck meals.

Probably about half the parties I go to these days are potluck -- I think part of it is the culture of the north, and part of it is that we're mostly busy parents. This past year has been such an emotionally taxing one, we've hosted very few get-togethers. When we have, people really want to help out by bringing something to share because they know what we're going through.

Finally, on the subject of baby showers, a friend of mine hosted a meet-the-baby shower for our second baby a month after she was born. Instead of a traditional shower, it was a food shower, where guests brought prepared meals that we could put in our freezer. What new parents (even the second time around) can't use that extra time NOT preparing food? It doesn't have to be about gifts of material goods.

Scribbit said...

Jen--Most of the events I go to people bring dishes--it's not unusual or even bad manners I think the point is that to plan a meal where you expect people to come up with the food so you don't have to is rude. And also, if you're hosting a party to expect people to volunteer to bring things isn't quite right either. It's okay to accept if they offer but to get miffed if they don't when they're the ones in the right on that one. That's what I mean.

Laurel Nelson said...

I see both sides of the bridal registry thing - I did not include those cards with my invitations because I knew that it was considered rude by etiquette experts. As a result, becuase everyone is conditioned to see them, no one asked if I was registered anywhere, and everyone just got me towels - useful yes, but 2 people do not need 20 towels, and I had no idea where they all came from so I couldn't return them. I would appreciate this being more well known so more poeple ask about something like that (which is what they're supposed to do if they are inquiring.)

Nancy said...

This was fantastic.
I didn't do as well as I would have liked, but I loved it.
I wish people would remember all these things!

jubilee said...

I didn't get to read all the comments, so I may be saying something someone else already mentioned (is that bad etiquette?)

Anyway, I was adamant that neither my mom nor my two mothers-in-law should be throwing me a bridal shower, nor a baby shower. Because I felt like it was asking for gifts. Both mothers-in-law insisted on doing one of each. And I felt it was bad form to refuse when they overruled my wishes. Which was worse? My expressing my desire or them for refusing to take my wishes into account?

Also, no one could understand why I refused to put registry cards in with our wedding invitations. Thank you for reaffirming that it is poor etiquette to do so. I did give my mom and my bridesmaids the information should anyone ask them specifically.

A question for you: I was a bridesmaid in a college roommate's wedding. Was it bad form for me to not ask her to be my bridesmaid a year and a half later? We no longer kept in touch after her wedding. I just did not feel like I should ask someone to stand up for me when she basically dropped the ball in keeping up our friendship. She has never forgiven me for not giving her a larger role in our wedding (she "helped" decorate - and did the opposite of what I wanted, put together a collage of pictures and seated/directed guests). When I found out she intended to travel across the country, I provided her (including her traveling companion whom I also invited) with lovely accommodations with a pool and plenty of relaxation time. She criticized me for not spending more time with her the two days before the wedding. In fact she cried over the phone about it when I called to tell her I was pregnant with my first child.

Isn't standing up for someone an affirmation that they will stand beside you and support you throughout your marriage (which hopefully ends happily ever after)?

Heather said...

EXCELLENT POST! Etiquette has all but disappeared in our casual society. I think people often do what has become 'the norm' not understanding how rude 'the norm' can be. I think you should pair up with Miss Manners!
Oh, and the Save the Date cards are horrible! It's as if they are saying, "Here's the date of our blessed union in eighteen months. Now you have absolutely no excuse whatsoever to miss it..." and when the invitation comes with a gift registry card they continue, "... and don't forget to bring us a gift from this AND ONLY THIS place."

~3 Sides of Crazy~ said...

Michelle, I can't see the whole post from Firefox - is there something embedded?

MommyTime said...

I love this. But I have some questions about exceptions.

On the first question, I have always assumed that if one wanted to serve dinner at 7pm, one would invite guests to come over at 6:30. My logic is that if the roast, for example, were absolute perfection at the same moment that everyone were walking through the door, needing coats hung up, greeting each other, etc., dinner would inevitably be delayed. So inviting people for 6:30 means everyone can have a glass of wine and a nibble of appetizers while the final touches go on the dinner. Does that seem wrong?

Also, I do think that college students have slightly different rules, due to simple finances: often no one can afford to spring for a group party without help from the others. We had a Thanksgiving feast for 15 people when I was studying abroad: everyone contributed a small amount of money, and I spent two whole days cooking. It was tremendously festive -- but at the planning stage, our group of friends came up with the plan together, so it wasn't as if I invited them all first and then asked for hand outs. I think this is very common in college, and perhaps it helps explain why people, once they have enough money to host parties properly, have "forgotten" what the proper etiquette for doing so should be.

Carinne said...

I thought this was interesting. I agree with many, however when it comes to parties and gift giving, usually the people receiving the party aren't the ones who are throwing the party (which would be odd). They don't generally ask for the party. Especially with birthday parties and baby showers, people are generally throwing the party to just celebrate the event. Celebrate the baby, anniversary, birthday...not receive presents. I think its important to show support for people and celebrate the successes in your life. If someone wants to throw a party and celebrate the event, why isn't that a nice thing to do? If you are offended by it...just don't go. However, if a party is being thrown for a good friend or relative you should go no matter what if you really are their friend. I think going to show support for a good friend or relative is 10x more important than making sure the party has the perfect etiquette. After all, as you said, etiquette is there to make people feel comfortable, and otherwise you're liable to make that friend or relative think that you love your principles more than them.

Headless Mom said...

The lack of wedding etiquette these days is killing me. My daughter is now of the age where her friends are beginning to get married and there are so many faux pas that I'm dying. I may have committed a few over the years but certainly not surrounding my wedding.

Can't wait for the rest of this series!

page2 said...

Thank you for the fun post. I'm a big fan of Miss Manners. I recently put on an "Etiquette Dinner" for the young women in our church. And they all seemed to enjoy leaning about good manners.

Kara said...

Wow - love this list! I feel kind of stupid, though - as I love to host parties and apparently break quite a few rules (though we NEVER asking guests to pay for anything, I promise!). Hopefully this list will steer me in the right direction from now on! Thanks!

Jen R. ( said...

Ah, I think I might understand now Scribbit. I never expect people to bring anything, but they do love to volunteer and I do take them up on it. I always prepare plenty of food in case someone forgets or they don't bring the item they suggested, but I will never turn them down.

Part of that is thrift because we're low middle income and I don't think I should be punished and told I can't have friends over or informal parties just because I can't afford to feed 20 people on my own dime. Seriously!

The other part is that I like to bring things when I go to parties and it makes me feel useful.

On registering - I hate weddings and I'd really rather not go to them, but if I do, I'd prefer to have a registry list so I'm not attacked by a snotty Bridezilla who doesn't like what I got her. (Please.)

Stephanie said...

What a great idea for a post!

I definitely agree about asking guests to "chip in" for parties. Very rude indeed.

But I have to admit - I disagree with you on a few of the other points:

(1) I love those registry inserts in wedding invitations. They are so handy and I never feel "forced" into buying a gift. It's expected, regardless of whether or not an insert is included.

(2) I hate going to parties with place cards where husbands and wives are seated separately. Actually, I don't like place cards at all. I much prefer to attend (and host) parties where people seat themselves.

(3) I think every baby deserves to be celebrated and I don't mind at all when I'm invited to showers for 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th babies. This blog post features some excellent ideas for second-time showers:

Thanks for the thoughtful (and humorous) commentary. I always enjoy reading your perspectives...

J at said...

Well done, but as with so many others, I disagree on a few. :) You probably expected that, right?

#2 - What's wrong with a pot luck? If my friends and I only got together for casual parties when one of us could afford to pay for everyone, we would never get together. Seriously. Birthday parties, more formal parties, the host ponies up. But sometimes one of us will say, "Hey, let's have an appetizer party!", and then everyone says, "Great, I'll bring x or y", and we all bring one and it's a lot of fun and not too much money on any one of us.

#6 - If you're going to be truly proper with your wedding invitations, you should not include an RSVP card. People are supposed to understand that if they're invited to a formal event, they should send a formal response, in the form of a letter. Of course, almost no one knows this these days. I knew it, but knew my guests would not, so I sent RSVP cards to all but one guest. She knew, and sent me a lovely letter letting me know she would be there.

Regarding surprise parties, if you don't tell everyone what kind of a party it is, how do you avoid someone talking to him about it?

Regarding Miss Manners, I usually love her articles. But once there was someone asking whether it was more proper to make your bed with the top sheet folded back to show the pattern, or have the pattern on the top (if that makes sense). I thought, um, if the point of etiquette is for people to be comfortable, then shouldn't each person be allowed to make their own bed however they want? Miss Manners had an opinion. I was disappointed in her that day.

John and Laura said...

Wow. I've done a lot of things wrong as a guest and host. Thanks for pointing them out to me! :) As I took the "quizzes" I could see the right answer most of the time, but I could also remember doing it wrong at various parties in my life. Funny stuff. Good thing I"m cute. THanks for the enlightenment.

Lara said...

Both of your quizzes were very educational (I am a perfect guest, but not so much a perfect hostess...need to print your rules out for further perusal!).

I am feeling very vindicated however, on my insistence that we not register for wedding gifts. Or, if we did, that we not include it in the invitation. I hate just always seemed greedy to me.

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