Reader Response, Vol. 6, Issue 16

Dear Etiquetteer:

I enjoyed this most recent column, and really applaud your telling the praying family to keep a lid on it. Suggesting doing it in the car was a particularly welcome idea. When I see people praying in a restaurant (infrequently, thank Zeus) it makes me acutely uncomfortable.

Dear Etiquetteer:

I suspect you'll receive many a letter about this. Let me be one more to speak out about your advice on grace before meals at a restaurant. It is quite possible to say grace and not draw undue attention to one's self when dining out. Our family will sometimes hold hands silently for a moment or two in an abbreviated prayer, so sometimes instead of our unison prayer just one person will speak in gratitude for the blessing of food and the hands that prepared it. A simple grace is less conspicuous than a toast over the meal and is as good for one's soul.

As I was growing up our family continued our practice of prayer no matter what the circumstances. Over vacations we'd attend services as visitors at other parishes, even at churches when the service was in other languages when we traveled abroad. It taught us that special circumstances don't change the call to need to thanks.

Etiquetteer responds: Etiquetteer must respectfully disagree with your assertion that a simple grace is less conspicuous than a toast, because grace is less usual in a restaurant than a toast is.

Dear Etiquetteer:

I am about to have a 50th birthday bash. It is relatively informal and I do not want gifts, but I will be taking donations for [Insert Name of Worthy Charity Here] if people feel compelled to do something. How can I word such an invitation so that there should be no pressure to give a donation?

Dear Birthday Girl:

First, Etiquetteer would like to wish you Many Happy Returns of the Day, and congratulate you on holding your own birthday party. Let Etiquetteer assure you, handling the arrangements yourself is the only sure way that everyone you want to see actually gets invited.

The best way to be sure that your guests feel no pressure to make a donation to [Insert Name of Worthy Charity Here] is not to mention it at all. Etiquetteer doesn’t want to dampen your enthusiasm for supporting this charity, but this particular custom has become so widespread that people are starting to look on party invitations as invoices.

Should anyone ask you what you’d like for your birthday, then you may say that would you’d enjoy most is a donation too [Insert Name of Worthy Charity Here]. Etiquetteer will, reluctantly, allow you to put "No gifts, please" on the invitation.

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The Tale of the Princess Bridezilla, Vol. 5, Issue 16

Dear Etiquetteer: Recently, I had a conversation with a friend who is in the midst of planning her wedding. I am a member of the wedding party and I found many of the things she is doing to be extremely cheap and a little offensive.1. She is adamant about not walking around to each table at the reception to greet/thank her guests for attending. (The ceremony and reception are at the same place, so there’s no receiving line before the reception begins.) She feels it is her day and she is spending so much money that she wants to enjoy it and not waste time thanking her guests. Is this appropriate or is the tradition of walking around table to table to greet your guests at the wedding reception not the current practice?2. She is not sending out a save-the-date because, again, she does not want to waste money on printing them when she doesn’t want half of her wedding guest list (from out of town) to attend because the wedding is already very expensive. I am sure not everyone sends save-the-date cards but the reasoning behind it is, again, insensitive.3. She is very adamant about not having wedding favors (which is completely fine.) She plans, however, on taking the $600 dollars she would spend on favors and only donating half to a charity. The cards on the table will read, "In lieu of wedding favors we have made a donation to [insert charity name.]" What I do not find perfectly proper is making guests believe you are so genuine when making this donation but really you are keeping half of the money for yourself. Do you agree? Is this the usual practice when a couple chooses not to do wedding favors?4. Last but not least, she told me in a curt manner that she refuses to do gifts for her wedding party (16 total for bride and groom) because it is too expensive. Even if I was not in the wedding party, I find this in poor taste not to thank your wedding party in some small way for spending so much money to be a part of your special day. Do you agree, is this perfectly proper?Dear Bridesmaid of Bridezilla:Your friend defines the Princess Bridezilla. She is evil and must be destroyed . . . which may happen after the wedding when she finds she has no friends left. Who does she think she is, Kathleen Battle? Etiquetteer was appalled with two Ps reading your letter, so let’s demolish her sanctimonious selfishness point by point:1. You’ve got it a little mixed up here. The current practice is to walk among the tables, but the traditionis the receiving line. Etiquetteer really prefers the latter (you don’t miss anyone that way) but rather likes the former, too. Princess Bridezilla will find herself in hot water if she doesn’t do either! Etiquetteer’s Wedding Survey revealed that 87% of wedding guests expect to speak face-to-face with the bride and groom. That’s not "hope to speak," but "expect to speak." Were Etiquetteer getting married, Etiquetteer would find getting to talk to everyone the most enjoyable part of the day!2. Technically one doesn’t have to send a save-the-date card, but it is a very welcome courtesy for those who will need to arrange air transportation and accommodations. If Princess Bridezilla doesn’t even want these people to come to the wedding anyway, Etiquetteer would like to know why she doesn’t just send a wedding announcement and not invite them at all. That would be more Perfectly Proper and less a back-handed compliment.3. Wedding favors are optional. Etiquetteer has received some lovely ones but also been to beautiful weddings where no favors were given. To call attention to their absence will only make the guests feel short-changed.You know, the Holy Bible is frequently a wonderful source of etiquette advice. Here Etiquetteer must turn to the Gospel of Matthew 6:5-6: "And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are; for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret . . . " Do you see what Etiquetteer means here? By calling attention to her "charity" Princess Bridezilla will make the wrong impression on her guests. And Etiquetteer would guess she’d be furious if anyone pulled that trick on her with a wedding gift!4. Really, this is the final nail in the coffin for Princess Bridezilla. A tangible expression of gratitude to one’s attendants – who, let’s face it, she’s probably made spend a lot on their dresses – is the least a bride can do. To neglect it (and the traditional bridesmaid’s luncheon) is shabby in the extreme. You and the other bridesmaids must feel quite hurt at this callousness.You did not ask, but Etiquetteer wonders if you aren’t thinking about how to get out of being a bridesmaid, or if you even want to be a friend of this woman any more. Weddings do bring out the worst in people, and she may not realize just how she appears. Since you are a bridesmaid, you have a unique opportunity to tell her, gently, that her greed and vanity are disappointing everyone around her and making her look like someone you hope she is not.In summary, where is the exchange of affection here? Etiquetteer cannot see Princess Bridezilla caring about anyone save for what they can give or do for her. In a vengeful moment Etiquetteer might tell you to give her a lump of coal as a wedding gift: "If you squeeze it hard enough it’ll be a diamond!" But that would notbe Perfectly Proper . . .

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Holiday Fallout, Vol. 5, Issue 3

Dear Etiquetteer:

As has become my tradition, I made a charitable donation at Christmas in the names of several loved ones in lieu of sending paper greetings. I have chosen to support [insert Name of Appropriately Altruistic Non-Profit Institution Here]. So, Etiquetteer, what say you about this effort? I’ve done this now for several years. Some love it — others, I fear, are silent, finding it in bad taste expecting that I donate AND send paper greetings. In other words, I wonder if they consider me cheap and/or lazy and using it as an excuse not to send cards.

Dear Lazy:

Etiquetteer cannot call you Cheap, since you’ve generously supported the Non-Profit of Your Choice. Forgive Etiquetteer’s bluntness, but you’d be writing the check anyway, right? So what’s in it for the "honoree:" the knowledge that you were thinking of them when you wrote a check? Etiquetteer could see people thinking that wasn’t much of a holiday greeting for them. Perhaps they aren’t even particularly interested in the mission of the Non-Profit of Your Choice!

Now Etiquetteer does know of people who make donations to organizations their friends support in honor of their friends; that’s more like it. But those people make those donations instead of gifts, not Christmas cards. If your loved ones mean enough, you can at least send a Christmas card.

Etiquetteer received quite a few responses from a recent column about Christmas cards vs. holiday cards, two of which Etiquetteer shares with you now:

From an Orthodox matron: To your response on the subject of which holiday cards to send to whom, I must add that the whole issue of non-Christians who celebrate "with trees and presents" is a matter that tests my own capacity for Perfect Propriety. During all the December holidays I was asked by a colleague whether or not we celebrate Christmas. This is someone I've known for years and who knows my persuasion. Just after I'd said "No," the phone rang -- saved! But if the conversation had continued, I'm sure this person would have cited the example of so-and-so who was Jewish but . . you know. Between the "J's with trees" and the people who know "J's with trees," this season is simply fraught with occasions requiring the obligatory exhibition of The Indulgent Smile.

From a doyenne: I am no heathen and I was one who sent the Happy Holiday cards to people of faiths other than Christian. Having time restraints I couldn't go shopping to select cards for every faith even if I'd know which was proper. I'm lucky enough to have Christian, Jewish, African-American, African-African, Chinese and a couple from India on my list! The Christians got a Merry Christmas and the others got a Happy Holiday (no red or green ... it was white with gold) with a hand written note mentioning "what kind" of holiday if I knew it or could spell it!

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