Wedding Invitations and Clothes, Vol. 8, Issue 2

Etiquetteer would really rather talk about weddings today instead of the fact that Michelle Obama didn't wear a hat to the inauguration or how thankful Etiquetteer is that Jill Biden didn't display the leather merry widow she obviously had made to match her dominatrix boots, so here we go:  


Dear Etiquetteer:

I am putting together my wedding invitation wording and have hit a road block. As the bride, my parents are hosting the wedding. My mom, being the closet feminist that she is, does not want me to address them as Mr. and Mrs. John Smith. I find this rather archaic myself, but what is the alternative while still using honorifics and not offending any one else?

These are the options I have come up with:


  • Mr. and Mrs. Smith
  • Mrs. Mary and Mr. John Smith
  • Mr. and Mrs. John and Mary Smith

Which one would be the most proper etiquette? Please help me!


Dear Untitled:

Permit Etiquetteer to invite your mother out of the closet. Closet feminism is nothing but passive aggression that manifests itself in petty ways like this. It's cowardly, and it's annoying.

Getting her to be upfront about her feminism will also allow you to name your parents on your wedding invitation as "Mr. John Smith and Ms. Mary Smith." Under the circumstances, Etiquetteer can't think of a more Perfectly Proper way to include honorifics and keep from adding "Mrs." What a pity she doesn't have a graduate or medical degree that would allow you to list her as "Dr."!

Dear Etiquetteer:

I recently received a wedding invitation that indicated the attire to be "Black Tie Optional.”  I was planning on wearing a black silk charmeuse dress with champagne satin accents. The dress, however, is not floor length, but mid-calf. Is this acceptable for an evening, "Black Tie Optional" wedding? And further, should my husband wear a tuxedo, or will a dark grey pinstriped suit suffice? Any guidance on being Perfectly Proper would be appreciated!

Dear Charmeuse:

Etiquetteer deplores the designation “black tie optional.” It’s neither fish nor fowl. One should either dress all the way or not. Since it is always a greater sin to be overdressed than underdressed, Etiquetteer must insist that your husband wear a dark suit and NOT a tuxedo.

As for you, Etiquetteer warns that these days if you wear black to a wedding you’re likely to be mistaken for one of the bridesmaids. Nevertheless, a mid-calf or “tea length” dress is Perfectly Proper for such a wedding as you describe.

Random Correspondence Issues, Vol. 7, Issue 22

Dear Etiquetteer:I am putting together my wedding invitation wording and have hit a roadblock. As the bride, my parents are hosting the wedding. My mom, being the closet feminist that she is, does not want me to address them as "Mr. and Mrs. John Smith." I find this rather archaic myself, but what is the alternative while still using honorifics and not offending any one else? These are the options I have come up with: "Mr. And Mrs. Smith," "Mrs. Mary and Mr. John Smith," and "Mr. and Mrs. John and Mary Smith." Which one would be the most proper etiquette? Please help me! 

Dear Bride to Be: 

The honorific "Mrs." is used with Perfect Propriety only with the name of the husband, e.g. "Mrs. Stephen Haines." If your mother does not wish to be referred to as "Mrs. John Smith," then the form your wedding invitation should take is:

 Mr. John Smith and Ms. Mary Smith

request the honour of your presence

at the marriage of their daughter

Miss Perfectly Proper Smith

to Mr. Manley Firmness

Feminists everywhere claimed the honorific "Ms." in the 1970s, and it has only grown in acceptance since then. It's high time, in Etiquetteer's opinion, for your mother to come out of the closet.


Dear Etiquetteer:

I have recently gone through an interview, and sent both parties a thank-you note, via email. They mentioned they would be interviewing for the next 2-3 weeks. Since I have sent the thank-you notice, how long should I wait till I contact them again? How should I contact them, phone or email? How often should I attempt to contact them?Dear Interviewed:

Since you have already initiated correspondence with your interviewers via email, Etiquetteer suggests that you continue to correspond with them this way. So as not to appear impatient, you might wait to check in with your interviewer after 3.5 weeks have passed, making a gentle inquiry to see if you can provide additional information.

Etiquetteer wishes you well in your job search, and encourages you, after subsequent job interviews, to send a letter of thanks through the mail on crisp white stationery. It still makes a positive impression, and it also gives you more of an opportunity to proofread.


Random Issues, Vol. 6, Issue 23

Dear Etiquetteer:

So, where are you really supposed to put your napkin after dinner? Do you put it on the table or on your seat? We got into this discussion after dinner one night ‘cause we were all using paper napkins and they looked gross.

Dear Dabbing:

This is why Etiquetteer really doesn’t like paper napkins. Not only do they fall on the floor, they do not hold up well if the meal is, uh, moist. One of Etiquetteer’s favorite pub foods is buffalo wings. Most of us know how easy it is to use an entire stack of paper napkins going through a plate of those!

No matter the material of the napkin, its Perfectly Proper place at the end of the meal is to the left of your plate, not on your seat. When paper napkins get particularly messy, Etiquetteer is sometimes driven to slipping them into his pants pockets, but this is really a Desperate Measure . . . and not an option for a lady in a skirt.

Dear Etiquetteer:

What is the proper way to deal with friends who blog with wild abandon, and include one's private matters in their online diaries? If one highly values one's privacy, is the only solution to curtail social contact with the blogging folks? How does one make it clear to cyber-exhibitionists that one does not wish to be the subject of their reporting?

Dear Exposed:

Your life doesn't become a blogger's property, even the parts of it you choose to spend with and/or in confide in him or her. As soon as you read or become aware of references to yourself in someone's blog, you should contact the blogger and request that those references be removed immediately. Repeat as necessary until the appropriate action has been taken, up to and including legal assistance. (Indeed, Etiquetteer became aware of an amateur photographer who had been threatened with a lawsuit if he didn't remove photos of a former friend from his blog.)

If you feel, after repeated instances of this behavior, that your private life is no longer truly private, Etiquetteer can only recommend that you no longer communicate with this person without witnesses.

Dear Etiquetteer:

A few months ago, we were talking about mailing a letter to a lawyer and his wife who's a doctor and you said the names should always be alphabetical, not Mr. first and Ms. second. But now we're down to the nitty gritty of wedding invitations and I have a few questions. I normally start with Mr. and Mrs., but here are the questions:

Mr. Arturo Swisserswatter and Ms. Igotta Cacciabutti (married couple -- should Mrs. come first?)

Mr. Galahad Familyman and Ms. Prunaprismia Amanuensis (not married, living together, one address, one invitation, but should our son Galahad come first?)

Ms. Antoinette Outlier and Mr. Lancelot Britlington (my married niece and her husband -- again, with different names, but I feel that my niece should come first).

I admit to different rules (in one case husband first, in another case the relative first). But what is the perfectly proper way to handle it? Or does it really matter?

Dear Familyman Patriarch:

Taking your examples one by one:

Ms. Igotta Cacciabutti

Mr. Arturo Swisserswatter

Yes, this is in fact correct, even though you and I were always taught that the gentleman comes first.

Mr. Galahad Familyman

Ms. Prunaprismia Amanuensis

Etiquetteer admits that ordinarily they should be listed alphabetically, but since this is a family wedding invitation and Galahad is the family member . . . well, Etiquetteer thinks that's a good enough reason to list him first. Etiquetteer has seen some universities list the name of the alumnus first and then the spouse, whether or not the last names are in alphabetical order. This seems a universal enough precedent to Etiquetteer to apply here.

Ms. Antoinette Outlier

Mr. Lancelot Britlington

Again, family may come first for a family wedding.

To answer your last question, you'd be surprised to whom it matters! People will interpret slights over the least little thing, especially at weddings.

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Feminine Honorifics and Feminism at the Door, Vol. 4, Issue 21

Dear Etiquetteer: What is one to do nowadays with the titles Miss, Ms. and Mrs.? As a married professional in my late twenties, I prefer "Ms." (although I’m technically a "Mrs"). My single friends prefer "Ms." as well, and feel that being addressed as "Miss" places them among the ranks of 8-yr old Girl Scouts. My elderly great-aunt, however, would be offended by "Ms." and prefers "Miss" over all else.Your recommendation, kind sir? Dear Madam: As always, Etiquetteer recommends that you use Perfect Propriety when continuing to address friends and colleagues. Continue to refer to your Great-Aunt Agatha as "Miss Agatha Auntie" and to your professional friends as "Ms. Prunaprismia Professional." Either is correct, and therefore Perfectly Proper.As for you, madam, Etiquetteer feels bound to inform you that the honorific "Mrs." is really only used with Perfect Propriety with one’s husband’s name. If you took your husband’s name at your marriage, you would be correctly known as "Mrs. John Husband." If you hyphenated, "Mrs. John Maiden-Husband" or "Ms. Wifey Maiden-Husband" would be equally correct. If you kept your own name without making any concession to your husband, you could not then change your honorific; only "Ms. Wifey Maiden" would be correct.

Dear Etiquetteer: I have a problem now that same-sex couples can get married and some are switching to the same last name. Ho do you address women in formal correspondence? When men are a couple -- married or not, same last name or not -- you can address them in the plural as "Messrs," as in "Messrs. Smith" or "Messrs. Smith and Jones." When women are a couple with different names you can address them as Ms. Smith and Ms. Jones, but is there a plural when they take the same last name? What is the proper way in formal correspondence to address a female couple with the same last name? Thank you.Dear Correspondent:As "Messrs." abbreviates the French "Messieurs," so does "Mmes." abbreviate the French "Mesdames." So you may begin formal correspondence as "Dear Mmes. Smith" or "Dear Mmes. Smith and Jones." Really, Etiquetteer does not see why not. Of course, this all falls to the ground if the ladies in question have political or academic titles. Then you would use "Dear Senator Smith and Ms. Jones" or "Dear Senator Smith and Dr. Jones."

Dear Etiquetteer: Regarding the act of holding open doors: did a memo go out saying this is passé? I can't count how often people let doors slam in my face, yet I'm just a step or two behind them. But I digress . . . My real question is a matter of distance. Have you ever gotten caught in that time warp of holding open a door for a person who is further away than they might have initially appeared, only to have them either apologetically run up to you or continue to dilly-dally? Or, ever let the door close behind you, only to feel somewhat guilty that you didn't hold it for the person trailing behind you? Is five feet far enough? Ten feet? At which point can you feel no remorse in not holding the door?Dear Floored and Ignored at the Doorway:Chivalry is not dead, rumors to the contrary, but the feminism of the mid-century has altered it significantly. These days Chivalry honors seniority (either professional or chronological) rather than gender. It's more usual now for someone to hold the door for the boss, or for younger people to offer this courtesy to the elderly. (But be careful; you remember what happened to Edna Ferber when she held the door for Dorothy Parker? As she opened it she said "Age before Beauty." Miss Parker sailed right past her muttering "Pearls before Swine" in her usual self-satisfied way.)Now that we've each had our digression, let's continue . . . Etiquetteer absolves you from any remorse in letting the door shut if the people for whom you are holding it are in no hurry to get there. To rephrase your question, Etiquetteer would advise you not to start holding the door if someone is more than 15 feet away. And if someone lets the door bang you in the face again, Etiquetteer gives you permission to launch into full Marcia Brady mode: "Oh my nose! Oh my nose!"

Find yourself at a manners crossroads and don't know where to go? Ask Etiquetteer at!

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