Olympics Etiquette

If you are like us, you have been glued to Olympics coverage this year, so we thought it would be fun to go over a little Olympics etiquette.

First, Olympians should practice good sportsmanship:

  • Win or lose with grace, don’t gloat or whine.
  • Play by the rules and don’t try to get away with sneakily trying to injure the other competitors.
  • Don’t heckle your opponents when they make a mistake.
  • Don’t argue with the ref or judges over everything, save it for when it’s important.
  • Always shake hands after.

Spectators should also practice good etiquette:

  • Win or lose with grace, don’t gloat or whine.
  • Keep the heckling and trash talk to a minimum, people around you didn’t pay Olympic prices to listen to your opinion.
  • Drink in moderation, no one likes to sit by the drunk buffoon.
  • Be mindful of your seat and the people around you, spaces are small and you need to try not to kick people or spill your snacks and drinks on them.

The Olympics are such a huge international event, it behooves everyone participating and spectating to remember that everyone has different customs and to try not to be offended if someone does something that is offensive in your country but is completely fine in theirs. For the London Games, VisitBritain actually compiled a list of various international etiquette rules to distribute to the service industry to help them serve the many international visitors, check out this great CNN article about it.

And of course, Olympians have been tweeting about the specific rules they are encountering in Sochi, such as this list of bathroom rules from Canadian snowboarder Sebastian Toutant:

Tell us about your favorite Olympians and events in the comments!

Thank Goodness We Don’t Have to Do That Anymore: Glove Etiquette

Jackie Kennedy is, of course, a perfect example of glove wearing. [via Wikimedia Commons]

When I talk about glove etiquette, I am not talking about your winter gloves and mittens. Those you can do whatever you want with, no one cares. But if you choose to wear old school day or evening gloves, you can look at this list and be thankful that these etiquette points are one less thing we have to think about these days.

Men remove their right glove to shake hands on the street, but leave them on when shaking hands at the opera or a ball. If it is too awkward to remove the glove to shake hands, the man must apologize for not removing his glove. Women do not remove their gloves to shake hands, except with the head of a church or a head of state.

Gentlemen only wear white gloves at the opera, a ball, or as an usher in a wedding. Part of the reason men wear gloves at a ball is to avoid putting their sweaty hands on a woman’s bare back (cause, gross) or damaging their gown with the sweatiness. Men can wear gray doeskin gloves on the street. Amy Vanderbilt advises that while going gloveless in winter may make a man feel hardier, it results in chapped hands (again, gross.)

Ladies wear gloves to formal dinners and take them off at the table- the gloves go on your lap and the napkin over the gloves. Women’s formal gloves are white kidskin (this means a very fine, thin, soft leather) and are the most luxurious thing because they must be thrown out as soon as they get dirty (which probably takes about 5 minutes.)

Women remove gloves during church to make it easier to handle the prayer books, and definitely removed them for communion. As with shaking hands, women keep gloves on during a receiving line (except, again, with heads of state and the like).

Stylewise, bracelets can be worn over gloves but rings cannot be. One very old etiquette book mentions that you should be fully dressed before leaving your house and pulling your gloves on in the street is the height of ill-breeding.

Brides who wear gloves either take the left one off before the ring is put on or they split the seam of the ring finger so the ring can slide on.

Sources: Etiquette by Emily Post and Amy Vanderbilt’s New Complete Book of Etiquette by Amy Vanderbilt

Wedding Invitations

Dare I say that this invitation seems more modern than what you would expect for a royal wedding? [Via Flickr user markhillary]

We’ve talked about what to do with a wedding invitation for a guest, so now we have the etiquette of actually sending out wedding invitations.

Save the Dates

Save the dates are a relatively recent invention— a pre-invitation of sorts. They should be sent out as soon as you finalize your date and rough location. These do not have to go out to everyone you think you are going to invite. They should mostly go out to the most important people and especially the ones that live furthest away and will need to make major travel plans. If you send someone a Save the Date, you MUST invite them to the wedding, no take backsies (with a few exceptions), thus you should be judicious about sending them to only the people you are sure you are going to invite, lest you wind up in a position where you invite 100 friends and then realize your parents had a list of 200 relatives and your venue only fits 150. I should note that Save the Dates are absolutely optional, but something that many couples find useful.

Invitations

The style of your invitation should match the style of your wedding. This helps guests have a hint of the style of dress to wear and what to expect. Never include information about gifts or registries, the invitation should be about your desire to have the guest attend your very important day, not about what towels you need. I do like a discreet wedding website URL on an invitation because then your invitation can be simple and elegant and your guests can get all the nitty gritty details online.

The great thing about wedding invitations these days is that the style can really represent your event any way you want. This is a far cry from back in the day when only engraved invitations on white, ivory, or cream paper (with no borders or other decorations!) were considered acceptable and all the old biddies would turn your invitation over so they could check for the slight tell-tale engraving indentation on the back. And don’t even get them started on mechanically-made embossing dies.

Invitation Wording

There are many ways to word an invitation. This is the very traditional formal version:

Mr. and Mrs. Gideon Humperdink

request the honour of your presence

at the marriage of their daughter

Geraldine

to

Mr. Dudley Winklesmith

on Saturday, the fifteenth of March

Two thousand and fourteen

at five o’clock

The Church of the Holy Rollers

New York City

and afterward at

“The Snobby Club”

Now this invitation is worded for the parents of the bride as the hosts and at a church wedding. If the wedding is not at a church, you would substitute “request the pleasure of your company” for the words “request the honour of your presence” (honour is always spelled with a u in formal wedding invitations and is only used for a church ceremony). Also, traditionally in Jewish weddings, you write “the marriage of their daughter Geraldine and Mr. Dudley Smith” (using “and” in place of “to”).  On a formal invitation, you can put RSVP in the lower left corner. Dress code does not belong on a formal invitation, except, Black Tie may be written in the lower left corner. (But please, do find a way to tell your guests what the dress code is.)

The modern formal invitation often acknowledges the joint hosting by the couple and/or their parents and often includes both sets of parents regardless of who is hosting. A modern formal invitation would look more like this:

Mr. and Mrs. Gideon Humperdink

and Mr. and Mrs. Irving Winklesmith

request the honour of your presence

at the marriage of

Miss Geraldine Humperdink

to

Mr. Dudley Winklesmith

on Saturday, the fifteenth of March

Two thousand and fourteen

at five o’clock

The Church of the Holy Rollers

New York City

and afterward at

“The Snobby Club”

If the couple is hosting on their own, the invitation would look more like this:

The pleasure of your company

is requested at the marriage of

Miss Geraldine Humperdink

to

Mr. Dudley Winklesmith

on Saturday, the fifteenth of March

Two thousand and fourteen

at five o’clock

 The Snobby Club

New York City

Of course, these days you are welcome to do almost anything with your invitations! You should, however, include:

  • That it is, indeed, a wedding. (or a commitment ceremony or whatever, just some indication of what kind of event you are having).
  • Who is getting married (including the last names somewhere [in the examples above, Geraldine is used alone only following her parents names—if she had a different last name then them, she would be noted as Miss Geraldine Smith).
  • The date and the time (the time is traditionally listed as when the ceremony starts, but you might want to give ½ an hour or so buffer so everyone is definitely there before you start.) And don’t feel like you have to spell the date and time out, numerals are just fine.
  • The location.

Some informal invitation wordings that I like are:

Geraldine Marie Humperdink

and

Dudley Michael Winklesmith

request the pleasure of your company

at their marriage

etc

Together with their parents

Geraldine Marie Humperdink

and

Dudley Michael Winklesmith

request the pleasure of your company

at their marriage

etc

Please join

Geraldine Humperdink

and

Dudley Winklesmith

at the celebration of their marriage

etc

See many more great examples here.

Addressing Invitations

In the interest of space, please see this post on forms of address.

If you are using both an inner and outer envelope, you can use the formal address on the outer envelope and then just use first names on the inner envelope. The inner envelope is also a great space to include the names of kids you are inviting—parents only on the outer envelope and then everyone by first name on the inner.

Mailing Invitations

Invitations should be sent out 6-8 weeks ahead of time, especially these days with the abundance of Save the Dates, the actual invitation is really more of a formality.

Response Cards

Technically response cards are against etiquette because including them insultingly implies that the guest doesn’t know to RSVP correctly (which is technically with a handwritten response on their own stationery). However, nowadays, many people don’t know how to RSVP “correctly” so I think they are a useful tool. If you do use them, make sure to include a self addressed, stamped envelope. And for your own sanity, make sure to include a line asking for their name so you know who is responding! Email, phone, and wedding website RSVP instructions are all perfectly acceptable as well.

How Do I Keep People From Throwing Me Bridal Showers?

Leave YOUR advice for the bride in the comments. [Via Flickr user Ceng Design]

Dear Uncommon Courtesy,

I am getting married soon, and this is completely a ridiculous problem, but I am being inundated with offers to throw pre-wedding parties and events. People want to give me bridal showers, bachelorette parties, and pre-wedding family get togethers. I’m very grateful of course, but I am not really interested in being the center of attention and I don’t really have time to attend all these different events. How can I turn them down politely and without hurting anyone’s feelings?

Sincerely,

Low key bride

Official Etiquette:

Strangely, Miss Manners has tons of advice for guests who want to get out of attending (and bringing gifts!) to a never ending string of pre-wedding parties, but she hasn’t covered advice for brides who don’t want to go to their own parties. Therefore, the default answer is to just be gracious and go, you monster! We kid of course, but this is sort of the problem with the trend of greedy brides- people just can’t fathom the idea that someone wouldn’t want to have a bridal shower or bachelorette party.

Our Take:

Jaya: Oof, this is really a problem! I was dealing with this a little myself, and I’m someone who gets burnt out on social interactions pretty easily, and gets anxious about being “on” and such. I know I’m lucky that so many people want to celebrate, but it can be overwhelming when you just want to throw one party and everyone insists on half a dozen parties to ring in that party!

Victoria: So how are you handling it?

Jaya: Trying to graciously turn things down, in a “oh you really don’t have to do that” way, with mixed results. Like, if I say to my friends “you know what, i’m just not feeling a shower” that’s fine. But there’s more of a scolding tone of “they’re just trying to be nice” when an adult does it. Haha, “adult.” I’m 27. But you know what I mean. What should I be doing?

Victoria: Yeah, that’s such a touchy situation, I don’t really know how you would handle that tactfully and without offending anyone.

Jaya:  Victoria you’re the one who gives me answers!!!! What am I supposed to do, try to politely communicate by myself?

Victoria: I mean, I think it’s less of an etiquette thing and more a family relations thing. I think etiquette strongly encourages going along with it unless theres a particularly good reason not to.

Jaya: Ahhh, and “I’m overwhelmed and want people to stop fussing over me” isn’t particularly good?

Victoria: Haha there’s the rub. You have to decide which hills you want to die on, and in a wedding, there are a whoooole lot of hills.

Jaya: And, like with many other words thrown around at weddings, a bride is often “selfish” when she doesn’t live up to what others expect she should be. I think it’s also hard because often times, at least for me, these requests are coming from people who don’t communicate with each other. People from my side want to throw things, people from his side want to throw things, and it all adds up.

Victoria:  Yeah, exactly. Although, multiple showers are fairly traditional for exactly that reason. But ugh also, showers, traditionally, should really only be for your closest friends and relatives.

Jaya: And I guess, if your goal is toning down pre-wedding events, multiple showers, however compromised, is not really a great end game.

Victoria: But then you also don’t want to end up with a shower with 50 guests. After thinking about this some more, the advice I would give is to just gushingly thank people for offering and then be like, “but really I am just so overwhelmed with the wedding and my regular life, I couldn’t possibly.” And then if you need to pull out the big ammo and say “there are so many people wanting to host parties, I couldn’t possibly attend them all, so I would prefer to not show preference to any of them.”

Jaya: That’s perfect. I mean, it’s the truth too, but somehow I always think that would sound ungrateful like “wahhh too many people want to throw parties for me and it’s giving me anxiety.”

Victoria: Hahah yeah. I mean, if you have some attendants or at least a maid of honor—someone is at least nominally in charge of coordinating all that stuff and can be the bad guy. So that’s an option for people who have attendants.

Jaya: And showers can be so intense and huge events these days, it’s bananas.

Victoria: Why don’t people understand anymore that showers are supposed to be small with tiny little gifts like wooden spoons? They would be so much less objectionable that way, for both brides and guests.

How To Deal With Americans

Europe According to Americans [Via]

Europe According to Americans [Via]

Uncommon Courtesy is based in America, and if you couldn’t tell already, most of our etiquette focus has been on the way the Western developed world does things. However, in our ongoing attempt to educate ourselves about the world, we decided to take a look at some “international” etiquette tips for dealing with Americans.

From Etiquette by Vijaya Kumar

American business people are considered very open and friendly. Foreigners however find this friendliness short-lived.

Business people from other cultures are put off by the abruptness of Americans, for whom time is money.

Americans, being friendly, tend to jump onto first-name terms very quickly, which is wrong.

From Passport USA: Your Pocket Guide to American Business, Culture & Etiquette by Dean W. Engel

Some American women have adopted the practice of using both their family name and the name of their husband’s family.

Greetings include saying “Hello” or “Hi,” often followed by “How are you?” This inquiry is purely rhetorical.

Beyond the handshake, American men may sometimes embrace briefly—usually with a good thump on the back. But they’ll shrink from the sorts of embraces common in Latin America or European-style kisses on the cheek. These have homosexual overtones in the U.S., and regardless of a heterosexual male’s attitude toward someone else’s  homosexuality, to be perceived as homosexual is widely considered an insult. [Ed note: UUUUUUUUUGH]

“No” means “no,” whether it’s shouted in the boardroom or whispered at an informal dinner. Reluctance to emphatically state a negative response and the tendency to resort to euphemism (“that would be difficult”)—common approaches in many Asian cultures—are sources of aggravation to Americans, who are more concerned with knowing the intent of others than having their feelings spared.

Americans will sometimes emphasize a strongly held commitment, belief or position by banging on a table or suddenly standing up.

There is no national consensus on what’s funny.

From The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink by Andrew F. Smith

Dining etiquette became pointless in the pervasive fast food culture, although it was still recommended as a way of projecting success and savoir faire. [Ed note: I wonder what percentage of Americans stopped buying fish knives?]

From Star-Spangled Manners: In Which Miss Manners Defends American Etiquette by Judith Martin

The curiosity of having compassionate people attack a system that mandates and codifies the consideration of others is doubly-odd when the etiquette bashers are American, whose national etiquette refuses to dignify anything resembling class distinctions.

Failing to respect the symbolic power of apparently casual customs is asking for it. Examples of socially dangerous behavior are: not mustering enthusiasm for the local food delicacy, violating your  high school’s sense of propriety about dress, wearing a baseball cap at a baseball game when the National Anthem is playing, and suggesting a disconnection between  a bride’s being handed from her father’s protection to her husband’s in cases where the union has already been blessed with children.

From YUCK! …That Guy Didn’t Wash His Hands!: The Complete Guide to the American Man’s Bathroom Experience, including The Original American Bathroom Thesaurus by Brian J. Baker

Americans have a tacit fascination with bodily functions, none of which garner more of our cultural obsession than the three main acts of expelling human waste: Farting, Peeing, and Pooping.

Farting in anywhere but the toilet cube is seen as a serious bodily miscalculation.

Why the heck would anyone want to bring their opened food or drink in the bathroom?

We hope this has been enlightening. International readers! What have you been taught about dealing with Americans?