Do I Really Have to Buy This Bride All These Gifts?

What you don’t realize is that all these gifts are from one person. [Via Flickr user frostnova]

Dear Uncommon Courtesy,

I am in this girl’s wedding in May. I assume I get her a wedding gift. I’ve also been invited to her bridal shower, that says bring a gift, and her bachelorette party, that says bring a gift. I assume that the bachelorette gift is suppose to be a gag gift, but I’m not sure. How many freaking gifts am I actually expected to get this girl? I cannot afford to get her 3 gifts.


Gift Fatigued


Official Etiquette:

Technically, yes, you should give a gift for both the wedding and the shower. But they can be small gifts! Bachelorette parties should not have a gift element unless they take the place of a shower. Guests should not be invited to more than one shower and if they are, they don’t have to give a gift the second time.


Our Take:

Jaya: How rude to demand gifts!!!!

Victoria Hahahahahahahahaha, this is a crazy situation and exactly what is meant when people talk about gift fatigue. Though, I assume no one is really demanding gifts so much as inviting her to parties that often have gifts. Except the bachelorette, omg, bachelor/ette parties should not be gift giving occasions.

Jaya: Yeah, seriously.

Victoria I wonder who is organizing the shower/bachelorette. If they are the same person, you could maybe talk to them.

Jaya:  Shower is bride’s sister, bachelorette is MOH (ED: maid of honor, fyi). The letter writer thinks the bride would understand if she was just like, hey, I’m broke and already spending money on hotels and dresses and stuff, which is definitely what I think they should do. Apparently the bachelorette is in another town so she had to pay for hotels for that weekend too.

Victoria Omg, I would just not go. I mean seriously, wtf kind of wedding is this?

Jaya:  Ridiculous, apparently the bride is totally normal and understanding, but her family is a little more difficult.

Victoria Hmm, yeah, I would talk to the bride. I mean, I would be MORTIFIED if I was getting married and found out these people were planning these kinds of things and demanding gifts from people.

Jaya:  Seriously.

Victoria So the bride could theoretically talk to the MOH and get rid of gifts for the bachelorette entirely and then I would get something small for the shower. And something small again for the wedding.

Jaya:  Or maybe split a gift with some other people, like we have done.

Victoria Yeah, although, then you run into the problem of the organizer being like, let’s buy them a $500 vacuum and that will come out to $100 each- hope that’s okay with everyone, xoxoxox!

Jaya:  Hahahahaha, oh god, just a Hey Ladies email.

Victoria Yep, like, just buy them a muffin pan and call it day. Write a nice note. The bride will understand.

Jaya:  I don’t think I’ve ever even heard of invitations specifying to bring gifts. I’ve heard of them saying “no gifts,” but not “yes mandatory gifts.”

Victoria Yeah, well, I assume here that with the shower, gifts are implied and the invitation included registry information. Which is allowed because the whole point of the shower is to shower the bride with gifts, so its really “not done” to come without one.

Jaya:  True.

Victoria:  And then I’m betting for the bachelorette, they were like, we’re doing blah blah in blah city staying at blah hotel and please bring a fun lingerie gift for the bride!

Jaya:  I don’t know, the way she said it it sounded a lot more explicit on the invitation. The bachelorette one just says bring a gift, not specifying like, a gag or sexy gift, just a gift. You could probably infer not to bring a toaster to a bachelorette party though.

Victoria Ahh well some showers are specific kinds of showers? Like they will be like please bring a bottle of wine to stock the happy couples bar. But yeah, that is not really okay for the bachelorette. Omg, trying so hard to believe that people aren’t being so outrageously rude!

Jaya:  In general it just seems like a lot

Victoria I think that people planning these things really need to keep the big picture in mind. Like, if you are having a big blowout out of town bachelorette, maybe no showers? Definitely no presents. If you are keeping everything small and local its fine to do a shower and a bachelorette. If you have out of town bridesmaids, please be extremely aware that they probably won’t be able to make it to anything except the wedding and you can’t guilt them about it. And for showers- you don’t invite the same person to multiple showers!! And if you do because they are a bridesmaid or the sister of the bride- they only have to bring a gift to one shower. And a very nice bride will mention that while she is opening gifts so people don’t wonder why sally didn’t get her anything

Jaya:  Yes! Yeah, I think people forget that sometimes one person will be going to four parties not to mention traveling to the wedding and buying a bridesmaids dress. It’s a lot to ask of a person and people need to be more sensitive to that.

Sports Etiquette Sounds Like A Good Idea

The world of sports and sporting is something I’ve never really felt a part of, even though a decent part of my childhood was spent on various sports teams (soccer, volleyball and softball). I liked being athletic and active, but the word “athlete” always seemed to describe other people who held teamwork through physical strength in much higher regard. Just let me run around and throw things in peace.

(I also may have avoided becoming too entrenched in team athleticism because I am the worst competitor when it comes to board games and the like. My fiance refuses to play air hockey with me anymore because I am a BITCH about both winning and losing. Don’t I just sound darling?)

Anyway, the etiquette of sport was very real when interest in sport=good breeding. In Marion Harland’s Complete Etiquette (1914), she writes that participating in sports is the way for humans to express our primal natures in everyday civilized life, which is why it may be so easy for normally well-mannered people to flip the fuck out if they miss a tennis return. It is because of this that etiquette must be enforced, and really, the rules she lays out are not that complicated: play fair, don’t lose your temper, and remember that the “other fellow has as much right to a good time as you have.” She also writes “no sport in which people of breeding can participate demands loud talking, ill bred language or actions, or the abridgment of any of the small sweet courtesies of life.” And you want to be well bred, right? Like a dog? Yes.

Best search ever

Best search ever

Of course, there are many rules that seem hopelessly outdated. If a man and a woman are playing golf together, the man is not supposed to let himself get too far ahead of her and leave her alone on the field. When “automobiling,” always stop at a disabled car and see if you can be of assistance (on those days when you just drive around for fun because gas costs a nickel). Also, “Do not boast of the phenomenal runs you have made. You are not a record holder. And when you become one, the newspapers will gladly exploit the fact without any viva voce testimony from you.” God I love how catty etiquette experts can be.

Many of the other tips have to do with how to handle a female opponent if you’re a man, so let’s all appreciate that the current etiquette is most likely “just play the dang sport.”

The other part of sports etiquette has to do with sports and business, since many a business deal has been brokered on the tennis court, ringside at a boxing match, or on the golf…field? Business Skills for Dummies (they have good tips!) says that no matter the sport, be honest about your skill level: “Rank beginners and fakes aren’t appreciated. It’s better to decline than to embarrass yourself in a sport you don’t know how to play at least passably well.” However, they miss something here. Think about it: a high level executive makes all his business deals (you know, business deals. I don’t know business speak.) while playing tennis. You cannot play tennis, and say so when you’re invited by him to the court. It is far more likely that you will just not be invited to any more tennis meetings than this executive changing up his routine to accommodate you.

The problem with combining business with sports is that it automatically sets up a system where some people can’t participate. Just because someone doesn’t know how to play golf doesn’t mean they won’t be a good business partner, and limiting your business deals to a club of people with your same interests means you’re missing out on a lot.  Like, remember in Mad Men when they all kept doing business at a strip club and Peggy couldn’t really go, but she decided to “man up” and go anyway and it was super weird but it was her only option if she wanted to get ahead? Don’t make someone be a Peggy, just have your meetings in a damn conference room.

Don't make coworkers sit on your lap either???

Don’t make coworkers sit on your lap either???

But ok, back to sports. In general, I’m for a lot more etiquette in sports, and essentially remembering that it is only a game. This goes for pickup basketball games with friends, or Richie Incognito. Your skill level at a particular sport is not indicative of your character, and your joy should never come at the expense of someone else’s sorrow. That’s not to say you should never compete, just be mindful that after you’ve won or lost, you still have to return to everyday life.

Oh yeah and let women play the same way as men.

Wedding Ceremony Etiquette

This is what the wedding ceremony set up would look like for a wedding made up of models and officiated by the Pope.

This is what the altar would look like for a wedding made up of models and officiated by the Pope.

For the most part, wedding ceremonies are so personal there isn’t really any official etiquette that will cover all of them. However, here are some traditions and guidelines:

If you are getting married at a religious site, check how much personalization you will be allowed to use. Many religious weddings don’t allow deviation from the ceremony or secular music, for example.

Traditionally in Christian ceremonies the bride’s parents and guests sit on the left of the “altar” and the groom’s family and guests are on the right. For Jewish ceremonies, it is the exact opposite, bride right, groom left.

You can rope off the first couple of rows for specific VIPs. If you use your groomsmen as ushers, they can make sure that the right people get these seats. Back in the olden days, you might receive a pew card with your invitation which would tell the usher which pew you were in. Or at the least, the usher would ask you “bride or groom?” and seat you on the correct side. It was expected that ushers would be able to recognize VIPs and seat them correctly.

Of course, nowadays, people can “choose a seat, not a side” and there is complete seating chaos! (Except not because, surely, grown up people can find a seat for a ceremony without too much hassle.)

In a traditional Christian ceremony, the groom, best man, and officiant would walk in first, from the side of the church and stand at the altar. Then all the ushers/groomsmen would walk down the aisle in pairs and join them. They would be followed by the bridesmaids, also in pairs. The Maid of Honor would follow them alone. She would be followed by the flower girl and/or ring bearer. Then finally the bride and her father would walk down. In Christian ceremonies, both sets of parents are seated in the first row on their respective sides. Sometimes the Mother of the Bride and the parents of the groom or other important VIPs are escorted to their seats by an usher after all the other guests are there but before the “real” processional starts.

In a traditional Jewish ceremony, the Rabbi would be at the front. The best man would walk down followed by the groom and both his parents. Then the maid of honor followed by the flower girl. Finally, the bride and both her parents. In traditional Jewish ceremonies, both sets of parents stand under the Chuppah with the bride, groom, and rabbi.

During the ceremony, the bridesmaids would line up on the side near the bride and the groomsmen would line up on the side near the groom. Bride on the left, groom on the right for Christian ceremonies and the opposite for Jewish ceremonies (just like where the guests sit!)

For both Christian and Jewish ceremonies, in the recessional, the bride and groom would go first, followed by the bridesmaids/groomsmen who are now paired off.

I am including the traditional formats for processionals and recessionals for informational purposes, but to be honest, I’ve never seen any wedding follow those traditions exactly and you can do whatever works for you. And apologies for the Judeo-Christian norms, but that’s all old etiquette books include!

It is ideal to have seats for all of your guests unless the ceremony is VERY short.

Typically, everyone will stand when the bride appears at the top of the aisle. It is a good idea to have your officiant to invite people to sit once everyone is at the “altar” otherwise, everyone might end up standing the whole time, which is no fun for anyone. The whole standing for the bride thing makes some couples uncomfortable, and you can certainly put notices in your programs, or make announcements or whatever you choose, but it’s so engrained that people might do it anyway.

It’s a new thing, but requests that guests don’t take pictures during the ceremony are perfectly fine.

Everyone gets hung up on the idea of the bride’s father walking her down the aisle. Even Miss Manners has always said that the bride should choose whoever she wishes to walk her down the aisle, whether it be a father or stepfather or whoever. If she doesn’t have a father, her mother is the ideal option, no need to find a male relative to walk her. Of course, you also can walk down by yourself or with your partner if you wish.

I have never really heard of anyone actually doing the whole rice throwing deal, and at the weddings I have been to, it wouldn’t have worked logistically, but if you want to do it, the traditional time is as you leave the church. Basically, the newly wedded couple gets back up the aisle and hides somewhere for a few minutes while all the guests are assembled outside in two lines near the door. Then when all are ready and have rice in hand, the bride and groom come running out and are pelted with rice before jumping in a car to take them to the reception. You can see where the logistics fall apart if your reception is in the same place as the ceremony, and your ceremony isn’t in a church-like building, and you don’t have anywhere to hide while the guests get ready. Not to mention the mess (check with your ceremony site if you plan to do this!) No wonder I’ve never seen this happen before. Luckily, the myth that the rice is harmful to birds is not true! (NOTE: after doing some further research after originally writing this piece, I found that people have their guests throw things at them as the walk back up the aisle- still some possible logistical problems, but a good compromise nonetheless.)

Ultimately, as long as your guests are reasonably comfortable, the ceremony is the one part of your wedding day that is literally all about you and you can do pretty much whatever you want. So use traditional vows or write your own, do some kind of unity ceremony if that floats your boat (sorry, but blech), anything goes! Just try to avoid cultural appropriation!

How Not To Act When You Get Bad Service


It’s not worth it [Via Flickr]

Here’s the situation: A few weeks ago, Jaya was dining at an airport in North Carolina, waiting for her plane home. A man and a woman sat down two tables over, and ordered drinks and burgers. When the food comes out, the guy notices there is no cheese on his burger (he ordered a cheeseburger) and asked the waitress to bring him a slice of cheese. She did, but he complained that the cheese looked like it had come off another burger. She explained the chef had warmed it up so it would be a bit melty, but he refused to eat it. Meanwhile, he ate his entire burger, drank two beers, and then left the restaurant to get a Snickers bar, which he ate at his table. This, he explained to the table in between us, was because he was “worried any dessert here would come out half-eaten.” When the waitress came to see if they needed anything else, he said “just don’t charge me and we’ll be fine.” All the while he was badmouthing the waitress to people at nearby tables.
Jaya: Basically, I feel like yeah the waitress messed up and wasn’t the most attentive, but this guy was worse.
Victoria: I think for a food order that is wrong, often a restaurant will comp just that order even if you ate it. But definitely not the whole bill. I don’t think you can even really ask for your meal to be comped—the restaurant has to offer it.
Jaya: There have definitely been times where someone messed up my order and offered to comp—but that was maybe when I was brought entirely the wrong thing, or it was really slow.
Victoria: Right. Here, they tried to fix the problem. And I think, if they are trying to fix the problem, and it’s not to your satisfaction, you need to ask for a manager, because they can deal with it much better. The worst is when you are annoyed with the service or your meal comes out wrong and you never say anything, you just don’t leave a tip. Come on! SAY something and get it resolved.
Jaya: Yes! I hate that. Most of the time these things are honest mistakes, and can be resolved quickly. After my brief stint as a waitress, I’d always rather people let me know what was wrong. Sometimes it was a busy night and I forgot to put in an order! Or put it in wrong! But telling me or a manager first means we can expedite something to you, instead of you remaining miserable.
Victoria: Right!
Jaya: Also I thought with this guy that the bringing in outside food was extra-rude. Yes, service wasn’t great, but you don’t have to do that.
Victoria: Yes, and actually a lot of restaurants don’t allow it because it is a “health hazard” and can get them in trouble.
Jaya: And if it was really that bad, don’t order that second beer, pay your bill and just leave. It just bothered me so much. It took this unfortunate, but by no means uncommon or devastating, situation and just made it worse for everyone.
Victoria: Seriously, get some perspective, rude person.
Jaya: Like, ok, you didn’t get cheese on your burger. You’re at an airport, not date night. Just eat and get on your damn plane.
Victoria: Hahah yeah, and it’s not like they put cheese on it when you specifically said you are allergic and will die if cheese gets near you.
Jaya: Exactly! It was also interesting with this guy, that he didn’t send it back and ask for a cheeseburger, which would have been reasonable. He asked for a slice of cheese to put on the burger and I think asked for them to warm it up, so then was just mad that they did what he asked? Like, if they just brought him a slice of cheese as their solution, that would be weird, but that’s what he asked for.
Victoria: Yeah, that is insane. Or if he hadn’t bitten it yet, they could maybe take it back, put the patty back on the grill with some cheese and it would be fine.
Jaya: It was just his general attitude that bothered me. He kept talking to the people at the table in between us about how ridiculous service was, and joking about his snickers bar, etc., and it just wasn’t, for lack of a better term, classy.
Victoria: Always be classy. I think complaints should be made quietly and without fuss. Just like, this is my problem, what can we do to correct it.
Jaya: Yes, absolutely. and you don’t need to show attitude unless the waitstaff shows it first. But his waitress was clearly trying, so there’s no need to badmouth her to other people or bring in outside food.
Victoria: Right, it the staff gets snotty and rude, its a bit more understandable, but you still should take the high ground.

Things In The Emily Post Wedding Etiquette Book We’ve Never Heard Of

9780062326102The thing about etiquette is that there are now thousands upon thousands of “rules,” and all of them have precedent. With many ceremonies we rely on “tradition,” and though that’s a fleeting and ever-changing thing, you can always reach back to something a specific group of people did a few times 200 years ago and say “well, it’s tradition!” and everyone will take you at your word. The flip side of this is that, during the ongoing pressure of planning a wedding, people will insist on traditions you have never heard of, and you may feel forced to comply just because you’ve been convinced said-custom is indeed a tradition.

Recently, I received a copy of the 6th edition of Emily Post’s Wedding Etiquette, a lovely hardcover filled with tips on seasonal flowers, invitation wording, and updated text about same-sex marriage and having a “man of honor.” (It does still say that “men may choose not to wear a ring” but makes no mention that women don’t have to wear rings either. Ugh.) But looking through, there were a number of things that I realized I have never seen in person. I have been to 15 weddings in my lifetime (18 by the end of the year, including my own), from Catholic to Polish Orthodox to secular, Indian to Jewish, formal to garden party, and none of these things has ever happened. That doesn’t mean they never happened, or don’t still happen, or that you shouldn’t do them; this is just a reminder that you do not have to take every bit of advice given to you.

  • Having a separate “bridal bouquet” and “tossing bouquet.”
  • During the Best Man’s toast, it used to be customary for him to read any congratulatory telegrams. I’d actually be cool with bringing this back, so someone send me a wedding telegram.
  • Seeing the bride and groom serve cake to their parents. “Tradition has it that the bride serve the groom’s parents, and he serves hers.”
  • We knew it was tradition for the bride’s family to pay for the ceremony and reception, and the groom’s family to pay for the rehearsal dinner. However, the groom’s family is also apparently supposed to pay for the engagement and wedding rings, the officiant’s fee and transportation, and all the corsages. This seems complicated.
  • “Always address wedding invitation envelopes by hand, even when inviting hundreds of guests.” I have received plenty of wedding invitations with our names printed on the envelopes, and the world kept spinning.
  • Checking whether throwing rice/confetti/etc is allowed with your venue. Does anyone actually throw rice anymore???
  • The groomsmen also serve as ushers and show the guests to their seats.
  • Technically, this is from the 5th edition of this book, but traditionally, the couple was supposed to pay for the accommodations of their bridal party.
  • One of the groom’s traditional duties was to plan the whole honeymoon, often not telling the bride where they were going until they got there.