Elevator Etiquette

I find large banks of elevators mildly terrifying. [via Wikimedia Commons]

Like door etiquette, elevator etiquette seems like it should be self-explanatory. But that appears not to be the case, so here are some tips:

  1. Try to avoid taking the elevator to the 2nd or 3rd floor if you are capable of using the stairs and if there are even stairs (my office building doesn’t have easily accessible stairs, so I often take the elevator to the 2nd floor.)
  2. If you do know that you are getting off at a lower floor, try to get on the elevator last.
  3. If you are next to the door and someone needs to get off, step off the elevator to let them pass before getting back on.
  4. When there is a crowd waiting for the elevator, do your best to let those who have been waiting longest board first.
  5. Keep conversation to a minimum, no one wants to listen to you and your pal.
  6. Face the door. Anything else makes people uncomfortable.
  7. If there is someone running for the elevator and it isn’t very full, be kind and hold the door.
  8. If there is an elevator operator (some buildings still have them!), clearly tell them what floor you are going to and thank them when you get off.
  9. Don’t press (or let your bratty kid) press all of the buttons.
  10. Let people getting off the elevator off before you try to get on.


What Is The Deal With Online Registries?

B007UO40LE-1._V149139675_Registries are already a weird thing we’ve agreed upon doing as a society, but after receiving two waffle irons within weeks of my engagement, I begrudgingly signed up and now understand the appeal. But a huge reason for that is because I signed up for an online registry that lets me register for anything from any store, in one place. It’s pretty great!

However, things like online and honeymoon registries have to be navigated carefully, as most people still aren’t familiar with them, so I’m going to break down a few of the common features you can look for and how they should be handled.

Gifts from Anywhere

The main appeal of these types of registries (Simple Registry, NewlyWish, MyRegistry, to name a few) is that you can list gifts from anywhere, on one page, so your guests don’t have to find your bedding at Macy’s and your plates at Pottery Barn and your tech gear at Best Buy. It also means that you can register at smaller or local stores, or stores that don’t have websites, which is fantastic for variety and also supporting small businesses.

One thing to be mindful of is ensuring the things you register for are still in stock. A few times I’ve found that trays, glasses, and decorations I registered for at a smaller store were completely out of stock, and I had to change my registry accordingly.

Also, check out how they work, and whether the registry redirects your guests to purchase the gifts at the specific sites, or whether you just get the cash and it’s up to you to keep your promise and use it to buy the thing you intended. Because you DO have to use the money to buy the thing you said it would be for, which is another reason why it’s good to regularly check that items are not sold out.

Split Gifts

So, you want a KitchenAid mixer, right? We all do, and you registered for one because if you had $600 to plunk down on one you wouldn’t be in this predicament. But chances are many of your friends and family do not have $600 to plunk down on a mixer either! Many of these sites offer ways to split up larger gifts into separate payments, so someone can chip in $100 to your mixer, another person $50, and soon enough it’s yours.

Remember that separate thank you notes are required for everyone who chipped in, no matter how small a donation.

Experience Gifts

Probably the best part of online registries is that you can register for experiences, not just physical things. I have honeymoon activities (snorkeling, sailing), cooking classes, and magazines subscriptions on mine. Most likely these sites will just give you cash to spend on these activities, so it’s doubly important that you actually do these things. To be extra nice, take some pictures and send them to the gift-giver to show them how much fun you had!


Speaking of cash, many of these websites have a built-in option for a cash gift (something I didn’t notice on mine, and cannot get rid of, which is the one thing that irks me). As we’ve mentioned before, everyone knows that everyone else could use cash, so there’s usually no need to make it explicit.

Many couples these days could really do without matching china, or even cooking classes, and instead would like to save up money to buy a home or make some other significant purchase. And while I am all for saving up money you receive as gifts for something like that, I would suggest against putting a “down payment fund” or “our dream home” on your registry. Here’s the thing I’ve noticed: the people who give cash will always give cash, but the people who give gifts like giving specific gifts. And asking that their “gift” be to throw $50 into a general pile of cash for a home that doesn’t exist yet is sort of cheating them out of their part of the arrangement.

I know, I know, I am always the first to cry about how people should show love the way the recipient needs it, not the way the giver wants to give it. If all the giftee wants is to save up for a modest house and the gifter thinks it’s not good enough, the gifter is the rude one, right? Totally, yes, you can go with that. But just keep in mind that if cash is truly all you want, you shouldn’t even register in the first place. (And that people will buy you gifts anyway, but you can probably just return them for cash.)

A note on honeymoon funds: Many people equate paying for a couple’s honeymoon (flights and hotels and such, not just fun excursions) similarly to paying for a couple’s house–that it’s rude. I’d disagree, because in my mind, a Honeymoon would not exist without a wedding, but a house would. It still feels like an extension of the festivities. However, allow your guests the joy of buying you specific things on your honeymoon, even if it’s just 1 night in a hotel or lunch on your third day there. Throwing a few dollars into a giant “honeymoon fund” just doesn’t feel as good. (See above.)

Also don’t register for a dog. I saw that. It was weird.


If you register at a site like Amazon or Macy’s, giftees will usually pay the shipping and taxes to have the gift sent to your house, because that’s just built into the way those sites work. However, with many online registries, it’s not that simple. For instance, if a guest buys me a gift that costs $75, their $75 is transferred into a holding fund on the site. I can then have it deposited directly into my bank account, or have a check sent to me, and use the money to buy the item I requested. They haven’t ordered you anything, but that credit card transaction still costs money.

Most sites do not require users to pay to use the service. It seems that most of them run on credit card transactions, fees and ads. Each site has its own way of doing fees. Some have a flat fee, others have fees based on the cost of gifts. Some require giftees to pay the transaction fees, while others allow you to pay it for them. I’m divided on which is the “nicer” way to do things: on one hand, making sure your guests don’t pay extra fees is nice. On the other, if you’re giving a gift and make the recipient pay a fee to receive it that’s not very nice. And if they bought you a gift through Amazon they would be paying shipping and tax fees anyway, so why should it be any different here? And Amazon and other sites make at least some of their money via product markups and such, right? And then you get into this whole conversation about capitalism and corporate greed when really you just want someone to get you a nice salad bowl. So shop around, see what the fee policy is, and if it seems reasonable to you it’s probably ok.

I would also suggest factoring in shipping and tax costs into gifts you put on an online registry. If you say it’s $75 for a set of plates, someone gives you that $75, and you go to the site to order it and find it’ll be $85 with shipping and handling, that sort of defeats the purpose of being given a gift.


There will most likely be someone who thinks having a registry like this is rude. There are people who still think having regular registries are rude. I’m still one of those people sometimes! But just remember that having a registry doesn’t mean that anyone is obligated to use it, which means two things. One, if you are giving a gift and don’t like the couple’s registry or its fee policy, you are perfectly welcome to buy them something else somewhere else. Two, if you are the owner of the registry, you cannot get mad if you guests don’t buy you gifts off of it. Actually, you can’t get mad if people don’t buy you gifts, period. It’s a “gift,” not a requirement.

How To Talk About Death

kermit-mickeyDeath is not common in western society the way it used to be. Infant mortality is relatively low, we have penicillin, and people die in hospitals, not at home. For many, this means that death is a rare occasion in their lives, which is a relief. But the flip side is that familiarity with death means an understanding of how to talk about it or offer sincere condolences. I still clam up when a friend loses someone close to them, unsure of quite how to offer support at a time when most people probably don’t know what they need. But here are a few things to think about when offering condolences.

1. Should I offer condolences?

In most instances, yes, you should, whether you’re the griever’s best friend, boss, or doorman. And if the griever brings it up first, you always should, even if you don’t know them very well.

2. When should I offer condolences?

If the griever tells you, immediately. If you hear it through another party (for instance, if your friend’s husband lets you know her aunt just died, because she’s not in any mood to be calling people), use your discretion based on your relationship. If it’s your best friend then obviously say something soon, but if you’re not as close, maybe give it a day or two, when it would make sense that news had gotten out.

3. How do I offer condolences?

If you can’t do it in person, I actually think text or email is much, much better than a phone call in most instances. When one’s grieving, the last thing most people want to do is get on the phone and interact with someone else, for multiple reasons. They may be making funeral arrangements, and don’t want to take time out of planning to hop on the phone with every relative or friend. They may need time alone, and don’t want to have to talk to anyone. Also these phone calls can quickly turn into the griever comforting those calling, explaining “no really, I’m ok, don’t worry” when they just want to grieve in peace.

An email or text on the other hand lets them know you’re there, but requires no response or effort from the griever (note: do not expect replies for these).

4. What should I say?

If you met the deceased, it’s always lovely to include a word or fond memory about them. If not, focus on the griever. You may say “I know how much he/she meant to you,” but a simple “I’m sorry for your loss” always works. This is also a good time to offer any services with something like “if there’s anything you need, please let me know.” If you’re closer, you can offer something specific, like house-sitting if they need to travel.

“I’m sorry for your loss” doesn’t sound like much. Often times I think I’m being too generic or uncaring when I send that message to a friend, but then I remember just how comforted I was with the flood of messages just like that the last time someone close to me died.

Tell us, what have you found comforting when a close one has died? What did people do that frustrated you?


Registries, Wedding Gifts, and Thank You Notes

Because we all know what weddings are really about. [via Wikimedia Commons]

I’ve saved my post about gifts and gift registries for last because they are the least important part of your wedding. Yet somehow they get quite a lot of attention on etiquette sites and in the news.

Here’s the thing, yes you are going to get gifts because that is what is done. However, gifts for weddings are completely optional, the amount a guest spends on their gift is up to them (I don’t ever want to hear the words “cover your plate” coming out of the mouth of a couple about their own wedding), AND what a guest chooses to give you is also up them.


Back in the day, a bride would go down to the department store in her hometown and pick out a china pattern and a silver pattern (this means the design on your knives and forks, btw). The store would note it down and when people came in to buy the bride a gift, the store could tell them what patterns she had chosen and they could select a place setting or two and be on their way. And that was the beginning of registries.

Now, you can register for anything your little heart desires. This is great! Not everyone needs 12 settings of Wedgewood china and Waterford crystal. However it also creates some confusion about what a registry really is.

A registry is a list of IDEAS. It can also be somewhat helpful in preventing a couple from receiving 5 toasters (has this really ever happened? Why is the example always toasters? ED NOTE: I got two waffle irons! No toasters yet -Jaya). A registry is not a list of demands or a shopping list for guests to pick from. Guests can absolutely get you things that aren’t on your registry.

Now if you are going to set one up, try to come up with items in a range of prices and try to come up with enough items that guests feel like they have some options.

Alternative Registries

Every day it seems that a new entrepreneurial has created a new way to do online registries. A popular version is the honeymoon registry. While many of your elderly relatives might be heartily offended by these types of registries, they are growing in popularity and are now generally accepted even by etiquette experts (such as the Emily Post Institute). However, there are good ways and bad ways to do a honeymoon registry.

A good way is to list a number of experiences you want to enjoy on the honeymoon- things that feel like real gifts, not just chipping in for airfare. Then, if you receive your “massage on the beach” or whatever, you should do you best to actually do that activity, even though the honeymoon registry company basically just gives you a big check at the end.

A bad way to do it is to just have a general fund that all the guests deposit money into- feels more like you are collecting cash rather than receiving gifts. You should also do what you can to make sure any fees are paid directly by you rather than passing them on to your guests.

Another new registry type is where you list the things you want and guests contribute money to those items through the site. For example, you want a KitchenAid Mixer (it’s not a registry without a KitchenAid, amirite?), but you know that no one will be able to buy you one for $400. So you split it up and ask for 4 gifts of $100 each for the mixer. This is pretty cool! Just like chipping in for a group gift but with less hassle. However, if you are asking for all this stuff, you should do your best to actually buy the things you are asking for when you get your big check at the end. If you are using these registries to trick your guests into giving you cash when they think they are buying you a mixer that you will bake Christmas cookies for years with, then that is extremely shady and you shouldn’t be doing it.

Asking For Cash

That brings me to my next point, cash. Cash is great, everyone loves it! It’s so great that everyone already knows you might like it, so you don’t need to ask for it. I mean think about it, here’s this list of items you might like for your newly wedded home and then at the bottom, you are like, “cash is good too!” Umm, duh.

However, you don’t have to despair. You can get the word around by word of mouth- tell your mother, tell your partner’s mother, tell your bridal party. And if someone ASKS you what you want, it’s totally fine to say “oh we are saving up for a house, so we would really love some money for that, but anything you want to give us is great!” It just doesn’t belong on a list. And if you don’t make a registry, many people will infer that you would prefer cash (though you might end up with some really hideous and/or memorable gifts as well.)

Getting the Word Out

So you’ve made this carefully curated registry. Now how do you let everyone know about it? Traditionally, it was all spread by word of mouth. Your aunt would call up your mom and ask her where you were registered and your mom would tell her. This still works! And again, if someone asks you where you are registered, you can tell them.

The one thing you do not want to do is include any mention of gifts or registries on the invitation. The invitation is all about wanting the guest to come share your day, not about what they are going to give you. This includes “no gifts please,” the point is to not talk about gifts, even not wanting them.

A really excellent place for registry information is on your wedding website, under its own discreet link. This creates a polite layer in which the guest is seeking out information that they want, you are not waving it in their face telling them to buy you stuff.

The Gifts Start Rolling In

It might surprise you at how soon after you announce your engagement that gifts start showing up at your door, so be prepared.

It is traditional that you don’t use your wedding gifts until after the wedding. The reason for this is that, if something should happen and the wedding is called off, those gifts must be returned to the giver!

Make sure you keep track of who sent you what- spreadsheets are great for this! This way makes it easier to send thank you notes.

Thank You Notes

Handwritten thank you notes are absolutely mandatory for wedding gifts. Even if you called them or thanked them in person, you still need to send a note. Wedding gift giving is a sort of formalized gift giving tradition that is basically required of all your guests. Therefore it deserves a formal thank you in return.

For gifts that arrive prior to your wedding, you want to send out a thank you within 2-3 weeks of receiving the gift (so they know it arrived safely!). DO NOT wait until after your wedding to send these notes. You are going to want to break up the note writing as much as possible so you don’t have to do 100 at once!

For anything that arrives shortly before your wedding, on the day, or afterwards, you only have 3-4 months tops to get them done. A year is a MYTH. Just do it and you can enjoy married life without the Sword of Thank You Notes Yet To Be Written hanging over your head.


I hope you all have enjoyed my series on How to Throw a Perfectly Polite Wedding. Be sure to check out all the earlier posts as well!

The Wedding Guest List

Wedding Invitations

The Care and Keeping of Wedding Attendants

Showers, Bachelor/ette Parties, and Rehearsal Dinners, Oh My!

Wedding Ceremony Etiquette

Wedding Reception Etiquette

Spoiler Alert! Are Spoilers Rude?

The ultimate spoiler. [Via xkcd.com]

Dear Uncommon Courtesy,

What is the etiquette on posting TV spoilers on social media? I thought you had to wait until at least the following day? A guy in my feed posted something about Game of Thrones before I got a chance to watch it that same night!


Totally Spoiled


Official Etiquette:

Both Miss Manners and the Emily Post Institute say that the onus is on you to avoid spoilers.

Our Take:

Victoria:  Okay, so spoilers. I have people on my Facebook wall threatening to de-friend other people for posting Game of Thrones spoilers. This is serious business! And should be an interesting discussion because I HATE spoilers and I know you don’t mind them. I think definitely you shouldn’t post anything at all until the episode has aired in all markets (for tv).

Jaya: Definitely, and also I like the point that sometimes popular shows air at the same time. Some people say that if you “really care” you’ll watch the show as soon as it airs, but maybe you wanted to watch two shows and DVR’ed one, and you think you’re safe if you watch it immediately after!

Victoria Hahah just avoid the internet entirely until you’ve watched everything. Ugh no. Personally, I don’t think you should post a spoiler in any kind of headline, ever.

Jaya:  Definitely not in headlines, but that’s more of a journalistic integrity thing. I do think some of this is self preservation. The chances of spoilers happening on social media is so high for really popular shows, so if not being spoiled is important to you, maybe avoid it. Though I don’t want to victim blame here…

Victoria Like it’s fine to say OMG GAME OF THRONES TONIGHT WAS INSANE but not like, this THING happened.

Jaya:  And even writing SPOILER ALERT: SO AND SO DIED is bad.  You read those words at the same time, that spoiler alert does nothing.

Victoria Yeah! I hate sneaky spoilers too- I once had something spoiled for me in a discussion of something completely unrelated.

Jaya:  Within a reasonable time frame, or way after the fact?

Victoria Waaaay after, but still.

Jaya:  I mean, I had lots of stuff in The Wire spoiled for me, but it aired 10 years ago, I should not expect people to not talk about it.

Victoria Yeah, I agree. And I mean, on the internet, its one thing. But I think if you are talking about something with actual people in person, it’s polite to ask “have you seen this, are you going to see it, do you mind if I talk about spoilers?”

Jaya:  I agree to an extent, but I do think there is a statue of limitations. Everyone is busy and may not have gotten around to consuming a show or movie or book they want to consume, but do you have to do it for everything? I haven’t seen Godfather II, should people check with me before discussing a famous movie that came out 40 years ago? If I’m discussing a mutually-enjoyed TV show with a friend, do I have to announce to everyone within earshot that they may want to move to another room?

Victoria I think that it’s fine to talk about old stuff in a general way, but you should still try to avoid real “spoilers” in the sense of things that actually spoil a big twist or surprise. And honestly, I think people do this pretty naturally.

Jaya:  True. I guess part of this conversation taps into my dislike of the idea of “spoilers” in general. I tend to think that a good story should not rely on a “twist,” and that the journey of an art form, not finding out what happens at the end, is what matters. Even if you know every detail of what happens in a story, you do not know how that story is told, and that is the true joy of art. But I get that not everyone thinks that way.

Victoria I see your point with that.

Jaya:  And I make an effort not to reveal anything that isn’t general cultural knowledge. But I’m sorry but if you don’t know the twist of The Sixth Sense you’ll just have to know it now.

Victoria Yeah, I guess some major things are such a cliche at this point that they aren’t even really spoilers. But man, if you are talking about a movie and someone says “I haven’t seen that yet” and you deliberately spoil it- that’s just not cool,

Jaya:  Oh yeah! That’s a dick move. But if you’re talking about Citizen Kane, and reveal something, and a person shouts “UGH way to go dude, I haven’t seen it,” I don’t think that’s my fault.  I think the longer a certain piece of media has been out, the more it’s on you to be vigilant about not getting spoiled.

Victoria And I personally am pretty good at catching them- I saw The Wire without any spoilers! Because I was hyper vigilant about not reading ANYTHING about The Wire, or like, Baltimore in general.

Jaya:  Hahaha, yeah! Like if you know you’re gonna watch The Wire, and someone brings it up, it may be your job to remove yourself from the conversation. Obviously this is harder on social media when things just pop up, but also maybe have a sense of humor. There was a Portlandia sketch that “spoiled” one Wire point for me. Oh well, it’s been 10 years, I’ve had enough time. And it’s not like knowing it made the show worse.

Victoria Yeah, I have actually sought out things after they were spoiled because it made them sound more interesting than I had originally thought!

Jaya:  Hahahaha, yeah! that’s the flip side of spoilers! But yeah, with social media, definitely not that day for TV shows, or probably the first week or two a movie is out. Books I don’t know.

Victoria: Yeah, books, maybe a few months?

Jaya:  Also I feel like books are so complicated that if you say “omg I can’t believe Anna didn’t get the abortion in This Novel” I’d be like okay, I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about.

Victoria Yeah, the only major book spoiler i can think of is the big Harry Potter one.

Jaya:  You mean that Ron is the last horcrux?

Victoria Basically.