Breaking Down “Do Over Weddings”

Best game?

So there’s a new trend in the wedding world where a couple decides to elope or have an intimate ceremony (or sometimes has to rush down to City Hall for a legal wedding for any number of reasons) and then later on decide that they feel like they missed out on the big white wedding and so decide to have that in some way. This can be very controversial in the wedding parts of the internet. Offbeat Bride calls it “getting weddinged” vs “getting legaled” and A Practical Wedding discusses it pretty frequently too. However, these sites, obviously, lean towards the more “throw etiquette into the wind and do what suits you” side of wedding planning. On sites like The Knot, these types of weddings are referred to as “Pretty Pretty Princess Days” and are very much frowned on. Your mainstream etiquette doyennes such as Miss Manners and the Emily Post Institute all advise against them, though agree that a reception following an elopement is fine.

To sum up the debate:

Reasons why people want to have after-the-fact weddings:

  • Sometimes life gets in the way with insurance, immigration, military deployments, and other legal issues and you have to get a legal marriage before you’ve had the chance to finish saving money for or planning a wedding.
  • Some people feel nervous or shy about talking about their feelings in public and want to do that part in private.
  • Some people elope and then regret not getting to celebrate with all of their friends and family.
  • Some people loved their elopement but their families were mad that they didn’t have a wedding and are now pressuring them to have one.
  • Some people feel that their vows don’t become “real” until they say them before friends and family or in a religious space.
  • The want to have a religious component that wasn’t possible in a City Hall wedding.
  • Some people see the legal component and the community component can be completely separate and don’t feel “married” from the legal ceremony.
  • If the couple comes from two or more cultures with very specific wedding traditions, and wants to please the family by holding a “traditional” wedding from both sides.

Reasons why they are frowned upon (NB: a reception after an elopement is always fine, etiquette wise. This supposes a full do over of the ceremony, complete with fancy dress and bridal party).

  • Often times the couple will lie about the fact that they are already married. This can be especially problematic with religious ceremonies. The Catholic Church, at least, considers legal weddings to be valid and will not conduct a wedding ceremony for already married people, so to have one, you will have to lie. They do have a marriage blessing that you can do.
  • Some people feel that the motivation behind having a big wedding later is to get the gifts that they missed out on by eloping.
  • Some people feel that if they are not witnessing the legal marriage then it doesn’t count and the wedding is “fake,” there is a theory that you get one wedding per marriage.
  • Some people feel that weddings are mandatory events, but often won’t consider a non-wedding celebration to be the same level of importance and don’t want to travel for it.
  • It can be a little confusing about what date you use as your wedding date for legal purposes vs for celebratory purposes.
  • That sometimes life intervenes and you have to have a quick wedding instead of an elaborate one, and you should just deal with it. (Kind of an American puritanism “act in haste, repent at leisure” kind of judgement.)
  • A giant wedding is not a right and people don’t want to play along to help you create a fantasy that isn’t “real.”
  • It’s insulting to people who choose to elope or have a courthouse wedding to insinuate that it’s not real or not romantic or fun.
  • Your friends and family may SAY they are okay with it, but there are plenty of people who have gone along with do over weddings who felt that they couldn’t say anything, even though they didn’t think it was okay.

Okay, so that’s a lot, and obviously Jaya and Victoria have a lot of thoughts on the subject. It’s important to us to remind our readers that with everything that we write about, we just want to give you all of the information so you can make your decisions fully informed with what the consequences of those decisions might be.

So this conversation happened in response to this piece, in which the couple felt overwhelmed by saying their vows in front of everyone and eloped privately on a mountain (in Colorado where you don’t need witnesses), but then held a full wedding, complete with another ceremony and vows, in front of their family and friends.

Jaya: I feel like that’s not so bad. Like, that’s a decent way to have two things.

Victoria: Yeah, it wasn’t the worst.

Jaya: I am curious if they told their guests though.

Victoria: But I still don’t get this idea of “oh we are shy so we had a private thing” so we are going to have a thing by ourselves and then a big wedding where we are going to say all the things we say we are too shy to say anyway.

Jaya: Yeah I agree. Though, I totally understand not wanting to say these personal things in front of a lot of people!

Victoria: Yeah, so then, don’t and just elope, and leave it at that!!!

Jaya: Right, or have a big party afterwards, but just have it be a reception, not the ceremony part.

Victoria: Yeah, and don’t dress up in a wedding dress, maybe? I mean, I get it, but I think it’s sort of weird.

Jaya: My parents did that. They got married in my grandparent’s living room with really close family,  and then a few months later held a party at a restaurant. But there was no “ceremony” at the restaurant.

Victoria: Yeah, for sure. And like, my parents planned a full-on wedding with family flying in from across the country at a church and everything…in 6 weeks. So it can be done if you are in a hurry, but maybe you have to buy a dress off the rack and don’t get the whole wedding dress shopping “experience” and tons of food tastings and looking at venues and stuff. You just find something open and you do it. Plenty of corporate type events are planned with only a month or two of notice.

Jaya: This whole debate ties into this “haters gonna hate” culture that I find frustrating.  Everyone is saying “oh who cares about the haters, you do you.” And most of the time I am VERY “you do you” on things. But here, no one is hating just to be mean to you. It’s because there are legitimate concerns you may not have considered. If you consider them and still wanna do this, go ahead!! But I don’t think you should be shocked that some people are confused if you have two ceremonies.

Victoria: It sort of seems like a freedom of speech argument to me- like you are free to do whatever crazy thing you want, but everyone is also free to not attend.

Jaya: You’re setting up this thing where you’re either lying to your family, or changing the thing they’re trying to come to. And yes, the actual, legal change is not what people are there to celebrate. No one is in the room when you sign the marriage certificate. I guess that’s what confuses me on the other end. You’re there to celebrate the couple’s love or whatever, so whether they sign the document that day or weeks before is not really the point, right?

Victoria: I mean, I think people are happy to CELEBRATE even if the actual marriage occurred previously….but I do think a lot of people object to watching a “fake” ceremony. And I really do think that there is a limit of the amount of time after the wedding that people are still in a celebratory mood. 6 months might be close to the top….if everyone has already seen you and congratulated you and started treating you like a married person…it starts to get like…what are we celebrating again, didn’t we already do this? If in their minds, they have already celebrated your marriage they aren’t going to be interested in doing it again.

Jaya: Ahhh yeah. Definitely. And I mean, you don’t have to tell everyone you got “technically” married. Your “real” anniversary is not really of much importance to everyone else, and I really understand the serenity that can come with knowing it’s already “done” by the time the big day comes.

Victoria: Yeah…I mean….I would not not tell people…it seems too close to lying to me.

Jaya: Yeah that’s the other thing too.

Victoria: I get that people get hurt that some of their guests might not want to travel long distances to come to the celebration. But this is a really really new thing in the wedding “industry” and a looooooot of people, especially in the older generation, just do not understand and will not place the same importance on the celebration as the “actual” wedding.

Jaya: However much the “technical” marriage matters to you, it’ll probably mean something to other people (or maybe not)! And you’re free to figure out what works for you and your circle but like, if I had just gone to City Hall and not told my mom, she would have been so upset, even if she had a chance to “celebrate my love” on a different day. And I would have felt awful about not telling my family or friends we had done that. I couldn’t keep that secret.

Victoria: Yeah, exactly, and I mean, I have never actually encountered it myself, and I have thought about it a LOT and I STILL don’t know what I would choose to do when presented with such a situation. I guess it would depend on the couple. But then again…I really like parties and get bad FOMO.

Jaya: Hahaha, I think it also depends on what the small, private ceremony is like. If, like this woman, it’s the two of you on top of a mountain wanting a private moment that’s self-solemnized (which can only be done in some states), totally. If it’s you and 10 family members, but then you want a bigger thing later, that just seems like two weddings. This is the ultimate case of like, you really can do whatever you want, just understand that people bring their own expectations to these things.

Victoria: Although I don’t get, if you must have a private moment, just make your fake non-legal vows then and then do the legal vows on the day you will celebrate with everyone. Maybe this is why I am not a relationship person.

Jaya: Hahahaha, that’s true! The meaning behind the vows isn’t about legalities.

Victoria: Yeah, and if you don’t REALLY care, then do it when people do care? It just seems so hard to keep all these dates straight- like the day we got married and the day we got really married? And who did we tell and who did we not tell?

Jaya: I was asking some friends about this, who got married 5 years ago so she could stay in this country but had their actual wedding last summer and yeah, they consider their anniversary the technical date 5 years ago. But I understand the desire for the actual wedding, because you know, ceremony and religion and such are important to us.

Victoria: Yeah, but then, why not do it sooner? I mean, once you’ve legally tied yourselves together, you should be PRETTY sure that you really want to be married.

Jaya: Hahaha true, yeah I have no idea with them, but their circle was all happy and supportive, which is all that matters.

Victoria: It seems way scarier to me to be legally bound than just lovey and religiously. Like if you just have a “fake” (for lack of a better word) religious and love ceremony, you can break it off at any time! But the legal ceremony has SERIOUS real life consequences. And so many of these double wedding stories brush it off so much like, “oh get the boring part out of the way.”

Jaya: Yeah, I think what confuses me is the having two ceremonies part. If you want to do your ceremony privately and have it as Your Moment, that makes total sense. And then like, go out and invite people to a party and dance. But having a second, “fake” ceremony, even though what you are saying and feeling is obviously real, sort of defeats the point of “oh we’re too shy to say stuff in public.”

Victoria: Yeah, and like, I get it for people who HAD to get married in a rush…but I still kind of feel like you can invite whoever can come and make it special and then just have the celebration later, without the re-do.

Jaya: Do you think this is part of the dreaded WIC? The idea that it’s not “official” unless there is the big wedding?

Victoria: Yeah..I kind of do. Like there are SO MANY stories of people’s parents and grandparents just getting married. Even tons of “golden era” Hollywood stars and Presidents and stuff just got married in a simple suit (the bride!) and had a tiny cake to celebrate and just called it done.

Jaya: I think it’s good to realize it’s not just the couple that the wedding industry affects. Even if you and your spouse are fine with eloping or something, you have your family or best friends telling you you need to have a wedding, and then you feel guilty and it leads to this.

Victoria: Hahah yeah, I think there might be starting to be a bit of a backlash. It seems like there are a lot more elopement stories on wedding sites recently. And I have known a few girls who got married fairly quickly for whatever reason, and they did super simple things at the registry office and as far as I’ve seen, have no plans to have a big thing.

Jaya: I guess I just feel like the idea of eloping and then holding a party later is already a thing that’s done. And no one could blame you. But having two ceremonies (unless one is legal and one is religious, like they do in France) comes off as a bit false. Though I do have a cousin that sort of did this. She and her husband got married six months before their wedding to get him on health insurance. But the wedding was already being planned. And anyway it was a Hindu ceremony, so no one knows what the vows are anyway, it’s in Sanskrit. And I found out and there was no part of me that was like “Goodness I’ve been lied to! I certainly won’t show up!”

Victoria: Yeah, somehow I find religious ceremonies a bit different? Like the Catholic Church for one, already has a ceremony set up for exactly this situation, and you are actually supposed to have your civil marriage blessed if you didn’t get married in the church. But like….maybe tone down the whole white poofy dress thing? And the bridesmaids and the whole hullaballoo? I think a lot of problems can be avoided by really examining why you are doing things. Like, are you having a ceremony because your religion requires it or do you just want everyone to watch? Or do you think everyone expects it but you actually don’t care? Or do you just want to wear a big white dress and have a ton of attention? Granted, I think people in the last category are doing the worst and are the least likely to examine their motives.

Jaya: Uhhh I was totally like “when else in my life am I gonna get to wear a sparkle dress and get my makeup done?”

Victoria: Hahahahah, but you also didn’t rush down to City Hall to get married ahead of time. I mean, it’s a perfectly legit desire. But like, if you want the wedding and not just the marriage, you kind of have to play by the rules.

Jaya: There were many moments where we were totally ready to run to City Hall but we realized it wouldn’t have felt right without all our people there. Like, that was more important to us, even though it was frustrating and intimidating. Also, on a practical note, I will say having private time after the ceremony is a really good time for all those personal vows you don’t wanna say in front of people.

Victoria: Yeah! There’s no reason why your wedding can’t accommodate all that. Like, I’m shy, so I will probably stick to super traditional non-fussy vows.

Jaya: My husband and I took ten minutes after the ceremony to just chill in a room alone and let it all sink in. And while our vows were things we chose and things we meant, they weren’t hyper-personal to our lives our relationship. So in those moments alone, we got to say things that were just for us, and it was great.

Victoria: Awwwwww

Jaya: And yeah in a lot of ways that felt more “real” than the signing the certificate. I guess though, my thing is that as a host you should be honest with your guests, and let them make up their minds about things. And you might say it’s none of their business when you get married, or if you elope, or anything like that, but I mean…you did invite them to your wedding, you’re sort of making it their business.

Emily Gilmore: Etiquette Hero

We missed the first round of Gilmore Girls thinkpieces because I didn’t even think of doing an etiquette themed Gilmore Girls post until Jaya offhandedly mentioned how rude Lorelei is (she talks during movies at the theater! The worst etiquette sin!) As fun and relateable as Rory and Lorelei are, the older I get the more I find myself appreciating Emily Gilmore. While she does have her many problems, in many ways she reminds me of my own mom (except my mom is loving and wonderful, not so cold) in that as a woman of that generation, she has very specific ideas about what is proper and what isn’t.

Emily must have made an impression on me during my original watch because I even joined the DAR paaartly because of how fun it looked in GG (there are no games of which Founding Father-ILF in real life [because everyone knows it’s Alexander Hamilton, duh- just go look at a $20 bill!]) I think actor Kelly Bishop deserves special recognition because in the wrong hands, Emily could have been insufferable instead of charming and humorous.

So after binging on many hours of Gilmore Girls on Netflix (for research, yo), I have found many instances of Emily Girlmore’s etiquette prowess:

1.9 Rory’s Dance

Rory is getting ready for her first formal. Emily pops by their house to take pictures before Rory leaves. Dean honks and Rory runs for the door:

EMILY: You do not go running out the door when a boy honks.
LORELAI: Mom, it’s fine.
EMILY: It certainly is not fine. This is not a drive through. She’s not fried chicken.
RORY: But I told him to honk and I’d meet him out there. We agreed.
EMILY: I don’t care what you told him. If he wants to take you out, he will walk up to this door, and know, and say ‘good evening,’ and come inside for a moment like any civilized human being would know to do.
LORELAI: Now, Mom, this is silly, I have met him already.
EMILY: Well I haven’t.
LORELAI: Yeah, but–
EMILY: We will wait until he comes to the door.
RORY: He doesn’t know he’s supposed to.
EMILY: He will figure it out.
(Rory sighs and crosses her arms. They wait in silence. A minute or so later, Dean honks again.)
EMILY: He’s not a very bright boy, is he?
LORELAI: Mom, please.
(The doorbell rings. Rory starts to run to the door.)
EMILY: Don’t rush. A lady never rushes.

5.13 Wedding Bell Blues

Emily is going Lorelai’s house before her vow renewal to Richard. She runs into Luke outside the house and they briefly chat. Luke offers her congratulations on the vow renewal and she corrects him: “You congratulate the groom. You offer the bride best wishes.”

5.20 How Many Kropogs to Cape Cod?

In this episode, Rory offhandedly mentions to Richard and Emily that she had had dinner at the Huntzbergers the week previously and Richard and Emily freak out that they haven’t reciprocated:

EMILY: Richard, it’s already been a week!
RICHARD: We need to invite him right away!
RORY: Who?
EMILY: Logan! The ball’s been dropped!
RICHARD: I’ll put an invite in the mail first thing tomorrow.
EMILY: We really should have had him over first. We probably should call him as well.
RICHARD: We could messenger it in by tonight, it isn’t even eight.
RORY: Well, it’s really nice of you to want to have him over, really, but you don’t need to.
EMILY: Rory, if you could mention it to him yourself, preferably tonight, I’ll get a note over to him tomorrow.
RICHARD: He’ll need a choice of dates.
EMILY: I’ll get my book.
RICHARD: I’ll get mine, too.

Later on, Emily chastises the maid for putting fragrant flowers on the dinner table (FYI you aren’t supposed to use scented candles during meals either!): “I don’t know how you think my guests are supposed to enjoy their dinner with this floral reek wafting up their noses! Move them to the living room and bring the peonies in here.”

6.05 We’ve Got Magic To Do

Rory organizes a DAR fundraiser and many etiquette situations ensue. At the beginning of the party, Rory is concerned that no one is dancing, Emily explains that people will dance after dinner but Richard cuts in and says they will dance now, Emily says: “Richard, it’s before dinner. There’s no dancing during appetizers”

Then, the Huntzbergers show up after not RSVPing. Rory and Emily are in a tizzy trying to find them a table, because as Emily says “If we don’t find better seating for the Huntzbergers, it’ll be a major faux pas, and it may be the only thing people remember from this otherwise wonderful event.”

However, Emily and Richard finally find out what Mr. and Mrs. Huntzberger have done to Rory (telling her that she isn’t the right person for their son to date) and Emily commits a major etiquette breech but takes down Mrs. Huntzberger spectacularly:

EMILY: Well, that’s what’s confusing me. They both come from good families, both have good values. Money doesn’t seem to be an issue. We all have money.
SHIRA: Frankly, Emily, there’s your money, then there’s our money.
EMILY: Oh?
SHIRA: And our family has a lot of responsibilities that come with that. An image to maintain.
EMILY: Ah, yes! Well let me tell you this, Shira. We are just as good as you are. You don’t think Rory is good enough for your son, as if we don’t know Logan’s reputation. We do. But he is welcome in our home anytime, and you should extend the same courtesy to Rory.
SHIRA: Emily…
EMILY: Now let’s talk about your money. (she bends over Shira’s chair) You were a two-bit gold digger, fresh off the bus from Hicksville when you met Mitchum at whatever bar you happened to stumble into. And what made Mitchum decide to choose you to marry amongst the pack of women he was bedding at the time, I’ll never know. But hats off to you for bagging him. He’s still a playboy, you know? Well, of course you know. That would explain why your weight goes up and down 30 pounds every other month. (Shira laughs uncomfortably) But that’s your cross to bear. But these are ugly realities. No one needs to talk about them. Those kids are staying together for as long as they like. You won’t stop them. Now, enjoy the event.

7.3 Lorelai’s First Cotillion

This is Emily’s ultimate etiquette episode. She has been charged with preparing a bunch of 10 year olds for cotillion and is thus full of wise etiquette advice (ummm, although, doesn’t cotillion usually happen in late high school or early college?)

The episode opens with Friday night dinner at the Gilmore’s, where one of the little cotillion children is taking a make-up etiquette class at dinner. The child offers to mix drinks for the adults, which Lorelei questions. Emily says “You’re never too young to learn to make a Martini.”(agreed, but in my house it was a Manhattan.) Then they go into dinner:

EMILY: Now, tonight we’ll be dining with service a la Russe, which has nothing to do with Russians — thank god — because in my experience, their table manners are nothing to emulate. All it means is that the servers will be passing each course in turn instead of plopping all the food on the table at once, like some mukluk picnic. Now, it is the duty of the gentleman to help a lady to her seat. Richard.
EMILY: Now, immediately upon sitting, one should place one’s napkin in one’s lap. And, mind you, no need for a flourish. The ability to use a napkin is nothing to brag about.
LORELAI: What’s with all the forks?
EMILY: Every piece of silverware has a purpose. You simply work from the outermost utensil in towards your plate. Can you name each of these forks?
CHARLOTTE: And then the fish fork, and then the entrée fork, and then — is this the dessert? Oh, wait — it’s for the roast course, isn’t it? (FYI, when Charlotte is eating, she takes a bite out of her roll instead of tearing it and no one noticed. Who is the etiquette consultant on this show?!?!)

They chat for a while and it gets awkward:

EMILY: Now, Charlotte, when the conversation lags, a good guest ought to be prepared to introduce a new topic. Keep it light — no politics, no religion. My little trick? Think of things in the middle three sections of the Sunday New York Times — travel, arts & leisure, Sunday styles — and forget the rest of the paper exists.

Emily wants to arrange a tea for the girls, and ends up having to host it at the Dragonfly Inn because:

EMILY: Actually I was going to take them into the city for high tea at the Pierre. But the Maitre d’ at the Pierre apparently believes that proper high tea includes club sandwiches and a juice bar, and I simply couldn’t subject these impressionable young girls to such tasteless effrontery.

The day for the tea comes up:

EMILY: Now, remember, ladies, the dress you’ll be wearing at the cotillion on Saturday will have much fuller skirts. Several of you may be working with a crinoline, so sitting will be an entirely different experience. What is the rule of thumb we can always apply? Tiffany?
TIFFANY: Bottoms out.
EMILY: That’s right. Bottoms, sit. Very good.
MICHEL: Such elegance, such a sense of decorum, manners, grace, charm — everything my childhood could have been but wasn’t. Oh, to go back and do it right.
EMILY: Caroline, we do not grab or grope our dinner partners.
CAROLINE: Sorry, Mrs. Gilmore.
EMILY: Always maintain proper spacing and distance.
LORELAI: [to Michel] Err, it’s all coming back to me. Proper spacing and distance. Other kids were hugged and kissed. I was taught to maintain proper spacing and distance.
EMILY: …In which case, the utensil rule still applies. No utensil, once used, may ever touch the table again. Imagine leaving a ring of raspberry preserves on a set of fine linens. Granted, these linens aren’t the best. But at the cotillion on Saturday, everything will be of the highest quality. All right, ladies, choose your first sandwich.

The Etiquette of Reciprocity

You do not have to host the same type of party as a Duke. [Via]

When you are given hospitality by someone, it is an etiquette rule that you must reciprocate. Now this makes a lot of people uncomfortable because maybe you don’t have as nice a house or as much money and can’t always entertain in the same style that someone has entertained out. However, that is not the way reciprocity works. It’s not really a tit for tat kind of a deal.

If Mr.and Mrs. Hobnoby have you over for a four course gourmet dinner prepared by their live in chef, there is no expectation that you will invite them to a similar meal in your fourth floor walk up. Part of the reason God invented the cocktail party is so you can “reciprocate” many invitations in one big go that doesn’t cost you a lot per person. Unfortunately, a good hostess gift does not count as reciprocation- it is merely a (important) token of thanks.

Happily, you don’t even necessarily have to reciprocate with some kind of big event. Maybe you have helped someone move every year for the last five years, maybe you always do Friday movies and wine at your place, and maybe you are the person who arranges your weekly lunch date. All of that counts as reciprocation. As you can see, it’s really all about making sure you are both pulling your weight in the relationship and one person isn’t taking advantage of the other. Merely extending an invitation actually fulfills your obligation to reciprocate, and if you are refused, you needn’t do any more (however, this also might mean that the person doesn’t want to be friends with you!)

I should also note that it is important to also let people reciprocate your hospitality.  Even if you intend to be generous, always wanting to host at your house doesn’t give others the chance to shine. Plus, you don’t want to give off the impression that other people’s hospitality isn’t good enough for you.

There are some exceptions to the need for reciprocity. You almost never need to really reciprocate with your parents and in-laws, the parent-child relationship is almost by necessity one where the sides are very uneven. However, occasionally treating your parents to something never goes amiss. I would also say that being treated by a friend’s parent is similar- when they take you and their child to dinner, you are really the guest of the child and should be reciprocating with them (hopefully you will also invite them along when your parents are visiting). Also, a boss employee relationship is one where if your boss takes you to lunch, you do not need to reciprocate (same as how you do not give gifts to your boss) because of the difference in power between the two of you.

Opening Lines for Online Dating

Dear Uncommon Courtesy,

Here’s a good idea for an etiquette post: how to send a good first message on a dating site (have you guys covered this already?) Here’s a good example of what NOT to say:

Okc Convo

Sincerely,

Online Dater

Official Etiquette:

Miss Manners is not a fan of online dating, but recommends being vague and not unkind when declining future dates (after dates have already happened). In this case I believe she would advocate for not responding at all.

Our Take:

Jaya: Omg

Victoria: I mean, the key thing is to not engage with people who send you messages that you find offensive.

Jaya: That’s true.

Victoria: But it is definitely rude, also, to start off a message calling someone out for something- I mean, do you even want to date them? Where is that even going to go?

Jaya: Yeah! That’s the most confusing thing, like, I thought you were here to get a date?

Victoria: Haha yeah. I guess maybe some people think it’s their job to call out things they think are racist?

Jaya: But he continues the conversation! He’s not trying to be Mr. Social Justice Warrior, he’s trying to neg her and then flirt about yoga? The etiquette point is why would you contact someone on a dating site and open with an insult?

Victoria: Let’s say she contacted him first and he thought this tattoo was offensive–you can still be polite about it, like, “oh, I see you have a dreamcatcher tattoo- that seems offensive to me, so I can’t see it working out between us.” If you MUST say something. I mean, the beauty of online dating is that you do not have to respond to anything.

Jaya: Haha yes, but again, that’s if you contact him. You don’t just randomly email someone and insult their appearance.

Victoria: For sure. That would only be in response to a first contact from someone. As to what is a good and polite first message- I am generally a fan of something like “Hi! I really liked your profile. I see you like _____, I like _____ too. [Insert question about something in the profile].” Just like….be normal.

Jaya: Why is that so hard for most people? “be normal”

Victoria: Don’t use lines. Don’t insult people. Do NOT say sexually harassing things. Don’t neg. I would recommend not commenting on their appearance, but a short “you’re cute/beautiful” amidst an otherwise thoughtful message isn’t the worst.

Jaya: Right. Like, it can be one of many things, but not the only thing. In a larger sense, if you’re looking to really date someone (not just fuck them), you should be looking at their whole profile and not just how cute you think they are. If that’s the only thing you’re attracted to you’re just not doing dating very well. And if you are looking to just fuck them, omg please make sure they have something on their profile saying the same thing.

Victoria: Hahahah, yeah, on OkCupid, you can sort for people looking for casual hookups, so do that.

Jaya: So much of this is part of that whole PUA thing, turning it into this game and strategy. And I realize yes, you have to put some thought into talking to a stranger, but most people can tell when you’re trying to be genuine.

Victoria: Yeah, and I mean, when you are “meeting” someone for the first time, it’s really best to keep things fairly light- small talk, as it were.

Let’s Talk About Ms.

You do not know if Ms. Marvel is married from her title

You do not know if Ms. Marvel is married from her title

We’ve already addressed honorifics, but for some reason I keep seeing people confused about Ms.! So now you all get a primer.

To understand Ms., let’s think about Mr. If someone is introduced to you as “Mr. Gary Noodlebaker,” what do you know about them? You know they identify as male, and…that’s pretty much it. You don’t know if he’s married or single, if that’s his birth name, or anything about his profession. You just know he’s male. Ms. operates similarly, and can be used by any woman. As “Ms. Jaya Saxena,” you know I identify as a woman, and that’s it. I could be married, I could be single, but that’s not revealed by my title. This is great.

However, there are a few other options for women, since marital status is something that’s been treated as more important for women than for men. Miss is the honorific generally used for young, unmarried women. (Master is sometimes used for young boys in the UK, but it’s not as common as Miss.) Mrs. is used when a woman is married and has taken her husband’s last name, but even then she can still use Ms., it just becomes a matter of preference. Some people think it’s a generational thing, but I’ve met many younger married women who have taken their husbands last names and prefer Mrs. However, you do not have to use Mrs. once you are married., so I do believe that when in doubt you should use Ms.

Also, if a woman has married and hasn’t taken her husband’s last name, you use Ms. This seems to confuse a lot of people, who think that something has to change about the way you address a woman when she gets married. But considering nothing has to change about a man’s name, the same goes for women!

So what’s so confusing? According to Wikipedia, “Mrs originated as a contraction of the honorific Mistress, the feminine of Mister, or Master, which was originally applied to both married and unmarried women. The split into Mrs for married women from Ms and Miss began during the 17th century.”  Ms. fell out of use as an honorific, but in 1901 an article in The Sunday Republican suggested reviving the title to avoid the etiquette faux-pas of calling a woman by the wrong title. By having a “more comprehensive term which does homage to the sex without expressing any views as to their domestic situation,” we avoid calling a 16-year-old girl Mrs., or a married lady Miss. Ms. didn’t really get going until the mid 20th-century, but clearly it fills a void. The usages of Miss, Mrs. and Ms. have been the norm for quite some time, and if you insist on going by archaic, 16th-century usages of everything then you have other issues you need to deal with.

On a different note, I’m curious to see if and how this will change as same-sex marriage becomes more common. For instance, if two men get married and want to change their titles to something that indicates it, or if two women marry and don’t want to use Mrs. but still want to show they’re married. Or if gender-nonconforming people come up with titles that are completely different (performance artist Justin Vivian Bond uses “Mx” and I love it). Traditions and usage are fluid, and our job as polite people is to make the best effort we can to use everyone’s preferred titles without driving ourselves crazy. And remember, if you’re not sure JUST ASK. It’s always polite to ask.