Making Plans and Reading Socials Cues

Maybe these guys didn't even WANT to go to Vegas.

Maybe these guys didn’t even WANT to go to Vegas.

One of the key points of etiquette is about making people comfortable. Unfortunately, people won’t always flat out say that you are making them uncomfortable or they aren’t interested. Oftentimes we all feel the pressure to be “polite” and not say no and hurt people’s feelings. Of course, it is absolutely polite and fine to say no to things, but it is hard!

So, if you practice reading the social cues people are giving you, you will be better able to interpret whether they are truly interested or whether they are just too shy to say no.

This is especially true when it comes to making plans. Sometimes you meet a new person and think you really click. You say “hey, we should hang out!” They say “omg that would be amazing, want to try this new ice cream place with me on Friday after work?” Then, you have a very enthusiastic person and that’s great. If you conversation goes more like this: “hey, we should hang out!” They say, “oh, yeah, definitely sometime!” You says “how about getting drinks Friday after work.” They say, “oh, I’d have to check my calendar…” There is a lot less enthusiasm there. If you don’t hear back, you should certainly follow up with them because yeah, maybe they do have to check their calendar. But if they are busy that night and all the other nights you suggest, you should probably give up on them.

This kind of thing is especially true for dating. If someone is barely responding to your messages/calls/etc or does a lot of one word answers, chances are they are just not that into you and it’s probably time you move on.

You especially need to be sensitive to the cues people are giving you when it comes to things that are going to cost a lot of money. Like trying to plan a big trip with your group of friends, like a bachelor/ette party. I just saw this example on A Practical Wedding where the bride is upset that her groom’s friends don’t seem that interested in doing a big weekend bachelor party for the groom that has a lot of subtle social cues going on. If someone is saying- “hey, let’s whisk Jimmy away to Vegas for a big crazy weekend- penthouse suite, strippers, bottle service, the works!” and everyone is emailing back things like, “oh, well we just bought a house and money is really tight right now” or “I only have one vacation day I can spare right now,” or “hey, my parents have a cabin at [nearby lake], let’s do a fishing weekend there,” or “maybe we could do a night out a couple of days before the wedding” then maybe it’s time to think about whether a trip like this is really going to work for this group of people at this time. If people are making excuses, it’s usually because they are not really into the general idea (and often those excuses are very valid!). But if people aren’t picking up the things you are putting down, you need to step back, scale down, and not push. (Hey Ladies is the not-quite-totally-satire version of this. It’s great, check it out.)

However, it can sometimes be difficult to tell if the cues people are giving you are because they aren’t interested or that they are interested but they just aren’t interested in doing any planning themselves. Take a long chain email about a plan to go hiking. A few people are debating dates, locations, times, train vs carpool etc. The rest of the group gives the dates they are available and then are silent for the rest of the conversation. These folks are likely still interested in going, but they just want to be told when and where to show up. A good way to figure this out is do a roll call after the details have been hammered out- send around an email giving the date, time, place, and relevant details and ask that everyone respond if they are going.

All of this is so very subtle and it can be very complicated. Is there anything I left out? Got totally wrong? Let me know in the comments!

Showers, Bachelor/ette Parties, and Rehearsal Dinners, oh my!

All your pre-wedding parties will be in beautiful soft focus. [Via Flickr user tmarsee530]

Despite weddings already being a huge big party that is going to stress you out for a year or more, people like to have other, smaller parties around weddings. Fun! As a soon-to-be-married person, you might have some expectations about these parties from things you have seen from wedding shows and movies. These expectations might be wrong, but we are here to help! You also might find yourself wanting to avoid these parties, in which case see this previous post about how to handle avoiding having a shower.


  • Showers shouldn’t be thrown by family members or (especially) the couple! However, family members can throw family-only showers. In this instance family members mean your mother, your significant other’s mother, your sibling, or your grandparents. It is okay for aunts/uncles/cousins. The reason for this is that a shower is defined by being all about showering the bride (or couple) with presents. Since, traditionally, the bride’s family was responsible for setting her up with her trousseau, her family requesting presents from other people for her was essentially like asking for presents for themselves to help defray the cost of setting up her home. Though this isn’t really true anymore, family thrown showers still have a tone of “greediness.” However, in many social circles it is completely fine and normal, so just be sure to check.
  • A shower shouldn’t be something that the bride requests or expects but once it is offered, the bride should be the one to provide the guest list and have final veto of activities. (Or veto of the event altogether.)
  • Shower invitations can include registry information as the whole purpose of the party is to give presents
  • You need to write thank you notes for all gifts given at the shower- make sure someone is writing down what came from who (it is not a cute shower game to have guests self address envelopes for their thank you notes, however.)
  • If you have multiple showers, the guests lists shouldn’t overlap (except, parents/siblings and wedding party), but if they do, guests are only expected to bring gifts to ONE shower. A kind bride will acknowledge that duplicate guests gave a gift at a previous party.
  • Often, someone will collect the ribbons from the gifts and create a “bouquet” for the bride to carry at the rehearsal.

Bachelor/ette Parties

  • Bachelor/ette parties are not gift giving occasions. Though some groups will decide to work a lingerie shower into the festivities (but this should not occur if the same group is already throwing a regular shower).
  • Bachelor/ette parties are optional and you must wait until someone offers to throw one. You can’t just assign it to the maid of honor/best man. However, you do get to have input and final say on the activities of the party.
  • You can throw your own bachelor/ette party if you are truly hosting ie paying for everything, such as having a “slumber party” at your house or something. If you expect everyone else to go out to something you plan and cover your dinner, drinks, strippers, whatever, you shouldn’t be the one planning it.

The Rehearsal

  • The rehearsal is important if you have a long or complicated ceremony. Most people opt to have one just so everyone will know where to stand and when. There are a lot of different arrangements of who walks down the aisle in which order and who stands where, so you don’t want to assume that you are all on the same page.
  • Everyone participating in the ceremony should be present at the rehearsal so they all know where to go and when during the ceremony.
  • Superstitious brides don’t participate in the rehearsal but watch from the side with a stand-in walking down the aisle.

Rehearsal Dinner

  • Rehearsal dinners are not a requirement, though they are a nice way to gather with your most important people and thank them for showing up for the rehearsal.
  • Traditionally (except this tradition really only goes back to the 1940s/50s), since the bride’s family was hosting and paying for the wedding, the groom’s family would pay for the rehearsal dinner. Now, you will have to all decide together who is going to pay for it.
  • Typically, you invite both sets of parents, the whole wedding party and their significant others (if applicable), any readers, and the officiant. Many people like to invite out of town guests and close relatives as well.
  • You want to make sure to actually invite your guests to this event, either with a formal paper invitation, evite, or a simple email or phone call. These invitations should be sent fairly soon after the wedding invitation
  • You don’t have to have a fancy sit down dinner; a pizza party or backyard barbeque sound like awesome rehearsal dinners!
  • It doesn’t even have to be a dinner, but can be a brunch or lunch immediately following the rehearsal.
  • People often give spontaneous toasts at the rehearsal, this is perfectly fine.
  • Many couples give gifts to their attendants during this time.

All parties

You can’t invite people to wedding parties who aren’t invited to the wedding itself. An exception would be a shower that your co-workers or other specific group (such as a sports team) throw you.