I Went To Sri Lanka And Remembered Etiquette Is Very Subjective

Those are just the rules

Those are just the rules

I can’t remember if it was when the guy on line for airport check-in wouldn’t stop inching up directly behind us, or the 10th time I was cheerfully interrogated about my name and ethnicity, but at some point on my two week trip to Sri Lanka and the Maldives I was reminded that most of the standards of etiquette we write about here are very, very Western. We’ve addressed this before, but it helps to be reminded once and again that there is no objectively correct way of doing things.

I began noticing the little things almost as soon as I got there. How women needed to cover their shoulders in temple, but a bared midriff in a sari is totally acceptable. How eating with your hands and your face low to the plate is preferred. How the concept of an orderly line just didn’t seem to exist. How no one thinks twice about bus drivers pulling over to chat with friends on the side of the road, or stopping their chores to strike up a conversation with a stranger. How bluntly asking “Are you Christian?” (actually, “Are you Christmas?”) with a smile is totally fine.

(Sometimes our clashing ideas of “normal” social interactions clashed. It doesn’t help that the constant friendliness, and really, Sri Lankans were so friendly, made us even more wary of being taken advantage of, as a few times a polite “Hello, how are you? Where are you from? Here, let me help you” ended with requests for cash for guides we never agreed to have. More than once we probably barked at well-meaning strangers just wanting to start up a conversation because we didn’t want it to turn into a solicitation plot 20-minutes later.)

But what struck me was that, despite all the cultural differences and language barriers, the thing that gets across is when someone makes an effort. We could tell when someone meant well, even if they didn’t do things like we would, and I hope we came off the same way. And that’s what this is about. Etiquette practices are a good shorthand for conveying good intentions, but they are meaningless if you don’t actually mean well. But even if you do mean well, just don’t smell Buddha’s flowers.

Thank Goodness We Don’t Have That Anymore: Honeymoon Edition

It’s just not a honeymoon without a giant champagne glass bathtub.

Jaya is currently on her honeymoon, so you are stuck with just me for a few weeks. Given that, I thought it would be fun to discuss some of the old etiquette surrounding honeymoons. Today, honeymoons are pretty much a free for all (except some slight continued controversy over honeymoon registries) with no real etiquette attached to them at all.

The oldest meaning of honeymoon probably comes down to being a literal honey moon, in which in mead-loving England, newlyweds were given a month’s supply of the honey based drink and left alone together.

Sometime in the Victorian period, couples started traveling around after the wedding to visit far flung friends and relatives who were unable to attend the celebration.

Then a bit later, wealthy families started paying for big trips to Europe and from there the idea of a wedding trip trickled down to the masses. And now it has reached the point where people are asking ridiculous questions on wedding blogs about whether you can have a honeymoon for less than $3000. The answer is yes (duh.)

However, the early to mid twentieth century idea of a honeymoon had some key differences of etiquette than what we understand today.

First, most couples left for their honeymoon directly from the reception. And they left fairly early! Remember, when the bride’s parents were paying for the wedding, the couple were the guests of honor and were expected to leave fairly early since no one else could leave before them.

So after hanging out at the reception for a while, they would head into another room to change into their “going away clothes.” Btw, it was at this point that the bride would throw her bouquet (and no garter tossing- as far as I can tell that was invented sometime in the 60s or 70s). She would basically go up the stairs a bit, her bridesmaids would congregate at the bottom of the stairs, and she would throw the bouquet. No playing of Single Ladies necessary. Once changed, the couple would meet at the top of the stairs. All their guests would have congregated in two lines coming out from the stairs and the couple would run between the two lines as rice was tossed at them, and out to their getaway car (which the groomsmen would have decorated with old cans and shoes and “Just Married.”)

The honeymoon itself was 100% the responsibility of the groom, planning and paying (except if generous parents gave some money to him). A lot of the time, the honeymoon would be a surprise to the bride and she wouldn’t know where they were going until they got there. Often, the groom would enlist his best man to help him with the execution of the surprise, he might take their luggage to the train or the hotel so it will be there and waiting for them, he might also check into the hotel for the groom and get the key, and even put flowers in the room.

So there you have it. Now tell me all about where you went on your honeymoon. What about your parents and grandparents? Personally, I have not yet been on a honeymoon, but my parents went to Egypt on theirs and one set of grandparents went camping for a couple of weeks, and the other set went horseback riding in Virginia or something similar (they kept the brochure and we still have it at my parent’s house! Next time I visit, I will scan it so you can see what a 1946 honeymoon might have been like). Currently my favorite honeymoon idea is a road trip around New England, (the nice relaxing kind of road trip where you can stop and poke around in cute towns) staying B&Bs. Someone should make a dating site based on ideal honeymoons.