Manners and the Women’s March


Copyright Victoria Pratt

I attended the Women’s March in New York on Saturday and was thrilled that despite the enormous crowd and extremely slow movement, New Yorkers were at their absolute best. There was no pushing or rude remarks, people trying to get across the march were allowed to move through easily. I even encountered some tourists trying to get across to Grand Central with several large suitcases. When those suitcases inevitably fell over, people stopped to help them right them and get across to the train station. I had intended to write a whole post about it and then about how you don’t have to be polite to people who actively seek to harm you. But then I started reading a whole lot more about how the March made many groups feel excluded and felt that those discussions were better left to people much more informed than me.

One thing that did really strike me about my experience that also relates to etiquette, is the importance of invitations in life. We would be completely isolated in our lives if we never extended or accepted invitations. And sometimes those of us who are inclined to stay home and binge watch The Crown yet again, can be lured away by a tempting invitation. The same holds true with political action. It’s soooo easy to say to yourself, “I don’t know where to go or what to say to get involved, so I might as well just stay home.”

When all my girlfriends were going to Washington with their mothers to March and I wasn’t extended a particular invitation from them (which is fine! for the record! I love you guys!), I thought to myself that getting to DC by myself was too much trouble and that I would just sit this one out. Then I found out that the New York March was also happening, and I also said to myself “no one else I know mentioned going, so I think I will sit this one out.” But then I realized what a big thing it was going to be and decided I HAD to go. But I still didn’t want to go alone. So I reached out to a bunch of people who were going to be around and asked them to come with me. And they did! And some of them might not have if I hadn’t asked. So, I think, that beyond your own political actions, one of the most important things you can do is do that action, but also bring another person along with you. Now you’ve doubled the number of people! And then that can go on exponentially! Host a get together where everyone sits around and calls their senators. Invite some friends to go to a Town Hall with you. Get a group and go to the NEXT big march.

Jaya reminds me that the one caveat is that if someone doesn’t want to go because they feel that the march marginalizes them or makes them feel excluded, or many of the other very good reasons why they wouldn’t feel comfortable attending, then of course, don’t push them on it. And then see what you can do to make them feel more welcome at similar marches, or just in general.

I know that people are grown ups and should be able to do what’s right on their own. But seriously, people are so incredibly lazy most of the time. There are whole memes about the excitement of cancelling plans. Peer pressure really works! So please, send an invitation to the revolution and hopefully the thanks you receive will be bounteous.

Asking After Invitations

Dear Uncommon Courtesy,

A friend of mine  her daughter had a wedding. I asked why I didn’t get invited. My friend said that I really wasn’t involved in her daughters life. So that’s why I was not invited to the wedding.
The daughter got pregnant on her honeymoon , and since the wedding the daughter has moved
Now the daughter is having a baby shower, and now I’m getting invited to the baby shower.
I just don’t understand the reasoning behind the whole thing. Nothing has changed since the wedding, I don’t understand why I’m getting this invite to the baby shower.
 I don’t want to go especially since it’s 1.5 hours away.
And what is my reason for not going? I keep thinking she told me I wasn’t involved in her daughters life. That’s why I wasn’t invited to the wedding. So why now the baby shower??
And should I give a gift?
I am friends with the mom of the daughter.

Confused About Invitations


Our Take

Jaya: So right, my initial suspicion is that her friend was making an effort to include her after she complained about not being invited to the wedding.

Who knows, it could be a blatant gift grab, but that just seems like the most likely explanation.

Victoria: Yeah, I think if you complain to someone about not being invited to something, they feel like they have to invite you to the next thing.

That’s kind of why you aren’t supposed to ask about invitations.

Jaya: Right. Like, are you asking because you thought you were involved more in her daughter’s life and wish you were invited? Or because you were under the assumption you had a place in the wedding no matter what?

Victoria: Yeah, I think also that as more and more couples are paying more for their weddings we’ve had a shift in the attendees to being more about the couple’s friends and less about the parents friends. But a lot of people don’t realize that and assume that because they are friends with the parents, they will automatically be invited.

Jaya: Exactly. It is what it is, and it’s just a good reminder that you should never assume anything.

Victoria: Ha, yeah, assuming invites to weddings is bound to lead only to heartbreak.

Jaya: Regarding the baby shower though, yeah, it seems like an olive branch given that the LW expressed her displeasure about not being invited to the last thing.

Victoria: Yeah, for sure.

Jaya: But the same rules apply–you don’t have to go if you don’t want to.

Victoria: Exactly!

Jaya: Do you have to send a gift? In the sense of you never HAVE to send a gift but it’s societally expected to send a gift?

Victoria: I believe that you don’t have to send a gift for a shower you can’t attend. A wedding is technically the only thing you are strongly “supposed” to send a gift for even if you can’t attend. Because it’s an honor to be invited? It’s a weird thing.

Jaya: Very weird.

But yeah, I think the ultimate lesson here is don’t be surprised if you get invited to more things if you complain about not getting invited to things.

Victoria: Hahaha yeah, exactly

Jaya: And, this is just me speculating, but it sounds like the LW is still feeling hurt and slighted about not being invited to the wedding. Maybe a good step would be to talk to her friend about their relationship and her expectations.

Victoria: Yeah!

Jaya: Any other thoughts?

Victoria: Not really. I realize that wedding invitations are super fraught, but there’s a lot that goes into wedding planning and honestly, you can’t take it personally if you aren’t invited.

Jaya: Exactly. There are budgets, and different sides of the family coming in with their own expectations and guest lists, and the couple’s ideas of what they want the day to be like. After planning a wedding, I will never be upset about not being invited to one ever again.

Victoria: I will, but silently.

Jaya: Hahahaha

Wedding Invitation Hack

Earlier this week, I talked about rude lifehacks. But I was also reminded this week about a cool invitation thing that I wanted to share- you can send your wedding invitation to certain important people and get a response, with the most popular being The President of the United States and Mickey Mouse!

Okay, technically you no longer need to send an actual invitation to the President- they have a handy form online that you can fill out for a wide variety of milestones- baby’s birth, major birthdays, Eagle Scout/Girl Scout Gold awards, etc. You can find it here. Note, this service is available to US citizens only.

For a response to Mickey and Minnie Mouse, send it to:

Guest Letters

Letters to Mickey Mouse

P.O. Box 10040

Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830-00100


If you are a British citizen (or Canadian, Australian, or New Zealander), the Queen will send you a greeting for a milestone birthday (and they mean serious milestones- 100+ only) or wedding anniversary (starting at 65 years!) but (not for a wedding). Find the form here.


And if you have a deceased loved one who is a Veteran of the United States, you can find information about requesting a flag here.


Reception Only Invitations

Victoria's great-grandmother at her wedding in 1906

Victoria’s great-grandmother at her wedding in 1906

Dear Uncommon Courtesy,

I was hoping to get some advice regarding wedding guest list etiquette. My fiancé and I are getting married in a very small chapel. It is a historical chapel that only has 6 long pews and we will be adding some chairs in the back. The chapel is tucked away in a private wooded area…quite secluded and intimate. Our guest list for our wedding ceremony is 50 people. However, our guest list for our meal and wedding reception is 150. Do you think it is bad etiquette to invite people to one part of the evening and not the other?

Thank you,

Confused bride


Official Etiquette:

In my edition of Amy Vanderbilt’s New Complete Book of Etiquette, she says that it’s fine to have a large reception for an intimate wedding. The wording she suggests is:

Mr. and Mrs. Lastname

request the pleasure of your company

at the wedding breakfast of their daughter



Mr. Firstname Middlename Hisname

on Day, Date

at Location


Our Take:

Jaya: Okay so I have my Emily Post book out and am looking for what to do about inviting people to the reception and not the ceremony.

Victoria: Yeah, I know that Miss Manners says you should come up with your approximate guest list first thing to get an idea of the numbers you are working with and THEN find a venue that fits them all. She is a people above all person. I think technically though, you can do this, though I personally do not like it.

Jaya: I know in a lot of cultures it’s pretty common, so I think if it’s that situation, everyone already knows the drill. Okay, Emily Post says basically that this is a way to have a wedding, and that two invitations are needed, so the wording is clear that some people are only invited to the reception. I mean, I think that’s why in a lot of “traditional” invitation packages there’s a separate card with the reception info.

Victoria: Ahhh yeah, that makes sense.

Jaya: I don’t think it’s inherently bad etiquette, though I think that if it’s not what’s usually done in your circle, no matter how carefully you do it, some people may feel jilted. You’re automatically setting up a very clear hierarchy, and if that’s not “what’s done” some people will have a hard time understanding it.

Victoria: Yeah, for sure. And for a lot of people, seeing the ceremony IS important. I actually did go to a wedding where the ceremony was separate and private, but the reception was the next day. So it didn’t feel like as big a deal? I was also about 15 so i don’t think I cared that much

Jaya: Haha right. And yeah, looking at various message boards, everyone has different opinions on this.

Victoria: Yeah, I think that’s why I would tread really carefully. Although, it sounds like it’s already a done deal for her. But for me, I would just avoid any possibility of drama and just have my ceremony somewhere that could fit all my guests.

Jaya: Yeah, so if that’s the case, the invitations should make it very clear that they’re being invited to the reception in honor of the couple. And be prepared to answer questions

Victoria: So many questions.

Jaya: (god so many of these are like “we want everyone at the ceremony but we can’t afford everyone at the reception.” don’t do that!!!)

Victoria: Oh man, it’s situations like this that make me think you should really consider all sides of your guest list and wedding choices before putting any money down anywhere. Like really think through everything you are planning on and what any possible consequences will be. Like that APW post I was reading recently where so many people were like “I wish I knew that having an unconventional venue would mean that I would be responsible for all kinds of permits and tents, and chairs, and floors, and tables, and lights, and portapoties and everything.”

Jaya: Right. We don’t know this bride’s family, or her reasons for wanting the ceremony in such an intimate chapel when their guest list is three times the size. But we’re trusting she has them. And I think she just has to be prepared to explain them to the reception-only guests if anyone asks. Interestingly, a few people on these forums are saying the ceremony is the part that should be open for everyone, while the reception should only be for close family and friends. So, you know, everyone has opinions.

Victoria: Yeah, I think technically weddings in a church are open to all regular parishioners? I would assume she has already dealt with all of the big issues. but I would definitely tell people in the planning stages who are thinking of doing this to talk with their families and really get an idea of what kind of fallout if any they are looking at.

Jaya: Yeah. Also, this might be just me, but 50 guests seems sort of large to get away with “intimate” wedding. I’ve had friends who got married with like, 5-10 people by a JOP, and then held a dinner for everyone after. That makes more sense. 50 people is already the size lots of people have for their full wedding.

Victoria: Haha yeah, definitely. Although, if it’s only 1/3 of her guest list, I guess that’s not SO bad. But I think when you get to the point that 1/2 your guest list is invite to the ceremony and 1/2 isn’t, then it starts to become a bit murky. And if you are only excluding, say, 1/4 of the guests, I think that’s full on rude.

Jaya: Right

Victoria: I mean, it’s all totally subjective. But it’s the situation of all the kids in the class invited to the birthday except for one…it becomes hurtful. And hurting people is bad.

Jaya: Okay, so I think no, this is not inherently rude. But they should start explaining to their friends and family, get the info out there, and see how people react. I think people are much more forgiving if they’ve had a conversation about why this is happening than just getting the invitation and seeing where they fall in the hierarchy.

Victoria: Yeah. Until they think they should be higher up in the hierarchy.

Jaya: Right. And we don’t know their family, but there is definitely a chance that would happen. Offbeat Bride has a great point, that in a reception only invitation, there’s no need to mention the ceremony. You don’t want to bring up the thing people are missing. “We love you but you can’t come to this part — but we still love you … no seriously!” It’s just rubbing salt into a wound that people didn’t even know they had.

Victoria: Although, if there are 50 people there who are all discussing the ceremony that they JUST witnessed…It’s hard to keep it on the DL. Or if they don’t know people were excluded, they’ll be like, why weren’t you at the ceremony?

Jaya: Right. It’s a difficult balance between making sure everyone knows what’s up and also hiding the fact that, well, some people just didn’t make the cut.

Victoria: Yeah. That’s why I don’t like it…its too hard to control that many people. I mean, not control but if you have 5 people at the ceremony, its obvious that its very exclusive.

Jaya: Yes. Which is why I think this bride has to be careful. 5 out of 150 is exclusive. 50 out of 150 is not really? Or maybe it is. It’s hard to draw a line somewhere like that. Okay, so like, hard advice, what should she do if she’s already decided this is what it’s gonna be?

Victoria: Okay, yes, and I want to reiterate, that there’s no real judgment from us about her choice in this. But yeah, definitely separate invitations with clear wording for those attending just the reception something like, so and so invite you to celebrate their marriage at a dinner and dancing (or whatever) reception in PLACE at TIME on DATE. Whereas the ceremony guests would get something like so and so invite you to celebrate their marriage at PLACE at TIME on DATE, reception at PLACE to follow. And I might be so bold as to put something specific on a wedding website like a ceremony page that says “we will be having an intimate wedding ceremony prior to the big party with everyone we love.”

Jaya: Hmm, do you think that’d just be drawing attention to the fact that certain people aren’t invited? Or maybe people invited to the reception would be confused if they went to the website, and saw the ceremony thing? Like, they’d think they could go to that too?

Victoria: It might, but if you’re going to do it, I feel like its better to be up front (yet vague about how intimate) rather than let people find out by calling Aunt Suzy to discuss the wedding and finding out that SHE is going to a ceremony.

Jaya: That’s true. But yes that’s another point–get your family on board.

Victoria: I mean, in the ceremony page, you wouldn’t list the location…

Jaya: I can forsee a lot of aunts being like “well of course the cousins can come to the ceremony” without running it by the couple.

Victoria: Yes, if your parents aren’t 100% with you on this, you are going to have a struggle.

Jaya: Hell that happened to me at the rehearsal dinner. Luckily it didn’t really matter but, yeah.

Victoria: We had some friends get married and one of their moms was inviting random people left and right.

Jaya: Hahaha yuuuup

Victoria: Yeah, I mean, I think that the moral of the story is that the more you go out of “the usual” (the usual for your circle)  the more time you are going to have to spend explaining things. And the more you are going to have to have a fully united front with your families. And the more likely are to have drama and or hurt feelings.

Jaya: Right, and you just have to balance what’s worth it to you.

A Plea: Be Clear With Your Name Use

Even if your name is very popular you should be clear about it. [Via]

Even if your name is very popular you should be clear about it. [Via]

We’ve already discussed the problems some people face when changing their names after marriage (or divorce, or just because they feel like changing their names because you’re an adult and can do that whenever you damn well please). But one issue we keep running across is people who go by one name in some places and a different name in others. This can get really confusing.

There are many legitimate reasons why someone would want to use an alias in public, and you should be allowed to do that! Perhaps you’re a writer who uses a pen name, or a public figure who doesn’t want people to find your personal Facebook page, or are trying to hide from an abuser or stalker, or maybe you just go by a nickname. These are all fine and entirely understandable. What gets frustrating is when, for instance, you have someone who has kept one name in public spheres and uses another “officially,” but expects you to know this without them telling you. I mostly see this with people who have changed their name after getting married, continue to go by their original names on Facebook, email, and other areas, and then are frustrated when you address an invitation or a check to their maiden name.

Okay, so nothing is actually stopping you from doing this. You can do this. Go by 10 different names on 50 different platforms, whatever. But at this point we don’t use at-home cards, and we certainly don’t assume anything about someone’s name unless we’ve been told. So, if every correspondence is telling us your name is “Janet Smith”…we’re gonna go with that. And if it turns out you changed your name when you got married and you can’t cash a check unless it’s make out to “Janet White,” it’s on you to let everyone know about that.

I am perhaps speaking too much from experience, thinking back on  sending out wedding invitations and figuring out who was named what. Most of my friends emailed me their preferred titles when they sent their addresses, but others I just went off what was on Facebook and other platforms. I mean, why wouldn’t I? Maybe I’m just self conscious and coming to terms with living in a world where I do not actually know my friends’ “real” names, and rely on a website to tell me what they are. Where asking someone if the name attached to their Gmail is accurate is a thing. Where you can know someone so well and intimately, well enough to invite them to your wedding, and not know this extremely basic thing about them. And maybe I can just remember that names don’t hold that much importance for everyone, and that knowing the person is more important than knowing their name.

You should still be clear with your name use though.