Is This Gift A Ploy For An Invitation?


Could it be…a passive-aggressive gesture?!?!?!

Dear Uncommon Courtesy,

One of our wedding guests wanted to bring a +1 to the wedding. Initially we said no, but the guest then got us multiple nice gifts off our registry (Le Creuset, Lenox crystal…). Should we now say “yes”?


Almost at Venue Capacity


First of all, your guest is being extremely rude in requesting a +1 to your wedding. Never ever should a guest ask the host if they can bring someone to a formal event such as a wedding. We have established this. As to the gifts, it’s obviously rude to bribe someone to get them to do something you want them to do. Since this is so obviously rude, you should just assume the best and take the gifts as a simple sign of generosity.


Victoria: So this invitation bribery question…

Jaya: Yeah. Oy.

Victoria: Right!

Jaya: Though I mean really, fuck no you don’t have to invite anyone, right?

Victoria: Yeah, of course. I mean, there’s actually nothing more to say than that, except discussing feelings about it.

Jaya: Hahaha yeah. I can see where the guilt comes from, absolutely. If a stranger gets you a crystal vase worth hundreds of dollars, a nicely worded thank you note seems a little lame in return.

Victoria: Haha, a little bit!

Jaya: (My thank you notes are worth a million crystal vases.)

Victoria: Gifts have DEFINITELY gotten out of hand, but I also get it for older people who are all excited about young love and are feeling a bit flush and really are just very generous.

Jaya: Yeah, that can make sense. And that is what everyone should assume is the motive, because that should be the motive!

Victoria: Yep! And in like 90% of cases it probably is.

Jaya: I’m sure there are some sneaky people out there who think they can buy their way into a good party, but not many.

Victoria: Maybe the guest is even buying extra nice gifts to make up for their rudeness in asking! Best case scenarios!

Jaya: Yeah, and in general people need to consider their relationship to the couple. If you’re their best friend, go ahead and get them a nice gift. If you went to high school with the groom’s mom and keep in touch with her but haven’t seen her son since he was in grade school? A gift is probably not necessary, and will probably just make them feel uncomfortable and pressured to invite you.

Victoria: I think the only thing you can really do in this instance is accept the gift in the spirit of generosity in which it was offered and send a nice thank you note immediately. That’s it. What a mess.

Jaya: Yes. Write them a thank you note, figure out a way to use/return the gift, and if it’s a secret ploy for an invitation, that’s their problem, not yours.

Victoria: When in doubt, write a thank you note.

Is It Rude To Un-Invite Someone To My Wedding?

The-Uninvited-movie-posterDear Uncommon Courtesy,

I am getting married soon, and included among the guests is a woman who  was a friend until recently.

When we compiled the guest list and sent out the Save the Dates, she and I were on great terms and, in fact, she was one of the first people I told about the engagement. Subsequent to that, she has gone through some personal turmoil that I was tangentially involved in, collateral damage-wise. As a result, she is no longer speaking to me though the turmoil really had only the smallest amount to do with me and I’ve indicated to her in about a hundred ways that I’m not upset with her over it.

What’s an exasperated bride-to-be to do?


Invitation to Danger


The official etiquette is that if you have sent someone a Save the Date, you must send them an invitation. However…


Jaya: So do you send an invite?

Victoria: Hmmmm. Yeah, technically if you sent an STD you have to send an invite. But in a case like this, I guess it depends on if you want to reconcile.

Jaya: Yeah. Here it sounds like she does, so sending an invitation is a great way to show that. And if the other person doesn’t come, it’s not any shock.

Victoria: But if you don’t want to reconcile, I would actually not send her an invitation. I mean, it’s not news to her you’ve had a falling out. But that only works when, like in this situation, both parties know they’re fighting.

Jaya: Right.

Victoria: If you just randomly decided you hate them in between the STDs and the invitations, it’s a bit harder. In that case I’d invite them anyway!

Jaya: It’s easy enough to ignore someone at your wedding, I think. There are lots of people, no one will begrudge the couple for saying “Hi” and “Bye” and that’s it.

Victoria: I think this is a good lesson in being very judicious in who you send STDs to. It should be mostly people you REALLY REALLY must have there, or people who have to travel very far.

Jaya: Yeah, but it’s hard. If it’s a small wedding, everyone really is a necessary guest. And no one anticipates falling outs like this.

Victoria: True. In this case, they were really close before, but maybe for people who you aren’t super close to, just hold off sending anything until a little closer to the wedding, just in case (like coworkers and such!)

Jaya: This question is hard!

Victoria: It’s so eloquently written though!

Jaya: Save the Dates are strange. It’s such a recent invention, and now can be so easily accomplished by calling or emailing people.

Victoria: But then if you had specifically told someone to start making arrangements to come, you’d still be in the same boat. Because a verbal Save the Date still requires an invitation, I think.

Jaya: Yeah, I think you have to gauge where this anger is coming from. Here, it’s highly unlikely she’ll come, whether she receives an invite or not. So send the invitation if you honestly want to make amends. But you don’t want it to look like you’re trying to bury the hatchet when actually you’re just following the std=invite rule and you don’t really want her there anymore.

How Do I Tell Someone They Smell?


Chalk is one way to tell someone they smell [Credit: Tracy O]

Welcome to our advice column! Write to us at with your sticky etiquette problems and we will give you the official etiquette answer and then our take on the situation.

Dear Uncommon Courtesy,

How do you tell a friend or acquaintance that they smell terrible? I was standing next to a friend the other day, and I thought I was going to suffocate from holding my breath so long. But I didn’t want to say anything lest I offend them. How do you (gently? harshly?) let a person know they smell terrible (this is as much for their sake as your own, too) and they need to learn how to bathe better (or more often, or twice a day, or thrice a day)?


Dealing With Smells


Most etiquette experts agree that the direct approach is best. Someone close to the person should gently mention that they’ve noticed a smell and would want to be told if it was them. Too much perfume/cologne is a common complaint and is easier to bring up than body odor, but they are handled the same way.



Victoria: So Jaya, how would you like for me to tell you that you smell?

Jaya: I always like that scene in Wet Hot American Summer where Michael Ian Black just tells that kid that he stinks and needs to take a shower. But then again, you know me well, so we can say things like “Omg please find deodorant” to each other. I know you’re not trying to make fun of me.

Victoria: Yes, I think considering the relationship is super important. I am going to approach things much differently with you than with an acquaintance or a boss. I don’t think you can tell your boss they smell?

Jaya: Probably not! Though if it’s a repeated, awful thing that makes it hard to work, you may want to tell your HR person. Get someone else to deal with it! Always a solution.

Victoria: Yeah, but verrrry discreetly. I also think that with kids or people you are “mentoring” you need to be very straightforward–for their own good. I remember my 6th grade teacher telling the whole class to wear deodorant because we collectively stank.

Jaya: Aww! And that is just at that weird age where you are starting to stink. You’ve gone your whole life just stinking of dirt and food, and now the stink is coming from inside your body.

Victoria: And you just forget to put deodorant on in the morning! Someone shamed me publicly around that age and I haven’t missed a day of deodorant since!

Jaya: Oh no! So maybe sometimes a little public shaming is good?

Victoria: Kids are cruel, but they are also kind of enforcing social expectations.

Jaya: As adults, I think the shaming can be even more soul crushing. Which brings up the idea of telling someone if it’s a one-time thing versus repeated offenses.

Victoria: Yes! I think if it’s clearly a one time thing, you just need to breathe through your mouth and deal.

Jaya: Yeah, people forget deodorant all the time. Or they play sports or step in dog poop or fall in a bog. I forgot deodorant just last week, and who knows, maybe my whole office was trying to find a way to tell me. However, if someone is always stinking, either because they haven’t washed their clothes or they sweat a lot or whatever, they need to know.

Victoria: Definitely.

Jaya: Though now we come to the hard part: how do you tell them? Being frank with your friends is ok, but what about someone who is just…around? Someone you aren’t close enough with to be like “Yo, you smell”?

Victoria: I think what you want to do in that situation is find someone who is close to them and kind of suss out whether this is just you, or something everyone is noticing and then figure out who is the best person to break the news. Verrrry discreetly, again.

Jaya: Yeah. And then maybe try to blame it on something else? Even saying “Your shirt smells” can come off better than just “You smell.”

Victoria: Yes! Or something like “I’ve been noticing that you sometimes smell, maybe your deodorant brand isn’t strong enough?”

Jaya: Also, bring it up at a time when the person can actually do something about it.

Victoria: Yes! Not on the subway, or when you get to a bar, etc.

Jaya: Exactly. Because then you stink and you’re self-conscious about it.

Victoria: If you’re getting ready together or something, though, that’s the perfect opportunity to say “Oh did you forget your deodorant? Here, borrow mine!”

Jaya: What about medical issues? Is smelling something that can be cause for a doctor?

Victoria: Absolutely. So maybe, if you notice someone, or yourself, smelling a lot, go to a doctor. Depression can also make people less likely to bathe- that’s why I like the idea of saying, “I’ve been noticing that you smell strongly lately, is everything okay?”

Jaya: Nice.

Victoria: And then, they can just mention if it’s a medical issue. And you can just deal with it until it gets better.

Jaya: Also, I would like to take a moment to mention that if someone tells you you stink, don’t freak out! It’s no big deal! People stink all the time.

Victoria: Yes! It happens.

Jaya: And then if you deal with it well, you set a good example to the other stinkers of the world for how to take the news. It’s the circle of etiquette.