Do I Have To Buy My Cousin A Registry Gift For Their RENTAL?

plutos-housewarming-movie-poster-1947-1010686166Dear Uncommon Courtesy,

My cousin and his girlfriend are moving in together and are having a house warming party (for a rented apartment, mind you). This was fine with me right up until the point where they sent out their gift registry along with a hefty list of preferred colors separated by room (i.e. Red kitchen accesories, purple bathroom thingies, etcetera). I am really put off by the whole thing, specially considering that at my very simple, registry-free wedding my cousin didn’t get me anything himself, but rode along with my aunt and uncle’s gift. Am I being overly touchy about it, or am I right to have “EFF THAT” as my first thought? I mean, I’m gonna have to get them another present when they get married (along with bachlorette and wedding shower ones)?
Thank you very much! 
Off The Registry
Official Etiquette
As we’ve mentioned before, Miss Manners does not consider a housewarming an appropriate time for anything but token gifts, and that goes double for non-permanent quarters, such as a rental.
Our Take

Victoria: Okay, so yeah, this is a no, this is not okay, for me.
Jaya: I’m gonna agree with you there. I think I’d be okay if they had bought their first house together, but for a RENTAL this is too much.
Victoria: Yeah, and I would say if they bought a house and then got married a year later, I would probably still get a present, but it would be MUCH smaller.
Jaya: Definitely. And I think this is another example of people expecting every life moment deserves a gift.
I am all for celebrating more life moments than weddings.
Victoria: Yesss. Not every moment needs a huge gift.
Jaya: I think there are a lot of important milestones that don’t get as much attention, and too much emphasis is put on pairing up or having kids. However, the goal should probably be fewer presents all around.
Victoria: I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love gifts, but like, token gifts are a thing because no one wants to shell out $50 every time someone wants to feel good about their accomplishments. Bring a bottle of wine, a plant, some jam. And like, I’ve said to people who are going to be buying a place soon- wait to make major household purchases until you do actually buy a house, so that your stuff will fit THAT house, not the apartment you had 3 apartments ago.
Jaya: Exactly. You can’t be buying Kitchenaid mixers any time someone rents a new apartment. I will also say, however, that it doesn’t matter that this cousin did not get LW their own gift for their wedding. Or that LW’s wedding was simple and registry-free and the cousins has a color coded list.
Victoria: I mean, I guess everyone has their own internal calculations and if you need to take that kind of thing into account, no one will know (unless you write it into a letter to an etiquette site!)
Jaya: Haha yes! LW is absolutely allowed to have “eff that” as a first thought because, well, you’re allowed to think however you want as long as you don’t call up your cousin and tell them off.
Victoria: Haha yeah. And like, no one knows your financial situation. Maybe you are about to have a baby and your budget isn’t quite as elastic as it might have been. And maybe this cousin is younger and at the time of the LW’s wedding, it was appropriate that he latch onto his parents’ gift.
Jaya: Exactly. No gift giving/non-gift giving should ever come out of that sense of obligation or “well he didn’t get me anything 2 years ago so I’m not getting him anything now.” If you’re going to be going to a housewarming party and find the registry off putting, bring a box of cookies or wine or a bouquet, same as you would for any party.
Victoria: Exactly. And maybe if people don’t bring anything off the registry, people will be like, oh, no one is into this, and then they will tell their friends and no one will do it anymore.
Jaya: One can only hope!
Victoria: The thing with a registry for weddings is that it’s ultimately an organizational tool because the event itself is so much bigger than most life events that people need to have gift ideas without 200 people calling the happy couple. Are 200 people really coming to your housewarming?(And obviously, sometimes people have registries for small weddings, which is fine, but thats because weddings=registry in our culture even when they are unnecessary)
Jaya: You’re so smart about this. But to play devil’s advocate (ugh), maybe this couple isn’t planning on getting married and can’t afford to buy a house anytime soon. Maybe this is their big moment, and they’re trying to treat it as such. I understand that, and as long as they understand that nobody is obliged to buy anything off a registry, there’s little harm in what they’re doing. That’s probably not the case but I like to believe the best.
Victoria: There’s generally no harm in HAVING one, and I think if you want, you can make one and then only give it to people who ask for it. And honestly, do a little white lying and be like, oh well, this is our wish list of things we want to buy for the house eventually. It will go down a lot better. And I definitely keep ideas of things O want for my birthday and christmas throughout the year on, say, pinterest, so that when my mom inevitably asks, I have some ideas. So it’s basically the same thing, and I think thats okay. But issuing an invitation and having “housewarming registry” stuff all over it is a bit…greedy, because it makes it look like you are only having a party to get gifts.

Is BYOB Tacky?

Seems like a fun party. [Via Wikimedia Commons]

Dear Uncommon Courtesy

A good friend and his live-in girlfriend occasionally throw cocktail parties at their apartment for the holidays, each other’s birthdays, etc. While he and his girlfriend are not hedge fund partners, they do reasonably well for themselves as independent, gainfully-employed 20-somethings. More often than not, their party invitations will specify that although they will be serving a punch or specific cocktail of some sort, they would like all guests to BYOB. 

My question is twofold: First, how do I handle the hostess gift situation here? Do I double up and bring them a bottle of wine in addition to whatever I would like to imbibe at this party? Do I specify which is which? Because that seems like it could get awkward. Second, am I wrong in thinking that this is incredibly tacky of them? 

Basically, how can I best be a polite guest in a situation where I think the hosts are being less than polite themselves? 


Flummoxed in NY 

Official Etiquette

Miss Manners sees BYOB as “a collegiate and internship form, suitable for people who have not yet mastered adult housekeeping and whose finances are so close to the edge that they cannot wait for the costs of socializing to be shared through eventual reciprocation.” She also suggests following along with what the rest of you social circles does and if no one brings their own beverage, then you know that it’s not the done thing and you aren’t going to have much luck trying to change it.

Our Take
Jaya: Uhh is BYOB tacky??
Victoria: LOL no. Or, maybe it sort of is? But it’s fine. And duh, you do not need to bring two things.
Jaya: Absolutely, BYOB negates a host gift. And I usually don’t bring a “host gift” for a run-of-the-mill party. Special occasions or being a house guest, sure, but I’ll usually bring a bottle of wine or text the host and ask if I can pick anything up. I have never considered BYOB tacky though, especially if you’re providing punch or some type of liquor, as these hosts seem to be doing.
Victoria: Thinking about it more, I think it depends. I can’t remember my parents ever throwing a BYOB party. I guess at a certain age and income level it just makes sense for the hosts to provide everything, though I do not know what those levels are.
Jaya: It also depends how the hosts phrase it. When hosting a party, I’ll often say “we’ll have snacks and some wine and liquor, but feel free to bring any food or booze you want.” But it’s not like I’d kick someone out for not bringing a six pack. I probably wouldn’t even notice.
Victoria: And if you’re in your 20s, maybe you throw parties because you’re the one with the biggest apartment, so it becomes a nice, central place to get everyone together. But yes, I always like to have enough for everyone, but if people bring things that’s fine too.
Jaya: Man, I just can’t bring myself to call this tacky though. BYOB, potlucks, these are all known quantities.
Victoria: Yeah, I wouldn’t call it tacky exactly.
Jaya: I’m a huge fan of BYOB actually. I just think it’s a great, efficient way to have a party. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve hosted a party with a “full bar” and been stuck with a bunch of stuff no one wanted. Or, people can be really picky about what they drink, so I’d rather they just bring something they know they want.
Victoria: Yeah, I think it’s great for more of a house party situation. But it’s definitely better to phrase it as “we have this, if you want to bring anything else, feel free” instead of making it a hard requirement. You really should provide enough punch/cocktails/wine for 1-2 drinks per guest, just a base level.
Jaya: Absolutely. I can’t tell what the hosts’ tone is from this letter, but I guess if LW wanted to test it they could just “forget” to bring something to the next party. Good hosts/friends would be like “oh no worries, we got stuff” or just not even mention it.
Victoria: Exactly. Though, if you plan on drinking a whole case of beer yourself, you should maybe bring it.
Jaya: It’s all just heavily contingent on your friend group and the social norms of drinking/hosting that exist within it.
Victoria: You know what I have encountered, that I do think is kind of tacky? House parties where the hosts charge admission.
Victoria: YES it’s a THING.
Jaya: Okay I have heard of rent parties? And I guess it’s like, if you’re spending $10 on a six pack or $10 on “admission,” you’re spending that money either way?
Victoria: Presumably the charge is to cover the alcohol, but then you don’t know if it’s going to be a fun party or if they have what you want to drink, and you might as well just go to a bar. Or if you spend $10 on a six pack, you at least know it’s beer you like.
Jaya: Okay, I do think this question sort of touches on the awkwardness that happens when an implied rule becomes explicit. I would not show up at a party without either a bottle of wine (or equivalent), or without checking with the host about if there were something I could bring. And when I am the host, my friends often show up with drinks or food, or call me asking if I need anything. It’s this nice exchange that most people silently agree to, so I can see how specifically saying BYOB disrupts that. It’s almost insulting–as if you wouldn’t think of bringing beer on your own. Is that reading too much into it?
Victoria: No, I think that makes sense. It’s like when my mom tells me to write a thank you note to my grandmother. Like yes, I know, I ALWAYS write a thank you note, why are you reminding me?
Jaya: But if I saw BYOB on an invitation, I would not be like “Mercy, this person thinks I have no manners!”
Victoria: Hahahah yeah. And you can always turn it down if you don’t want to BYOB.
Jaya: I cannot imagine the kind of person who would be so offended by the premise of BYOB that they’d refuse to go to their friend’s party. I mean you just gotta consider your own priorities there.
Victoria: And if you’re a host and have a specific theme/feel in mind, you should just provide everything yourself. Like if you’re having a speakeasy party and tallboys of Budweiser would kill the aesthetic. Though people can surprise you! I hosted a Mad Men party and provided lots of stuff, but my friends still showed up with fancy mixers and such.
Jaya: On either side of the equation, remember that you’re dealing with people you like. If you’re a host, try to trust that your friends are nice, considerate people who would offer to bring something or to help out without your explicit instructions. And if you’re a guest, be that nice, considerate guest for your friend who is being nice and hosting a party. Be generous with friends, no matter which role you’re playing.

Rude v. Tacky: Musings On Weird Al’s New Song

weird_al_tacky.png.CROP.promovar-mediumlargeFirst off, I am the type of person who finds myself singing Weird Al lyrics instead of the real ones whenever popular songs come on. I welcome anyone who shares this affliction, as I’m sure you were just as excited when his new parody “Tacky” (of Pharrell’s “Happy”) came out this week. It’s a fantastic song, and quite a few of the lyrics actually deal with modern etiquette faux pases.

The word “tacky” is apparently a Southern colloquialism. According to “American Notes and Queries,” Feb. 15 1890,

“It was coined by a wealthier or more refined and educated class for general application to those who were not sheltered by the branches of a family tree, who were ‘tainted.’ Those who were wealthy and yet had no great-grandfathers were ‘tackies.’ The word was used both in contempt and in derision. It is now nearly obsolete in both senses. There are no aristocrats in the South now, and therefore no ‘tackies.’ No man who has the instincts of a gentleman is spoken of as a ‘tacky,’ whether he can remember the name of his grandfather’s uncle or not. But it has its uses. It is employed in describing persons of low ideas and vulgar manners, whether rich or poor. It may mean an absence of style. In dress, anything that is tawdry is ‘tacky.’ A ribbon on the shopkeeper’s counter, a curtain in the bolt, a shawl or bonnet, a bolt of cloth fresh from the loom may be ‘tacky,’ because it is cheap and yet pretentious.”

I did not know all this, but when I was a kid, I always thought tacky was somehow related to the concept of “tact,” which is really the sensitivity in which one deals with things outside of themselves. I thought a “tacky” person was one with no tact, no concept of how their actions were being perceived or reacted to by others. In short, I thought it had to do with rudeness.

Obviously, these two are different concepts, but sometimes I do think they’re still related. So, which things in “Tacky” are actually rude and which are just a matter of taste? We figured you may want to know, which is why we will now go LINE BY LINE THROUGH THE NEW WEIRD AL SONG and parse out the social implications.  You’re welcome.


It might seem crazy, wearing stripes and plaid – Crazy, yes, but power clashing is never considered a matter of etiquette.
I Instagram every meal I’ve had –  Definitely rude. If you want to take a meal photo now and then, fine, but you should err on the side of sparing your guests a display of your artistic meal positioning skills. Plus, your food is getting cold.
All my used liquor bottles are on display – Not rude, but definitely makes your house look like my ex-boyfriend’s sophomore year dorm room, which is not a good look for anyone.
We can go to see a show but I’ll make you pay – It’s unclear how Weird intends this line. Does this mean you’ll spend the whole show tweeting? Talking? Were you invited to a show under the impression that it was a treat, but last minute were told you had to pay for your own ticket? I mean, all of these things are bad, but in varying degrees.

(Because I’m Tacky)
Wear my belt with suspenders and sandals with my socks – Not rude, especially if you’re a dad.
(Because I’m Tacky)
Got some new glitter uggs and lovely pink sequined crocs -Again, fashion is not rude, unless you’re wearing this getup to a funeral.
(Because I’m Tacky)
Never let you forget some favor I did for you – Definitely rude. A favor is a favor, and should not be held over the recipients head for the rest of their lives.
(Because I’m Tacky)
If you’re okay with that, then, you might just be tacky, too 

[Verse 2]
I meet some chick, ask her this and that – Derogatory terms for women are always rude, WEIRD AL.
Like are you pregnant girl, or just really Fat? (What?) – Inquiring into the reproductive state of any person is always rude, as we have discussed.
Well, now I’m dropping names almost constantly – Not necessarily rude, but I do think this falls under tactlessness.
That’s what Kanye West keeps telling me, here’s why

(Because I’m Tacky)
Wear my Ed Hardy shirt with fluorescent orange pants – Fashion, not rude
(Because I’m Tacky)
Got my new resume it’s printed in Comic Sans – Only rude if you’re one of those font people
(Because I’m Tacky)
Think it’s fun threatening waiters with a bad Yelp review – Incredibly rude! Most of the time, bad restaurant service is the cause of a number of factors, not just the waiter’s negligence. And threatening employees is basically the best way to get thrown out of a restaurant, not get good service.
(Because I’m Tacky)
If you think that’s just fine, then, you’re probably tacky, too

[Bridge] – Nothing in the bridge deals with tackiness or rudeness.

(Because I’m Tacky)
43 Bumper Stickers and a “YOLO” license plate – I don’t know what Weird Al is talking about, this person sounds pretty cool.
(Because I’m Tacky)
Bring along my coupon book whenever I’m on a date – Frugality is certainly not rude, and if your date tries to shame you they can go ahead and pay full price themselves. That being said, learn which things are worth springing for.
(Because I’m Tacky)
Practice my twerking moves in line at the DMV – Totally rude. You are to stay still and quiet while waiting on line. Anything else gets death stares.
(Because I’m Tacky)
Took the whole bowl of restaurant mints. Hey, it said they’re free – On one hand, they’re free, go ahead. On the other, it’s only polite to make sure everyone has the opportunity for fresh breath.
(Because I’m Tacky)
I get drunk at the bank
And take off my shirt, at least – I’m pretty sure most banks have a “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service” policy, to say nothing of public intoxication, so this may no be rude so much as it is illegal.
(Because I’m Tacky)
I would live-tweet a funeral, take selfies with the deceased PEOPLE DO THIS. DON’T DO THIS.
(Because I’m Tacky)
If I’m bitten by a zombie, I’m probably not telling you – Well duh, you’re a zombie now, you can’t talk.
(Because I’m Tacky)
If you don’t think that’s bad, guess what, then you’re tacky, too

Are Housewarming Registries Tacky?

Dear Uncommon Courtesy,

What are your thoughts regarding housewarming gift registries, are they tacky or no? I think yes but a friend thinks no.


Confusing New Territory

Official Etiquette:

Miss Manners discusses the history of housewarming parties, which were traditionally thrown when someone had deemed his or her move permanent. However, she says, “suddenly, housewarming parties are being given for every move, and not just temporarily rented quarters, but dormitory rooms and vacation sublets.” And while many would bring token gifts to congratulate the new homeowners, “hoping to furnish one’s quarters on other people’s budgets is not a proper reason for giving a party.”

Our Take:

Jaya: Oooh I have so many thoughts on this. My initial reaction is “eww, tacky,” but that’s pretty much my reaction to any hint of asking for presents. Like, it took me a while to get over the fact that I even had a wedding registry.

Victoria: Well, wedding and baby registries came into existence because weddings and baby showers were already events where people bought presents. And a lot of people were buying you presents at the same time, so it made sense to make a list of what you need so that the chaos would be a bit organized.

Jaya: Yeah. You know people are going to get presents for you, so you just make sure you don’t get four waffle irons. But anyway, thinking about it, I think in the right situation it’s pretty great. There’s been a lot of talk recently about how weddings are the only instance in most peoples lives that they get this sort of celebration for, and where it’s OK to have a registry, but the fact is that a lot of people aren’t going to get married. What if you’re single and you buy yourself a house? Is that any less of a thing to celebrate than two people getting married? Or what if you’re a couple but just don’t feel like getting married, but still achieve some stuff in your life that you think is important?

Victoria: I think they are tacky, not so much because they are asking for presents, but they are asking for presents in an instance when no one was planning on getting you a present, so now they feel like they have to? Obviously, hey, maybe you won’t get married, but you do get a PhD or buy yourself a house and why shouldn’t you get gifts for those things to? BUT the thing is, where do you then stop with all the gifts? What if you throw a big housewarming when you buy a house at age 25 and then get married at 30? Do the people who gave you housewarming gifts not have to get you a wedding present?

Jaya: You wouldn’t plan on getting your friend a present if they just move into like, a home they bought that they’re going to be in forever? Like Miss Manners says, I’m not getting you a toaster for having a dorm room, but I feel like housewarming gifts are pretty common, and if I’m gonna spend $30-50 on something like that, I’d rather do it on a small kitchen appliance they need or some nice hand towels than a bottle of wine and flowers.

Victoria: I think that most people are only really willing to give a person one major gift per lifetime (aside from parents, siblings, grandparents, etc), if that makes sense. Yeah, there are baby registries, but aside from extremely close relatives, most people give you an outfit or a toy or something else fairly small, or go in together as a group to buy a carseat or whatever. (I might be wrong about this though!).

Jaya: But if you’re doing one gift per lifetime, this could be it! If you know that you’re not gonna get married and you don’t want kids, I think a housewarming is a perfectly acceptable time to give that gift. Though you’re right, if you’re signing up for some registry every five years of your life, that’s going to come off as greedy.

Victoria: I think for housewarming registries to be acceptable, there would have to be a MAJOR cultural shift in expectations, and we are just not there yet. The root of the “rudeness” or “tackiness” about housewarming registries is that you are asking for gifts from people who were not planning on getting you a gift in the first place, which comes off as looking ridiculous. And if you are sending the registry information with the invitation, then that is RUDE—it makes it look like you are only interested in what someone is going to give you rather than wanting them to come celebrate with you. At least with weddings, you can have a website where you can include registry info as just part of a ton of supplemental information so that it never becomes the focus. And with baby registries, someone else should be hosting the event and thus requests for gifts are coming from the generosity of someone else.

Jaya: Yeah, if you do one it’s a place where you need to tread really, really carefully. As a side note, I remember my sister-in-law did a really big wedding registry, and ended up having to keep most of the stuff at her parents’ place because they did not have room in their tiny New York apartment, and figured when they moved into a house they’d take it all back. And then lo and behold she gets pregnant, so they just took all the stuff they couldn’t fit back to the store and got baby stuff instead. So that’s a built-in baby registry right there! You might not even need one!

Victoria: Honestly, celebrating someone buying a house is kind of like…congratulations, you have enough money to make a down payment? And therefore a probably a lot better off than a lot of your guests so, I should spend my money buying you a present to celebrate that rather than saving up for my own down payment?

Jaya: I think looking at it like “congratulations, you had enough money to make a down payment” is just as ridiculous as any of the other reasons we do registries. For a wedding it’s “congratulations, you met someone you like enough to live with forever,” and I don’t see why a relationship is that much more of an accomplishment. And especially since wedding registries were the original housewarming registries! I think it’s much tackier for a married couple to set up a registry asking for nicer versions of stuff they already have since they’ve been living together (which, yes, I am doing and I’m tacky and whatever) than a single person to set one up for their first house.

Victoria: While I think that we should be celebrating other accomplishments other than weddings and babies, I also think the bigger issue is instead of adding more “gift giving opportunities” (as my mom likes to call them), we (as a society) should be steering the focus away from gifts more. It’s just getting ridiculous, and even thinking about housewarming, and graduation, and birthday, and first car, and first job, and retirement, and funeral registries on top of everything else is just EXHAUSTING.

Jaya: That’s a great point. As a society we tend to associate celebration with gift giving. You get presents on occasions when people are celebrating you, when that really doesn’t need to be the case. So now someone sees a wedding and thinks “they’re being celebrated more because they get a registry, why can’t I be celebrated for my accomplishments?” And everyone should be celebrated for their accomplishments! We can just step away from celebrating with gifts!

Victoria: Yesss, who needs gifts? I bought myself a KitchenAid stand mixer and a Le Creuset Dutch Oven so I am already set for life.