Sunday, July 5, 2009

Curiosities of Etiquette (really long post)

Etiquette is a funny thing. It is a set of rules to help society function, and it works well (as long as you apply reason and good sense to it).

Etiquette rules often have opposite expectations for two parties in a relationship. When I started planning the wedding, I bought Emily Post's "Wedding Etiquette" to help me navigate the expectations without causing offense. (Great book, I found it so helpful!) It did cause some friction between Wade and me a couple times when the book clashed with common practice in our social circles.

For example, if a guest is in a relationship (even if you don't know the sigificant other), you are required to invite the date. (That makes sense.) Etiquette also indicates that the host/hostess is not required to offer guests the opportunity to bring a date ("plus one") when the guest is not in a long-term relationship. (I didn't realize that rule.) And Wade wanted to offer all our single friends a "plus one", which would have been nice but it was not practical due to space constraints. We had a very finite capacity for the meal, and we didn't want to over invite (um, awkward if 5 people eat their meal in a different room!) but we wanted to have as many friends as possible. If we invited "Sam + 1", we'd have to wait for the RSVP to find out if Sam is bringing someone or if we have an extra seat. (Of course, boy-friends, girl-friends, spouses, significant others, etc. were all invited even if we didn't know them.)

I think we made the right decision not to invite "plus ones" to those who weren't in a relationship because we ended up being surrounded by entirely friends & family we knew.

Another funny double-rule: the rules of gift expectations. You shouldn't give people "pity invites", nor should you invite people you know can not attend, because it looks like you are just fishing for a gift. As a guest, if you are invited to a wedding, you should get the couple a gift, regardless of if you are attending. According to Emily Post and her niece-in-law, Peggy Post, the gift should be just as good as if you were going to the wedding because the gift is not paying for dinner but is a gift given freely. (Note: I didn't know that part of etiquette until I read it in the book. I suspect most people don't know that etiquette expectation. And I am not offended that most people don't seem to know that, either!)

The curious double-expectation: the couple getting married should invite people they want there, and should not expect a gift from any guest.

I'm okay with that. The way I look at it, we didn't get married to get gifts. And we didn't invite guests to get gifts. We invited our family, friends and our family-friends (some were parent's friends who I didn't know well, but that's fine) to celebrate our wedding. We had about 100 guests for dinner (due to room capacity) and another 20 for the dance reception. And we invited each person because we wanted them to be there. In fact, for the reception invitations, we put "Best Wishes Only" right on the invitation. (I read even putting "best wishes only" is an etiquette faux-pas because that implies we don't want gifts, which is dictating to people what we want for gifts.) I'm comfortble with the decision to put "best wishes only" because we wanted to say to people, "hey, come help us celebrate our wedding" not "hey, we want more gifts".

Over the past 4 days, I have finished all the thank-you notes to the guests who brought us gifts, to the guests who came to the reception only (even if they didn't bring a gift), and to my parent's neighbour (who were not invited, but who gave us a thoughtful gift to wish us well). Most of the guests who came to the reception only brought us a card or a small gift, though some did not bring anything (which was fine with me). I wrote all those guests who were invited to the reception only a thank you note thanking them for helping us to celebrate our wedding, because I truly am thankful that they came (and if they brought a gift, I thanked them for the gift, obviously).

But I have not written thank-you notes for the couple guests who were at the whole day who did not bring a gift. Technically, they have one year to give me the gift. Not to mention, I am not supposed to expect a gift from them, and I don't expect a gift. I won't be offended if I never get a gift.

But I'm torn: do I send a note thanking them for attending (especially since one of them had a role in the wedding)? They deserve a note of thanks for their support. But I might look like I'm fishing for a gift, since they didn't get a gift. I don't need a gift, and I'm not fishing for a gift.

What is the best thing to do? Send a thank-you note for their help and for attending (which did mean a lot to me), or not send anything (so I don't look like I'm fishing for a gift)?


EliandMe said...

Could you just tell them in person rather than in a note, that way it wouldn't seem quite as formal?

Out of interest, how late is too late to send out thank you notes according to the etiquette guide? Two months have passed since our wedding and I still haven't got them all out yet, am I going to hell?

Krista said...

Oh, you're so fine Eliandme! You have 3 months to get thank-you notes out! However, in the etiquette world, there is no such thing as "too late" to send out thank-you notes. Peggy Post herself says a thank-you note a year later is better than none at all!

So you are sooo okay!

I guess I could thank people in person ... but it might be a while before I see them again! I'll mull it over.

Nicole said...

I've heard you can actually take up to 1 year to complete your thank you notes. A little extreme in my opinion, but this may give you some flexibility to wait a bit more to decide what type of thank you to give.

PS etiquette is crazy and I have no idea how to navigate through all the rules. We're sending our invites out at the end of July. Help!!

Margarita said...

I think if you're really not expecting/fishing for a gift then you SHOULD send the thank you notes. A thank you is a thank you for being there, a gift, for help, whatever. They are for everyone who was a part of your day, regardless of whether they brought you a gift or not ;)

Marie said...

I didn't send thank-yous to those who didn't give gifts. And I don't feel one ounce guilty for it. When you see them in person thank them for coming but I wouldn't send a card. Although perhaps this really isn't the right thing to do... Maybe I should have sent a card. Ah well, sure they'll get over it! M x


it's a really tough one....i think it's safest to send a thank you anyway. it all depends on the tone. if you're not upset that you didn't receive a gift then i think it will come across in the thank you that you are genuinely thankful that they came to support you guys.

Marie-Ève said...

I'm so admirative that you've done your thank-you notes already! We've been married 7 weeks now and although I've bought the supplies I haven't started. I feel terrible about it, it's nagging me, but we've been away a lot and always seem to have other things to do in the house or the backyard... And frankly these days after my son is finally asleep it's often nearly 9 and all I want is a little time for myself, to relax and read or watch TV just a bit before dozing off myself. I keep thinking if we had relatives nearby I would send LP to his grandparents for a weekend day and tackle the TY notes!

Etiquette is indeed funny and a little strange sometimes. My understanding was that if you are invited but do not attend, you can give a gift of lesser value (I've done it a couple of times, oops). I think here the general (implied) rule people follow is that you should offset the costs incurred by the couple to have you there. Totally contrary to your book!

Personally, I will definitely send thank you notes to everyone who attended, gift or no gift, plus people who did not attend but gave gifts (co-workers, for instance).

Krista said...

Thanks for your comments, everyone.

I appreciate you took the time to reply to such a long post. I think I will send thank you notes to those 2 who attended without gifts. I really am glad they were there, and I truly am not fishing for a gift. I will phrase the thank you note so they hopefully feel good after reading it. Something indicating how happy we were that they could attend.

Rachel said...

Wow.... I now feel really really bad for how long I took to send out my thank-you's.
On that note, though, we have gotten 2 presents in the last month or so!! Seriously!
I'd maybe wait a month to send them the thank-you's - but I would send them. That way, it gives you a little time to wait JUST IN CASE they forgot your present at home or something.
We felt the same way you guys did about the presents thing. But, I totally understand your wondering about the timing of the thank-you's.

By the way - I wish I had had that book when sending out the invites so I could show it to my in-laws who got hurt feelings because we didn't want to send out invitations to every single person that they have ever known! Ugh, seriously.

Bridgette said...

Krista- First... CONGRATS. All your pictures beautiful, and you are stunning!

And, I can't believe you baked your own cake. That truly is a great story and a lot of hard work!

I wanted to say, this is a great post! Long and great. I read every word! Don't worry about appearing to fish for a gift. A note of appreciation is just that!