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I floss daily, brush after every meal, and trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries.

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Second-Hand Etiquette

I'm a sucker for second-hand etiquette. Tell me that something that I already do (or that I want to do) is socially correct, then say the magic words - Emily Post - and I'll accept your words as gospel. Then I'll go on to tell other people. "Emily Post!" I'll say, like I read it in black and white in my very own dog-eared copy of her 1922 book, Etiquette, which I neither own nor have ever laid eyes on.

My Old Man and I just mailed off our wedding present to his sister and her new husband, who were married last October 30th, and whose wedding we attended. I had meant to get the gift in the mail earlier, but I felt pretty good about sending when we did. After all, we have a year after the wedding - according to Emily Post - and we got it there within four months.

But how do I know that Emily Post says that you have a year after a wedding to send the couple their gift? Um, someone told me. Like eight years ago. And though I don't remember who it was that told me, I absorbed that information and made it part of my personal philosophy. Our of curiosity, I checked the Emily Post website, and I found out that Emily Post's spokesperson (some random person named Peggy Post) claims that this is not true! "Contrary to a current rumor that you have a year to send a gift, it really should be sent right away or within three months of the wedding." Three months! Come on! How about four?

Well, I guess I don't really give a rat's ass what Emily Post (or her great-great grand niece) says, especially if what they say does not correspond with habits that I happen to cherish. (Bring a present to the wedding? Or send it in advance? I don't know if I can get it together to do that and procure a new pair of pantyhose for the event, plus arrange a clean shirt for my son. I'm only human!) At the same time, though, I don't want to offend my loved ones, especially during such a festive time of their lives. So what do you think? Orange recently asked her readers what our personal cash limits for wedding gift spending are. What are your personal time limits for wedding gift sending? Have you bought into the you-have-a-year "rumor"? And if so, what can we do to get turn this rumor into law? I personally was under the spell of this belief back when my Old Man and I got married, and I must say it was kind of nice having gifts trickle in months after the blessed day. Especially since I felt no need to get pissy about those gifts being late.

I also recently heard (from a friend who is both Southern and gay, two things that somehow give him more etiquette cred in my book) that it's untrue that the most mannerly thing to do when served with a plate of hot food is wait 'til everyone at the table is served. He says if the food is cold, wait. But if it's hot it makes everyone else uncomfortable to watch your food cool as you wait for them to be served, so you should begin right away. I believe he even invoked the name of Post at some point during this conversation. And of course I bought it wholesale. It makes sense! And it gives me permission to do what I already really, really want to do. I don't even want to look into whether it's technically correct.

But what do you think? About the wedding present window, and about hot food?


Blogger Lisa said...

The hot food thing I used to do more often, but lately I've been slipping....BECAUSE it seems that no one else ever waits! So, I generally just sort of casually observe the behavior of those around me. Except when I'm really hungry and/or I forget to look around. :)

As far as gifts...I usually take them to the event because if I give myself an inch, I take a mile. I would NEVER mail the gift(s). But I do love your insistence on believing Emily Post when she's in your corner. ;)

4:04 PM  
Blogger DoctorMama said...

A year, absolutely. That way you get to skip it if they break up six months in! (Hey, my sister thought she had a year to send thank you cards. Of course, my sister ... never mind.) And I don't take them. Click and send, that's the way to go.

As for the food, I do hate it when people don't wait. My in-laws never wait, which means no one ever gets to sit and eat and talk to each other -- it's musical chairs. But then, maybe that's what they're after?

6:12 PM  
Blogger theotherbear said...

Hmm.. I think you should either send your gift ahead of the wedding, or bring it with you to the event. I also think you should never start eating until everyone has their food. Of course, if that's not what you wanted to hear, just snort and say "Huh, what would she know". Everyone else does!

3:02 AM  
Blogger Lisa Blah Blah said...

To me, manners depend on the relationship you have with the person. If it's someone I don't know as well, I tend to be more formal in observing the rules -- i.e., if I had to go to a wedding for someone I know through work or God forbid, my husband's job, I'd make sure to send a gift ahead of time or at least bring one with us. If it's someone I know really well, I'm more lax, figuring we'll laugh about it later. I have one friend who has yet to send us a wedding gift. We've been married since 2001. I'm not taking it personally.

Um, so - I haven't sent out any thank yous for Christmas yet. Is that rude? I'm starting to think so. (The guilt is crushing.)

8:23 PM  
Blogger Esereth said...

Rock always waits till everyone is served. He's from Wasps. But yeah, pick up on the vibe of the table. You can tell if the people you're with will think you're boorish for eating in front of people who have no food.

Wedding gifts? I thought they were supposed to be brought, period.

Oh who knows. I'm always being unintentionally rude cuz I don't know the rules. I just try to be nice.

You seriously wear pantyhose? I didn't think anyone not going to Mass did.

11:39 AM  
Blogger Orange said...

I heard once that you were supposed to send a wedding gift ahead of time rather than crassly bringing it to the reception, in a four-part mumbo-jumbo: (1) Go to department store. (2) Buy gift from registry. (3) Pay for wrapping. (4) Pay for shipping. Seems crass to do it that way, though. Like wedding guests are merely merchandise-ordering cogs in the deal.

You wanna have your mind blown about etiquette? A friend of mine's getting married in England. The invitations were terrifically stylish but with no reply cards—the invitation card itself asked us to RSVP by 3/10 and provided their address, phone, and e-mail. You know what those crazy British bastards have been doing? A number of them—single men included!—have mailed specially purchased wedding-reply cards. Emily would be so proud.

6:58 PM  
Blogger sweatpantsmom said...

E., I'm with you. I say we turn this Year-To-Buy-A-Present thing into a law. But why stop there? How about a year to send thank you notes (which is my time frame, anyways) and a year to return things, like say a shirt that doesn't fit or a bad carton of milk?

2:09 PM  

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