Engagement party: gifts appropriate?

Q  My husband and I have been invited to an engagement party. Do we take a gift?

A  An engagement gift is not expected, especially if you are invited to a large party. In the past few years, more gifts have been taken to engagement parties, but this doesn’t mean that it is required. If you want to give a gift, you do so before or after the party, not at the party. The exception is if you are invited to a small dinner party or event in honor of an engagement. The assumption is that those invited are close family members or friends, and they would take a gift. Usually only very close friends and family members give engagement presents.

Q  When a toast is made, is it correct to clink glasses?

A  It is not incorrect, but generally one just raises one’s glass and then has a sip. If those around you start clinking, then by all means participate, but don’t initiate it.

Q  I am noticing more and more how discourteous people are. They don’t hold doors, push their way forward in a line, don’t bother to say “hello” or even smile, and throw their trash out a car window, or drop it on the sidewalk. Should I point this out when I see it happening?

A  No, because confrontations with strangers are never a safe or good idea. But you can model a better way by giving courtesy freely, without expecting anything in return. A lot of people may not even notice, much less return the kindness nor pay it forward, but you can be assured that you are creating the kind of world you want to live in through your own courteous actions. And sometimes, a self-absorbed person will notice, slow down, and realize how important it is to engage in random acts of kindness and thoughtfulness. Your courtesy could make a difference.

Q  My ex-husband and I haven’t been in touch for two years, but I recently found out that his sister, with whom I was close when we were married, is engaged. Is it acceptable for me to send her a card?

A  Yes, it is very nice to send your best wishes to her, but only if your thoughtfulness won’t be perceived as an attempt to reconnect with your ex’s family or with him, especially if when you divorced you lost contact with his family, too. Ordinarily, their loyalty is with him, and it may seem awkward to your former sister-in-law to feel she has to reconnect with you. If your divorce was acrimonious, your sending a card could be misconstrued. Some of the hardest losses when a relationship is severed are the other people with whom one loses contact, whether friends or former family members. Make sure that you don’t expect a reply to your expression of well wishes. If you are clear on that, then sending a her a card is very thoughtful.

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