The etiquette of wedding gifts

Q  My friend, who is in his middle fifties, is getting married for the third time; it will be her second marriage. Are wedding gifts still appropriate?

A  Wedding gifts are always appropriate, but they aren’t always required. If you gave your friend a wedding gift for either or both of his previous weddings, a third one is not expected, even if you are invited to the wedding. If you did, but would like to celebrate this new marriage with a gift, by all means go right ahead and give one. If you have never given him a wedding gift and are invited to the wedding, then you would give a gift. If you are not invited to the wedding, you may, but aren’t expected to give a gift, but it would be nice to send a card of best wishes.

Q  When someone asks me if I’ve lost weight, my immediate reaction is to think, “Why? Do you think I looked fat before?” What’s a good response that is polite but makes it clear that a comment on one’s weight loss is not necessarily welcome? And shouldn’t people stop and consider that maybe the weight loss might not be voluntary and not comment?

A  When someone tells you that you look so much thinner or asks if you’ve lost weight, simply say, “Gosh, I have no idea why,” or “I haven’t a clue.” And then say, “Isn’t this a great party?” if you are at a gathering, or “Where are you off to?” if you meet on the street. Actually, no one should comment on another’s appearance except to say “you look great, as always, I’m so glad to see you.” This also addresses your question about reasons for weight loss. If someone is ill and doesn’t want to talk about it, she shouldn’t have to deal with questions about the way she looks.

Q  I’m about to meet my girlfriend’s parents and extended family for the first time. I’ve been invited to dinner. What’s the protocol at the dinner table? Do I just sit down somewhere or wait to be told where to sit or what?

A  You wait, and if no one says, “Steve, please sit here,” ask.  “Where would you like me to sit?” If the answer is “anywhere,” stand by a chair and wait for your hostess to be seated. Pull out the chair for the woman next to you, usually the woman to your right. If everyone simply sits down, don’t stand there by yourself — go ahead and sit. It’s most polite to wait for your hostess to be seated but you’ll feel really uncomfortable if you are the only one standing.

Q  I have an acquaintance who says a lot of unkind things about other people. This is uncomfortable for me, especially when she says “don’t you agree?” How do I deflect this.

A  Smile and say, “Goodness, Sue, Molly always says such nice things about you!” and then change the topic immediately.

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