Over the years we evolve and change. Customs fall by the wayside and new ones emerge. However, etiquette and manners is the backbone of a polite and happy society. Here’s a guide on how to be on your best behavior in the modern age.
Nothing is more irritating than trying to have a conversation with someone who is on their phone. Whether you are texting or reading email, it’s just rude. Keep your phone out of sight when you are with someone. If you must check it, say, “Please excuse me, I need to see if I’ve received an important message.” Once you’ve checked it, put it away.
It used to be that a shower was held for the first child in a family only. This is one tradition that has evolved. “Sprinkles” have arisen. While you might think that this is in bad taste, it’s actually not – if it’s done correctly. For starters, Sprinkle invitations should never contain a gift registry. You should actually not expect a gift at all if this is not your first baby shower. It’s not the responsibility of everyone you know to purchase all of the things your children need. This includes the cute little poems that try to get people to bring a book or a package of diapers. If you’ve already had a baby shower and received gifts, you’re done. Any shower or sprinkle after the fact may be thrown simply in celebration of the baby to come. That said, it’s actually alright to register for gifts. Tell the people who are in charge of your RSVP’s where you are registered, and if anyone asks when they RSVP, the women in charge can let them know. Also give these women an idea of what you need beforehand if you aren’t registering, so that if anyone asks what they can bring, they can get an idea. It’s alright to receive gifts at a sprinkle and many people will bring one. But it’s just in bad taste to expect it or to ask for it.
There’s an exception to this rule as well. If it’s been a long time since you’ve had your first child or if the new baby is from a new relationship, that changes things a bit. It’s more acceptable if there is a large age gap (as you will most likely have gotten rid of your baby items over the years). It’s also more acceptable if you are in a different relationship – your spouse/partner will have friends and family who will want to celebrate the baby with you as well.
The bottom line is this. All babies are a blessing, and it’s perfectly acceptable to want to celebrate each one of them with a party. But it’s in extremely bad taste to expect or request gifts every time. As stated, be prepared for those who want to get something for you, but don’t force that on anyone.
Thank you notes are still very much in style. If you have received a gift for a shower, wedding, anniversary, birthday, engagement, etc. then you should absolutely send a thank you note. Hand-written and sincere is best.
Bridal showers are the perfect occasion to celebrate the start of a new life. It’s perfectly acceptable to register for gifts and to include that registry information in the invitation. People know that bridal showers will include gift-giving and are happy to celebrate with you! However, your registry information is not to be included in your wedding invitation. Again, asking for a gift at your wedding is tacky. Leave the registries standing throughout the time frame of your wedding (anyone invited to your shower will know they are there). If you have a wedding website (I highly recommend this, it helps cut the clutter of your invitation and can include directions, dress code, etc.) the website should be referenced in your invitation. It is perfectly fine to list your registries on the website as well. You want the information to be available to your guests should they wish to purchase a gift, but including it in the invitation is wrong.
Walk out into the world and you will see that most people still have common courtesy. They will hold the door for you. They will let you out in traffic. They will pick something up for you if you drop it. Pay attention and don’t take any of this for granted. If someone does something to help you, say “Thank you!” If they let you into their lane our out into traffic, smile and wave. If you don’t have the courtesy to do that, in case no one else has the heart to tell you, you’re an asshole.
That said, don’t be afraid to help someone else and be the one to let them out into traffic. Hold the door for them. Offer to assist someone in need. That’s a world we all want to live in.
Respecting Culture in Gift Giving and Celebration
In the modern world when the internet – and all of the world’s knowledge – is literally at our fingertips, there is no reason to be ignorant when it comes to culture. If you are invited to a party for someone who is of a different culture from yours, it is acceptable to follow American tradition – but it’s also good to look into their culture. For example, I was invited, years ago, to the baby shower of a Chinese couple. The Chinese hold baby celebrations after the baby has been born. I wanted our gift to be meaningful, so I took the time to research their culture and incorporate that with our gift. This adds a special touch and shows that you truly care.
It would appear that the practice of ending a telephone call without saying “goodbye” has become a practice. This is rude and unacceptable. A conversation hasn’t ended until both people have said, “bye” – to hang up prior to this is thoughtless and is certainly bad manners.
When entering someone’s home, you should ask if your shoes should be removed. The bacteria and filth present on shoes is disgusting. It’s not only a health hazard for babies and small children who spend their time on the floor, it is also damaging to carpets and rugs. When visiting a home, be prepared to remove your shoes. If you don’t want to be barefoot, it’s acceptable to bring a pair of socks or slippers to wear.
When you have been invited to a party, it is nice to bring a gift. If the party is for a child’s birthday, a gift should be purchased unless the parents have specifically stated that there should be no gifts. It is acceptable to bring a gift to an engagement party, a birthday party, an anniversary party, a housewarming party, and to dinner parties. There is a plethora of information out there on gift ideas for these occasions. But you should never be forced or required to bring a gift to any celebration. A celebration is just that – a gathering to celebrate something. The gift is truly the presence of the people there. Not the presents that they bring.
The bottom line of etiquette and manners is much like the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Be respectful. Give the people you are with your full attention. Don’t expect exorbitant or excessive gifts from people. Be kind and courteous. Our actions affect the people around us everywhere, every day. Make them good, kind, thoughtful actions – and that sentiment and will spread.