Cringe-Worthy Regret? Yep, Been There, Done That…How Shame Works To Shape Future Behavior

by admin on December 14, 2016

I have been reading this site a fair bit over the last few years, and always find it both entertaining and instructive. Recently though, when I’ve made the odd comment giving my opinion on the subject at hand, I’ve found myself thinking, “Would I have had the same reaction to this post five, ten, fifteen years ago?”  It’s made me realize that sometimes I’m judging people from the privileged position of experience, and at least some knowledge of etiquette (most of which I’ve gleaned from this very site).

I thought it might be interesting to see if anyone else has committed crimes against etiquette and graceful behaviour in the past, which cause them now to look back and cringe at their former selves. Here’s my own story, which concerns my wedding.

My husband and I married about twelve years ago, in our mid-twenties. I’ll leave out most of the details so as not to get mired in unnecessary description. Briefly, it was a traditional church ceremony followed by a catered buffet reception at the same venue. We invited about sixty people, about fifty of who attended, a mix of family and good friends. Overall it was a lovely day, and we still occasionally get compliments on the relaxed and happy atmosphere, the ceremony (particularly the music), the venue, and my dress (£180 from Monsoon, for those in the UK. If only I could still fit into it!) The only “mishaps” were my BIL spilling water all down the front of his suit while moving a pedestal of flowers, and the fact that I preferred my bridesmaid’s bouquet to my own! Oh well.

And so straight to my faux pas, and I’m afraid it’s a major one. We included a “registry” with the invitations. Worse, that registry was what I can only describe in hindsight as a cash-grab. (I assure you I am wincing as I type this). I don’t have an excuse for this. It was an action borne of ignorance, and, if I force myself to be brutally honest, a bit of over-excited greed.

My husband and I had been saving up for our honeymoon throughout our engagement (sixteen months), and had booked it all about two months before our wedding. At the time, I thought one was supposed to receive gifts at one’s wedding; I thought that was just the way it was. And what we wanted was some extra spending money for our honeymoon (yep, still cringing hard over here). Now in the spirit of full disclosure, I was going to include the actual text from the dreaded “Gift List” in this submission, but I’ve just looked through my wedding memory box, and it isn’t there. I have copies of the save the date card, the invitation itself, the order of service, and the readings we had (the officiant read Song of Solomon 8. 6-7, my dad read a passage from The Fellowship of the Ring, and my best friend [my bridesmaid] read Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken). But I no longer have a copy of that dreaded gift list. I can’t say I’m surprised, as I had a vague memory of, at some point in the intervening years, having got rid of the wretched thing, and so I must have done.

So as accurately as I can reproduce from memory, it said something like, “We do not expect gifts, but if you would like to make a contribution to our honeymoon, here are some ideas.” There then followed a list ranging from “posh dinner out” at   £80/$150, through things like museum admission and cinema tickets, down to “public transit tickets for the day” at £5/$9. (We’re British, our honeymoon was to the U.S., and at the time the exchange rate heavily favoured the pound over the dollar). It was printed in the same font and on the same type of paper as the invitation, on a separate piece of paper, but enclosed in the same envelope.

What were we thinking?! I’ll be as honest as I can. While we did believe at the time that it was usual protocol to provide gift lists, we were also pleasurably excited at the thought of receiving cash gifts that we would benefit from. And as I said before, I can really only put that down to greed on our part. Looking back on it, two things in particular about our gift list really stand out to me, aside from the incredible idiocy of including it in the first place: 1) The fact that we included “prices” in both pounds and dollars, which adds a rather special tackiness to the whole thing. 2) The wording that introduced the dreadful document. “We do not expect gifts, but if you would like to… ”  As I said, I’m reproducing the wording from memory only, but I’m pretty sure it’s fairly accurate. And looking at it with wiser eyes, my own wording now says quite plainly to me: “We know we’re asking for something we have no right to, but we want it, so we’re going to ask for it anyway”. In other words: a greedy, thoughtless guilt-trip.

As a side note, it surprises me looking back that neither my mum or dad vetoed this. They are both the type of person to tactfully speak up if they think I’m about to make a mistake, they are both well-mannered and considerate people, and my mum in particular cares what others think, and has a horror of doing anything rude or gauche for no reason. The fact that they blithely posted these gift-grabbing enclosures along with the invitations can only suggest to me that they themselves had no idea there was anything wrong with it. I want to be clear that I’m not making excuses for my actions. Do I wish that, twelve years ago, someone had stepped in and told us how rude and tacky my husband and I were being? Of course. But I also know that we’re reasonably intelligent people who, had we stopped to think properly about what we were doing, would’ve known that we were doing the wrong thing.

Which is the main reason I’m so grateful for this site. The most important lesson I’ve gotten from it over the years is to always ask the question, often mentioned by Admin, “Who does this serve?” In some cases, of course, I think it’s okay for the answer to be “me”, but that’s in situations that involve my ongoing quest to develop a polite spine. In the tale I just told, the answer should have alerted me to the mistake we were making, had I but known to ask the question in the first place. In the long run, I hope that asking myself that question has taught me to be a bit more gracious and a lot less selfish.

So this submission is in part a thank you: to the Admin for keeping up this site and for her often wise advice, and to my fellow readers and commenters for their experience and perspectives. I can honestly say that EHell has played a big part in teaching me, over the years, to become a more well-rounded and thoughtful person.

So does anyone else have any past etiquette crimes to confess? Awkward, tacky, or just plain heinous things they did in the past but would know better than to do now? I for one would probably feel better for hearing them! And if Admin or commenters are so inclined, I’ll gladly take my lumps for the gift list debacle. While it’s a lesson I’ve taken to heart, fresh eyes on the situation couldn’t hurt. There may be perspectives I hadn’t considered.

While I am not averse to trying to shake some sense and courtesy into the mindless, clueless and outright greedy/boorish people of the world, it’s not an Ehell “thang” to beat up on the sincerely penitent.  We celebrate those who develop beyond being a typically selfish person and who embrace the past mistakes in order to become better people in the future.

Do I have cringe-worthy regret?  You better believe it!  Mine nearly always involves some foot-in-mouth faux pas since I am a gregarious person who wears her emotions on her sleeve and sometimes the governor in my brain hasn’t been well connected to my mouth.    I flinch thinking of some of the mindless things that have popped out of my mouth but I use that regret, and, yes, shame, to my advantage by making it a learning moment.   How would I have done or said that differently?   How can I develop more discretion?   I’m told by people I’ve apologized to that I am overthinking my offense since they claim to not be as offended as I assumed they could be but I’d rather err on the side of being aware of how I have the ability to be offensive as opposed to being oblivious.

Shame is a good thing, in my opinion, because some things are shameful and thus deserving of regret and cringing.  Shame and regret are the deterrent to future mistakes.

{ 97 comments… read them below or add one }

Celestia December 14, 2016 at 8:00 am

Oh my goodness, the way you started this story I expected this to be a “I expected my bridesmaids to carry me on their shoulders for the entire evening and thank me for the honor” kind of story. You included a registry and acknowledged that gifts were optional.

Seriously…I’m all for being polite and courteous to your fellow man but this is NOT an error worth flogging yourself over!

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Lacey December 14, 2016 at 10:47 am

Oh, come on – OP doesn’t deserve a flogging, but she is right in acknowledging that what she did was a huge faux-pas! Just because one says “you don’t have to give us a gift,” including a specific registry of cash is absolutely pressuring people to give you money, which is bad etiquette. Good for you for recognizing your mistake, OP!

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Margo December 14, 2016 at 5:03 pm

Well, not a huge faux pas. An error, and one which is pretty common, and, in the scale of etiquette errors, comparatively small.

Not to mention, OP explains that they invited a relatively small number of people (family and close friends) so these were all people who, presumably, know them well – they didn’t go inviting loads of people they didn’t know well, simply to grab gifts.

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Lacey December 15, 2016 at 2:28 pm

Asking for cash is rude, period. Let’s not encourage people who think this might be ok.

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Margo December 21, 2016 at 9:31 am

Poitning out that it is relatively minor error, not a massive insult, is not ‘encouraging’ anyone. It’s simply putting it in costext based on OP’s original submission.

MotB December 14, 2016 at 8:05 am

What a fun thread. Etiquette errors…
Years ago, in my twenties, a girlfriend of mine and I accidentally invited ourselves on a weekend trip to a cabin with a bunch of guys who, iirc, were simply discussing it in our presence. I think maybe one of the guys she was seeing intended to invite her, although I am not certain. I was probably the one who said something like, “that sounds great, what time are we leaving?” Later, on the trip, it became obvious that they hadn’t meant to bring us along. It was very awkward. I don’t know if they just wanted to avoid the awkwardness of saying in the moment, “actually I wasn’t talking to you,” or if they figured there was no harm in bringing along some extra pieces of ass. The way they treated us, I suspect more the latter.

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AppleEye December 14, 2016 at 10:51 am

Well, that’s what they get for discussing a trip you weren’t invited to in your presence.

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kingsrings December 14, 2016 at 10:57 am

I consider them to be at fault as well for discussing it in front of you two.

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Shoegal December 14, 2016 at 8:34 am

I didn’t actually make this mistake at my own wedding but I will admit to not thinking there was anything wrong with this “tradition.” Every wedding I had ever been to since I was a little girl included the “money dance.” This is the part of the reception where you paid to dance with the bride. My mother said in the early days they would pin the dollars to the brides dress or put them in her hair. This evolved later in just collecting the money in a basket. After you finished dancing they would either give you a shot or slice of wedding cake. All the money collected was given to the happy couple to use either on their honeymoon or for whatever way they wanted. This looked like a wonderful event to me and I dreamed of doing just that when I married. All of my brothers and sisters had done this at their weddings – and I have to say in their defense -I don’t think it was because they wanted to – it just what was ALWAYS done at weddings. I married later – after discovering that this “money dance” was nothing but a shameful tacky cash grab. I also was of the mindset for many years that you should “pay for your plate” at weddings and at least give as much money as your dinner costs. So when I married I cut out most “traditions” – no money dance, no garter/bouquet toss – and I certainly didn’t expect any gifts. You have to believe that a lot of people have made mistakes before becoming enlightened by the truth.

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Queen of Putrescence December 14, 2016 at 9:36 am

My husband came from an area where the dollar dance was common. The bride and groom went to the dance floor while the best man and maid of honor collect dollar bills for the privilege of dancing with the bride or groom. Each guest danced with the bride or groom for a minute or two. Then the happy couple receives all the money.

I had never seen this until I attended my first wedding in Minnesota. I grew up in eastern Wisconsin. I was appalled. Fortunately my husband saw my way of thinking when planning our own wedding in Wisconsin and we did not have it. I made it very clear that it might be a tradition where he lived but all of family and friends would have never participated in this and would see it as a complete money grab.

He did have a few male friends accost him in the dance floor shoving money in his pocket and jokingly slow dancing with him st our wedding.

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FoxPaws December 14, 2016 at 8:21 pm

A photographer I worked for once shot a wedding where the couple put “play money” on each table at the reception. They got to have their culture’s traditional money dance without actually dipping into the guests’ pockets. I thought that was pretty clever.
I think what a lot of people conveniently forget is that when these traditions started, there were no wedding registries, bridal showers, etc. so the money collected at the reception was it as far as gifts were concerned. The games were just a way to make it fun.

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admin December 15, 2016 at 3:43 am

The idea of using play money for the dollar dance originated right here at Ehell at least 15 years ago.

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Queen of Putrescence December 15, 2016 at 8:48 am

I’ve never heard of using play money. But it’s a really cute idea! Wish I had heard of it twenty years ago!

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barb December 14, 2016 at 9:03 am

I have “dropped in” on people who had no clue I was coming. Smh.

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Michelle December 14, 2016 at 9:52 am

This is one of my etiquette blunders as well. I was well into my twenties before I was clued in that you were supposed to call to see if intended visit-ee was up for visitors.

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PhDeath December 14, 2016 at 10:18 am

This was absolutely the norm where I grew up – a tiny town where you were either related to every neighbor or may as well have been. If there were cars in the drive, you stopped in, if you liked. People were always happy to see you, and, in fact, nearly every home had goodies (typically cookies or a cake) set aside” for company.”

Given the size/closeness of the community, it was known practically within the hour if someone was sick or otherwise not up for company. They could expect privacy (and often care packages left on the porch).

In fact, I recall several incidents in my childhood when someone was chided for NOT dropping in! “We were in the living room and saw you drive by. Why didn’t you stop? We had crumb cake!”

😀

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Dee December 14, 2016 at 11:43 am

My mom had an attitude toward people who didn’t appreciate her dropping in unannounced for a casual coffee visit. We made impromptu visits all the time. Seemed like everyone just expected it, except, of course, for those “snobs” who were obviously uncomfortable with the surprise visit. But my mom couldn’t stand the surprise overnight company. She felt that required a decent heads-up. She worked full-time, BTW, mostly from home, and was always very busy with us kids, the house and garden, her job, etc. But she could entertain during the day because she could keep working through it, and then she entertained most evenings, too, quite eagerly and willingly.

I can’t stand surprise company. When people tell me they are going to drop by and see me sometime I tell them I’d love to see them but they MUST call first, because I’m often not up for company and I need to be prepared. A lot of people just don’t get it and still drop in. I’ve not answered the door on occasion when that has happened. People quickly learn not to do that, and, for the most part, I never get drop-ins anymore. Yea!

I think this is an introvert/extrovert issue, not a cultural/regional one. Two extroverts will love it when they drop-in on each other, unannounced. Two introverts who adore each other will still be very uncomfortable with the surprise visit. The only exception I can think of is when my son drops in on me. I’m okay with that, he’s seen me at my worst, so there’s no expectation on his part and I don’t fret much as to the state of myself or my house.

So, to an extrovert drop-ins are great opportunities for socializing. To an introvert they are the height of rudeness. It’s all in the personality.

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rindlrad December 14, 2016 at 6:37 pm

I am so glad to read that someone else doesn’t always answer the door. I have a neighbor who gets very upset that we don’t always answer our door when she rings. She has informed me that NOT answering your door when someone rings is THE. RUDEST. THING. EVER. I used to explain …. I was on the phone with my Mom ….. We were in the middle of dinner ….. Personal business going on …. etc. Now when she complains (I KNOW you were home!) I just raise one eyebrow (like Mr. Spock), and say nothing. Drives her spare.

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barb December 14, 2016 at 12:50 pm

I should have said, for an overnight visit, which is worse. It was with an aunt.

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SianMcClay December 14, 2016 at 3:06 pm

I don’t know if it’s a personality thing. I get that part of it, but aren’t people busy? If someone just drops in and you’re writing or reading or knitting or watching a documentary or cooking or cleaning your stove, toilet or bathtub, or you mid-bottle of wine hiding from your dirty stove, toilet or bathtub…it’s just not a convenient time.
I don’t want to drop everything for someone else’s whim. I mean, sometimes I wouldn’t mind, but how does the dropper in know?
I consider myself an extrovert, but if I’m mid-scrubbing the floor behind the stove, I don’t want to stop to make you tea. I’ve got to get it done and I don’t want to converse with you while I’m scrubbing what is usually private filth from my kitchen floor.

That’s just me, but I’m sure a lot of extroverts are actually just busy sometimes.

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Dee December 14, 2016 at 8:23 pm

SianMcClay – You’re right, it isn’t always strictly black and white. Having said that, my mom was quite happy to have people drop in anytime (although she only cleaned the house during “non-waking” hours, so she was never caught in mid-scrub) and I’m quite happy having people drop in never. My house could be so clean the butler’s white glove couldn’t find anything to note but I still don’t want drop-ins. Ever.

My son doesn’t seem to mind any visitors, anytime, and his abode always looks like he hosted a zoo recently. And a tornado. Doesn’t bother him, though.

Ange December 15, 2016 at 12:30 am

In my home town that would just mean you make your own coffee and chat to keep the host amused while they tackle the stove! That said these days I don’t do pop ins as they seem a bit of a thing of the past. I find it a shame but I realise others feel differently.

Rebecca December 15, 2016 at 1:03 am

I am not into drop-by’s either. How hard it it to phone and say “I’m in the area; what are you up to?” But usually when surprise visitors ring the doorbell it’s just when I’ve finally sat down to a meal after rushing around doing whatever, and am about to taste the first delicious morsel. And since I am single, I haven’t made enough to share, and nor do I want to eat in front of them, even if THEY think it’s OK (“it’s ok, you go ahead and eat.”) But I don’t want them there while I am eating.

Rebecca December 15, 2016 at 1:09 am

I was at my dad’s place and we were watching some important finale of the World Cup (I forgot which one, but it was some game that everyone was talking about) when someone dropped by unannounced, sauntered in, sat down, and was talking through it. She wasn’t my friend, she was some acquaintance of my dad’s who was trying to get in tight with him and get her hands on his money (I know this for a fact, though that’s over now), and we both only gave her brief responses as we watched the game, which at that moment was at an exciting moment that could make or break it for our team. She then lectured us and told us it was rude to keep on watching the television when we had a guest.

NostalgicGal December 15, 2016 at 3:49 pm

The waltz-in was bad when I was self employed and worked at home. Just because I was home didn’t mean I wasn’t busy. I commuted to work by going downstairs to the studio/workshop. I had a hard time convincing everyone that I WAS AT WORK and I needed to work. Even my DH took some real training over that. I finally hauled him around as I did my daily work (sometimes errands to get raw goods and supplies, service a client, etc) and he found out I worked harder than he did. It wasn’t ‘goofing off’. No I couldn’t deal with someone just showing up to visit, I have one hundred kaleidoscope bodies to work on (batch processing of work) today as I have a show next week. You don’t want to listen to me swear for hours because mirror assembly is fiddly at best and a real nerve shredder to get it right… and I’ll put you in the dumpster for distracting me. How about Saturday, instead?

Lara December 17, 2016 at 10:41 pm

I know some people who once had a guy come for dinner, and he stayed for two weeks. They barely knew him, had met him like once, and he called and said he was going to be in town and could he come and see them? So they invited him for dinner, and when he showed up he had his luggage with him. They’re just incredibly hospitable people, unable to ask anyone to leave. Actually, she would have, but she knew her husband would be mortified if she did, so she didn’t say anything.

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AJ December 14, 2016 at 3:02 pm

I am from a small town where dropping in is common/expected, along with the attitude of ‘the house is the house’ and what ever state it is in is to be expected (ie: most houses here seem to be cluttered, approaching messy, but kept clean or you’ll drop in and end up helping wrap gifts near xmas with paper and ribbon nearly everywhere), I found it to be a bit of a culture shock when moving to a city just a few hours away, where the attitude seems to be that you need to keep your home in a show home standard for drop ins – it has taken me a decade to get a balance that I’m comfortable with, and the friends I have here have even complimented me on having such a comfortable place to visit.

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Amanda December 14, 2016 at 3:17 pm

I had a home in a rural Midwestern town where an open garage door signalled that it was OK to drop in unannounced.

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Anonymous December 14, 2016 at 9:07 pm

That’s not rudeness, though; it’s an accepted custom for the area. I’d consider it to be the homeowner equivalent of an open bedroom door in a university residence.

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GeenaG December 14, 2016 at 9:26 am

Shame and regret have their own inherent value. I’ve made some ghastly blunders out of ignorance. As I keep learning and growing I am determined to go forward and never make the same mistake twice. The first mistake is excusable, the second time you do the same thing, well you’re just not paying attention.

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Emmy December 14, 2016 at 9:29 am

I think this post will help those who have made etiquette mistakes be more gracious towards those who make mistakes, especially in the once in a life time wedding planning where they don’t know what is proper and may make a wrong decision. There is also a lot of bad information out there on wedding sites, from companies who want to sell, etc. that encourage brides do this.

Mine is a doozy. I wanted to invite people to the shower and have a smaller wedding. I am certainly glad I stumbled on this site before that. I was not 100% sure it was proper and I learned just how improper it was. I wanted to include people in the festivities without having a huge wedding, but of course inviting them to a shower would be a gift grab. Like the OP, I am a reasonably intelligent person and if I stopped to think, I would realize that this idea would benefit me. (I wound up just having a slightly bigger wedding and making some decisions about who to invite). When another friend suggested I do a dollar dance for some honeymoon money, I knew exactly what to say!

Becoming this close to a blunder helps me feel sympathy for other brides who make these types of errors instead of assuming the worst.

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Louise December 14, 2016 at 9:45 am

The hyperbole in this post is a bit OTT! Honestly, I just don’t think the whole registry thing is that much of a big deal in the UK.

As a Brit who also reads this site regularly, I personally feel that Americans are much more ‘into’ etiquette and social protocol than middle class/working class British folks (obviously the landed gentry have their own thing going on, but they can hardly be considered a representation of everyday etiquette).

I’ve never been to a wedding that didn’t have a registry included somewhere (either in the invite or on a website) – and good, because that’s nice and easy for me as a guest. If I don’t want to get a couple a present I won’t (unlikely), or if I can’t afford something off the registry I’ll just get something else. I really can’t see what the fuss is about – especially when in the States (as I understand) the bride has a party where literally the only point is to be ‘showered’ with gifts. That seems much much more ‘gift-grabby’ to me – but perhaps explains why wedding registries are more frowned upon over there, after all, that’s an awful lot of gift giving!

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Rebecca December 14, 2016 at 4:52 pm

My thoughts exactly. I’m from the UK, and have seen a few posts online regarding wedding etiquette where I’ve thought, “what’s the big deal?”. It’s only natural to have differences between countries.

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Louise December 15, 2016 at 5:57 am

Very true – a few other differences I’ve noticed (obviously there are always exceptions); in the UK a ‘cash bar’ (i.e. the guests paying for drinks during the reception) is normal, whereas I’ve seen people on this site get very passionate about how ‘rude’ they are. In the UK as a bridesmaid you would expect the bride to pay for your dress, whereas in the US I understand that it’s not considered rude to expect the bridesmaids to buy their own.

It’s interesting that we are similar in many ways, but still have vast differences when it comes to tradition 🙂

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LC December 14, 2016 at 7:07 pm

I’m from the US, and I don’t think people here are necessarily more into etiquette. Reading this website can certainly make it feel like that, but I’m guessing the majority of my friends and family have no idea it could be considered rude to put your registry info on the invitation or have a dollar dance. I also like seeing the registry on the invitation–it’s easiest when I don’t have to hunt for it.

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Louise December 15, 2016 at 5:18 am

I’m sure you’re right – as much as I enjoy reading this site, I do often find some of the ‘rules’ a bit finickity. That’s probably more to do with this being an etiquette site than an American site!

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Rebecca December 15, 2016 at 11:34 am

Yeah I’m the same. I find it easier if people include a registry, or ask for money. I’d rather by the couple something that they need.

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Rebecca December 15, 2016 at 11:34 am

*buy

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at work December 14, 2016 at 9:53 am

My spouse sees absolutely nothing wrong with, and indeed is in favor of, money dances, gift registries sent along with invitations, cash bars, making the wedding reception a pot-luck, and telling teenagers who are invited that they are there to babysit the young children. It’s like being caught in a rip-tide of bad etiquette. My confession: we had the dollar dance.

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Lerah99 December 14, 2016 at 10:18 am

When I was 19 I moved in with a friend who owned her own home and was in her late 30’s or early 40’s.

Looking back on my behavior, I am horrified.
– I never cleaned anything.
– I ate her food.
– I “borrowed” and never returned her clothes.
– I was often late paying my portion of the rent.
– I probably doubled her power bill with how cold I would set the AC in the summer.
– A million other acts of boorishness and self-centeredness small and large

At the time, I was very immature and justified my behavior with the fact we were friends.

Her food looked better than mine. And we were friends. Surely she wouldn’t mind if I cooked up some things.

I would put off doing laundry until I literally didn’t have anything clean to wear to work in the morning. We’re friends. Surely she wouldn’t mind me “borrowing” a blouse. Oh and look how cute it is on my. I’ll just wear it a couple more times before I return it.

What’s truly horrifying is I hadn’t treated my mom that way before I moved out of her house.
I knew I’d better scrub down that bathroom at least once a week, clean those dishes I’d dirtied before I went to bed, etc… So I was raised to pull my fair share of the weight.

But somehow moving out “on my own” = freedom = treating my friend like a live in maid (though I didn’t think of it that way at the time).

Looking back I am utterly horrified and gobsmacked that my friend never said a cross word to me about it.

She was generous, kind, supportive, and apparently gave me a ton for leeway for being 19 and having my head firmly lodged where the sun didn’t shine.

It was YEARS later when it struck me what a thoughtless and awful roommate I was.
I’ve been tempted to send her a letter of apology, but I’m also concerned that would be weird coming out of the blue 17 years later.

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Debbie December 14, 2016 at 1:36 pm

Do it, she will probably get a kick out of it!

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Elisabunny December 14, 2016 at 2:27 pm

Send the letter. If there is any lingering resentment over your past behavior, she will most likely be happy that you cleaned up your act and have the grace to apologize. And if she saw you as a generally good kid who just didn’t know any better yet, she will be pleased, and maybe amused, that her earlier faith in you has been justified.

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AJ December 14, 2016 at 3:06 pm

Send the letter – arrange to come stay – buy groceries – cook dinner- clean up!

Bonus points: leave a really pretty blouse behind for her. 😀

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Laura December 14, 2016 at 3:15 pm

Yes, you totally should send that letter! She deserves to hear about this.

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LC December 14, 2016 at 7:16 pm

Mine is along these lines too. When my sister and I were in high school (I think I was in tenth grade), our great aunt and uncle were gracious enough to host us in a week-long visit to New York. They took us to the city and out to eat every night. It was a lot of fun for us, and I’m sure it was pretty expensive for them. I don’t think we were terrible guests, but a lot of the time we preferred to watch TV (they had way more channels than we had at home) rather than help out with making lunch–things like that. We both feel awful that we were not more helpful to them during our time there, and now that we’re older we plan on buying them dinner next time we see them.

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Cat December 14, 2016 at 8:28 pm

It would be a lot more funny if you sent her a blouse and said, “By the way, here is the blouse that I borrowed seventeen years ago. Hope you haven’t needed it.”

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Tara December 14, 2016 at 10:20 am

I would NOT say that shame is a good thing. Shame is an extremely negative feeling that causes people to chip away at their own self worth.

Shame: a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior:

I would not say that this particular act is worth a painful feeling of humiliation and distress.

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Dee December 14, 2016 at 10:36 am

Anyone who claims to not have many regrettable moments is either lying or a robot. To be human is to be embarrassed by one’s self on a regular basis.

OP, if your parents didn’t raise an eyebrow at your registry then you were cast a bit adrift as far as being guided through your wedding plans. Older people are supposed to set the standards by which we behave. They should have emphasized, starting when you were very young, that you NEVER ask for gifts, wedding or birthday or whatever. So, some of the shame goes to them, too.

But this is all about a wedding industry shaping these events vs. family history and tradition. It seems that, with the exclusion of children from weddings, we disconnect them from the reality of the event, leaving a gaping hole for the wedding industry to fill. And that industry’s guide is greed. It’s the sole reason for registries in the first place. And for “paying for your plate”, the “perfect” dress, the outrageous diamond ring, the rehearsal dinner, the bachelorette parties, and so on.

Did you send thank-you cards to your guests, OP? I don’t take registry information lightly, it greatly influences what I buy a couple (as in, if you’re going to tell me what to buy you for a gift I will NOT be playing into your greed) and how I feel about the couple. No card = compounded greed. That pretty much kiboshes any warm feelings I may have had left, but a sincere “thank you” can really go a long way to repairing your reputation.

People don’t learn nearly as well from doing things right as from their mistakes. Children spend so much time being punished and feeling shame and it might seem harsh but it has to impact us a lot before we make a change. That you feel such shame is a good thing and you’ve used that shame to be a better person. Good for you.

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Owly December 14, 2016 at 1:23 pm

“They should have emphasized, starting when you were very young, that you NEVER ask for gifts, wedding or birthday or whatever. So, some of the shame goes to them, too.”

Not the OP, but I did make the same registry mistake. And yeah. My family always wants wish lists from everyone, and will harp on you about it until you send them. So I definitely got the opposite message – that lists and registries are helpful and that I’m making people’s lives harder if I don’t provide that info or if I make them track me down for it. =/

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Dee December 14, 2016 at 8:43 pm

Owly – We always ask for a wish list from each other in our immediate family. If we don’t get one, we buy really bad underwear for the person (like, black lace thong for my son, or Bugs Bunny boxers, etc.) and then make the best guess we can as to the other gifts. It’s too difficult to know exactly what they want unless they specify, so the lists are necessary from the viewpoint of a technologically challenged person.

But we don’t ask for gifts from each other. We supply lists when we are asked for them. There’s a big difference. When my husband and I married 30+ years ago we didn’t sign up for a registry because we couldn’t wrap our heads around how that was supposed to work – we would choose things we want people to buy us but it’s impolite to tell people to buy us a gift? Then how would we have come to the point where we were picking out gifts for others to buy us? Just the act of picking out those gifts means we are expecting gifts, and yet gift expectations could not be part of the equation, and it’s not as if we could tell people about the registry if we weren’t expecting gifts, but then what purpose would the registry serve? Would it be psychically teleported to a guest’s brain only if said guest had the thought that, gee, I wish I knew what they wanted? None of it made sense, which meant our inner etiquette meter was working just fine.

But my mom was bugged endlessly by a few guests for gift ideas and so, at their request, I put together a list of about 10 items we would like. No brand names or styles, just “waffle iron” and “hand blender”. And my mom only told guests our suggestions if they asked for them. And most guests bought gifts without asking for suggestions and it all worked out well, because our wedding was about us getting married, not about getting loot.

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Owly December 15, 2016 at 10:58 pm

Well, I guess for me, I didn’t see the difference. I didn’t think of a registry as demanding gifts, but just as providing a list like I’d always been asked to. I mean, I am really glad to hear that your family taught you all of these nuances, but mine didn’t 🙂 That’s why I’m here, to learn.

I also learned about thank you notes from reading Ann Landers and Dear Abby; my family never taught me. Point is, some of us really were quite on our own with this sort of thing.

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kingsrings December 14, 2016 at 11:10 am

Add me to the list of people who think you’re beating yourself up too much over this. Putting registry info and similar is a faux pas, but not a hugely offensive one. And so many people still think there’s nothing wrong with it.
My confession: Myself and two others crashed a wedding once. My friend had been invited (even though he didn’t know the bride who invited him very well), but he had never rsvp’d and brought two guests! I tried with no success to explain to him that this was wrong, but in the end, he was so pushy that there was nothing wrong with it and that I just had to go with him that I gave in and went with him. It was so awkward.

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Hanna December 14, 2016 at 11:37 am

But, OP, the real question is, 12 years ago if someone stepped in and told you that was tacky, would you believe them, or just think they were being incredibly rude to you about YOUR wedding? We definitely grow over the years!!

Unfortunately I think your scenario is the most accepted these days. For my wedding, we did not include a gift registry with the invitations and I got chewed up over it and laughed at by my future mother-in-law and sister-in-law about how “no, you’re supposed to include a gift registry” and “people want to bring actual presents, not cash” etc. Even though I told them that “I don’t want people to feel obligated to bring us anything,” it was all chalked up to me not knowing what you’re supposed to do at a proper wedding. *eye roll*

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Princess Buttercup December 14, 2016 at 11:40 am

Reminds me of when I was inviting people to my 16th birthday. I made the invite (party with church friends held at the church) and also made a gift ideas list. I thought I was being helpful because who knows what to buy a teen?! But mom refused to let me include the list. I put up a fuss because I saw it as being helpful. Later I learned the proper way to handle that sort of stuff.
When I got married I had learned the lesson but clearly others had not learned the proper way and not only didn’t ask parents for our registry but also got after us for not widely broadcasting our registry info. (I don’t like gift showers, I just find them greedy and silly but one relative made it a little clear that they thought it was odd that they didn’t hear anything about a bridal shower.)

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Lisa H. December 14, 2016 at 11:42 am

I asked someone when their baby was due. They weren’t pregnant.

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Iris December 14, 2016 at 2:53 pm

Hahaha. As someone who tends to carry any excess weight specifically on my tummy, I have seen more people pull this gaffe than any other! I would have thought now that I’m well in my forties and my youngest child is well in her teens I’d be safe, but no!

Luckily I can laugh about it, but sometimes people wonder why I am so vocal about the “Don’t ask a woman if she is pregnant” thing.

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Lerah99 December 14, 2016 at 3:34 pm

When I was about 7 years old, I used to play with a little girl who lived down the block.

One day she said “My mommy had a baby. She and my little brother will be home tomorrow.”
I replied “I didn’t know she was pregnant. I just thought she was fat like my mom.”

7 year old me was not exactly the epitome of grace and tact.
My mom finds it hilarious to remind me of this conversation at least 3 times a year.

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barb December 14, 2016 at 5:17 pm

There is a male comedian, I forget his name, who has a bit about how you should never assume a woman is pregnant until you are in the delivery room with her and the baby is crowning.

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at work December 15, 2016 at 6:51 am

This does make sense, you know.

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Princess Buttercup December 15, 2016 at 11:39 am

I often say “never ask a woman when she is due” not even if you see the head coming out because she still won’t be in the mood for the question! Lol

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NostalgicGal December 14, 2016 at 6:25 pm

I have some medical conditions that make my body hoard every spare calorie and dump it on my bay window. My arms and legs are ‘normal’ and the middle if I even think about it will balloon out to 8 months along. (yes I am under medical care and yes the diet is finally adjusted to something that as long as I am diligent, will keep weight trimmed to acceptable (65# less of me!!!!!) and keep some worse problems away). I have gone through over 30 years of ‘when are you due’ and people grabbing for my stomach. Some shows I did, I had a big button made up that said “Thank you, but I am not pregnant.” and in fine print “Do Not Touch”

Please, do NOT think you can touch a baby bump, EVER!!!!! The fascination and people that think they have the right to paw your stomach, and get mad when you object and/or remove their hands, is a LOT of people.

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babs December 17, 2016 at 11:16 am

One of our young associate pastors made this mistake when he was baptizing a woman by commenting in front of the whole congregation, “tonight we’re baptizing two!” She deadpanned, “I’m not pregnant.” Ouch! Cringe-worthy moment for him and a lesson he learned for the rest of his pastoral life!

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Anna December 14, 2016 at 11:42 am

When I was in my early 20s I made my own faux-pas, especially regarding roommate behavior–from leaving dirty plates and cups around, to not asking permission of my roommates before inviting over guests. I think we all make mistakes around that age–certainly my roommates made their own blunders! I don’t know of one person in their 30s who does not look back on moments of their 20s–especially the early 20s–and cringe a little bit.

That said, more than half of the weddings I attended during that time period did the same thing (or worse!!) in regards to gift-grabbing. From including registry info with the invites to not sending any thank-you notes to ACTUALLY DEMANDING SPECIFIC GIFTS FROM THEIR GUESTS! (that was really a doozy).

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Pat December 14, 2016 at 12:16 pm

I like registries because they make gift giving easier on me – however, I don’t feel compelled to buy something from the registry and I think that going beyond that in “suggesting” appropriate gifts is too much. I’ve also been to many showers that were given by a relative and I’ve never thought twice about it. So, I think the “no registry” and “no relatives hosting showers” rules are mostly obsolete. That being said, I’ve done many cringe worthy things over the years and hopefully I’ve learned as I’ve gained more experience. I try to give other people the benefit of the doubt when they make a mistake.

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LadyXaviara December 14, 2016 at 12:17 pm

I’m the worst for thank you cards. I got mine out a year to the day after my wedding…. And it took me about 10 months to send out thank you cards for my baby shower. I’m a very absent minded person, and I always have them printed and set aside (i like to put a personalized picture from the event of the recipient and my family together). All they need is my personalized note. Then they sit there. And I’m working and studying and living my life and every once in awhile I will think “I need to do those cards!” and then I immediately forget.

I always am so ashamed of myself and think I will do better next time… But for now I’m in e-hell.

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Pat December 14, 2016 at 3:10 pm

At least you send them eventually.

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Heather December 15, 2016 at 10:18 am

I have never received a thank-you note for a wedding or baby gift. Ever. I’m 30. I got a thank-you text once…at least they acknowledged it. I think my generation is the first that wasn’t taught to say thank you.

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NostalgicGal December 15, 2016 at 4:24 pm

The local post office keeps a sucker bowl for whoever wants and needs one. A few years ago I had a Halloween be aborted and had a lot of Halloween candy so I gifted the bank (candy bowl) and the particular suckers the postoffice stocked, I gave them two bags. The postmistress took the time to write me an actual thank you, and mailed it, to me. First one I’d received in years for anything. Unexpected and very nice of her to do so.

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Eliza December 14, 2016 at 12:18 pm

My nephew got married earlier this year. His bride was pretty young, 23 I think and they did everything that you aren’t supposed to do. I cringed through the whole thing but didn’t say anything because it wasn’t my place. But I think the thing is that the bridal magazines and websites tell these kids that this is the way it is done and they don’t know any better. If their parents don’t know any better or don’t tell them they have no way of knowing until they learn it on the streets.

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LadyV December 14, 2016 at 12:40 pm

I have every sympathy for people that make etiquette gaffes and learn from them, even if the regret is somewhat delayed. The ones I have trouble with are people that commit horrendous faux pas, and see nothing wrong with their actions. (I’m talking to you, every bride that has ever said “the cost of your gift must cover the cost of your plate”.)

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JD December 14, 2016 at 12:44 pm

OP, I appreciate the fact that you are willing to expose your mistakes, and that you’ve used your mistakes to learn!
At my first wedding (which didn’t last a year — my husband decided he preferred men, a surprise to me.) I was fortunate both to have my mother tell me not to invite anyone to my shower that wasn’t invited to the wedding, and that the small-town community tradition was for simple weddings — no dinner, no dancing, and definitely no bar at our Methodist church parish hall. So, no dollar dances, no cash bars, no first and second tier guests. There was no tradition of registering for anything besides china, and maybe a toaster and blender, and people were used to asking the families about the registries, so it never occurred to any of us to put the registry in an invitation. The opportunity to make a greedy bride out of myself was quite limited. So what did I do that I still feel badly about? I asked a girl I met at college to keep my guest book; she wasn’t engaged or in a steady relationship, so she came alone, a three-hour drive each way to an unfamiliar town, to a wedding full of people she’d never met, and I only spent maybe 3 minutes with her at the reception and never sent her a thank you or gave her a gift. I didn’t go back to college, as we moved away shortly after that, so I never saw her again; I knew I wouldn’t see her but never sent so much as a word. What was I thinking? Linda, wherever you are, I’m sorry!

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Liz December 14, 2016 at 1:06 pm

Mine happened almost 30 years ago, when I flew to the west coast for the wedding of a close friend from college. We had just graduated the previous spring, so really none of us had much money. My parents, if I recall, bought my plane ticket, because otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to go. the bride was from near where I lived; her FH lived where they were getting married.

I honestly don’t recall what the lodging arrangements were, except the day I arrived, i was going to stay with 2 other friends, in their hotel. We did this all the time in college; got a room and crammed as many in as you could. No really, but almost. I don’t know if we were just going to wing it or what, but I was there 3 nights total and don’t recall what we had planned to do for the other two.

So I fly in, and my friend who I was staying with said “oh we’re going to stay at bride’s DH’s parent’s house tomorrow and until we leave.” Who, while they had a large house, had lots of family coming for the wedding who were also apparently staying with them. Ok great. Arrangements made.

Well, it was awkward, and i ended up sleeping on the LR floor, with blankets and a pillow. Which was fine, but it was also NYE, and i couldn’t go to bed until everyone else did! I was exhausted and tried my best to stay awake. And my two friends who were there too? they went out! So here I am with the groom’s family, who i don’t know, adn not being able to go to bed.

Next day we all get up, eat, etc. and wait for teh HC to come open gifts.My other friends had arranged to fly home earlier, and I decided I was not going to stay there another night, so i was able to use my mom’s credit card (with permission) and book a room at the hotel we had stayed in before.

To this day I don’t know if my other friend asked the bride if we could stay at her future inlaws, if the bride offered it up to us, or if her future in-laws did. All I know is they were so very gracious despite the fact we may have invited ourselves (well my friends anyway) to stay, and they felt they couldn’t say no.

BTW: I was so much happier in my hotel room, alone, that night. First time I had ever stayed in a hotel by myself. I was so much happier.

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Owly December 14, 2016 at 1:13 pm

The registry thing – including it with the invitations – that was me, too. My mom had advised me to include the registry info in the envelope but on a separate card, and I just didn’t question it. And I had seen other people do it that way, and had appreciated having the info right there instead of having to hunt it down. So I figured other people would, too. Oops.

(And I did include a bit about gifts not being necessary, because I really didn’t want people to feel obligated. But I do get, now, that it’s still going to come across as demanding/greedy anyway. =/)

At least I sent out my thank you cards right away?

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NicoleK December 14, 2016 at 1:47 pm

Yeah it was kinda rude. But in the grand scheme of things, whatever.

Your guests had one of two reactions:

1) An eyeroll at your rudeness before they went on with their lives
2) “Oh good, we don’t have to put any thought into getting their gift, we will donate 50 quid to their honeymoon, saves me having to actually shop.”

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Miss-E December 15, 2016 at 11:40 am

I was thinking the same thing. I personally don’t find it to be that big of a deal but I get why it bothers some people. Still, it doesn’t seem like the sort of thing that would make people clutch their pearls and go running for the smelling salts…

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Maureen December 14, 2016 at 3:49 pm

Cringe-worthy moment for me: This happened about 2 decades ago and I still shudder. A business associate was talking about a house fire she had had. They all got out safe, pets included, but she lost an original Robert Bateman painting. Brain was mulling this as mouth said, ”oh well, at least it wasn’t by a GOOD artist.”

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Dee December 14, 2016 at 8:52 pm

What?!? You don’t like Bateman?!? We think his art’s fabulous. Haven’t met him but friends know him and tell us he is also very nice. So, we are quite biased here. But it just shows that people’s fondness of art is very subjective.

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Maureen December 16, 2016 at 2:32 pm

He’s skilled, sure, but it’s not something I would hang on my wall. *hangs head*

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Mizz Etiquette December 14, 2016 at 5:53 pm

I’m guilty of having the money dance and a cash bar at my first wedding. Ugh. I chalk it up to being young and naive.

However, my ex-in laws made many more blunders than that so…

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lkb December 14, 2016 at 6:51 pm

Undoubtedly, we all make mistakes, and will do so until the day we die.

Also, it seems to me that a lot depends on local tradition and custom. In our area (Great Lakes region, US), it is more the norm than not to include registry information within the wedding invitation. Also, it is customary for bridesmaids (which usually includes sisters of the HC) to host showers even though it is technically a faux pas for family to host them.

If I had to do it all again, I wouldn’t have done either of those things, but I did and no real harm done as far as I can tell.

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sandisadie December 14, 2016 at 7:56 pm

Years ago my youngest sister had just had her basement rehabbed into a small apartment type unit. The first time I visited after it was finished she very excitedly took me down and asked me what I thought. I looked around and then, without thinking said that it smelled like a 3rd rate motel. (It smelled moldy). Well, no matter how much I apologized it was a long time before out relationship got back to normal. I’ve learned to be more tactful since then.

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Cat December 14, 2016 at 8:34 pm

I recall getting a wedding invitation from a friend I had had in junior high. It was only for myself, but I returned the RSVP for two, my mother and me.
It didn’t occur to me that I was being rude. I was not allowed to drive or to go anywhere without my mother. She had to come to every wedding to which I was invited or I could not go.
I got a phone call from my friend’s mother pointing out that my mother was not invited to the reception. I asked if we could both just come to the wedding and not attend the reception. That is what we did.
Now I realize I should have simply declined and explained to my friend about the rules I had to live under until I was twenty-one.

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Just4Kicks December 14, 2016 at 9:45 pm

Okay….I’ll play too.

I once (ONCE!) asked a woman when she was due and if she knew the gender.
You guessed it…..NOT pregnant!
I still feel my face getting red, I couldn’t believe I was so incredibly stupid to ask, but the look on this poor ladies face makes me so ashamed of myself for hurting this nice lady’s feelings.

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Mags December 15, 2016 at 11:08 am

Someone did that to me once, and when I said I wasn’t pregnant, instead of accepting it and moving on, she peered at me intensely, screwed up her face, and said, “Are you sure?”

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NostalgicGal December 15, 2016 at 4:30 pm

“I had a hysterectomy (blank) years ago, yes I’m sure.” I’ve had this reaction because of the bay window that’s more or less permanent unless I eat carefully to pry the fat deposits off. (rest of me is normal-skinny, the middle is big and pot gut). I have no reproductive genetic material nor plumbing to carry a baby since 1993. Nope, not preggers.

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Just4Kicks December 15, 2016 at 5:44 pm

Karma kicked me squarely in the butt when I worked at Target, and ran into someone I hadn’t seen for 50 pounds or so.
“OH MY GOSH!!! Another baby on the way, congrats!!!”
Nope. Just put on weight.
She was mortified and actually teared up.
I hugged her and told her it REALLY was ok, I’m not upset.

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Rebecca December 15, 2016 at 12:50 am

Oh, great topic. When I was a teenager I got one of my first babysitting gigs, through a friend. I had gone with friends before to help THEM babysit (with the parents’ permission) and the rule always seemed to be, “Help yourself to anything you want to eat.” So I assumed this was the general rule of all babysitting jobs.

This job, I don’t think the parents mentioned anything about my being able to help myself to food. Once they left, I started to have a look through the kitchen cupboards and I found some home made chocolate chip cookies in an opaque jar. They weren’t even really in a really obvious place either – they were somewhere you’d have to really be looking to find. I had one, and it was so delicious. I had another. And then I couldn’t control myself. I ate the whole jar. Then I kind of felt bad and maybe hoped they just wouldn’t notice.

And now, years later, I am mortified – how did I remotely think that was OK? And it wasn’t that I was brought up that way – I am pretty sure my mother would have been mortified at my routing through cupboards and devouring food that hadn’t been offered. They never asked me to babysit again.

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Just4Kicks December 15, 2016 at 9:06 am

Wait until your son’s bring home half of the baseball team in the summer for a bonfire and I announce loudly before going to bed “Hey guys! Have fun…And oh, yeah I know EXACTLY how many cans of beer dad has in the fridge!”

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NostalgicGal December 15, 2016 at 4:32 pm

Love It. Just Love It.

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Marozia December 15, 2016 at 2:10 am

At least, OP, you didn’t ask for the receipts for the gifts, so you could return them for cash.
Epitome of tackiness!

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Jai December 15, 2016 at 4:46 am

Mine is almost identical to the one in the original submission – except without the prices. It was 10 years ago, and we’d recently bought our first house. We weren’t going to send a gift list but several people asked for one and my mother (usually very knowledgeable about etiquette matters), suggested we send one to everyone invited (cringe). I mentioned we’d really like money to furnish our new home, and mum thought that was a great idea! I looked at some wedding etiquette sites and several suggested ways of asking for money so I thought it was acceptable. We mentioned something about ‘not wanting gifts, just your company… but if you wanted to, we’d appreciate money or vouchers for furniture’. We even included a smaltzy little poem!

It was only after discovering this site a couple of years later that I realized what a dire faux pas I’d made. I was then reminded of it when my cousin got married a few months ago, and did exactly the same thing! I still have a little cringe when I think of it, but now I know better…

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Miss-E December 15, 2016 at 11:37 am

It’s interesting reading these responses. Especially since so many of these things seem to happen not because people are rude or greedy but simply because we all come from different customs and backgrounds or because they are simply unaware that it is a gaffe. A lot of people think it’s perfectly fine to drop in on people unexpectedly because they come from places where that is accepted. And people are used to doing money dances because it’s a cultural thing. I think what’s important to glean from this is that we shouldn’t condemn people immediately to Ehell and write them out of our lives. Instead we should communicate, tell you MIL she can’t just drop by, ask your friend about the money dance, etc, this way you can teach someone and not lose a friend.

Of course, some of those people might just be rude and greedy and those people you can feel free to write off!

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Pat December 19, 2016 at 12:43 pm

I agree – you have to look at the context. If something is perfectly customary and accepted in a certain ethnic or regional group and it’s done within that group, it’s not rude.

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Maria December 15, 2016 at 11:40 am

Could someone explain what a money dance is? I’ve never even heard of that until this site. I also wonder what made the OP realize the error of her ways, since it seems no one said anything at the time. It just wouldn’t occur to me to place gift information in an invitation, even if I wasn’t aware that it was considered specifically rude.

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Just4Kicks December 15, 2016 at 5:46 pm

A money dance is when the dj clears the dance floor except for the bride and groom.
The guests line up to dance with either or both, but they have to pay to do so.

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Lanes December 15, 2016 at 5:18 pm

I had a “wishing well” at my wedding – don’t bring me presents, bring me money!! Ick.
Oh, and I didn’t send thank-you cards, just to put a cherry on THAT shameful cake.

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Jennifer March 19, 2017 at 8:41 pm

I got married on memorial day weekend. My family is very patriotic and so I thought it would be neat to have a money tree to raise funds for the wounded warrior project. After a prayer and a moment of silence the money tree was brought out. It went over really well and my guests didn’t seem to be offended or put out. In hindsight, however, I realize I should never have asked my guests for money, even if my intentions were good and it was for a good cause.

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