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Timeless Etiquette

LDS Living staff - April 19, 2011

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*Take our etiquette poll here.

In conjunction with the March/April LDS Living article “Modern Manners,” we have come up with a few classic situations where etiquette should always be considered.

Some social graces do not diminish with time. These are a few things to remember whenever you’re with company.

Pregnancy Etiquette

Anyone who has been pregnant or has been in the company of pregnant women has seen that many typical social boundaries are put on hold. Here are some of the big no-nos when it comes to being around that “glowing” woman.

Belly Touching
The belly is off limits. This doesn’t bother some women as much as it bothers others, but uninvited touching is certainly inappropriate, especially for strangers. Ask before you touch. If you are the mother-to-be who deals with this problem, saying “I’m sorry; I’m uncomfortable with people touching my bump,” is appropriate for telling strangers to get away. Fending off friends is a little harder. Your best bet is probably to have your husband and best friend spread the word that you’d like to keep your belly to yourself.

Obnoxious Questions
“Should you really be eating that (fried chicken, donut, hamburger)?” “How much weight have you gained?” “Did you use fertility drugs?” And the worst one of all: “Was it planned?” It is never appropriate to ask whether or not the baby was planned, whether it be friends or family. If the mother wants to tell you it was a surprise, then that’s fine. Otherwise, keep your wonderings to yourself. As for the other questions, keep in mind that you would (hopefully) never ask an un-pregnant woman how much weight she has gained, or tell her what she should be eating.

By Any Other Name
When you attend a wedding, you always tell the bride how beautiful she looks, no matter how hideous you think the dress is. That’s the dress that made her feel like a princess, and it’s not your place to tell her differently. The same goes with a baby’s name. The name two parents choose is the name they want for the beautiful new member of their family, and they think it’s perfect. Unless you’re close with the couple and feel a responsibility to bring up a problem you think they may not have considered, keep your comments light and neutral.

Pregnancy and Labor Horror Stories
First-time moms are already nervous about their pregnancy, so it doesn’t help when you start telling about how your sister had to be on bed rest for the last two months and her baby still came 8 weeks early, or how your neighbor had to give birth on the side of the highway. When your friend or relative gets pregnant, just give her a big smile and say how happy you are for her and how you are sure everything is going to be great!

Social Gatherings

Here are some tips to take the focus away from your own insecurities and keep it on the other guests.

Introducing Yourself
You’ve wanted to meet a certain person for a while, and to your surprise, he or she shows up at a dinner you’re attending! The best way to make a good impression, says our expert, is to ask the person questions. “Say your name and how you got involved in the dinner, then start asking questions,” says Anna King, who teaches business etiquette at Brigham Young University. “It doesn’t matter if people want to get to know you; it’s enough that you want to know them. That’s enough to build a relationship.”

Extracting Yourself
If you find yourself talking to a not-so-interesting someone at a party, you don’t have to be stuck forever. “You have a few options,” says King. “One is to introduce them to someone else.” 

Say, “It’s been a pleasure talking to you. I’d like to introduce you to so-and-so; you have this in common.” Another option is to excuse yourself politely to speak with someone else. King says you can say, “I see that this person is available, and I’ve been meaning to talk to them. Please excuse me.” Most of all, remember to be gracious and consider the feelings of your companion.
 

Weddings

There are more opinions than there are guests when it comes to weddings, and navigating the treacherous rules of wedding etiquette can be difficult or downright impossible when so many emotions and people are involved. Whether you are keeping it small and intimate, or inviting the stake, here is Mormon Wedding etiquette to help keep offense at bay and celebrators at play!

To Line or Note to Line
The most dreaded part of a wedding reception is not a secret. Whether you are a bridesmaid, bride, mother-in-law, or guest, the line can be an awkward and tiring experience for all. Is it needed? Consensus and etiquette emphatically state yes: a line is a necessary evil, but its length and duration is negotiable.

Formal weddings demand a line consisting of (in order) mother of the bride, mother of the groom, bride, groom, maid of honor, and lastly bridesmaids. Traditionally, the groom is the sole male in the line, and the fathers of the happy couple mingle nearby.

However, most Mormon weddings do not call for such a receiving troupe, and many instead opt for a small reception line—also appropriate—consisting of the bride, the groom, and the parents of each. This allows the couple to greet and thank each individual, who otherwise may not have an opportunity to greet the couple. It is a courtesy, but it is appropriate to create the line in such a way that not all guests are forced to speak with the parents and other bridal party members. The line also ensures that more than just a few people take up the couple’s time. It is also appropriate to have a line for only a portion of the reception. Mention so in the invitation.

If you decide to forego the receiving line, you must still greet your guests. However, be warned! You are very likely to find your own fun and enjoyment cut down by all the required table-hopping.

Receptions and Invitations
Who to invite? Since the ceremony itself is small and intimate, many Mormon weddings have a much larger reception. There are many appropriate ways to have a reception and the decision is, as all others are, up to the couple and the budget.

If there is no desire for a large, open-house, invite-the-ward reception, it is absolutely appropriate to limit the guests to family and close friends. The Mormon culture is very concerned with community, almost to the point of a “the more the merrier” mindset, but your wedding is not public domain. Some may choose to be offended at a lack of invitation, but all should understand the wishes (and budget) of the bride and groom.

If the couple is interested in sharing their special day with acquaintances, ward members, etc., a large open-house (with a receiving line, of course) is ideal. When sending out invitations, keep the lists to people you know—those who come to mind when you sit down to make a list. As fun as it is to have a big group and impressive present-pile, it is better to spend more time with people you care about.

Who from the family is invited? Be sure to specify in your invitation the type of reception you will be having and who is invited. If an invited individual may bring another guest or their family, address the envelope accordingly.

Generally, if you are not invited, do not go. Pay attention to the invitation and reception venue in order to stay within the bounds of etiquette. For example, if the event is catered or requests an RSVP, it is not appropriate to bring another guest. However, there is more lee-way when it comes to open house events. If you are not sure, it is best to contact the host.

Food
Although most receptions provide more than just wedding cake, it is inappropriate to come starving and planning to eat enough for today and tomorrow! Be aware of the food available and be prepared to skip the seconds. 

For the happy couple: if a cake is all your budget can afford, that is perfectly fine. Etiquette does not demand a full spread. Guests do not need bribery to celebrate your wedding. 

Gifting
Wedding etiquette states that guests have up to one year after the wedding to send a gift, but prompt wedding gifts are preferable (within three months). However, in the practical world, no gift is ever too late!

Consider the feelings of non-LDS friends and family members
Those who are not LDS will be disappointed to know they are not able to attend the temple marriage ceremony. If the individual is part of the wedding party, it is appropriate to invite them to the temple grounds to take part in pre- and post-ceremony pictures and celebration. Be sure there is an LDS family member or friend to stay with the individual to help them feel included and to answer any questions they may have. When close family members are not invited into the temple, keep the temple party as intimate as possible. (It may be more a slap in the face to a mother if one of her son’s friends is attending and she can’t.)

A ring ceremony is also appropriate and can help include loved ones. However, a full, public wedding-type ceremony in conjunction with a temple ceremony is not appropriate. Consult your bishop for ring ceremony guidelines.

© LDS Living 2011.
Comments 11 comments

traveler said...

07:27 AM
on Apr 19, 2011

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I was raised in the 'old style' culture where one never ever asked another what they did for a living,ever. It is rude and impolite and has the potential to put a person recieving the question in an awkward position. The same went for where one lived and income. Also, I was taught to never go and arbitrarily introduce myself to someone, again forward and rude. This is especially true in meeting the opposite sex. In both cases, in proper society, you ask a third person to make the introductions or secure the information you desire. I was taught that this was showing respect and consideration for the other individual.

flora said...

07:51 AM
on Apr 19, 2011

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It is interesting what happens when we have a melting pot of cultures. We need something to set a standard - this is a good start. Just as in some cultures it is appropriate to nurse openly and in other cultures it is considered very taboo and inmodest, I can't imagine someone being so forward as to touch the bump of a pregnant woman. So, I would assume that those that are comfortable with this have been taught a different cultural guideline. I often teach my friends from other cultures what is "comfortable" in our culture in the United States. In addition, I have found that this culture can be different just from one household to the next. I appreciate your guidelines to tell someone when you are uncomfortable with something....thank you.

fayeshirra said...

08:11 AM
on Apr 19, 2011

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Advice could be given for those sitting on the stand ready to speak at a Sacrament Meeting. Last Sunday a young woman sat there & after counting 22 huge yawns I gave up counting. All with her mouth open so wide you could drive a truck through. You'd think she could have at least covered her mouth. She even leaned back several times like she was stretching at home. I'm sure everyone else in the congregation was distracted as we were, & it was such bad manners we were disgusted. Sister Faye Shirra, Kaysville 17th Ward.

dena.mansfield said...

09:13 AM
on Apr 19, 2011

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This is great advice. Thanks for the article. I thought I was the only one who disliked people touching my belly. It made me feel fatter than I already was. :) It seems strange to me that some folks don't know these things but I agree with the previous comment that in our 'melting pot' society, there are lots of different cultures blended into one. We need to remember what the general authorities have said about allowing ourselves to be offended. We need to realize that things aren't always what they seem and intentions can be misinterpreted.

bronwen said...

10:27 AM
on Apr 19, 2011

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I feel the need to respond to the comment comparing nursing in public with touching a pregnant womans stomach and it being a cultural situation depending on the area. Some cultural and etticate dictums are just wrong. The taboo against breastfeeding in public is one of those. A baby has a right to eat and a mother has a right to feed him without having to remove herself from the company of others. Breastfeeding was considered beautiful and common place by our pioneer ancestors. Many Mormon art work portrays breastfeeding as a part of life of a mother and child- in front of everyone. It is the bottle- feeding culture that stole this precious resourse and attitude from breastfeeding mothers. Please, if you or someone else is uncomfortable being around a nursing mother, try pushing past it and laud her as a pioneer in doing what is right for her baby and society by doing her part to make nursing the cultural norm.

redbetty said...

10:50 AM
on Apr 19, 2011

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I agree--manners matter. I do think it is intersting, however, that there appears to be different rules for wedding etiquette in Utah (or maybe the West). Since moving West I have been shocked by all of the couples that include cards about where they are registered (or even worse print that information directly on the invitation). This is considered profoundly rude in much of the U.S. to expect that the invited guest will buy a gift. I do not mind being directed to a wedding blog and then finding the information there.

missadventure said...

02:44 PM
on Apr 19, 2011

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I second redbetty's comments. Please do an article about registered at cards or printing where the couple is registered on their announcements. It drives me crazy There are not different etiquette rules for Utah. It is poor form to invite someone to your party and then tell them where to buy you a present. The registry is supposed to be the best kept secret, passed on when someone other than the bride is asked. Emily Post says that if the bride is asked where she is registered, she is supposed to respond, " I don't quite remember, my maid of honor directed me to register a couple of places, but all I can think about is that I hope the people we have invite will come and enjoy all that we have planned for them." I think so many brides and astonishingly their mothers breach this etiquette rule because the stores where they register at give them the cards, and they think they should put them somewhere. Brides, please do not take your etiquette lessons from Bed Bath and Beyond or Target.

zataar said...

09:13 PM
on Apr 19, 2011

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What I think is bad manners is sister faye shirra, above, listing her name and ward so those who may know her or her ward, can know exactly who the young woman is which she is complaining about in her post. Not nice!:(

maryp said...

09:14 AM
on Apr 20, 2011

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This is in defence of my friend, Faye Shirra, who wrote a comment above not realizing that it would be published. Her computer savy is not quite what she would like it to be. But her observations were correct and I think our youth need a LOT of etiquette education.

artvandalay said...

11:31 AM
on Apr 28, 2011

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I learned some helpful tips from this article. I have been a belly bump toucher before. I am kind of embarrassed now.

lrbalbbatchelor@msn.com said...

04:19 PM
on May 20, 2011

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Good manners never go out of style anytime or anywhere. It is merely being considerate of others and their thoughts and feeling. In todays world it appears that most of the population has either forgotten or has never been taught something of the "Golden Rule" which goes a very long way in getting along with our fellow human beings. As the saying goes "One never knows what is going on in the other person's life" You can make a difference in their day for good or make it worse for them. Be an Encourager not a Discourager!
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