Etiquette Rules Even Experts Don’t Follow Anymore

According to etiquette expert Peggy Post, times change, but manners, which she defines as a ‘sensitive awareness of the feelings of others,’ remain constant. ‘If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter which fork you use.’

The rules of etiquette are there to help smooth social interactions, but they aren’t intended to take the place of ‘manners.’ That’s why etiquette rules that cease serving smooth social interactions eventually cease to exist. Read on for more!

A man must stand to greet a woman

It wasn’t all that long ago that it was proper etiquette for a man to stand when greeting a woman entering the room. But nowadays, standing up is proper etiquette whenever anyone greets anyone. The body language of standing sends a signal to the person you’re greeting that you’re eager to greet that person, etiquette expert, Maralee McKee explains. Consider it ‘rising to the occasion,’ whatever your gender.

Ladies are served first

Traditional etiquette holds that at a seated meal, women are served first, going clockwise around the table. The men are then served, also going clockwise. But as you may or may not have noticed, the restaurant industry is quietly redefining the etiquette surrounding who gets served first to a more gender-neutral and overall efficient model, reports Eater, and that will likely affect the order of service in private homes as well as in restaurants.

Don’t shake a woman’s hand unless she offers

It used to be that ‘a man has no right to take a lady’s hand until it is offered,’ as was noted in one Victorian-age guide to etiquette. And it wasn’t all that long ago that people still followed this rule. In fact as recently as 2000, in GQ’s guide to handshake etiquette, the rule is clearly stated: ‘What’s proper is for the woman to offer her hand first.’

This is no longer the case. ‘Today, a man does not need to wait for a woman to offer her hand before he extends his. Whether you are a man or a woman, always remember to shake hands,’ advises Emily Post.

Wedding gifts should be based on the host’s price per head

At one time, many people were under the impression that wedding gifts should match the host’s cost per plate at the reception. If this was ever actually proper (which wedding planning site, The Knot, calls into question), it no longer applies.

As The Knot points out, using the cost per plate as a guide requires guests to ask nosy questions of the host. A current and more sensible rule of thumb is: give a gift in the price range that makes sense for your budget as gift-giver.

You have a year to send a wedding gift

It used to be that the rules of etiquette permitted you to wait a full year after attending a wedding to send a wedding gift to the ‘newlyweds.’ And why that was isn’t even clear to etiquette experts, like Thomas Farley who wondered aloud on the Today Show whether the idea was to wait to see if the couple made it through the first year of marriage. Nowadays, it’s proper to send a wedding gift within a month (or sooner!) after the wedding.



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