Do You Know the Etiquette for These Common Social Events?

By: Torrance Grey
Image: Tom Merton/OJO Images/gettyimages

About This Quiz

Etiquette: It sounds like an old-fashioned word, but in fact, it's in frequent use to this day ... largely because it's changing so fast in a world of electronic devices and social media, when relationships can be born and grow to an age of weeks or months without the people involved ever meeting face-to-face. 

However, we also still live in a world with plenty of in-person meetings: Dates, weddings, funerals and job interviews, for example. For these situations, some of the old-school rules still apply, though others have changed. This is especially true of weddings, With same-sex marriage now legal and common, words like "bride" and "groom" are sometimes irrelevant. Ideas about what the bride's family pays for, versus the groom's family, are likewise thrown into chaos. Besides, with couples dating longer and marrying later, the whole idea of parents picking up the tab for wedding festivities seems outdated, as many soon-to-be-married couples are earning generous incomes themselves. Likewise, the idea of a wedding registry allowing the guests to outfit a young couple with everything they'll need for a new home -- well, that doesn't make a lot of sense either. Often both parties in the wedding will have bought everything they need around the house years ago!

See how confusing all this can be? That's why we've created this quiz on modern etiquette, so you can see how your ideas about manners and social conduct measure up. Good luck!

Weddings: Congratulations, bride-to-be, he proposed! Why shouldn't you immediately share the news on social media?

Letting your immediate family find out from Facebook suggests that they're no more important than your other 417 "friends," like the girl from third grade you'd no longer recognize on the street. Tell them face-to-face, or in a phone call if you live far apart.

Church: Which of these is NOT appropriate to wear to a service?

Back in the day, Sunday morning was an opportunity for young women to put on their nicest clothes, take care with their hair and maybe catch the attention of the young men who were discreetly scoping them out. This was a well-known, if not openly admitted, side benefit of church attendance. Nowadays, though, standards in women's clothes have become much looser, and what's considered sexy, glance-catching clothing probably shouldn't be worn to church.

Engagements: When is it important to send a "save the date" card?

"Save the date" cards might at first seem like an unnecessary money-maker for the wedding-planning industry. But if you're planning a wedding in the Florida Keys during peak tourist season, it's useful to let people know well in advance that they've got de facto travel plans for mid-June, and they'll need to ask for time off from work, or book a pet-sitter, in plenty of time.

Weddings: If you're asked to leave your devices at the door, you're at a/an ______ wedding.

Some couples are opting for a wedding without any phones, so guests will be present and in the moment. We suspect this also allows the bride and groom to "curate" photos of the event, without a number of unflattering candid shots filtering out on social media before they share the ones their photographer took.

First dates: Among hetero couples, who should pay?

Let common sense be your guide here. If you're a woman and you think a man is going to want to pay the whole check, don't order anything expensive. If you're a man, don't insist on paying the check in hopes of obligating a woman into a second date, a kiss, or more. And so on.

The dog park: Which of these is it NOT necessary to do there?

The point of the dog park is that dogs DON'T have to be on leash; they can run free. The other three items, though, are expected of owners.

Weddings: What's the longest you should wait before sending thank-you notes for gifts?

It used to be a rule of thumb that the couple had a year, but increasingly that's frowned on. Doing the thank-you notes promptly makes it easier to add a personal touch, like remembering something your friend said or did at the wedding. Plus, it keeps the task of writing notes from hanging over your head.

Funerals: Which of these is it not appropriate to wear?

Black and other dark colors are acceptable, in conservative cuts. There are cultures in which white is the color of mourning, but generally, in the west, it is inappropriately reminiscent of weddings and summer parties.

Weddings: Is it still appropriate to throw rice after a wedding ceremony?

Not everyone does this anymore, but it's by no means in poor taste. It represents a wish for fertility or prosperity for the new couple, and is done in some fashion around the world. In Italy, for example, guests throw small sweets.

Online dating: How long should you give someone to respond to a first message?

If you've only read someone's profile, it's easy to assume their schedule corresponds with yours, and get anxious or insulted if they haven't responded in eight hours' time. But it's possible they were at work, or sleeping. Don't text ??? or "Hello?" if you don't hear back promptly -- it's just not attractive.

First dates: What should stay out of view on the date?

Checking your phone during a date tells the other person that your attention is divided; it's just not attractive. About the other choices: You probably shouldn't date anyone if you're afraid of them finding out where you live (a little caution is OK, but don't be paranoid). And if you're wearing jewelry an ex gave you on a first date with someone else, we're diagnosing unfinished business.

Online dating: Is it OK simply not to respond to a first message if you're not interested?

This might sound strange to Boomers or Gen-Xers who got started in the world of offline dating, but in the 21st century this is considered an acceptable way to handle an unwanted contact. When you think about it, is it any less hurtful than a message in the vein of "Sorry, I *am* looking for dates, but you in particular just don't interest me"?

Online dating: After the first in-person date, how long should you wait before texting/messaging?

While waiting two days was previously an acceptable way of playing hard to get, it's too long in the age of "ghosting." Don't be needy and text multiple times, but do follow up quickly.

Weddings: Which of these is NOT an appropriate choice to walk a bride down the aisle?

Some brides may not like this tradition at all, as historically it represented being given to one man by another, whereas the groom stands on his own two feet. But if a bride finds this tradition meaningful, she should choose anyone she feels was key to raising and supporting her.

Funerals: What color of flowers is most appropriate?

In another question, we said that white was usually an inappropriate color to wear to a wedding, and this is true. Yet it's a popular color for bouquets: respectful and serious. Colors like pink and red suggest celebration and passion, and so are less common. That said, any flower the deceased enjoyed in life is all right.

Weddings: Which of these does NOT belong on an invitation?

The fact is, wedding registries are getting outdated. Most brides and grooms these days have set up housekeeping on their own for years -- if anything, they need to get rid of an extra toaster, blender, et cetera. Still, a lot of couples have these, but it's a misstep to put the registry information on the invitation.

First dates: Which of these subjects is generally considered to be off-limits?

There are plenty of subjects that can be uncomfortable on a first date, including sex and family. Even work isn't as safe as it used to be, as some people don't like to be defined by what they do. But the number-one toxic topic is your ex. Bringing him/her up on a first date either means you haven't moved on, or you chronically talk smack about exes. Either one is a huge red flag.

Dating: Besides one's ex, which of these subjects should not come up on a first or second date?

A few decades or so ago, religion, politics and sex were definitely subjects to be kept under wraps until you knew each other better. But today, some people consider these provocative topics to be a spark to great conversations and help two people get to know each other, fast. However, talking about your income and net worth -- especially if they're high -- is just crass. Don't do it.

Job interviews: About how early should you arrive?

You might not realize it, but your new supervisor or the HR director might be keeping an eye out. Anything earlier than 15 minutes can suggest several things: That you are desperate to get the job, that your time is not valuable, or that you run late or get lost so easily that you seriously overcompensated on this occasion. It's best to play it a little cooler than that.

Job interviews: How should you thank your interviewer afterward?

Of course, it's important to say thanks in the moment. But later, be sure to drop a thank-you note in the mail. Why? It tells the interviewer you're still interested, and didn't go to another interview and maybe take that job by now. Two, if you felt the interview could have gone better, it's a nice touch that smooths over some awkwardness.

Funerals: During the ceremony, your phone should be ...

What's wrong with "vibrate"? People around you can hear it, that's what. Besides, has your phone ever vibrated and you didn't then take it out and check it? People see that, too. This is your last chance to be fully present with the deceased. Unless you're an on-call neurosurgeon, turn the phone completely off.

Weddings: Traditionally, who pays for a rehearsal dinner?

Traditionally, the groom's family has picked up this expense, while the bride's family (once referred to solely as "the bride's father") paid for the ceremony itself. Bear in mind that nowadays, if a couple is older and well into their careers, they often pay for everything themselves.

Online dating, true or false: Only a creeper would research a potential date on other social media sites.

You're not going through their trash; getting to know someone is what social media is for. Plus, you'd be surprised how many people put their best face forward on a dating site but don't bother with similar caution on other platforms. If your potential date claims to like "a glass of wine now and then," but their Instagram pics are littered with liquor bottles, think twice.

Online dating: Is posting a ridiculously filtered/flattering photo of yourself wrong?

We know everyone does it. It's still essentially lying. Good online dating etiquette requires you to post a representative picture of yourself (and be honest about your height, weight and level of fitness in the text).

Online dating: Should you give out your phone number before meeting someone face-to-face?

This seems counterintuitive, but here's the thinking: You'll learn a lot about someone from a face-to-face meeting, even in a simple coffee-shop setting. If you immediately realize this person is a no-go, you won't have to deal with calls and texts from them afterward. With the phone being an increasingly 24-hour-a-day presence in your life, you want to control who has access to it.

Church: When is it acceptable not to kneel when everyone else is doing so?

Kneeling is common in Catholic masses, less so in Protestant services. But whichever is the case, people understand that not everyone can comfortably kneel. However, if your skirt is too short to properly kneel in church -- go home and change!

Engagements: A proper ring should be ______.

A marriage proposal is legitimate if one person asks and the other person says yes. That's all! The diamond industry has been very good at spreading the idea that a proposal is less the real somehow unless it's accompanied by a diamond ring that cost two months salary. Don't believe it!

Breakups: Which of these is an acceptable venue for breaking off a relationship?

We know it's 2018, but it's still not OK to break up via any kind of electronics. What if you're in a long-distance relationship that's not working out? A gently-worded letter -- yes, the kind where you write on paper -- is a good way to handle it, closing with the line, "Please call me when you've had time to process this, and we can talk further." That's a good time to deal with the details, too -- like the return of each other's stuff, etc.

Breakups: Which of these is also unwise to do?

It's OK to talk to a pal about how you feel, as long as you're not simply trashing your ex. But trying to be friends again right away is a bad idea -- it's too difficult, emotionally, for the person who didn't initiate the breakup. Meanwhile, accepting another date (or two) is a breach of etiquette where the new person's concerned: nobody wants to be a "rebound person."

Engagements: It's OK not to open bridal-shower gifts at the shower.

It's a high point of a bridal shower for a guest to watch the bride-to-be open and express gratitude for that guest's present. Waiting and opening them later is a faux pas.

Online dating: Which of these is a woman most likely to lie about in her profile?

We didn't even approach this question from the standpoint of etiquette -- e.g., "Which of these is it not acceptable to lie about?" -- because it goes without saying that you SHOULDN"T LIE ON YOUR PROFILE. That said, people do, so be wary!

Online dating: Which of these is a man most likely to lie about on his profile?

Men face a different set of insecurities, and job status/income seems to be the worst, given the frequency with which men lie about it. Height came in second. This raises another point of etiquette: Maybe we all need to stop being so judgmental. People wouldn't like about themselves with such frequency (53 percent of American online daters, in one survey) if more people would accept dates with people who admitted they were thin, tall, well-off, athletic ... well, the list goes on.

Church: In a traditional church, who is supposed to wear a hat during a service?

The rules were/are different for men and women. Men are supposed to be bareheaded; women cover their heads. In Catholic churches, women would sometimes wear a fine scarf called a mantilla over their hair while in the sanctuary. In Protestant denominations, hats were favored -- this is where you get the tradition of Southern ladies wearing their best hats to church.

Engagements: When one is broken off, should the woman give the ring back?

This is the traditional rule for engagement rings. But like so many things in an age of increased equality and independence, women aren't always following the rules. Some give the ring back no matter what.

Bachelor parties: Which of these is bad etiquette?

Oh man, we're not touching the idea of bachelor-party etiquette with a 10-foot pole. There's just one rule as far as we're concerned: Everybody sleeps on the couch or floor until they're sober enough to drive home. EVERYBODY.

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