As our social obligations increase this time of year, it may seem like we have less time for the niceties of life. However, according to our Ms. Modern Mannners Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., here are some ways to be more thoughtful about those around us.  


Dear Ms. Modern Manners,

Our upcoming travels are taking us on a European river cruise where we will delight in culture and devour goodies while wandering through the regions’ markets. What is the best way to politely barter while attending these markets?

Packed With Passport

Dear Packed & Ready,

Ensure you do your research on the specific cultural norms in each of the countries that you will be visiting on your cruise. Learn if bartering is indeed culturally appropriate in particular provinces. If so, incorporate the three P’s into your bartering strategy: personable, polite and private. Don’t reveal how much you are willing to spend, be friendly and always utilize kindness. Respect is universally understood.


Dear Ms., Modern Manners,                                                                                                               
I work in a small office and I adore my colleagues. My wedding has been a major topic of conversation between them, it seems. Do I have to invite everyone?                                                                    

Marrying Soon

Dear Married In The Future,

In the U.S., at the heart of every guest list is a congenial, compatible group of people. If you are friends with your coworkers and are social together, then it is appropriate to extend an invitation. If you are only inviting select coworkers to your wedding, you may discreetly ask them to keep it quiet at the office or workplace. You are in the best position to know whether this will remain quiet. Avoid being surprised when word of the guest list leaks out as it usually does. 

If you do wish to invite colleagues, consider the option of having a standby list or a “B” list. If you have a limited number of guest spots, send the “Save The Date” communication several months or a year in advance to the priority or “A” list Then, send the “official invitation” (by mail, website, or email). When the RSVP deadline arrives, have a friend or family member designated to begin the process of contacting and following-up with all guests who haven’t RSVP’d. Today, guests often fail to RSVP.

After the “A” list has been confirmed, extend invitations to colleagues on the “B” list if space is available. Be sure to wait until all “A” list guests have been contacted or confirmed. In some cultures, like much of Latin AmericaAsia, and specifically India, the social obligation is much stronger to include colleagues, leadership and supervisors, and business associates―including those of the bride and grooms’ parents. Depending on the culture and customs, social ramifications for failing to invite coworkers may cause a loss of face for both parties, and or personal offense. 


Dear Ms. Modern Manners,

Just when I think I’ve figured out modern dating, all these new terms surface. I think I know what “ghosting” is, but how do I know if I’ve been “uncuffed” or if I’ve “benched” someone?

Dating Awkwardly

Dear Awkwardly Seeking,

Modern dating is complicated enough without all of these new words for how a date may conceivably disappear from the scene. Let’s define a few terms that indicate that you just aren’t that into him. Keep in mind that from an etiquette standpoint doing any of these things demonstrates a lack of maturity and poor communication skills. Hopefully you aren’t dating anyone who does this…

Benching is when you like your date well enough to keep seeing them, but not so much that you want to “lock it down with them.” So, you keep your options open with them while continuing to date around.

Cuffing is short for handcuffing someone you have been seeing. Winter is viewed as “cuffing” season when the romantic holidays occur and cooler weather encourages couples to stay indoors binge-watching shows and cuddling together. Being “uncuffed” means you are now single.

Ghosting occurs when your friend or the person you’re dating suddenly cuts off all communication with you, with zero warning or notice before hand, hoping they will get the hint that they’re no longer interested. A ghoster will avoid one in public while simultaneously ignoring their phone calls, texts and on social media. It’s extremely confusing for the recipient.

Breadcrumbing is the brutal act of send flirtatious, but non-committal text messages aka “breadcrumbs” with the goal of luring an intimate partner without expending much effort. It’s also called “leading someone on.”



Since we all attend so many weddings, that means there are numerous social situations that are unique. Join our very own Ms. Modern Manners Sharon Schweitzer, J.D. as she helps us navigate the nuances for this special time in your life when you are in the spotlight.

Dear Ms. Modern Manners,

We’ve decided not to invite kids to the wedding, but my fiancé’s mother really wants us to invite her grandchildren. Can we bend the rule or is that playing favorites?   

         Plays By The Rules

Dear Rule Requester,

Deciding whether to invite children is one of the most difficult guest list questions. Once a decision is made, it’s best to stick with it. Graciously coordinate with both families. Respectfully state that although this is your wedding, you plan to honor what is important to both families during the wedding. Summon up your best diplomacy skills, compromise and remember, you can’t please everyone all of the time. Your fiancé’s mother and her grandchildren will be your new family and you may want to respect their wishes. Consider the following to avoid playing favorites:

Due to space limitations, we are hosting an adults-only wedding. The only children attending are immediate family or our wedding party. If anyone needs help with making arrangements for childcare, please let us know and we will do our best to assist.


Dear Ms. Modern Manners,

My family has set our wedding budget based on our initial guest list, but now my future mother-in-law wants to invite 30 more people. What should we do?

Best Guest List

Dear Guest Handler,

Marriage is about bringing two people together to create a new family. Creating and encouraging open communication with both sides of the family early in the engagement and wedding planning will set the stage for excellent communication during your marriage. Discuss the invitation, location, catering and budget; are there certain people from each family that must be invited? What does your fiancé think? If finances are an issue, will your fiancé’s family contribute? Having an awareness of family customs and showing parental respect goes a long way, especially when this family will become your new extended family.


Dear Ms. Modern Manners,

Recently, we had a falling out with a friendly couple during our engagement. Can we dis-invite them?

Friend Indeed


Dear Friendly Persuasion, 

Etiquette experts agree that this must never occur. However, life happens. Friendships dissolve, crimes are committed, and indiscretions are discovered. Predicaments the bride and groom cannot fathom surface that can cause anguish on both sides. Yes, it’s true that it’s your wedding and you can invite anyone you wish. However, inviting someone and then rescinding that invitation requires contemplation and diplomacy.


If you have the fortitude to rescind a wedding invitation, then you have the courage to do so in person or by phone. Sending an informal text, email, or instant message is insensitive. Words on a screen cannot convey the compassion necessary to deliver the message. When it’s an indiscretion or something criminal, it’s difficult and there are two sides to a story. Yes, there are times when a person can be asked not to attend a wedding as the best solution.


Dear Ms. Modern Manners,

We don’t want guests to take pictures during the ceremony. How do we stop them from doing it without confiscating their phones?

Social Media-Free

Dear Social Studies,

While there are several steps that can be taken to reduce photos, no one can guarantee that Aunt Gertrude won’t snap a photo for your grandmother. So, consider the following steps to reduce the paparazzi in your circle:

1.     Host an electronics free wedding

2.     Post an announcement on your wedding website

  1. Include a note with the written invitation
  2. Decide against a wedding #hashtag
  3. Print a notice in the program
  4. Post a sign in your style similar to the following:

Welcome to our unplugged wedding. We invite you to be fully present during our ceremony. Please turn off all gadgets and enjoy the ceremony with us.



There is a correct response for every social situation. Most of us get it right most of the time. However, when we don’t our Ms. Modern Manners Sharon Schweitzer, JD, is on board to give us a hand up in potentially awkward matters.

Dear Ms. Modern Manners,

I‘m a tall female with short, cropped hair. In fact, I saw it on the streets of Paris and had to have the chic look. I’m frequently welcomed to shops or restaurants with a loud “Hello, sir.” Once they realize their faux pas, they stumble awkwardly apologizing and backtracking. This mislabeling is hurtful for those who are transgender or gender-nonconforming. How do I graciously respond?

 Inquiring Mind

Dear Mindfully Inquiring,

Like all things, etiquette evolves with the times. What was appropriate historically may not work as smoothly today. The clerk was more than likely intending respect with their greeting, and it will create a more gracious atmosphere if you give them the benefit of the doubt. Keep in mind that military and Southerners will say sir and ma’am out of habit. If a clerk is unsure about an appropriate greeting, they can leave off the gender tag and say “Good morning” or “Good afternoon.”

The next time this mislabeling occurs, respond with a genuine smile and a warm tone, “Please consider dropping the ‘sir’ or ‘ma’am’ from your friendly greeting. It hurts when you get it wrong.” Sales associates will be more cautious or try to break the habit.

Dear Ms. Modern Manners,

I have been encouraged to improve my professional protocol since I am losing accounts and the respect of my colleagues because of oversharing on social media and being a jerk. However, I’ve no motivation to do so. It seems overwhelming. Where do I start?

                                                                                                                                      Social Media Boor

Dear Feeling Boorish,

Motivation is the key to achieving our professional and personal goals, succeeding in our careers, and improving ourselves as lifelong works in progress. It can come from anywhere…from our personal relationships, to a desire to overcome adverse circumstances and achieve success. Whatever its source, motivation can make the difference between reaching our dreams, and watching them pass us by.

In order to remain a driving force in our lives, motivation must be maintained as a source of inspiration and resilience. To keep motivation high, it’s important to remind yourself why you began your professional or personal journey in the first place. Are you seeking a promotion that would allow you to exercise your creative abilities? Whatever your reason, here are four easy tips for maintaining motivation and achieving your ambitions:

  1. Write down your end goal and why you want to achieve it, note the date at the top of the page, and re-read your response often. Think of this as a promise every day that you’re making to yourself as a conduit towards fulfilling that commitment.
  2. Keep a source of inspiration somewhere you can see it each day. Make your phone screen a picture of your dream vacation destination, keep a family photo nearby, or tape your dream university’s brochure above your desk. Visualizing your goals will remind you why you’re working so hard and encourage you to stay the course.
  3. Success is a marathon, not a sprint. Instead of setting a long-term goal that may take years to accomplish, come up with a timeline of benchmarks that break down your goal into more feasible steps. When you reach an important milestone, celebrate your achievement; then look forward to the next step in attaining your goal.

Finally, consider finding a coach or mentor with experience in your field who can advise you on how to reach your goal. Set up weekly meetings to decide where you need to improve, and what successes you’ve achieved so far. Not only is a coach or mentor a great source of insight, but they will ask all the right questions and hold you accountable to them.



When taking the high road in life, the view is always better. Here, our Ms. Modern Manners Sharon Schweitzer, J.D. of Access to Culture, helps to demysty current social issues so that we may elevate our understanding.

Dear Ms. Modern Manners,

In social situations, I am in a quandary of whether to shake hands or give a quick peck hello. How do I determine which is most appropriate?

Kiss Or Tell?

Dear Kiss, Don’t Tell,

In a social context, it will depend on the situation and group culture. Greetings can be situational. If it’s a more international crowd in the U.S., respond to a greeting in a way comfortable for you that may include a kiss on the cheek or a hug. If you are in the southwestern U.S., hugs and air kisses are common. If you’re traveling outside the U.S., adopt the local customs and observe greetings made by others. Know the comfort level of those around you, and choose the greeting appropriate for the occasion.

In the U.S. business, a warm handshake is the best professional greeting. Only when it is a cultural fit should you go for the quick, friendly side-hug with someone you have previously met. Avoid any potential contact which could be construed as inappropriate behavior, which could include being too touchy with prolonged hugs, kisses on the cheeks, or casual touching of the arm or back that could make others uncomfortable. You don’t know your coworkers’ boundaries, so don’t risk crossing a line.

Dear Ms. Modern Manners,

Is it ever okay to ghost? Even after just one date?

Casper the Friendly Ghost

Dear Ghosted,

Ghosting is not only disrespectful to both parties, but it reflects a lack of self respect. Whether you are emailing, texting, calling, or on a dating site, it is best to send a simple acknowledgement that you aren’t interested in pursuing anything further or that there just wasn’t a connection. If you are feeling particularly gracious, wish them luck in their future endeavors. Social graces don’t require you to do anything else. You may un-match or stop communicating at that point without ghosting.

Dear Ms. Modern Manners,

We just learned that we will be making regular 17-hour flights to the UAE for business. How can we stay sane and survive these flights if there are children in the business and first-class cabins?

Off To The Middle East

Dear Dubai-Bound,

Just the thought of travel in a sealed steel tube at 30K feet raises the blood pressure for most. Numerous surveys reveal that the top air travel annoyance is “OPK” or other people’s kids. Especially the seat-kicking, misbehaving ones who are behind you. The modern advice for travelers is to come prepared with an inexpensive favorite kid’s book or toy.

When you discover that a child is seated near you, ask the parent if you may give them the book or toy. The idea is to befriend them early on so they are less inclined to act out and interrupt you during the flight. Always ask the parent first if it’s okay to give their child the toy or book. Some travelers bring fruit snacks and ask parents if this is permissible. Many parents disregard home rules regarding screen time and snacks during a flight.