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 ETIQUETTE EXPERT Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., here are some ways to be more thoughtful about those around us.  


Dear Ms. Etiquette Expert,

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. Etiquette Expert,                                                                                                               
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. Etiquette Expert,

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.”