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03.28.2002

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03.28.2002: Etiquette Schmetiquette
common-sense manners for real-world living |
1 2 3
continued from page 2

Congratulations?...
Q:
Please confirm the following rumor: A friend of mine told me that itís considered improper etiquette to say congratulations to a newly-engaged woman, and that the congratulations should only be offered to the groom-to-be. Is my friend correct, and if so whatís the deal with this? And what are you supposed to say instead? --Jen

A: Rumor confirmed. Traditionally, etiquette does indeed dictate that "congratulations" are reserved for the young man, and "best wishes" offered for the bride-to-be. The "logic" (if you want to call it that) behind this rather odd custom is that offering a hearty "congratulations" somehow suggests that you are commending the young lady on her luck and skill in snagging such a fine specimen of a husband, the implication being that she was somehow actively hunting for a mate. This, of course, is considered Terribly Tacky and Even Rude by Those Who Obsess over Such Things, since every one knows a Proper Lady never chases. On the other hand, it is apparently perfectly OK to congratulate a young man on his prowess and good fortune in finding a future wife.
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This, to me, reeks of the same sort of sexist rationale that allows men different liberties than women because "men hunt, women gather." It is, of course, pure and utter nonsense Ė I say if itís okay to say congratulations to the newly-engaged boy, it should certainly be just as okay to say the same to the newly-engaged girl. Still, if one insists on being Socially Proper about These Sorts of Matters, regardless of whether the rules of propriety make any sort of rational sense, a simple offer of "Best Wishes" is deemed the appropriate response.

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