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03.28.2002: Etiquette Schmetiquette
common-sense manners for real-world living |
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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.
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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