Ask Richmond Proper: On greedy guests

One reader asks our etiquette expert if her husband’s boozing at a friend’s wedding falls under expected party antics…or if it crosses the line to flat out rude. We’d love to hear your thoughts as well.

“[Miss Manners] has never subscribed to the notion that etiquette requires one to make others feel good when they are up to no good.”
— Judith Martin

Reader Sarah writes:

Dear Richmond Proper,

My husband and I are known to be drinkers, like so many people are in this city. A couple weeks ago we attended a wedding, mostly because we love our newly-married friends but partly because of the open bar! The bride’s family are not well-to-do by any means, yet had a fully-stocked bar for the reception (it was at a restaurant). My husband ordered a drink for me, and then proceeded to go through all the small-batch bourbons like it was his own personal tasting party. When the night was up, he had ordered six of the most expensive things on the drink menu, and when I sneaked a peek at the total tab for the whole party, his was probably twenty percent. I tried to tell him I thought this was rude, but he laughed and said that it wasn’t our dime. What do you think about this?

Sarah,  I think you were absolutely right to tell your husband he was being rude.

It’s true that your gracious hosts, if asked for permission, would have said “Sure, have any drink you want! We just want everyone to have a good time.”  It’s their job to provide the food and drink, and they knew the risks of having an open bar before they chose that path. If you and your husband really are known to be such prolific drinkers, they may have even calculated their budget to accommodate this charming trait. Maybe they even know some teetotalers who balance the tab out.

But your husband’s willingness to drink your hosts out of house and home is inappropriate. Surely he could enjoy himself with several tumblers of mid-range whiskey and be just as jovial by the end of the night. When given an ounce of hospitality, our role as guests is not to demand a gallon. If your husband can’t accept and enjoy this hospitality in a thankful manner, perhaps you should RSVP “no” for him in the future. “I’m terribly sorry, but George won’t be able to make it that night. But I’ll be happy to attend.”

The truth is that these hosts are real people with real bank accounts, and they should be able to throw a party without going into too much debt over it. Avoid being the person who single-handedly throws their budget off, and you will be invited back for more bourbon next time.

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Tess Shebaylo

Tess Shebaylo is a freelance writer, crafter, history geek, and compulsive organizer. She works at Tumblr and lives in Church Hill with her daughter, Morella.

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