May 16, 2022

Taking House Tours, Backing Out of Dinners, Attending Surprise Weddings, and More

Etiquette, manners, and beyond! In this episode, Nick and Leah answer listener questions about taking tours of peoples homes, backing out of dinners you don't want to go to, attending surprise weddings, and much more.

Etiquette, manners, and beyond! In this episode, Nick and Leah answer listener questions about taking tours of peoples homes, backing out of dinners you don't want to go to, attending surprise weddings, and much more. Please follow us! (We'd send you a hand-written thank you note if we could.)

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  • Do you have to take a tour of someone's home if invited?
  • What's the appropriate reaction when someone accidentally spits on your face?
  • Is there a polite way to back out of a dinner after you've already agreed to go?
  • How do I let a couple know that my name was misspelled at their long-ago wedding?
  • What's the protocol for returning Tupperware after two weeks?
  • Any etiquette tips when attending a surprise wedding?







Hosts: Nick Leighton & Leah Bonnema

Producer & Editor: Nick Leighton

Theme Music: Rob Paravonian



Episode 139


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Nick: Hey, everybody. It's Nick Leighton.

Leah: And I'm Leah Bonnema.

Nick: And we have so many great questions from you all in the wilderness ...

Leah: [howls]

Nick: That we have a bonus episode. So here we go. Our first question is quote, "I have a question about the house tour. When visiting another couple's home for the first time, the host will ask if we want to 'take the tour.' That is to say, see the rest of the house. The reverse also often happens as well. When a visitor comes to our house, they'll ask, 'How about a tour?' What if you don't want to see their house, or are not prepared to show yours? My husband does not care to see the rooms in other people's homes, so will be left to chit chat while I have to make sounds of praise for what I'm being shown."

Leah: So do you think the question is: do I have to take the house tour?

Nick: Yeah, I think that's the question. [laughs]

Leah: And I think the answer is yes.

Nick: Oh, interesting! Okay.

Leah: If I said to you, "Hey, do you want to take the house tour?" and you said, "No," I feel like that would be a really awkward moment.

Nick: Yeah. No, no, I see your point. So broadly speaking though, there is no obligation to give a tour of your house, and there ideally would be no obligation to take a tour. And Miss Manners is not into house tours at all. And she says that they must be, quote, "Deliberately and mutually negotiated." So there has to be some sort of, like, agreement tacitly that people actually want to take a tour and people actually want to give it. You shouldn't ask for it outright, and you shouldn't sort of demand someone goes on one.

Leah: Oh, I don't think you should ask. I don't think you should ask somebody, "Hey, can I take a tour of your house?" I don't think you should do that.

Nick: Right. Yeah.

Leah: I think if they offer, or if somebody came up to me and was like, "Hey, can I have a tour?" And I didn't want them to see my house. I'd be like, "It's really messy right now."

Nick: Well, you would say, like, "Oh, perhaps sometime."

Leah: Yeah, next time.

Nick: But yeah, you're right. If somebody was like, "Oh, let me give you a tour of my house," yeah, I mean, you can't be like, "No, I'm good."

Leah: Yeah, I just feel like that would be too—I mean, just walk with them and be like, "Oh, nice!"

Nick: Yeah. And when you go on that tour, yeah, you do need to be like, "Ooh, chintz!"

Leah: Just pick something you like. Even if you hate everything, I'm sure there's one thing that you like. "Love that photo. Cute pillows. Nice faucet!"

Nick: [laughs] Right. "Ooh. Is that a Toto NX1 toilet?"

Leah: [laughs] Nick will never leave your house.

Nick: Yeah. No, actually, I'd be interested in the tour if you had that. But yeah, I mean, I guess you just have to ooh and ah. But the better way to do it, if you're a host and you really want to give a tour, you can mention some object or some architectural detail that's in some remote part of your home and be like, "Oh, I'd love to show it to you sometime." And then your guest can be like, "Oh, I would be delighted to see it sometime." And then you can sort of have that little dance about when "sometime" might be if everybody's being sincere about it.

Leah: If you're over for dinner at my house, and there's gonna be two hours that you're here, and I just want to show you the house, I don't really get what the big deal is why you can't just walk behind me and go, "Oh!"

Nick: [laughs] Yeah. I mean, I think that's right. It is the path of least resistance. Yes.

Leah: I do get why, if someone's at your house and you don't want to show your house, you don't have to show them.

Nick: Yeah, I think I'm prepared to take a much stronger line against being obligated to give people a tour of my house.

Leah: Yeah, you definitely don't. If someone's like, "Can I see your house?" "No." [laughs]

Nick: [laughs]

Leah: I'd say, "It's not ready right now. She's not ready."

Nick: Right. Yeah, I think you could definitely say something in that—in that flavor. And then I love also in this story, the husband has decided, "I'm not interested in going on the tour. I'm just gonna stay here. You go and have a nice time."

Leah: Well I mean, he's made his decision.

Nick: Yeah.

Leah: I have been on a house tour where one of us goes and one of us stays. I think that's normal. One of us is like, "I'm just gonna stay here and have a drink or eat some peanuts or look outside." I think one person should go on it if they're being asked.

Nick: Right. Yeah, you can't have a hard no. Like, "Oh, no. We're all good here. We're gonna stay."

Leah: Because this host really wants to show you.

Nick: Yeah, somebody needs to say "I volunteer as tribute."

Leah: [laughs] Yes, that's exactly what it is!

Nick: [laughs]

Leah: One of you needs to volunteer as tribute.

Nick: So there you go. The house tour.

Leah: Whoo!

Nick: So our next question is quote, "What is the appropriate reaction when a person you're speaking with accidentally spits on your face and does not acknowledge it? I've been in this uncomfortable situation a couple of times, including one where a person's drop of saliva landed on my lip while they were speaking to me. Yuck! I felt an unbearable urge to wipe it off, but I held myself back, fearing I would make this person uncomfortable. This person was not somebody I was close with, but someone I had just recently met in a professional setting. I was quite disgusted at this accident, and wondered why they didn't just apologize for spitting on my face. Perhaps they didn't notice? The person continued speaking to me as if nothing had happened. What would have been the appropriate reaction on my part? Could I have just wiped their saliva off my face while they continued speaking? What is the best way to handle such an awkward situation like this one?"

Leah: I definitely hate it when that happens.

Nick: And it does happen.

Leah: It does happen.

Nick: It happens. Yes, but wipe it off!

Leah: Yeah, wipe it off.

Nick: I mean, don't just let saliva sit on your face. No!

Leah: Wipe that!

Nick: Yeah. We do not live in that world.

Leah: I think you could do a delicate wipe. You don't have to, like, wipe it and then do an eye roll, and then be like, "Oh, you're an animal!"

Nick: Right. I think you just wipe it off as if you just felt, like, a little, like, itch on your face. And it was an involuntary gesture. Like, "Oh, I'm just gonna, like, brush my cheek." That's all.

Leah: Yeah. And then maybe take a very gentle step back.

Nick: [laughs]

Leah: Well, I mean, some people are close talkers and they're spitters, and you just gotta back up. The sprinkler system is on.

Nick: [laughs] Right. Yeah, I think that's the best you could do. And I think I would assume the person did not notice this happened, because it would be sort of polite to be like, "Oh, sorry."

Leah: Yeah, I'm gonna assume they didn't notice, because I've definitely accidentally one time for sure done this, and I was mortified. "Oh, my goodness. I'm so sorry!" I have to assume they didn't notice.

Nick: Or if they did notice, then it was actually super awkward because they could see the spit that they had just spat on your face, and you didn't do anything about it. And now they're looking at it, and they have to keep looking at it, and you're not doing anything about it. That's uncomfortable for them, too.

Leah: And imagine if they just reached out and gently wiped your lip with their hand? That would be—that would be the worst way to handle the situation.

Nick: That would be a no. Yeah, that would definitely be frowned upon.

Leah: Maybe we should start doing top-three lists of worst ways to handle it. And I'm gonna say wiping your own spit off somebody's face with your thumb and like a wink, that's gonna be number one.

Nick: Oh, I think worse than thumb would be the back of your hand.

Leah: Oh! Yes, yes.

Nick: [laughs]

Leah: [laughs]

Nick: So regardless, I don't think we want to touch people.

Leah: Or you could do the mom move where you just take a napkin, dipped it into some water and then just wiped it on their face. "Oh, you got something."

Nick: So, yeah, a lot of options. All of them terrible. Yeah, I think you just want to wipe it off. It's fine. And I think the American approach is also to pretend like something's not happening. Like, often that's the most polite thing. And that applies here, which is pretend that you just weren't spat on, and just wipe it off your face and move on.

Leah: And then if you are the accidental spitter and you do notice, don't pretend it didn't happen. Do a quick apology. "Oh, my gosh. So sorry!"

Nick: And that's it. Yeah, I think that's the right way to go.

Leah: Look mortified. Step back a little.

Nick: That's it. So our next question is quote, "I feel bad even asking this, but is there a polite way of backing out of a dinner that I've already agreed to go to? I'm not super close to the hostess, and it'll be held at a restaurant where we will be paying for our own food. The purpose of the party is last girls' night out before the baby arrives. Honestly, my reason for wanting to back out is the cost of the restaurant and the stress over preparing for an upcoming family trip. Deep inside, I feel like backing out is rude, but I thought I'd check."

Leah: I feel like it makes such a difference how close to the event we are.

Nick: Oh, okay. Timing for you is key. Interesting. Okay.

Leah: Is it not for you?

Nick: Well, I mean, I think there's a lot of things to consider here. [laughs]Timing is definitely one of them, for sure. I mean, my first thought was, in general, we want to honor our commitments: mortgages, marriages, dinner RSVPs. Like, we want to follow through when we say we're gonna do something.

Leah: Some marriages you just gotta get out of, though. Let me just throw that out there. [laughs]

Nick: Yeah.

Leah: Just like some dinners.

Nick: Yeah. Sometimes you just gotta kind of throw in the towel and be like, "Oh, I'm out. I know I said I would, but you know what? I just can't." And that's true, you know? And there are occasions when this is necessary. So I think one question is: did the restaurant venue change after you agreed? Like, did you agree knowing the cost of this restaurant, or was that sort of like a late addition? Because if it was a late addition, that's a much easier way to decline. Be like, "Oh, I didn't realize the restaurant we were gonna be going to was gonna be this. I can't afford this restaurant. So sorry I won't be able to attend."

Leah: And I think that's totally fine to say that.

Nick: Totally fine. Yes. If the venue changes and is much more expensive, then yes. Because the thing you agreed to go to is now different. And so now it's almost a different event. So sort of a new invitation would be required.

Leah: I also think that if you're like a month out, if it's like a month away, which is ample time, and you said, "I have a lot more stress over this family trip coming up than I realized. I'm so sorry. I have to decline," if you're a month away, I don't see how that's a problem.

Nick: Yeah. I mean, and I guess that's the timing thing you brought up at the top, which was like, yeah, if there's a lot of time here, measured in weeks or months, then yeah, that's a much easier conversation to have than like, "Oh, this dinner is tomorrow."

Leah: Yeah. I feel like if it's tomorrow and the venue hasn't changed ...

Nick: Then, you know, I guess if you just can't go and you really need to back out, well then that's what you're gonna do. So you're just gonna have to have a very polite yet direct conversation with your host about what's going on.

Leah: Yeah, because I mean, you gotta back out if you gotta back out. They can also be irritated with you because you're backing out last minute.

Nick: Yes. And I think if you do that, then there are gonna be consequences. You may not get an invitation next time. Like, you may get re-sat in their theater, you know? There are just gonna be etiquette consequences to changing your RSVP like this, and so just know decisions have consequences.

Leah: And that might be totally fine with you.

Nick: Yeah. I mean, I don't get the sense that we're that close to the host and we care. [laughs]

Leah: Because I do think, yeah, if we don't care, and sometimes we do need to take care of our mental health.

Nick: Yes. I don't think we want to go to this event to our detriment, you know? If the consequences of going far outweigh the consequences of not going, well then that cost-benefit analysis is easy.

Leah: I feel like we really came down in the middle on this. I think we're saying if you're not gonna go, you've gotta be honest about it and accept what the consequences are.

Nick: Yeah, that's exactly what we're saying.

Leah: Perfect.

Nick: So our next question is quote, "I've been with my partner for four years, and at his sister's wedding last year in which I was a bridesmaid, my last name was spelled wrong on all the wedding materials, including the program and my table card. I wasn't overly upset by this, but it did bother me just a little bit because my name is spelled correctly on my Facebook page. I didn't want to bring it up at the wedding or shortly thereafter as a lot of planning went into the event, and I didn't want to rain on their parade. But how do I bring this up nicely so long after the fact?"

Leah: My question is: are we bringing up that they continue to spell our name wrong? Or are we bringing up that they spelled our name wrong at the wedding?

Nick: It feels like we want to bring up that the wedding was the problem, not some ongoing name-spelling issue.

Leah: Hmm.

Nick: Because if it was an ongoing problem, well then we would just address it in the ongoing problem. We would reply to that email, we would reply to that letter, that gift. We wouldn't necessarily go back into time to address a historical problem.

Leah: Yeah, I think that if they send you an email, the next time they send you an email that's spelled wrong, you could be like, "Oh, hey, it's L-E-A-H."

Nick: Right. And so I think our letter-writer would like to kind of rehash the past a little bit, and I'm not sure to what end.

Leah: Yeah, I feel like we just wouldn't bring that up.

Nick: Because I guess, what do we want from these people? Like, I guess we want an apology but, like, do we want them to reprint the program or, like, reissue the table card? Like, we don't want that, do we?

Leah: No. Actually, just because of the way the email is, I can't quite tell what they do want.

Nick: I mean, I think they want to just highlight the fact that their name was misspelled, and they were kind of bothered by this.

Leah: And if I'm reading you correctly, what we're saying is we would just highlight that it's being misspelled currently and just let it lie at that.

Nick: Right. And I guess you could hope that the newlyweds will connect the dots and be like, "Oh, I think we might have misspelled her name on all these other materials at our wedding. Whoops!" Like, you would hope that would happen. But I mean, all we would be doing by bringing this up is making these people who got married feel bad. And I don't think that will really achieve anything beyond that. I mean, it'll certainly remind them about how to spell your name moving forward, but I'm not sure if that's how we want to achieve that.

Leah: Yeah, I don't think we need to bring up that it was misspelled at the wedding at all.

Nick: Right. And I know that's probably not satisfying, but so much of etiquette is not. And so you just kind of have to live with that, unfortunately.

Leah: But also no problem correcting it now.

Nick: Absolutely. Yes. We don't live in a world in which you just allow people to misspell or mispronounce your name. And so it is always fine to politely yet directly just correct people in the moment as it's happening.

Leah: L-E-A-H.

Nick: Do you have this problem a lot?

Leah: Oh, I always get L-I-A or L-E-A.

Nick: Oh yeah, I can see that.

Leah: I mean, people I've known for a decade are still doing it. There's an H.

Nick: Yeah, I get actually emails from people who don't have the H in Nicholas, and it's also like, I'm rarely addressed as Nicholas in the first place. So if you're writing me an email and you're saying "Nicolas," and then without the H, it's like, "Who are you?"

Leah: Who are you?

Nick: Right? Although I say that about a lot of things all day long, so it's not limited to just that email.

Leah: Oh, the existential questions, Nick.

Nick: Yes. Who are you? Who is any of us?

Leah: What are we? Why are we? That's the big one. Why are we?

Nick: [laughs] Or my big one: when are we?

Leah: [laughs]

Nick: Being punctual is important, everybody. So our next question is quote, "What's the protocol for returning Tupperware after two weeks? Like, if I have a piece that belongs to someone I still see, do I return it really late or simply claim it as my own until they ask for it back? On the other hand, what if it's a piece that I gave to someone else with food in it? Should I expect it back, or is the Tupperware theirs? This is for nicer stuff, like 5 to 15 bucks apiece Tupperware with a lid. Nothing sentimental, but nothing that would be thrown out either."

Leah: Can I tackle the first part of the question?

Nick: Absolutely. Have at it.

Leah: Return it.

Nick: Yes, of course. Yes.

Leah: Just return it even if it's been two weeks, three weeks. "Hey. Sorry I'm just returning this. Thank you so much." Boom.

Nick: I mean, the rule is you should return it cleaned, of course, at the earliest opportunity. Like, that's when you need to return it. And I return actually any container. I have friends that have, like, the cheaper, like, Ziploc brand, and I wash it, I'll return that. I don't know if they want it back, so I'll give it back to them.

Leah: Yeah. I always return, unless I've been explicitly told to keep it.

Nick: Right. And if it's Tupperware-brand Tupperware—which I personally enjoy—I absolutely want that back. And I actually put my name in it. Like, I actually, like, carve my name into the bottom of it so that you know it's mine.

Leah: [laughs] But I think even—for the first part, even if, like, something happened and it's a little bit later than we wanted to, we still return it.

Nick: Yes. There's not a point where it just becomes yours.

Leah: Yeah. No.

Nick: And if they forget about it, you need to volunteer.

Leah: Absolutely.

Nick: And then for the second part, which I guess is how do you get Tupperware back? I think you can ask politely yet directly. But I mean, no problem to ask.

Leah: "Hey, you got my tubs?"

Nick: "Got my tub-tubs?"

Leah: [laughs] My name is carved on the bottom of it so I know you know it's mine.

Nick: And now you get it back and they've actually, like, scratched your name out.

Leah: But I think it's easiest just to deal with it when it's being dropped off. That way there's no ambiguity. "Hey, I'll pick this up next week when I see you."

Nick: Oh, that's a little aggressive. Because that assumes that an etiquette crime is about to take place, and we don't want to, like, anticipate an etiquette crime before it's actually happened. I think we have to trust that yes, of course, we always return Tupperware. So, like, no problem. Of course you'll give it back to me. Does not need to be said.

Leah: Oh well, sometimes I let people keep it. So that's why I always—I'll say to people, "Just keep it."

Nick: Oh, if it's going to be something you are allowing them to keep, then yes, that should be specified. But the default setting is always returning. So unless you say something, then yes, you have to return it.

Leah: Okay.

Nick: Right? Because otherwise that's super aggressive. You're like, "Here's the brownies, I'm gonna need this back."

Leah: I was trying to think of a way for our letter-writer to get their Tupperware back always.

Nick: Just text your friend and be like, "Hey, looking forward to seeing you on Thursday for the movie. Oh, if you still have my Tupperware, please bring it."

Leah: That sounds great.

Nick: Right? And you just have to use a tone that's non-judgmental and value neutral, which is not like, "I know you were about to try and steal my Tupperware, and I'm not gonna stand for that. And so I'm gonna remind you to bring it." Like, you can't have that tone. Just have a "Oh, friendly reminder."

Leah: Yeah, that sounds good to me.

Nick: And then I think if you have relationships with people where you know they cannot be trusted with the good stuff, then you should think twice before giving them something in, like, a nice container.

Leah: Put it in a Ziploc bag.

Nick: Oh, just wrap it in tin foil.

Leah: "Here."

Nick: Or just have them hold out their hands and just pour the gravy into it. [laughs] Enjoy! So our next question is quote, "Some friends were invited on a boat and invited me to come along. I was hesitant at first and I didn't really know the hosts, but I decided to join after all. Surprise, it was a surprise wedding. Any tips should this happen to me again?"

Leah: I don't know how you could—I mean, it seems like they were even surprising their guests that it was a wedding.

Nick: Yes, I think this was a true surprise. And I don't think we can guard against surprise weddings, so I'm not sure what you can do about it. I mean, I guess can you always be prepared? Always have a tux available?

Leah: It seems extremely—the idea that this would happen again seems—I mean, what are the numbers on that?

Nick: I mean, this person is concerned that it is potentially possible, so let's talk about it. I mean, how can you prepare? I guess you always want to be at your best, right? You always want to have your A-game ready to roll, no matter what the event is. Is that one way to prepare?

Leah: I can't tell if they're saying that they shouldn't have been there, like, because they didn't know the hosts and it was their wedding.

Nick: Well, I think anybody who throws a surprise wedding on a boat, where all your passengers are trapped at your event now, I think you know the deal: that you're gonna have some plus ones who you don't know at your wedding now.

Leah: Yeah.

Nick: I mean, I think that's the hazard of hosting a surprise wedding.

Leah: If you're throwing a surprise wedding, you are ready for some stragglers.

Nick: Yeah. I mean, you have to be. And I guess as a guest, I think you just have to recalibrate about, like, oh, now this event is different, and have to get on board with all, like, the wedding things that are probably gonna happen. So now there's gonna be toasts, and now there's gonna be cake, and there's dancing and there's gonna be footloose.

Leah: A lot of clapping, a lot of congratulations.

Nick: A lot of awkward speeches.

Leah: Be like, "I was delighted to get to be a part of this. Thank you so much for not throwing me off the boat."

Nick: So any tips should this happen to me again?

Leah: No. Also, if it happens to you again, you must let us know because you're really beating the odds.

Nick: I mean, lightning is striking twice.

Leah: [laughs]

Nick: Remarkable!

Leah: And obviously I meant "stragglers" in a nice way. After I said "stragglers," I was like, is that a—you know what I meant. People they didn't know as well.

Nick: Yes. Plus ones.

Leah: Plus ones.

Nick: But yeah, bold move. I mean, I don't love the idea of a surprise wedding, because I'm not always in the mood to be at a wedding. You know, it's a very specific type of event, and there's sort of a normal rhythm to it. It's usually a little longer than I may want to be at an event for. And if I was just showing up for a quick cocktail party, now it's like a four-hour extravaganza, where now I have to, like, sit through best man speeches that are awkward and uncomfortable for everybody. Like, that's not how I thought my evening was gonna go.

Leah: Oh, yeah. And once you're there, you're in it. I mean ...

Nick: Oh, yeah. You can't now leave. I mean, besides that, it's a boat.

Leah: Besides that you actually physically cannot. You're like, "Can I take the dinghy? Because I actually have to get back for an appointment."

Nick: But even if this was on land, I don't know if you can peace out early. I think you're kind of in it now.

Leah: Yeah, you're now a part of the wedding party.

Nick: You're in it. Yeah. So yeah, I mean, I guess you can try and ask follow-up questions about your hosts, like how long have they been together? [laughs]

Leah: "I know you're inviting me over to a party, but do you think anybody's gonna get married when we show up, or is that a vibe?" I just don't know how you could prepare for this. It really seems ...

Nick: Yeah. Some things cannot be anticipated, and so you just gotta do the best you can and roll with it. And ideally, etiquette-wise, you would just sort of rely on the foundational principles and hope that guides you through.

Leah: I love the foundational principles.

Nick: [laughs] Yes. I mean, you know, whenever we don't know the answer, we just turn to those and hope it helps us. So you just want to be mindful of other people's time, space, property and feelings. And if you cover those bases, the four pillars, you're probably gonna be doing fine.

Leah: I'm sure you did a great job.

Nick: Yeah. No, I think it was fine. And if you didn't, you don't even know these people, so they don't know who you are.

Leah: [laughs] Imagine you just dive off the boat. You're like, "Oh, this is a wedding?" And then you just dove.

Nick: I've definitely been at weddings where I wish that was an option. So do you have questions for us about weddings or anything else? Let us know. You can let us know through our website, Or you can leave us voicemail or send us a text message: (267) CALL-RBW. And we'll see you next time.

Leah: Bye!

Nick: Bye!