Q. We have been invited to a virtual wedding. Is it correct form to send a present?
— P.F., Barrow Street, Wilts
A. Virtual weddings are so new that the rules of etiquette have yet to be drawn up. Setting aside the large sums of money you will not need to shell out for transport and accommodation to attend a physical wedding, you should go by what you would like friends and family to do were you in the same position as the marrying couple. Since it would be sad to be marrying without the full cast of supportive well-wishers who would have been there were it not for Covid uncertainty, then material objects, in the form of wedding presents, to ‘represent’ these missing persons would be doubly valued and you should happily shell out.
Q. My girlfriend and I recently got engaged. Among the flowers and abundant good wishes from family and friends came a hamper from one of my closest chums and his wife. It contained a selection of fine teas, fancy biscuits and a pair of personalised china mugs. My now-fiancée’s name is ‘high risk over email’ (her phrase), with multiple spelling options and shortened forms. The well-meaning gift-givers chose the wrong spelling and we are now the proud owners of two monogrammed mugs, one with a mistake on it. I have known the chap in question for more than a decade and he is in pole position to be my best man, so I was slightly horrified that he got this basic thing wrong. What should I do?
— P.K., by email
A. Drive the message home by thanking your friend once again, chuckling as you do so that, though the hamper company got your fiancée’s name wrong, it has turned out to be a very useful error. Since the elegant mugs are displayed in pride of place, they prompt visiting friends, confused by the lettering, to ask for clarification of the correct spelling of your fiancée’s name and her preferred shortened form. You can now give this information without sounding bossy.
Q. Our public library offers an excellent service whereby if a member asks them to buy a particular book they will generally do so. An author friend has asked me to suggest it buys his latest book. I don’t necessarily want to read it and am uneasy about asking the library to buy it. But my friend may check the catalogue, and I don’t want him to feel offended. What should I do?
— Name and address withheld
A. Your author friend breached etiquette by putting pressure on you to do this favour. Sidestep the nuisance by buying a copy of the book with your own money and donating it to the library. It will be all to the good if your friend checks the catalogue and finds that you have troubled his conscience by donating the book yourself.
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