Faux pas or nah?

miss_nicoleJune 24, 2007

I am feeling guilty the morning after attending a friend's engagement party. My question is the following: Was my behavior rude, or was it excusable? (And if it's the former, do I owe the host an apology?)

Here are the facts.

1. I was invited to a friend's engagement party by his parents. (I'll refer to him as "John.") John and I attended college together. I have not seen him in a couple of years, although we've kept in touch online. The party would be 4-hours away from my home.

2. The invitation was addressed to "Miss Nicole and friend." I responded in a nice note, thanking his parents for inviting me, and informing them that I would be attending with a friend (I'll call her "Katie") from the same college.

3. Katie and John had never met.

4. After agreeing to join me, Katie asked me to pick her up at a friend's summer party. She mentioned that I'd only have to stay for a short while. I was beginning to sense that Katie might not have been the best choice of a friend to bring to the engagement party. She suggested that I not be so uptight about arriving at the exact time it said on the invitation. Since I had no other friends who would join me, and I didn't want to attend alone, I decided to let the issue go.

5. I sent John an email (our primary means of communication) early in the morning, explaining that I would be arriving later than expected because I had to meet my friend and then drive back to her place to drop off her car.

6. We ended up being 3-hours late! It killed me because I am adamant about etiquette. (I am cringing now while writing this.) It was a huge event -- complete with caterers and a DJ. I brought a bottle of wine, as I was under the impression that gifts are not expected at an engagement party. (To my surprise, there was a large table upon which sat gift bags and boxes for the bride- and groom-to-be!)

7. I apologized to John for our late arrival. I explained we got lost, which was the truth. He said, however, that he was just so honored that I drove 4-hours to attend.

Am I being too hard on myself, or did I mess up?

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If you were truly 3 hours late because you got lost then I wouldn't beat yourself up over it; things happen. But what really made you so very late? Was there a time you should have seen an out and taken it? ...like Kate just wouldn't leave her party, etc?

I would bet your friend, John, was glad that you cared enough to come...late or not, and that there were enough other guests to keep him occupied. On you next e-mail to him, you could apologize again. The friendship I would be worrying about and thinking twice over would be the one with Kate if she was indeed the one that made you late for her own selfish reasons. Lesson to learn from this experience: Do not be afraid to go places by yourself! This is why etiquette often suggests not to put "and guest" on invitations...because often the unknown guests can ruin the party.

I have to admit I don't really know the modern etiquette rules for gifts at engagement parties. Guests used to not know they were going to engagemnet parties until announced at the party, thus, no gifts. Some people always bring gifts, doesn't make it necessary. Still, you did bring some wine and I doubt John would hold lack of a gift against you either way.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2007 at 5:27PM
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I have only been to Engagement Parties where the couple had already become engaged, and yes, always brought a gift.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2007 at 5:58PM
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Ok, I broke out the Miss Manners book and looked up the gift thing. She said that although presents are nearly always correct (with or without occasion), they are not obligatory or even customary for engagement parties. She had some joke about engagements not being long enough for two shopping escapades nowadays, and suggests you concetrate your money on the wedding present which can be sent any time during the engagement.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2007 at 10:59PM
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At the engagement parties I have attended a gift was always sent/brought. They weren't surprise parties the couple always knew about them.
Well, nicole 3 hours late is pretty bad. As asked in carla's post, were you late because of Katie or did it really take 3 hours to find the place? I must admit knowing your friend had a prior commitment I would have gone alone. I too hate to be late for any engagement I'm going to.
Glad you apologized to John, did you also apologize to the hosts of the party?
It's over and done now. Don't beat yourself up to much. Just remember what happened this time and don't pick friends that all ready have plans that my fowl up yours. NancyLouise

    Bookmark   June 25, 2007 at 6:44AM
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Thank you for your thoughtful replies. I am breathing a sigh of relief, despite not being 100% blameless.

Carla, you're on point. Our getting lost did not account for all 3 hours, perhaps only half of it. As I mentioned in my (long) post, I anticipated being late based on Katie's attitude and comments. I agree that I chose the wrong friend to bring to this event. The funny thing is that she is punctual in her personal affairs normally. Finally, I came to the same conclusion this evening before reading your answer; John was grateful that I came, and was very busy with company before (and after) I arrived. I know I would be thrilled if he made such an effort for me -- late or not. Honestly.

Regarding the engagement gifts, I'm at ease about it. My cringing was primarily due to my late arrival. The table full of gifts just compounded my guilt.

NancyLouise, I must confess I did not meet his parents, my hosts. The engagement party was huge and it was not obvious who the parents were. John met me and gave me a warm welcome when I arrived. He immediately rushed me over to meet his fiancée. I was surprised that he didn't mention meeting his parents. Normally, I would have been eager to seek them out and introduce myself, but arriving 3-hours late made me want to keep a low profile. Cowardice? Yes, I think so. (I am cringing again now.) I sent them a hand-written note on nice stationery, saying what a beautiful party it was and thanking them for sharing such a special occasion with me. I suppose I should have commented that I wished I had met them, but I don't think they know or would remember who all of his friends were anyway. It was THAT big. Let me off the hook with this one, please? [laughing] Well, if any of you think it's best to mention something about not meeting them, then I can rewrite the card since it will go out in today's mail later this afternoon. (My goodness, this is a complicated mess I've made!)

I also sent John an email (again, it's our primary means of communication, although I know it's not normally proper), saying how welcome I felt and how happy I was for him.

I think I will leave it at that. I have learned a few lessons from this experience. First, have firm boundaries with friends. I knew I wasn't being principled when I let Katie dictate when we would arrive. Second, go solo if bringing a guest complicates plans. Third, don't beat yourself up for not being Miss Manners 100%. Sometimes the heart means well, and to a true friend, it's what matters most.

I appreciate your feedback and guidance, ladies. It helps.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2007 at 8:14AM
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Oh dear. It was a great faux pas to neglect meeting his parents!

Ladies, I have major social anxiety, and blunders like this are tough to swallow. Etiquette is not only nice because it's civilized, but also because it serves as a beacon for someone like me, who is sometimes nervous and shy. You can imagine, then, how awful is feels to ignore the directions. I should know better.

Mea culpa. Faux pas fo' moi. (Pardon my French...but not my Latin.) ;)

    Bookmark   June 25, 2007 at 9:07AM
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Like I said nicole don't beat yourself up too much. You have learned from this incident, that is what matters now. I wouldn't mention not meeting the hosts in your note to them. As you stated, it was a big party, they may not remember meeting everyone. I think what you plan to write is very nice. Take care, NancyLouise

    Bookmark   June 25, 2007 at 2:46PM
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You may have been exonerated by other posters but you really were inexcusably rude...as was Katie. When you saw she was dragging her feet, you should have said...sorry, I said I would be there so I'll be leaving now. If your friends are getting married, certainly you are adult enough not to have to have a "girl friend" with you to attend a party.
And then not to have even met the host and hostess? You should have introduced yourself to them immediatly up on arriving....and certainly thanked them upon leaving.
Had you arrived within an hour of the appointed time you would have been greeted by the host and hostess properly. You owe John's parents a written and sent by snail mail, note of apology for being so late.
Imagine if you, as an adult, threw a lovely party announcing your son's engagement, pulled out aall the stops and someone who accepted the invitation didn't seem to care enough to at least arrive before the party was certainly more than half over.
Sorry to be harsh, but you asked. The invitation stating you could bring a "friend" was intended to allow you to bring a date, not a girlfriend as moral support.
A gift would have been nice, but a bottle of wine for John's ;wine cellar" was an OK substitute.
Now write that note and get it in the mail today....then tell me "Thanks Mom!"..;-)
Linda C

    Bookmark   June 25, 2007 at 2:58PM
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Nicole, I think you are right in your assessment of everything. Next time you won't allow yourself to be boxed into being so late. Katie really put you in a very bad position. You can't turn back the clock, so I also think that at this point you are handling it fine by pretty much letting it go and just being polite from this point on rather than making a big drama with yourself at the center. John doesn't seem to have been upset, and anyway, you did tell him in advance that you would be late. I promise, no one was out looking up and down the street wondering where you were!

I wouldn't apologize in your note to the host. You will be one of the few who will write to thank the hosts at all, unfortunately! If you are lucky, they will assume they met you and forgot you -- it was a huge party, and they probably weren't paying close attention to the young people's friends. Now that I think of it, not all the young guests bothered to introduce themselves to me at the engagement party I recently co-hosted, and while I wasn't especially impressed with their manners, I really didn't care (and I have to admit I don't really remember any of the ones I did meet). So just tell them what a lovely party it was, thank them for including you, and congratulate them "once again" on John and his fiancee's engagement. If you will be attending the wedding, you can also tell them you are looking forward to seeing them again then. (Well, you did SEE them!)

Re: a gift -- as we all know, gifts are always voluntary and therefore never required, except at showers and children's birthday parties where opening gifts is the main entertainment. You were fine on that score. In the future, you may want to bring one, as this crowd seems to do so.

I agree with lindac that they probably meant for you to bring a date, not a buddy, but really, what is the difference from the hosts' point of view? If hosts write "and guest" or "and friend," then they get what they get!

So -- you're fine. It does you credit that you are worried about your OWN behavior -- seems like everyone is always complaining about other people's. I think you are a terrific guest!

    Bookmark   June 25, 2007 at 3:35PM
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Linda C., don't apologize for being harsh. I couldn't agree more. I displayed very poor manners, and I really know better. Showing up late, then not finding the hosts, was simply adding insult to injury. I think I was too concerned with my own comfort -- bringing a friend, avoiding awkward introductions, and more -- than with my hosts' feelings. They made a grand effort for their guests, including yours truly, but I made very little effort for them. I'm writing that note over.

Oh, and...thanks, Mom! :)

    Bookmark   June 25, 2007 at 3:43PM
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Gellchom, you're too kind! Thanks for going easy on me. Here's the thing: You're probably right that no one noticed my behavior or late presence. The fact remains, however -- it was not proper. I guess I'm making amends here with you, Carla, Kathleen, NancyLouise, and my conscience because undoing it is impossible. Furthermore, making a great issue of it at this point with my hosts would only make them feel uncomfortable. I'm vowing now, though, to do better.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2007 at 3:56PM
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I am a little late, myself, to this party, but I wanted to say that I don't think it was necessarily improper for Nicole to ask a female friend to attend with her. She had to drive 4 hours there and 4 hours back. I have a daughter not currently dating someone, and if she were driving that far, I would be very happy if she had a companion. It's just too bad that Katie wasn't a very good choice.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2007 at 10:47PM
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