The Wretchedness of Regulars

What to do when you've been dissed by your favorite restaurant

Dear Social Grace,

My partner and I eat at a certain restaurant one or two times a week, spending $60 on each visit. Recently, as we were finishing our dessert and coffee, the host asked us if we would mind finishing our coffee at the bar, as another couple was waiting for our table. My partner cheerfully acquiesced, and doesn't think this was a huge deal. We picked up our coffee and "enjoyed" it (standing) at the bar. I, however, was and am incensed, and have since refused to go back to the restaurant. My partner is starting to really miss their onion rings, and this is putting something of a strain on our relationship. I ask you, am I right to be angry, or should I put this incident behind me?

Displeased Diner

Dear Displeased Madam or Sir,

Clearly, when onion rings are creating problems in a relationship, someone is being irrational. I'm not saying that you're wrong to be angry -- the host obviously made a bad situation (an overbooked restaurant) worse, by making at least two customers uncomfortable. You are quite right to be a little bit annoyed. In the future, when a restaurant employee suggests something that gets your ire up, you might consider saying no. This will lessen the irritation you feel later.

What you do now is up to you. You could continue to boycott this establishment, driving your beloved to indulge that taste for onion rings on the sly -- and who knows where that simple deception might lead? You could politely explain to someone on staff that you were less than pleased by the service the last time you dined there. If you tell the right person, you can be sure it won't happen again (the restaurant business is increasingly precarious, and no one wants to drive steady customers away). Or you could try to see the gaffe in a more positive light: At this place you seem to be considered not only customers but also friends. Being regulars brings both perks and the occasional minor irritation. If none of those options appeals, you might just have to learn how to make onion rings yourself.

Dear Social Grace,

I was recently invited to a bridal shower and consequently to the wedding, later. Do each of these events require a separate gift?

Respectfully,
Bing

Dear Bing,

The short answer to your question is yes: Showers and weddings are both events to which one traditionally brings a gift. The answer to your unasked question (but one that I am asked directly quite often) is no, there is no minimum gift cost. One of the loveliest gifts I received last year was a set of hand-crocheted potholders and trivets that cost the giver little more than time. A recently married friend of mine was absolutely delighted with an almost-free gift from one of her new in-laws: a photo album that contained pictures taken at different stages in her husband's life and had blank pages where she could place similar pictures from her life. Any sort of wedding-gift equation you might hear about (for example, the price of the gift should equal the price of the meal served at the reception minus $10 for every 100 miles traveled plus $5 for every year you've known the bride and groom) is utter nonsense. It is the thought that counts.

It's also normal to want to give gifts to a couple who have invited you to their wedding. If you're looking for someone to tell you that you don't have to give a gift if you don't want to, well, I can do that: Gifts are rarely an absolute must. But you should consider declining an invitation from people who, when you think of putting a little bit of effort into giving them a gift, inspire dread or resentment.

Dear Social Grace,

I will be attending an evening wedding in Venezuela in a couple of months, and the bride has told me that all the ladies will be in long dresses. My question to you is, would it be acceptable to wear a red or black dress to the wedding?

Thanks for your help.
Grace

Dear Grace,

It has become fashionable to wear black to weddings, especially formal, late-afternoon or evening weddings. (Ladies in long dresses means you're probably attending a formal affair.) But because black is a traditional color of mourning in many societies -- including Latin American Catholic communities -- many still recommend avoiding it, as I do. Another consideration is temperature: Black might be a bit warm, depending on how tropical the climate is.

Red, too, is a symbolic color, and it can be considered "flashy." Etiquette mavens may disagree with fashionistas here, but flashiness is perhaps something to avoid at a wedding. An eye-catching (or white) dress might be seen as an attempt to upstage the bride. Again, red isn't against the rules, but if you're going to travel in conservative circles, opt for a pinkish or dark red rather than bright.

 
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