How to Tell Your Fiancé That You Hate Your Engagement Ring

A ring can eventually be changed, but the right spouse is hard to find. Unsplash/Gift Habeshaw

Myka’s Manners is Observer’s etiquette column helmed by Myka Meier, the director of Beaumont Etiquette and founder of The Plaza Hotel’s Finishing Program, an instructional course in modern manners. Send all your questions on contemporary decorum to Myka@Observer.com

Is it ever okay for a date to order a drink prior to the arrival of the other person? If I arrive exactly on time, is it ok to have a drink in hand—or should I wait for my date to arrive, and order together? 

Dear Thirsty,

Think about this in the same terms as eating a meal at a restaurant; you wouldn’t begin until everyone at the table ordered and had their food…and it’s no different with drinks on a date. If you’re meeting someone for cocktails or dinner, you should wait for your date to arrive before you place an order. Now, that being said, if you arrive on time and your date is running 10 minutes or more late, then I think it’s perfectly fine to order a drink while you’re waiting, as it can be quite awkward to sit at a table or bar without anything to do. But this comes with a word to the wise: Stop at one drink, and go easy on the vodka. And if your date is so late that you are onto drink number two, it’s time to bow out gracefully, beckon the bill and get back on Bumble.

With online dating I never know if people really look like their dating profiles (often they don’t) so when I show up to a bar or restaurant, how do I find the person if I don’t recognize them and say I’ve arrived? Do I send a text or just wait until they see me?

Something similar once happened to me, too. I’d met a delightful man in the park and agreed to go to drinks with him. But when I walked into the cocktail lounge, I didn’t recognize him without his hat on because he was totally bald underneath. To both our embarrassment, I walked straight past him. Ever since that date, I created a strategy much like that of an adult version of hide-and-seek. This essentially is where you get there a tad bit early and plant yourself at the bar or table. Then you text saying “Good evening XX, I’m seated at the bar when you arrive. See you shortly!” Then the person has to find you and you’re not left playing the seeker. Works like a charm. 

If one is sitting and is being introduced to someone else, should one stand up? What if you are already at the dining table?

A handshake is only respectfully given if done when standing. The exceptions would be if someone was unwell or unable to stand. Modern etiquette sees all genders practicing what I like to refer to as the SAS: Stand-and-Shake.  

In modern times, who pays for the date? I was taught that, as a lady, the man paid—but when I said this at work the other day everyone said that was old fashioned and a turn off to a guy if the lady didn’t offer. What’s the deal? 

Dear Wallets Out, 

My rule of thumb here is that whoever invites the other person is also the one who picks the restaurant (which sets the budget for the evening), chooses the wine and essentially plays host—and therefore is the person who should pay. It’s not about gender, but rather about who is hosting the other person and wants to show respect to the guest. Now, lets say in your case—as a lady—you are on a date with a man. Regardless of whether he planned the date or not, you should always offer to pay when the bill comes. It can otherwise be taken as a lack of manners or a sense of entitlement. It’s like dating brownie points and most people, even if they do not accept your offer to chip in, still will take mental note of the offer and be grateful for the gesture. 

I always send cards addressed to married couples in the formal “Mr. and Mrs. {Husband’s Name}” format and it apparently offends some of my feminist friends. I consider myself a feminist, too, but have always addressed my cards and invitations in this style. Does modern etiquette allow or even require for me to change this? One friend said she was sure the was from some ancient aunt—not her liberal arts-educated friend!

Dear Enveloped, 

Just one generation ago, your method to address these envelopes would have been considered correct, and would not be debated. It’s a perfect example of how etiquette is modernizing with society. Nowadays, you could offend many by these old methods, so I recommend writing First Name & First and Last name (if surnames are shared) or First and Last & First and Last if the surnames are different. For example, you could write June and Jack Carter to a married couple who shared the same last name. This way, you are still being formal yet respectful and progressive. It works just the same with two women or men as well. Just remember if someone has a higher title (Dr. for instance) then their name comes first. 

I consider myself a gentleman, but I’m not sure how to handle this situation. I was not at all attracted to my date after the first dinner, so when she followed up, I tried telling her I was busy and thought that would work. But she kept following up, and when I stopped writing back to her texts, she wrote again asking what went wrong. I don’t know what to say—so I’ve just remained silent. Is it considered rude to not write back—even if it was only one date? 

Dear Not Interested, 

Ghosting, as we now call it, is never polite. It’s also quite socially dangerous, as you never know what friends or colleagues you have in common. Given that you tried nicely to drop hints that you were not interested and it still did not work, next time, after your initial attempts to close off communication, I’d recommend a straightforward approach. As hard as it is, try texting back that while it was lovely to meet for such a fun evening, you feel like you would be better off simply as friends. Now, this is in no way intended to be hurtful or mean, as that is the opposite of what etiquette is all about. I genuinely feel like it’s better to be honest than just leaving someone in the dark and disappearing. Second, I always advise not to plan a dinner as a first date—it’s an awfully long time to sit through if you realize after 15 minutes that this person isn’t for you. The safer option is a glass of wine or a coffee. If it goes well, you can always add on more time. 

I peeked into my boyfriend’s desk drawer (because that’s where he hides things) and I saw a ring box. I couldn’t resist opening it…and when I did, it was the ugliest ring I have ever seen. I think he is close to proposing. What do I do?

Dear Disapointed, 

Sweet heavens that was naughty! Hopefully, he knows you so well that he put a fake ring in there to fool you. But…if that is indeed “the” ring he intends to propose with, you must do this: 1) Don’t tell him you peeked, 2) React only with delight, and 3) Don’t tell him that you can’t stand the ring. Wear the ring, wait a week, and then gently tell him how a small edit here and there might make it even more your style. The key here is that you must focus not on the material gift, but more the reason he gave it to you. By reacting negatively right away will take away from the moment. Instead, try to appreciate that this man just asked you to be with him for the rest of his life. A ring can eventually be changed, but the right spouse is hard to find! 

Is it old fashioned or appropriate to ask permission from the father of the person I want to marry? 

I love this question for so many reasons! Yes, it is still important to speak to the family of the person you about to propose to. Now, notice how I have phrased that last sentence…I did not say “ask permission” to marry someone. Instead, I recommended having a conversation with the father and or mother and say it’s important for you to receive their blessing, or support…not necessarily their permission. The whole idea is that you are showing respect to the family of your loved one, who are also about you *hopefully* become your family too. Note to anyone reading this who was sent this article and doesn’t know why. This question is likely directed toward YOU…hint hint! 

If I’m at a bar and someone buys me a drink, do I have to take the time to talk to them? How can I get out of this? 

Dear Drinks on Them,

If you do not want to talk to someone then do not accept a drink from them. By accepting a drink from someone, you are opening a line of communication, and it’s not very polite to have someone spend their hard-earned cash on you, if you don’t want to at least say hello. If you’re not interested, a simple “That’s very kind but I’m fine for the moment” will do. You should feel no obligation to socialize. Cheers!

Myka Meier is the Founder of NY-based Beaumont Etiquette and co-founder of The Plaza Hotel Finishing Program.

How to Tell Your Fiancé That You Hate Your Engagement Ring