Q: When you have dinner guests, must you offer a full bar or no bar at all? We don’t typically have anything on hand but martini fixings and scotch, but we do stock beer and wine for guests.
A: Etiquette, being more interested in the “how” than the “what,” concentrates on serving the drinks rather than mixing them.
What you serve — if you serve any alcohol at all — is up to you. Miss Manners does require that if you hide the good wine from undiscriminating palates, then the discriminating palates (including the host’s) will have to settle as well. And requests for nonalcoholic beverages should be honored without argument or inquiry.
Q: I enjoy giving my friends and family tickets for concerts, plays or sporting events, and everyone seems to enjoy them.
However, it seems that there is an unspoken rule that gifts of tickets must be given in multiples. Many people have an issue attending an event by themselves, and if you give them a single ticket, you may be setting them up for an uncomfortable experience.
Therefore I always give tickets in pairs. However, the last time I did this, the recipient thought that I was implying that he had to invite me as his guest. I didn’t mean anything like that! I told him that while I would enjoy going with him, he wasn’t obligated to invite me and could invite whomever he wanted.
On yet another occasion, my brother gave me six tickets to a play for my birthday. While I appreciated his generosity, I had a hard time finding five people who were available to come, and it caused a lot of stress. My brother himself was unavailable to attend, which made the situation even worse.
How many tickets are appropriate? If you give multiple tickets, does it obligate the recipient to invite the giver? And is the giver obligated to make themselves available, in the event that they are invited?
A: In the absence of specific knowledge, tickets should be given in pairs and acknowledged, like all gifts, with a thank-you letter. There is no obligation for the recipient to reciprocate immediately or in kind — in other words, to give the second ticket back to the giver.
Before Miss Manners is inundated with letters pointing out that this will be hurtful to the person without a significant other — or with not just a significant other, but significant friends and children — allow her to explain.
One of etiquette’s virtues is that by establishing rules, sometimes arbitrary ones, it manages expectations. A pair of tickets is the most likely to be useful without being inconvenient — surely reasonable goals for a present. But such rules are intended to be modified by “local knowledge”: There is no ban on providing enough tickets for the family to attend a family show.
The recipients should realize that had you expected to be included, you would have asked them to attend as your guests, rather than handed over the tickets.
Judith Martin writes the Miss Manners column with help from her son, Nicholas Ivor Martin, and her daughter, Jacobina Martin. Send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, MissManners.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.