HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsEtiquette is a way of life

Etiquette is a way of life

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December is a month generally associated with celebrations of all kinds. The merriment includes Christmas, weddings, christening and birthdays which punctuate every weekend of the month.

December is also a get-together month where people from all over the world come together as family and reflect on their lives.

But it can also be a month that can bring all sorts of stressful situations. And this is basically because Zimbabweans in general do not observe etiquette issues that govern certain situations.

Etiquette denotes the set of rules or customs which control accepted behaviour in particular social groups or social situations.

The simple rule to remember about wedding etiquette is never do or say anything that has even the slightest potential to offend.

A wedding is a joyful event which bride and groom plan to make it an eventful and worthwhile day. But you will find that weddings in Zimbabwe and Africa as a whole can be destroyed by family and relatives who want things done their way. I have heard people say: “When I wedded, I invited so many guests. So why are you limiting children to your wedding?”

When my brother married nearly two decades ago, he insisted that he did not want any children on his wedding day, a matter that infuriated our mother so much.

He was adamant that this was his wedding, but that did not make any sense to her. All she wanted was as many relatives as possible at the wedding.

But he stood his ground and refused. The wedding was one of the best I had ever attended. It was held at a lake and indeed there were no children.

There was no scrambling for food and drinks. So orderly was the function that I started wondering why some weddings are a disaster.

I say disaster because I have been invited by friends and relatives to parties and weddings which strictly stipulate that only the person invited should attend.

You will discover one card will bring in three people at a wedding where, for example, 50 people had been invited.

The impact of breaching this rule is felt at lunchtime when food is being served. That is when you hear people grumbling about the little and sub-standard food on the plate.

My neighbour’s two children Kudzaishe and Nokutenda could not understand why they had not been invited to their maternal uncle’s wedding at Wild Geese Lodge in Harare about two years ago.

I was invited to this wedding and I must admit that it was one of the best that I have witnessed in so many years.

From the décor, wedding procession and the food served, it was just out of this world. That is what the bride and groom wanted because it was their great day.

Children yes can attend weddings, but they become so irritable and start making noise as well. They also interfere with the wedding procession. One child poured red drink over a wedding gown as the bride walked to aisle with her father.

I could read anger and frustration on the bride’s face. Possibly the most important day in a woman’s life is her wedding day. This is the day where, as the bride, she is rightfully the star of the show.

She is instrumental in the organisation of her day from start to finish. She would usually begin planning months in advance, even up to the day itself.

She would be involved in decision-making in virtually every part of the wedding planning, from the cake to the dress, the flowers, the date and type of ceremony — and much more!

The ability to organise whilst not offending others is a useful skill during planning. Parents will undoubtedly appreciate any consultation and their opinions may prove beneficial. Ultimately, the couple has the final say on decision-making.

If a bride and groom want to have many of their friends at their wedding, so be it. But we find that invitations are extended to people the wedding couple are not even familiar with.

I have been forced on several occasions to attend weddings of people I do not even know and I get bored and just want to leave.

This is what we call gate-crashing.

The following is part of a forwarded message that was sent to me by my boss Tangai Chipangura yesterday and it talked about more or less what I am talking about. It goes like this:

“It is that time of the year when many of you travel the long distance to the village for the festive season. One of the most difficult things is to give or be given a lift by a relative, unless you enjoy an extremely comfortable embarrassment-free relationship.

The discomfort makes many of you to lie and say that ‘the car is full’ or that ‘I am not going to the village etc.’” Much of this discomfort would be reduced if we observed some of the basic etiquette requirements that are as follows:

Do not offer fuel unless you really mean it. Any driver will know from the sound of your voice when you do not mean it. Pretending to read my newspaper at the fuel station is just not funny. If you really mean it, just bring some fuel coupons.

lDo not call me just before a major holiday and talk aimless and end the conversation with the question ‘are you going to the village?’ If you do not know the names of my children, you probably should not be asking for a lift.

If I offer you a lift, please buy your own beer and cool drinks. The cooler box is for me and my family. Again do not expect me to buy you food. I also have a family to feed. Use the money you have saved on transport to buy your food.

Please do not relieve yourself on my car wheels. It is enough having to deal with dog urine on the wheels! If you have a weak bladder, please do not drink.

When you turn up for the lift, please do not bring additional passengers like your wife and children.

Do not bring excess luggage. I may have a pick-up, but it is not a hired container. You do not decide to carry all the scrap rubbish to the village simply because I have given you a lift.

The same rule applies on return. Do not bring stacks of maize simply because my car is now “empty”.

Feedback: rmapimhidze@newsday.co.zw

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