The Dollar Dance, Gift Cards and More Money Matters: What’s Tacky and What’s Acceptable?

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Society has always been rather hush-hush about all issues pertaining to money, which makes it tricky for people to know what is appropriate and what is not. For instance, is the dollar dance at weddings tacky or appropriate? What about tipping the bartender a buck for a $7 drink? Or how about giving a therapy session to a loved one as a gift?

GOBankingRates consulted Maryanne Parker, a business and social etiquette consultant, to learn the do’s and don’ts of modern money manners. Before we get started, we’ll answer one of the burning questions: Yes, the dollar dance has always been tacky and it still is!

Giving Cash at Weddings

“Today giving cash at a wedding is absolutely acceptable compared to the times before COVID changed every single industry overnight,” Parker said. “The wedding registries became less popular because many businesses had to close their doors, and purchasing items became a difficult task for many of us. Most weddings got postponed and the easiest and most secure way for a useful, practical and wanted gift became the cash option. Before, asking for cash wasn’t really acceptable and was against the proper wedding norms in most circles. Today cash [is] the norm.”

Giving Gift Cards as Gifts

“We should always consider the recipient and the occasion,” Parker said. “Most of the time the most thoughtful gifts require more time and creativity to bring joy to the recipient. If we know for a fact that the recipient might enjoy the gift card more than any other gift, we shouldn’t hesitate and present her or him with a gift card.”

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Parker added that gift cards can be a great gift for someone at the office, especially if we are not very much aware of the person’s interests but have a surface understanding.

“For example, a gift card from Starbucks because our colleague loves coffee,” Parker said.

Gifting a Therapy Session

“As we know, [the pandemic has been] very difficult for many,” Parker said. “Mental illness, drug and alcohol addictions, marriage problems, [etc.] are on the rise. Should we consider giving a therapy session as a gift? My answer is, it depends!”

Parker explained that in some situations therapy as a gift can be perceived as a blessing and the best gift someone can give — but in other situations could be seen as rude and intrusive.

How can you tell whether a therapy session will be graciously received? Your best bet is to only gift this when the recipient has openly discussed needing therapy but being unable to afford or make time for it.

Tipping Etiquette

“Many people became much more compassionate during the pandemic, because so many local businesses closed doors and especially the businesses in the hospitality industry,” Parker said. “The regular 15%-20% percent became 25%-30% [at restaurants].”

Additionally, leaving just one buck at the bar after receiving your drink from the bartender is no longer acceptable.

“At the bar no one leaves $1 any longer, it is insincere and rather offensive,” Parker said.

Other tipping rules also apply.

“The hairdresser usually gets 25%, especially if we have been with the same one for many years,” Parker said. “As a matter of fact, after I visited my hairdresser [following] a long waiting period of time because of the pandemic, I was much more generous.”

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If we are experiencing financial predicaments or have fallen on tough times, we can opt to be a tad less generous with our tipping, but not to the point where we appear stingy or ungrateful.

Last-Minute Cancellations After RSVP

“We all know that our responsibility as a guest starts from the moment we receive an invitation and if we respond positively, we could cancel only if some very serious circumstances occurred at the time of the event,” Parker said. “And in case we didn’t show up, and especially without a very serious reason we might not be invited by the same host ever again.”

Today, in a world with COVID-19, things are very different.

“We need to monitor our health, our temperature [and consider] the state orders referred to COVID, whether we are attending the party indoors or outdoors, what is the capacity allowed for the particular time frame and so much more.”

In other words, if anything COVID-19-related comes up, it’s perfectly OK to bail out on an event — even if it’s one the host paid for — at the last minute. Just be clear about your health and safety-related reasons.

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