This week: Museum etiquette, expecting free booze in casinos and how to drop out of a destination wedding
Q: How about some tips on museum etiquette?
A: I'm happy to oblige. I've never seen this covered in any etiquette book, but there are a number of things you should keep in mind in a museum.
- Turn off your cell phone. Everyone lost in contemplation of that Renoir doesn't want to be rudely jolted back to 2010 by your Miley Cyrus ringtone.
- Go with the flow. There's no real convention about walking clockwise/counterclockwise in an exhibit—it depends on the layout. Watch what others are doing.
- It's okay to hang out for a while in front of a particular piece, as long as you're not completely monopolizing it. (That includes the label with information about the artwork—oftentimes the print is small, so only one person at a time can get close enough to read it. If someone's waiting, read fast.)
- Try not to stand directly in front of someone who is sketching… but don't worry if you can't help partially blocking their view. (And if you're the one sketching, don't get mad if someone temporarily steps in front of you—it's not your private museum.)
- Obey the museum's rules about food and drink, photos, how big a backpack you're allowed to have, etc.
- If you come upon a tour group, don't automatically assume it's okay to tag along. Sometimes the people on a tour have paid an extra fee. Of course, there's no harm in listening if they happen to be in the same room as you, as long as you don't actively follow them around.
- On the flip side, unless you're actually employed by the museum or authorized to give tours, don't take it upon yourself to lecture. It's great you wrote a paper about Berthe Morisot when you were in college—but that doesn't mean everyone else in the Impressionist room wants to hear your thoughts. Sure, you can explain to your kids what something means, or ask one of the docents a question… just do it in a whisper.
- Speaking of kids—I am all for kids in museums. But parents need to prepare them and explain how they should behave. If your kids are used to going to your local children's museum, where they can touch everything, you need to explain that's not the way things work at the Louvre. (And if your kids can't behave, sorry, but you need to leave.)
- And finally—don't disparage the art while you're in the museum. Save your "My three-year-old could do that!" comments for your ride home.
No Free Booze at the Casino?
Q: I've been to Las Vegas several times, and never had to pay for drinks in the casinos while I was gambling. (I did tip the waitresses, of course. I'm not that gauche.) However, a new slots-only casino opened in a city near me, so I took a trip there. A waitress asked if I'd like a drink. I ordered a beer… she brought it… and she said, "That'll be $7." Since when is this acceptable? I thought free booze was part of the deal in a casino.
A: In Las Vegas, free drinks are the norm. But in some states, casinos are prohibited by law from giving free alcohol to gamblers. And in others, casinos could give free drinks, but if they're drawing a decent crowd without doing so, I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for that to happen. If you're not in Vegas, and you care, check before you order.
Q: My cousin just got engaged and asked me to be a bridesmaid. I happily accepted. Then, however, she and her fiancé decided not to have their wedding in our hometown but at a resort in the Caribbean. It'd cost a couple thousand dollars for me to attend, and I don't have that kind of money. Can I bail? What should I say?
A: Feel free to bail. I actually think an engaged couple need to have the when and where of their wedding settled before they ask anybody to be in the wedding party, precisely so this sort of thing doesn't happen. Just tell her the truth—that you were so happy she asked you to be a bridesmaid, and you're sure her wedding will be wonderful, but you simply can't afford to make the trip.
Lesley Carlin has been writing about travel and etiquette professionally for more than 10 years. As one of the Etiquette Grrls, she is the co-author of "Things You Need to Be Told" and "More Things You Need to Be Told" (Berkley). Have a travel etiquette question of your own? E-mail Lesley at email@example.com.