Travel Etiquette: Airplane Hygiene, Far-Off Wedding Locations

Etiquette expert advises on public grooming and wedding travel.

ByColumn by Lesley Carlin, editor
October 24, 2011, 10:28 AM

Oct. 26, 2011— -- In this edition: Getting married far from home; grooming on planes.

Q: My friend is getting married at her grandparents' cabin in Colorado. We live in Texas. This cabin is 40 miles from the nearest town and 174 miles from the nearest major airport. The nearest town does have its own regional airport, but it's very costly to fly into it. My friend also wants me to help plan the wedding, even though I'm not sure I can afford to go! Isn't it kind of inconsiderate to have your wedding somewhere that's inconvenient and/or expensive for most guests to get to? And if it is, how do I tell her that?

A: I don't think there's anything intrinsically rude about having your wedding in an unusual place. After all, it's your wedding, and, ideally, you're only going to do it once, so why not have it somewhere memorable? It is, however, rude to have your wedding in the middle of nowhere and expect all your friends and relatives to come. The more inconvenient it is to get somewhere, the fewer "yes" RSVPs you're going to get. That's just a fact, and you're not allowed to whine about how if Aunt Isabelle really loved you, she'd find a way to make it to the Alaskan tundra.

In your case, though, I wonder if by having the wedding at her grandparents' cabin, your friend is actually trying to be thoughtful. If her grandparents live there and she had her wedding somewhere else, they'd be the ones who'd have to deal with the pricey regional flights or the long drive to the big airport. I completely understand that it's hard for you and a number of other guests to get to the cabin … but she may be putting her family first here. And you can't really knock someone for doing that.

As for the planning … well, a bride shouldn't assume everyone she knows is going to drop everything in order to help plan her wedding. Your friend should ask you to help, and if you have good reasons why you can't, she should tell you it's no problem. That said, I don't think the fact that you might not be able to go is a good reason not to help with the planning. It would actually be a pretty awesome gift if someone said, "I have to be honest with you -- I'm not sure I'll actually be able to make it to your wedding. But despite that, I'd be happy to address envelopes / help you figure out who's sitting where at the reception / staple the programs / etc." For all of those examples, the time commitment for you would be basically the same whether the wedding is in Texas or Colorado.

Q: I thought I'd seen it all until I saw the passenger seated next to me on a redeye flight take cotton swabs out of her purse, clean her ears, and then put the used, waxy swabs in the seatback pocket in front of her. I caught her eye and gave her what I hope was a "What the heck do you think you're doing?" look. She said, "Oh, sorry, it's just something I do before I go to sleep." She did take the cotton swabs out of the seatback pocket, wrap them in a tissue, and put that in her purse, but still -- how could someone possibly think it's okay to do that at your seat in the first place?

A: I don't know. They either know it's rude and don't give a fig (in which case, they're probably beyond help) or they genuinely don't know that you shouldn't groom yourself in public. If anyone reading this is in the latter category, you've now been brought up to speed. So don't do it again.

However, even if you read the nasty anecdote above and thought, "I would never, ever, ever do such a thing," you can learn something from it too. Not too long ago, I saw someone put an apple in a seatback pocket… and then eat it without washing it or even wiping it off. I've also seen parents stick pacifiers in there. Don't ever do this. Earwax Lady (or someone worse) might have been in your seat on a previous flight. If it goes in your mouth, keep it out of the seatback pocket!

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

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