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Wednesday, October 23, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Miss Manners: Can my boss require happy-hour attendance?

By Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin Andrews McMeel Syndication

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I’m wondering what is the business etiquette around requiring employees to attend out-of-office events.

My husband is expected to attend a monthly happy hour with the people in his department – all of whom, including the boss, happen to be female. Spouses are never included (and also weren’t included in an after-hours holiday celebration). I wonder if the boss thinks this is appropriate simply because she holds it during the later afternoon, and because people are generally allowed to leave between 6 and 7 p.m.

In any case, what was once perhaps a “girls’ night out” is no longer such a thing, now that there’s a male in the department. I’ve never met the boss (obviously, I’ve never been invited to), but I can’t imagine this is proper business etiquette. Am I wrong? If not, how can this possibly be addressed?

GENTLE READER: The issue is not that the event takes place outside of the office, but rather the confusion – on the parts of your husband, his boss and yourself – about whether the event is social or professional.

Professional events generally occur during work hours. Social events do not require permission to leave. Professional events are usually gender-neutral. Social events tend not to be.

You are correct that your husband’s boss is not following proper business etiquette. But this confusion is nowadays so common – about professional-versus-social, though perhaps also about gender – that she may not even realize she is abusing her authority. Rather than confront her with being rude, a safer solution would be for your husband to attend the portion of the event that runs until the close of business, and then excuse himself.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have been a Catholic priest for nearly 25 years. In years past, when performing a wedding, I would nearly always receive an invitation to the ceremony and reception. For the past few years, this no longer seems to be the custom. Obviously I know when the wedding will be celebrated, but I have no idea where the reception will be held.

I do not presume or expect an invitation to the reception, but at nearly every rehearsal, or immediately before or after the service, a parent will ask me if I am coming to the reception. I don’t know how to respond.

If I say I wasn’t invited, I will of course make them feel bad, which I won’t do on such a special day. But I also don’t want to lie. Would you please suggest a response?

GENTLE READER: The etiquette for such situations calls for … misdirection: “I am so sorry not to be able to attend, but there are so many calls for my services this time of year.” Miss Manners trusts that such a response is literally true, and looks to you to determine that there is therefore no sin in so responding. She herself takes comfort in realizing that such an answer is the lesser of possible evils.

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website,

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