impractical etiquette

“Let it be hoped that impolite New York will wake up before it is too late and resort, not to its etiquette books, but to common sense and natural kindliness, which, after all, are two things always at the bottom of real courteousness.”
-- The New York Times, 1907

As our world has evolved and become more mobile, what we consider "appropriate" has greatly changed. It sometimes feels like people experience the real world through their phones. Whether it's checking email out at dinner, walking through a museum looking through the camera or talking to someone on the toilet (not me, but I have heard this happen in public restrooms...), smartphones have redefined communication. And with the rise of wearables, all these devices fundamentally change societal expectations of how people should interact with each other.

But when it comes to evolving notions of interaction in a mobile world, it seems like wedding etiquette hasn't changed at all. Despite the fact that the amount of mail handled in the US is steadily going down (see this awesome USPS chart), and your phone is almost certainly the most practical and ubiquitous way to reach you (although not by calling), people seem genuinely shocked that we're planning to send our wedding invites digitally. 

As a PM, I hate inefficient workflows. Forget the material cost of sending nice paper invites (invites, envelopes, liners, stamps, etc.), which isn't actually my main concern  Instead, just think about the sheer impracticality of sending invites:

  • get everyone's mailing addresses (do you know where anyone lives anymore?)
  • put all the addresses into a spreadsheet
  • print out all the labels or handwrite every address
  • stuff the envelopes
  • seal the envelopes (and hope that this doesn't happen)
  • put everything in the mail and hope it doesn't get lost

That doesn't even include the work on the guest side to RSVP and then on our side to actually track the RSVP and the nagging to RSVP. Let's also not forget the communication back to the venue. I could go on but I think you get the idea.

Instead, our digital invitations hook up to our mobile wedding app and existing cloud-synced contact lists, auto-track opens and responses, allow customized questions, and directly add everything into a spreadsheet that can be sent to the venue with one click. If anyone doesn't RSVP, we can email, text or call them to nudge. From a product perspective, there is no question how much this flow is improved by software. Normally, people would cheer the lack of paper, the productivity improvement and the overall ease for every party involved. And yet, there are an astounding number of people who believe sending digital invitations is disrespectful - a major faux pas.

There are interesting sentiments at play here relating to (im)permanence and communication, which I'll save for another post. For now, I'm going to brave the naysayers and send out digital invitations anyway. I hope our guests appreciate it. :)

And as a follow up, here's a great piece from The Atlantic about evolving telephone etiquette.