The Etiquette on Asking …About Engagements, Baby Plans, etc.

A friend of mine who’s 32 just got married. She said it used to drive her nuts when people kept asking when she and her boyfriend of six years were going to get married. “They’d always ask me why we haven’t gotten married yet.” Their wedding was lovely and they are very happy, except now she says that everyone is asking her when they are going to have a baby. She says she’s had enough.

I get it. We get excited for people and don’t mean to be nosey, and are really just curious about what someone’s plans are. However… it is nosey and none of our business to ask someone about:

  • When/if they are going to get married.
  • When/if they are going to have a baby.
  • When/if they are going to have more children.
  • Their divorce.
  • Their religion.
  • What church they go to.
  • If their business is profitable.
  • Details of serious health issues.
  • Why someone committed suicide.
  • How much they make.
  • How much they paid for their house/car/boat, etc.
  • Who they voted for.
  • Anything that would make someone upset, uneasy, or mad.

So, as much as you want to know the prognosis of someone’s illness, please do not ask. There is no nice way of asking, and they will tell you if they want to. This is the case with many private topics… just don’t ask.

What we can do is to ask people general questions, and then let them fill in what details they want to share. For example, “I am sorry to hear about your divorce. How are you doing?”

My “go to” question when I am making small talk or am just not sure if someone wants to share something, I simply ask, “So, what’s new?” Then, the person can be more general or they might jump in with, “I’m pregnant!” or, “My daughter just got a new job making six figures.”

What do you do if someone asks you a personal question?

If you don’t want to answer someone’s personal question, then I recommend not getting angry and snapping back, but instead take the high road and use humor or honesty and say something like:

  • “I am a private person and I’d rather not talk about that.”
  • “I’m sorry, but I’d rather not talk about that now.”
  • “Did my mother send you?”
  • “Wouldn’t I like to know!”
  • “It’s not something I can talk about right now, but I’ll be sure to keep you updated.”
  • “Thank you for being worried about me but I’m fine.”

What topics are safe when making small talk or just meeting someone?

  • Something relevant to the situation.
  • Current events (but not political).
  • Sports, weather, and vacations.
  • Plans for the holiday, summer, weekend.
  • Where they live, where they are originally from.
  • Where they work or what they do.

So, here is to keeping our foot out of our mouth. Good luck!


Aimee Symington
Aimee is the CEO of Finesse Worldwide, and an etiquette expert with almost 20 year's experience teaching etiquette to adults and children throughout North America, Europe and Asia. Aimee has appeared on NBC’s The Today Show, and she regularly shares her etiquette advice on Charlotte Today, Fox News, and WBTV, on radio programs such as NPR, and in newspapers and national magazines such as Good Housekeeping and Woman's Health. Ms. Symington is also the creator of the award-winning, nationally acclaimed products on manners for children called “Blunders®” and “Manner Mats®” For more etiquette tips for adults and children, please visit her website at Connect on Facebook.