My husband is dying. We have hospice in the house and I would like to know about memorial service etiquette. What should I be doing? They predict he’ll be dead in 72 hours.
–LS, Montauk, NY
Dear LS,About memorial service etiquette. As you no doubt know, the purpose of a memorial service is to remember your husband in a manner in which you and his close family and friends knew him. It can also be a way to say goodbye to his physical presence. The memorial service may be an essential form of support for those who loved your husband and knew him well, and those who knew him not as well, but really liked him. Aside from nurturing and comforting family members and your husband's closest friends, you would orchestrate various practical elements: the burial, the obituary, the memorial service, the program or takeaway.
- That handout consists of the order of the service as well as photos, favorite poem, etc. of your husband, and, last but not least, the sympathy acknowledgment.
- A recently deceased friend, a former diplomat who lived by protocol, had his entire church service worked out beforehand spending "hundreds of hours," going over every detail of his funeral with the minister. She made that clear in her sermon.
- A series of tasks would presumably overwhelm anyone grieving and the more delegating you can do the better.
- The director, or staff, will give you the information you need to decide about how and where your husband's remains will be handled, and buried or stored.
- You will be asked to choose a vessel, either a coffin for the embalmed body or an urn in which to safe keep the cremated ashes. You will be prompted at every question to make it easier for you to come to a decision.
- You will even be asked about the particulars of your husband's life, because the funeral home releases a death announcement (template obituary) to local newspapers.
- Starting this now will possibly enable you to query your husband for his input.
- At the end of the obituary you will just need to add information as to the date, time, and place of the memorial service (if it is open to the public), as well as where to send a check "in lieu of flowers in honor the deceased."
- You want to be sure that the officiate knows many of the specifics about your husband in order for him/her to sound credible; they will help you plan the order of service and program.
- When there is a reception following the service, the officiate would invite the mourners to attend, "The family would like you to join them (following the service or after the private burial) at ...."
- For a memorial service you would have more time to have a program printed that reflects your aesthetic.
- It would include the order and names of the various speakers and readers, and could display a photo of your husband, say, on the front, and a photo of the two of you, or of your family, on the back, making it a takeaway remembrance.
- Depending on your style, a laminated photo of your husband can be enclosed with the sympathy acknowledgment.
- That second card can also include his date of birth, date of death, and even a quote from the scriptures, his favorite poem or song.
Their intentions are good — however overprotective. What happens to the resilience of the child when mom and dad are hoverers? My sister and her husband post daily Instagrams of their adorable offspring. It’s the language, though, that’s giving them away as being possible overbearers.
For instance the posts are labeled, “Our first day in nursery school.” ‘Our’ meaning the child and the parents! And “Our first soccer shoes.” Who is the soccer player? I pity the coach. It reminds me of the overly aggressive behavior parents of our son’s teammates display. How do we politely call attention to this excessive interest before my sibling suffocates her kids? What do we have to look forward to? “We’re applying to colleges? Notre Dame is our first choice?”
How do we not appear critical, but make a point nicely? I should add that the “we” and “our” are used in conversation as well.
–E.P., Detroit, MI
Dear E.P.,At least you are not asking your sibling and her husband whether of not they are neglecting their children. The problem is that helicopter parenting comes off as caring too much. Relationships have to have a happy, healthy middle ground. It is best, however, to tread lightly when expressing your views. Using humor to illustrate that you get a kick out of seeing a photo of "our first soccer shoes" would be a start. Call them on their usage of pronouns when it comes to family members. Add that you may have done the same thing. Sometimes when a parent feels he or she is deficient in their parenting skills they imagine ill-will or evil-doing toward their child, and champion themself as the child's hero.
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In the nineties, when I attended a boarding school for four years, it was well-known that there were certain students who flirted with teachers and other staff members. Whether in the hope of getting better grades or out of sheer playful teenage lust, it was evident to most of us who was flirting with whom. Some students appeared much needier for adult attention than others and wore their illicit affair as a badge of courage — the teacher’s pet. There are obvious consequences for the promiscuous behavior on both sides. Nobody wants to snitch on anybody, but in all fairness, there are two sides to every story being exposed and every secret illicit act.
In teaching these adolescent ladies and gentlemen manners, what can schools do today to end sexual abuse?
Dear Anonymous,Aside from hiring an undercover detective to bring predators to justice, it would be far more productive in the long run for schools to offer stronger professional support to their faculty. There is the taboo of the teacher-student relationship. There are important boundaries which must never be crossed. However, when the boundaries become hazy, teachers are more apt to find themselves dazzled -- and more than likely, confused. They need to find a way to talk about the feelings being experienced by both the teacher and the student, and how to make sense of them. The taboo, of course, makes the adult and the teenager feel humiliated, because in shame they are forced to hide their emotions. In a perfect world, there would be a way for the teacher to acknowledge his or her feelings by talking them through. That process should strengthen their resolve rather than make them feel that their emotions are a show of weakness, sickness, perverseness. It goes without saying that the child should have support, too, but it is the adult who is legally and ethically responsible for handling his or her power in a healthy manner. The adult, then, would be better able to steer the relationship. When they understand that when they have greater control over the relation with the student, fewer boundaries are crossed.
My husband and I attended a lovely engagement party that was over-the-top from the thick paper invitation and valet parking, to the excellent canapés that served as our supper. The cocktail party, with well over a hundred well-heeled guests, was at the house of the groom’s uncle, whose name was listed on the invitation, along with his wife’s, as the only hosts.
Here is our dilemma. We had never met the hosts before but we are very good friends with the groom’s parents. We believe we would have never been invited to the party, if we hadn’t known the groom’s parents. Do we send a thank-you note to the bride and groom, whom we know only slightly, to the groom’s parents whom we know well, or to the hosts whom we didn’t know and don’t expect to ever see again?
–Nicole, Matapoisett, MA
Dear Nicole,Traditionally -- and people rarely give a fig about tradition any more -- the engagement party was to introduce guests, who will be invited to the wedding, to the bride or groom, their families and friends.
- In the past you would only invite guests to the engagement party who were actually being invited to the wedding.
- These days it is more than likely that the engagement party includes many who will NOT be invited to the wedding.
- With destination wedding cost prohibitive to many, and travel in general complicated and expensive, the engagement party may be for many the only time to meet and celebrate the wedding couple.
- Don't expect an invitation to the wedding, so you won't be sending an actual wedding present in reciprocation for attending the ceremony and reception.
As a reluctant soon to be house guest, what are the expectations on both sides?
We’ve been invited for Labor Day weekend to what my boss calls his summer house. As house guests, what is expected of us? The cost of flying there and back is prohibitive enough without having to buy a house present, which my wife seems to think we have to bring. What are the expectations – on both sides?
–G.W., Brooklyn, NY
Dear G.W.,To say the least, you sound reluctant about your upcoming adventure as a house guest. The rich live differently from the rest of us. No doubt, your host has paid for many airplane trips to his summer house and is aware of the cost. Find out ahead of time what is expected of you in terms of what you should bring.
- Will you be going sailing, playing golf, tennis, cycling? Having boat shoes for the sailboat and all white attire for the tennis court may be mandatory requirements.
- My favorite is, "Bring old clothes for the clambake."
- We've even had a host ask us if there was anything we're allergic to or if we had any dietary needs.
- If you're planning to bring a child or pet in tow, be sure to communicate any requirements, such as a babysitter, crib, or dog walker -- should you be on a boat for the day.
- Guests who have stayed a week are known to have installed simple lighting in our garden, and another put shelves in the garage. It was a gift of their time and the expense was minimal. In other words, make yourself useful when you can.
- If there is a staff member assigned to the task, ask if you should leave a small tip, especially if someone has gone out of their way to iron your trousers or bring you Advil or a hairdryer.
What to do about entertaining the same houseguests again and again every summer?
Every August a couple we’ve known since college – and that’s a long time – arrive to spend the Labor Day weekend and occupy our guest room for two weeks. They are grateful guests; they are so appreciative that they spend the entire two weeks thanking us, as well as being very overly-considerate. In trying to “earn their keep” they bring fresh cut flowers and vegetables from our local farmers’ market.
It’s enough already, but we don’t know how to break the tradition and say, “You can’t come next summer.” They constantly say things such as, “We’ll have to do that again next year,” or “Next summer we’ll make dinner reservations at ______ (a popular restaurant) well ahead of time.”
We want to say, “Please, don’t come next summer,” but we don’t want to hurt their feelings or make them think they’ve done anything wrong. To put it bluntly, they’re no fun and we don’t want them inviting themselves a year in advance.
How can we be honest and nice at the same time? Any ideas about how to head them off at the pass?
–C.L., Martha's Vineyard, MA
Dear C.L.,To quote Benjamin Franklin, "Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days." Entertaining houseguests should be fun. As soon as your erstwhile guests mention staying with you again say, "Jean and Eddy, as much as we enjoy your company, we think we're just inviting family next year for Labor Day."
- Or, "We're hoping to invite friends who haven't visited us before to come next Labor Day."
- By saying you want to do something different shouldn't hurt an adult's feelings.
- That way you would be telling them "maybe" or "we'll take it under consideration." We all know that is a gentle way of saying "No."
At our upcoming, fairly formal wedding dinner every guest will have an assigned seat and know where they’re sitting. How can we pull this off without seeming stuffy? Some guests won’t want to be stuck with the same seat mates for two hours, but having, for instance, the men move clockwise into different seats after the entree, seems contrived. How can we make place cards fun?
Some guests won't want to be forced into playing musical chairs. Especially if they're shy or are enjoying where they're seated. Designate one empty seat at every table for the bride or groom to perch on while they thank guests at the table for coming to their wedding.
The other upside to allotting one seat without a place card is to allow for that unexpected (uninvited) plus one that you hadn't known you would have to seat last minute.
Additionally, assuming the table is a twelve-top, the phantom seat also becomes an opportunity for any guest to introduce themselves or catch up with other guests across the table.
On the evite to our barbecue pool party for 30 guests we want to say No Kids Adults Only, what is the polite way to ask our friends with young children to leave them at home?
–P.L., Westfield, NJ
Any invitation should be happily worded and upbeat. Have a line under the RSVP info that reads something like this: Ages 21+ Welcome.
Let it be known through word-of-mouth that despite the swimming pool, you are not expecting to accommodate young kids and you don't want to have to feel responsible for any underage drinking.
What does RSVP really mean for guests? What if you RSVP and then don’t show up? We accepted a dinner party invitation, but ended up not remembering to go. I was reminded of the dinner a week later when a friend said the host was pissed that we were no-shows. She said there were two empty seats at the table where my boyfriend and I were supposed to have sat.
Do we apologize or let it slide and invite him out sometime? We really don’t have an excuse, do we make one up? It was on our calendar.
–Shelley, Edgartown, MA
What does RSVP mean for guests.
It could have been a Freudian slip. You unconsciously didn't actually want to attend and could have accepted for the wrong reasons: you didn't want to hurt his feelings by rejecting his invite, and were still vaguely curious to see who else would be there and what his home would look like.
In the end, you weren't curious enough.
Call him - in the hope of leaving a voice mail - to say that you are deeply sorry you didn't show up but something came up last minute that you had to handle. Don't bother with a shaggy dog excuse.
- The longer the longwinded dodge, the less believable you'll sound.
Yes, you could text or email a lame excuse, but you'll still be stepping back again to distance yourself.
If you care about softening the faux pas, call him - hoping your apology and reciprocal invitation goes to voicemail - or is graciously received voice-to-voice.Take a step closer, when you sincerely want to repair the friendship in order to sustain it.
- Reciprocate with a return invitation - even if only for brunch. The day before, however, you had better call or text your guest that you're looking forward to taking him to lunch.
- Remind him of the time and where you're meeting, or he may not show up.
Socializing is about social bids, accepted or regretted. RSVP means "please respond." You accepted and were no-shows. The ball is in your court.
What about children at weddings? We have a dilemma.
My fiancé would like to invite his great-aunt and uncle, as well as their grown children and their spouses. This I have no issue with, as I am told they are lovely people and are thrilled to attend the ceremony. The holdup is that they have small children.
Well-behaved though the children may be, I am not overly keen on little ones at the wedding. As my parents are paying for a lovely sitdown dinner at a local country club for our reception, I hardly want to stick them with an even larger bill, which would result from feeding a filet mignon to children under the age of five.
Is there a polite way of wording an invitation to imply adults only? I feel like I may come across as heartless for not wanting little ones. I keep being told it’s my wedding and I can have it my way. But I wonder if this may be a step too far.
Thank you so much for your expertise, I have learned a great deal from reading other posts! I look forward to hearing from you!
–Amanda, North Carolina
Dear Amanda,Weddings are all about the bride and groom. Not wanting young children at your reception is a common dilemma. It is generally assumed that children attend the ceremony, but are not invited to the evening reception -- especially, if it is a seated dinner. There are of course exceptions. For instance if the bride or/and groom already has/have young children and, possibly, there is a group of first cousins the same age. Then you put a 'children's table' together managed by a babysitter or older sibling, such as a junior bridesmaid. In that case, you would be 'accommodating' young children. In your case, you are not 'accommodating' young children for the reception, but if the family is coming from out-of-town, you would offer to find a reputable babysitter for the evening events, such as the welcome dinner and wedding reception. It would be best to call the parents well ahead of time to say that their children are welcome to attend the ceremony, but the club does not accommodate children at the reception, and offer to find them a babysitter. Young children can be cute and charming at a wedding ceremony, but in the evening, in a strange place at a grownup event where there is a likelihood of getting a sugar high, they can become out of control and melt down, wander off and get lost, or cause an unhappy distraction that could end a disaster. For these reasons, many private clubs do not want to take on the responsibility and do not encourage young children at events where alcohol is served. On the other hand, if you do have a 'children's table,' you can order ahead of time pizza or chicken fingers for the children. Since they won't be eating filet mignon or drinking champagne, the charge per child can be negotiated and greatly reduced. There can be no pussy footing around. You need to communicate to the parent that you will not be accommodating children, but would like to be helpful in finding a caregiver for their children for both evenings. In some situations, the families will stay near the reception location and take turns during the course of the evening events minding the children. Since you never want to print anything negative on a wedding invitation, you would not mention this issue on your lovely invitation.
- You can, however, make it crystal clear on your wedding website that there will not be any accommodation for children at the welcome dinner and the dinner at the wedding reception.
- Additionally, by talking to people, you can get the word out that children won't be attending the evening events, and that a list of babysitters is available on the wedding website.
My question is two-fold about weddings, specifically the timeline for the photos and the length of the bridesmaids dresses.
I am planning my wedding for this upcoming November. I have the location, and the reception hall booked, but I am struggling with a time. It is right before Daylight Savings, so I want to time it to have daylight for photos after the ceremony, but I don’t want it so early that it becomes a totally informal affair. I was thinking maybe 4-4:30, in order to catch sufficient daylight, but at that point, what is the proper attire for my bridesmaids?
I originally wanted them in floor-length dresses, but I am afraid that may be inappropriate. I plan to have the men in tailored suits (the groom has decided that), so that doubles my fears that long dresses will be too much.
–A.B., North Carolina
Dear A.B.,Timelines for weddings are tricky, especially, like many, you are looking for a certain amount of formality to your wedding, but you also want optimum natural light for your photos. The groomsmen will NOT be wearing tuxedos, but you would like the bridesmaids to wear long dresses. Since your wedding is in mid-November on the eve of Daylight Savings, you're concerned about the timeline for the formal photos. The easiest solution would be have the photos taken before the ceremony, because you'll want them shot between three and four o'clock. Between 4:00-4:30 p.m. it will already be too dark. To have the photos taken later than four o'clock, you would need professional lighting. Talk to your photographer. Having the formal photos taken before the wedding is becoming more and more popular for several reasons:
- Because you want to catch optimal timing for natural daylight.
- Because the bridal party will be looking their best and easier to coral into one place for the photos; for instances if they are arriving from different directions.
- 3:00 - 3:30 p.m. Formal outdoor photos
- 3:45 - 4:00 p.m. Leave for the ceremony
- 4:30 p.m. Arrive at the ceremony
- 5:00 p.m. Ceremony begins
- 6:00 p.m. Reception begins
Please help me to choose a great outfit for a charity event with the dress code “Festive Rugged Elegant Attire”. It will be at 6 p.m. in September, in Massachusetts, under the Harvest Moon and there will be a farm-to-table dinner, and dancing.
I want to look chic without looking bohemian/western.
Dear Sue,The dress code is Festive Rugged Elegant Attire and you want to look chic, but not Boho or Western, so why not try an outfit such as this from Belstaff: an off white and black panther print Lindsey dress, with a fun swing skirt for dancing, paired with a short black, or claret, leather black, because New England can be nippy on a mid-September night. Alternatively, you could of course wear the jacket with pants, but in mid-September it will still be mild enough to wear a little black & white dress. We like the black & white combo going into fall. Especially this optical "Off White & Black Panther Print Fil Coupe' " -- see the details at the Belstaff Online Store.
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My question is about the rudeness of mixing business with pleasure.
At a cocktail party celebrating a friend’s birthday an acquaintance approached my wife and me to explain that he had pledged a matching grant to a local non-profit, that the deadline was coming up fast, and if we contributed, our donation would be doubled? A good idea, but in our opinion not the right place.
Furthermore, it put us in an awkward predicament. A two-edged sword because my wife had previously asked him for a donation to her community outreach program. At that point, we didn’t know if he had made a contribution to her fundraiser. But that wasn’t the point, she hadn’t put him on the spot in a social setting, she had sent him an email followed up by an invitation to the benefit.
The acquaintance was pushing for a financial commitment in what was supposed to be a relaxed social setting. Didi, how would you have handled a dilemma such as this?
Dear R.B.,Some people are all business -- even when on holiday. That's who they are. That's how they socialize. The best response would have been to listen to him for two minutes and then say, "We really shouldn't be having this discussion at George's big celebration. Let's meet for a drink or coffee." Chances are he won't follow up. He was enjoying his moment. Boasting of his matching grant as a vehicle for socializing. If he does invite you for a drink or coffee, your wife would have had time to find out if he had made a contribution to her fundraiser, and you can take if from there.
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My question is about what to do about rudeness:
I was shopping with two friends at a trunk show when another friend said to one of the friends, “You and Max will have to come to dinner soon. Can you come next Friday? I’ll invite Alex and Molly, too.”
What bothered me was not so much the fact that I wasn’t invited, but the rudeness and insensitivity of how the invitation was extended in front of me and another friend. The rude friend is someone who likes to drop names and is thought to be a social whore. As a friend, do I talk to her about this or let it slide? She really should know better.
Dear Anonymous,Let it go. The friend you think you can help is an attention whore who wants something from your friend whom she is inviting and will repeat the cycle to get to the top of the social ladder no matter what. Hopefully, the social climber, who thinks friendships are a game, will mature beyond her social climbing ways when she realizes that her shallowness in hurting other people's feelings has been witnessed too many times.
After the Break Up
All About Weddings
Dress Code & Grooming