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Valentine’s Day Marriage Proposal

Dear Didi,

Got the beautiful ring, but now I’m trying to find out how and where to ask my girlfriend to marry me. In public at a restaurant or concert, or where we have privacy. What’s the most polite and romantic?

-D.B., Providence, RI

Dear D.B.,

How would your girlfriend's dream proposal play out? Dreams constitute enduring mysteries of what makes a person happy. Have a really nice dinner to stimulate authentic conversation -- with no cellphones or other distractions. Encourage her to tell you what her wildest dreams are so you can make her dreams about the two of you. Find out what turns her on by first telling her what you love about her - what turns you on about her. Is she the best kisser you've ever kissed? Describe something else about her that turns you on and then its her turn. In a recent survey of where a woman would like to be proposed to between out in public or in privacy, an amazing majority answered that they would prefer to be proposed to in private. You can take it from there.


Planning A Long Island Summer Wedding

Dear Didi,

We sent out the save-the-date cards for our mid-July wedding this past December and are having an engagement party the end of February given by a friend of my parents, who recently sent out his paperlesspost.com invitation. What do we need to be doing?

My parents have done much of the planning on their end. My bridesmaids want to wear their own dresses. Which may be fine, because my wedding dress is not conventional, but I’m not sure. My fiancé’s friends might wear blue blazers. This is an evening country wedding on Long Island with a rustic feel, but it is not hookey by any means. Mostly our friends, but my parents will have some guests of their own. I would appreciate your advice.

-Happy Bride, New York City

Dear Happy Bride,

It sounds as though you've allotted yourselves ample time to relax between your wedding events. Since you sent out the save-the-date cards you have no doubt been hearing from any friend and family member who will not be able to attend your wedding due to prior commitments -- babies being born, relocating to a new country, etc. It gives you space to add a few new names to your guest list, to whom you don't necessarily have to send a STD. The key here is to set up a wedding excel spread sheet with the names of your wedding guests and how many people they will be bringing, such as a new partner you hadn't counted on. Your list for the STD mailing will be the names and addresses that are the core to your wedding guest list. Set up columns for the events: engagement party, rehearsal dinner, wedding, thank-you note, etc. Leave space to add more columns. Putting the details of your wedding such as the itinerary, timeframe, dress codes, and bridal registry information on your wedding website will help to keep everyone in the loop. Register your wedding website on TheKnot.com to help guests find it. However, setting up a timeline to remind when various vendors need to be paid or reminded of your wedding date is rather crucial. For each vendor from florist and makeup artist to video photographer and bagpipe player, you'll need a confirmation date and reminder date. For instance, the caterer will need an exact headcount so many days out, and he'll keep you to that when charging per person. Don't forget, you'll need at least a day to assemble the invitations, stamp, and seal them. If you have the envelopes first, you can address them ahead of time or hire a calligrapher. The sooner you register your bridal registry the better. Otherwise you will start receiving candy dishes and similar knick-knacks that may not be useful in your life at this point. Take your time filling out a registry list at one or two stores that carry household item you really need for your apartment: Williams-Sonoma or Bed, Bath & Beyond. And perhaps another registry at either Michael A. Fina, Scully and Scully, or Tiffany & Co. for high market gifts from your parents' clients and wealthier friends. Your primary bridal registry should consist of things you use everyday. The items should be in a wide range of prices from something as useful as a measuring cup, whisk, or cookie sheet, to a mixer, juicer, toaster oven, or cookware and bakeware by Le Creuset or All-Clad. Flatwear is good to ask for because a guest can give you one place setting or two. Glasses, plates, bowls, mugs, and other sets can be shared amongst buyers when one sends you juice glasses and another wine glasses. To start, you want at the very least either six or eight pieces in most of these sets. Since your paperless post.com engagement party invitation has gone out already, you want to have thank-you notes on hand to whip off one at a time as the notices come in saying who has sent you what. You will have an option to have the store hold the items and send them all at once, or have them sent directly following the purchase. As soon as you've mailed the thank-you, mark it off on your excel spreadsheet, but remember not all guest to the engagement party will be sending a present, as they have the option of giving a combined engagement-wedding present. Next step is to put ideas together for the wedding invitation, which should reflect the formality and style of your wedding. Ideally you would order your invitation ten weeks before the wedding, but check the printers schedule, if you are having them printed. Since guests already know the date, you can send the wedding invitations out between six to four weeks prior to the wedding date. For instance, for a July 11th wedding, mail the invitations no later than June 6th. Before then you'll want to know what your bridesmaids are wearing. The image to the left of your question is my favorite photo of a non-traditional bride with her bridesmaids. It works. The coordination may be in the fact that all the bridesmaids are friends and lead the same lifestyle. If you don't think yours can pull this off, suggest that they all wear the same color dress and let them choose the style and length that suits them best. As your gift to your bridesmaids, give them all the same small evening clutch that will identify them further as being part of your bridal team. You can also choose the shoe or nail polish color for them to wear. At J.Crew weddings online you can find the same shoe in every size in one place. The groomsmen put the whole look of the wedding together because they are the ushers, the go-to-person with the flower in his button hole who is in the know. Identifying them as your husband's team can be as easy as having them all in navy blue blazers, as you said, but add dress khaki pants, certainly a wardrobe item most men wouldn't mind having to buy, if they don't already have them. Then your fiancé can give them all the same tie in one or two of the wedding colors. Most of the men will already have a decent white shirt and brown shoes. Now you see, why in terms of continuity that having common threads, such as the wedding colors appearing throughout the wedding event help to bring the look of the wedding altogether. Think of the wedding photos. In choosing two colors it makes it easier deciding the color of the table cloths, groomsmen's ties, bouquets, wedding cake, etc. By adding something such as a Photo Booth, your guests will be able to make their own party favor momento to slip into their pocket or clutch bag to take home. We're here to help.    


The Proper Way to Drink from A Teacup

Dear Didi,

I’m going to attend a formal tea at the Four Seasons in Boston and I want to know how to hold a teacup properly. Also, where do I put the spoon and do I stick my pinky out or keep it in? Please help.

-Cassandra, Cambridge, MA

Dear Cassandra,

To learn how to hold a teacup properly, nobody does it better than the British etiquette expert William Hanson. Watch his YouTube video 'How to hold a teacup and stir your tea properly' where Mr. Hanson demonstrates how to hold the teacup properly, how to stir your tea, where to place your spoon and where to gaze your eyes while sipping your tea.


Is It Proper to Have A Short Engagement?

Dear Didi,

My boyfriend and I are feeling ready to take the next step in our relationship and get engaged. Woohoo! We are both very excited, but have not announced our plans to anyone in the family yet. We’ve talked about it and we both feel we would like to have a very simple wedding that is memorable and intimate, but most importantly completely devoid of fuss and stress for us and everyone involved. Is it rude to plan a wedding on short notice in order to make sure no one (especially our families) feel obligated to make a bigger deal out of it than we would like it to be? In other words, would it be impolite to start sending announcements and invites for a wedding that could possibly be held in only a few short months?

-Can't Hardly Wait, Rhode Island

Dear Can't Hardly Wait,

Only in Downton Abbey do engagements last two years. The more formal the wedding, the longer it takes to plan a wedding, and that includes culling resources. Since you are having a 'family' wedding with close friends and family, there are fewer details. But there is still a lot to do. The first order of business is to make up a budget before finding a venue, which often determines the date of the wedding. For a destination wedding, you would plan further out, because you would be booking a block of rooms at a resort and guests would have to buy airline tickets in advance and use vacation time from work. Even for a local or 'at home' wedding, you may have to pick a date that works better for the restaurant or clergyman. Once you've secured the venue for the wedding, if it is not a private home, you can send out a save-the-date card, which not only announces your engagement, but asks guests to reserve that date to attend your wedding. The save-the-date card guest list becomes the core of your wedding invitation list. It helps you to correct addresses and contact information. Especially when returns come in. In the meantime, you should line up commitments from essential guests. Your bridal party, those who will be standing up for you, other close friends and family, to make sure that they don't already have prior commitments for the date you have picked. If your best friend and her husband have booked the trip-of-a-lifetime to Thailand and paid a non-refundable deposit, you may wish to change your wedding date -- before sending out the save-the-date and putting the deposit down on the wedding facility. A small engagement party, held as soon as you can find someone to host it for you, would be an easy way to find out from friends and family about any huge commitments any of them may have in the near future. For instance if someone has committed to being a groomsmen in another wedding or your matron-of-honor is having a baby. An engagement party can be a simple brunch, a cocktail party with a bite to eat, or anything in between. Planning two wedding dates at the start would make it easier should you find you need to switch to another date. During this small gathering you and your fiancé can find out what elements and information people may volunteer. Such as a person who will do the the flowers, a caterer, makeup artist, photographer, DJ. Cull a bunch of ideas from your friends and family -- and don't be timid about asking for help. You'll find people will be thrilled for you and will want to contribute any way they can. Start an excel spreadsheet for your invitation list to keep pertinent details in one place that is easy to update. Set up a wedding website as a source for family and friends to find updates on the particulars of your wedding. For instance, where to find your bridal registry, as well as the venue, date, time, and dress code for your wedding. We are here to help you and your fiancé. You are welcome to ask as many questions as you wish.