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.
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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.
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.
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.
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We have a wedding to attend at a farm event space under a tent on July 31st, at 3:30 pm in Rehoboth, MA. I have two questions: one is about a wedding gift and the second is about what I should wear?
We are distant cousins but close to the bride. My teenager daughter is in the wedding party. I am also, doing the bride’s hair on her wedding day. I feel awkward about charging her for doing her hair so we have not discussed it.
If I charged her, what do I give for a gift? If I don’t charge her, what do I give for a gift? There will be myself, my husband and my daughter at this wedding.
–Jodi, Rhode Island
Dear Jodi,Your wedding gift of your time is an in-kind gift. When a service you can provide is requested, you are giving the bride your time and your expertise at her request as your wedding gift. Doing your cousin's hair is a big deal. However, because the hosts will also be paying to host your husband and daughter, you would send a small gift from the couple's bridal registery. It is not so much about how much you spend on a bridal registry gift -- because you are already giving your time in-kind--, but that you give the wedding couple something --once again-- that you know they want.
- You should be able to find info about where they are registered on their wedding website.
- If the wedding couple are asking for money, estimate what it will cost your hosts to host your husband and daughter. Approximately a hundred dollars per guest, but your daughter would be half price because she wouldn't be consuming alcohol.
- It is going to be bloody hot and humid in Rehoboth, MA, in mid-summer so don't get too gussied up. If the tent is not air-conditioned, it will be even hotter.
- Wear a really nice sundress that can pass for a cocktail dress. It is more about the quality of the dress than the dressiness of the outfit.
I need your advice about late summer Newport weddings!! I’m going to a wedding in Newport, Rhode Island. The wedding is on September 3rd at 5:30 PM. The dress code is Black Tie. What should I wear?
Thank you for your help
Dear Martha,Since fall doesn't actually begin until September 22nd, you can definitely wear a dressy summer weight cocktail dress or long dress -- although not a Cinderella ballgown. By September, summer colors are on the fade. The combo of black + white gives an end of summer pop to the transition from white to black without having to go somber and a little drab by wearing the requisite chic gray. Do you look better in a vivid color? Here are three September colors: 'Black Tie' is most likely dressier in Florida than in Newport. We tend to be a bit subdued -- or underdressed -- in the northeast. Less is more. Hold back on the glitz unless the bling is the genuine stone(s). As to sleeves, for September 3rd, sleeves should be very sheer, because twilight can be steamy. Or you can still get away with no sleeves at all -- and any length in between.
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My name is Douglas and I’m writing to ask you about customer care. I live in Chicago and have learned a great deal from your etiquette website. Guess what? I am about to start a fabulous adventure; I will be moonlighting at a new Whole Foods just around the corner from my apartment! I will definitely need to put into practice many things I have learned from you. I just finished two weeks (really!) of training, and am looking forward to serving/educating customers about beer, cheese, coffee, etc., and backing up my team members as best as possible. Any tips or advice you can share would definitely be welcome. Thank you!
–Douglas, Chicago, IL
Dear Douglas,The customer is always right. Even if you don't agree, respect their opinion. There is a famous story about the wildly successful America merchant John Wanamaker, who was a pioneer in marketing. A salesman at Wanamaker's department store accused a loyal customer of trying to steal a small item that she had just bought elsewhere at a lower price. The lady had actually come into the store to buy something far more significant, but when this small item caught her eye, she asked the cost. After being questioned about the item in her possession, the woman mentioned she had come in with the intention of purchasing a baby grand piano. She produced the sales slip for the small item that proved her story and abruptly left the store. The following afternoon, a baby grand piano was delivered to her house as a token of apology from Mr. Wanamaker. The point here is that you buy loyalty with respect. Wanamaker is quoted as having often said, "When a customer enters my store, forget me. He is king." Be as helpful to customers as you can, keep in mind that they, too, lead busy lives and are probably trying to get out of the store with as little fuss as possible, possibly with your assistance.
- For instance, when asked to check whether there is any broccolini left, offer to go back into the produce room to restock the broccolini.
- When a pregnant mother with small children in tow is struggling to get out the door with a loaded shopping cart, help her to her car by pushing the cart and loading the groceries into the trunk while she secures her kids into their carseats.
- If a shopper is trying to twist the long straggly tops off a bunched up handful of carrots offer to cut them off for her.
- When a customer insists that the price labelled on the shelf is lower than it was when rung up, send a coworker to check the shelf and give her the correct price.
- Offer to use your savings card when the shopper has left hers in another handbag.
- When you see a shorter shopper on tip toes trying to reach a top shelf item, get the item down for him or her.
- When asked where are the eggs? don't just say aisle ten. Lead the shopper to the eggs.
- Don't go into work if you are visibly sick, coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose because nobody wants you touching their groceries with germ-laden hands.
- Should the shopper's card be declined, don't announce it to the world. Under your breath ask the shopper if he or she has another card.
- Don't refuse a return. Refund the money or give the person a fresh item.
- How do I tell if this mellon is ripe? A ripe mellon with be slightly softer where the stem was removed and that soft spot will exude a mellow whiff of melon scent.
- What is the difference between a product that is "natural" and one that is "organic?" Google the definitions; along with other terms such as "free range," "grass fed," "organic superfood," "cold milled organic," "verified NonGMO," "GF for gluten free," "V for vegan," "sustainably pole & line caught."
- Why are organic coffee beans better? Non-organic coffee beans have been cultivated with pesticides for decades.
- What is an artisan cheese and a handcrafted beer?
We’re going to the Newport Flower Show for the first time this weekend and wondering what to wear? We’re also concerned that there won’t be enough activities for our two elementary school age children? It will be a long day trip for us and we want to make the best of it.
–Ginny, Duxbury, MA
Dear Ginny,Google the weather forecast for Newport before setting out to see if you'll need rain slickers. If it is a sunny day, you'll want to bring along sunscreen and hats; dress comfortably and smartly to ward off sunburn. Be sure everyone is wearing walking shoes.
- Your kids should plan to take lots of pictures. From the stunning overall vista of Rosecliff, with its fairytale setting and captivating topiary and floral displays, to the fascination of people watching, you should find plenty of photographic happenings.
- Inside Rosecliff ask your children to pick their favorite floral display or exotic rose in bloom by voting to see if they agreed with the judges, who will have already awarded the ribbons to the winners.
- At the bottom of this green carpeted bazaar of boutiques you'll discover a jazz band, ice cream and snack kiosks, and a wonderful Children's Tent organized and run by the local elementary school. The children's activities include hands-on planting and other botanical, horticultural and artistic projects to make and take home. What's most fun is that the "helpers" are elementary school students themselves who are well-schooled in answering questions, because they participate in a year-round horticultural club.
- Shopping opportunities abound. I especially love seeing the latest chic Newport Long Coat and special occasion silk jackets designed by Maria Pucci. Apparently, this year Ms. Pucci has collaborated with the popular interior designer Rebecca Vizard, author of ONCE UPON A PILLOW, in producing evening jackets especially for the Newport Flower Show. Ms. Vizard's eye for antique fabrics is expressed in her decorative pillows and attractive dog collars and leashes.
- Best of all, your exhausted youngsters will happily sleep through the car ride home.
I am hoping to attend the Newport Polo USA v France match in August. I see that the suggested dress code is Newport Smart Casual. I also hope to attend the Lobster Bake afterwards. Would a tie be necessary for either of these events?
Would my wife have to wear heels for the full day?
–TPJ, United Kingdom
Dear TPJ,Dress code for Newport polo tends to be less formal than matches abroad, and yet festive flare in the form of lovely hats on the women and colorful trousers and bow ties on the men are always eye-catching. Newport, as you know because you've been here before, is a summer resort and August can be hot, hot, hot. A tie, along with a jacket would be required only on weekends at upmarket restaurants and private clubs for dinner. Otherwise a collared shirt with a lightweight jacket would be appropriate. You would not need to wear a tie or jacket here in August to a polo match. Socks are rarely worn in summer. You won't see men in sandals. Men are more apt to be seen wearing white trousers or khakis -- as opposed to bleu jeans or cargo pants. Clambakes and Lobster Bakes are deliciously, terrifically messy affairs, and you'll be given a plastic lobster bib to catch the melted butter in which you dip your lobster morsels and corn on the cob. At the polo match you'll need sunscreen and a hat or cap with a visor, as well as sunglasses. Your wife would NOT wear high heels to the polo match because a spiked heels could get caught in the turf and you wouldn't want her to take a tumble. Instead of high heels, she can wear pretty sandals or ballerina-style flats. A good solution if she likes a bit of height, is to wear shoes with a cork wedge heel -- as opposed to a spiked heel. More random photos from recent polo matches:
My question concerns manners and etiquette in relationships. Between work and play there is a slippery slope about how not be rude. My girl friend, who recently lost her father, told me I was “a rude individual” and that I should be more aware of other people. What can you do to help me? I need a crib sheet in a nutshell.
–RG, Stamford, CT
Dear RG,Relationships are hard enough to negotiate as it is. If your girlfriend complains that you're rude, you probably are. It's hurtful, I know, but politeness is a badge of its own. Look at your mistakes and learn. Your girlfriend can straighten your tie and make reservations for you and your friends to have dinner. But, how not to be rude in any situation takes empathy and consideration. And, buddy, there is a difference between expressing your opinion and being rude. In a heavy nutshell, toss over in your mind some of the points below and think about how you behave now and how you could behave better. Never be intimidating Don't make people accommodate themselves to your needs. For instance:
- Be patient and allow a person to adapt, adjust, orient herself to the loss of a family member. Grieving is a process. She will reconcile herself to her loss in her own time and in her own way.
- In the workplace, keep in mind that nobody appreciates a high-maintenance colleague. Instead of forcing someone to kowtow to your idea, be flexible. Show the person they are worthy of alterations on your part. Work it out. Teammates support one another.
Be a better communicator:
Communication Is EverythingCommunicate when you're running late, whether you go virally or verbally. A few minutes tardy when meeting someone is understandable; a longer wait is unconscionable. Send a text to say you're on your way and give your estimated time of arrival. Missing any meeting or date you're expected at without explanation is rude.
- Don't be a no-show. Even if you recognize the meeting will be productive without you, let people know that you've been detained and when they can expect to see you.
- On the other hand, never apologize too profusely for being late or a no-show, because over-explaining is a surefire sign that you're not telling the truth or that you're exaggerating.
- RSVP when there is a cutoff date and it is not a pay-to-play event (such as a charity or political fundraiser). If I've asked you to RSVP to a birthday dinner for a mutual friend, and your seat is one of twelve at the table, I need to know if you will fill that seat.
- Passive-aggressive behavior is tiresome. We get it, you're shy or you're waiting for a better invitation before accepting mine. It is still rude not to accept or regret in a timely fashion.
- Within three days, preferably sooner, answer a letter with a letter, an email with an email, a phone call with a phone call, a text with a text -- except if he's in the next cubicle and you can walk right over.
- Confirm a date or meeting. If you've accepted a verbal invite and told the person you were putting the date into your calendar, there is nothing wrong about going ahead and confirming the date for exact time and place.
- When you've invited friends or colleagues, the verbal invitation needs a confirm with the invitees who have accepted. The message should be simple, such as "We have a reservation for lunch at the Black Pearl at 12:30, Tuesday. See you then." When confirming, whether you're the host or invitee, clarify who is paying. "Let's go dutch treat." Or, "It's our turn to treat you." Or, "I'm paying."
- Otherwise, the person who initiated the invitation pays the bill. The exception is when it has explicitly been specified from the start that, say, the two couples are going "dutch treat," with each couple paying their own way.
- When the person is inviting you to lunch and says, "Let's have lunch, my treat?" she's telling you she's paying.
- At the restaurant, don't be rude to the waitstaff. You don't have to chat him up and ask him his name and where he's from because he's got other tables waiting for his attention. If you overdo it with the chit-chat, he see tips from his other tables being effected big time.
- Show concern. But never ask questions that are too personal, especially when it is "personal business." 'Personal' means none of your business.
- Everybody is dealing with something. When the person is ready to talk about it, they will do so. When they don't want you to know that their son dropped out of college, they won't want to talk about it, because discussing it will only make them feel worse.
- Respect the fact that everyone has their own personal space and that zone is not like any other person's space; keep at an arm's length from people who aren't related to you
- It's bad manner to invite a particular person to lunch or to party after work in front of other people, unless all of those listening have already been asked to join you.
- When approaching a friend or colleague and he is talking to another person, wait to proceed until you're signaled to come into the conversation. If he wants to include you, he will turn to you and say, "Fred, come over here and meet Jim Harris, our new CMO."
- When I'm following you as you walk through a door and approaching your personal space, hold the door open for me and I'll do the same for the person behind me.
- Same goes for when budging into traffic. You may not know me, but if I'm on foot and there's no crosswalk, let me pass through before you inch your way forward.
- Whatever you do, don't cut the line at the grocery store, even if you are only carrying three items. I'm busy, too, with a pre-schooler to fetch at noon.
- What if the boss had told the person you weren't at the top of his list?
- An exception would be if you went on a date in high school with Julia Roberts.
- It can be social suicide to try to use a higher-up's position to further your own goals by dropping their name.
After the Break Up
All About Weddings
Dress Code & Grooming