Sunday, January 31, 2010

Yes Y'all, There Are Rules of Etiquette For Family Behavior

Believe it or not, courtesy begins at home. There are simple manners that should be practiced within families. As you may have heard, one may pick one's friends, however, one cannot pick one's family. Various and changing family members will be present for you in one way or another for the rest of your life. With Valentine's Day fast approaching, here are a few tips to help you celebrate your family and loved ones:

  • Simply pay attention to your tone of voice when speaking to a family member every day. Try to sound calm and kind every day.

  • Try to be positive every day. Do not turn the dinner table into "whinny time" or the kitchen into gossip central.

  • Compliment instead of constantly criticize. If you try not to say anything negative or sarcastic, you will not hurt any one's feelings.

  • No matter their past, Respect your elder family members because they deserve your respect. They have "paid their dues" seen and done more than you have, therefore, believe it or not, are wiser. Listen to and learn from their wisdom.

  • Lead by example every day. Children (and adult family members) react to and mimic behavior and tone of voice they see and hear.

  • Acts of kindness go a long way. Bring a loved one coffee in bed. Do the dishes. Empty the trash. Straighten up the Den. Feed the dog. Make a bed. Do not be the family member that always must be badgered to do the slightest daily chore.

  • Always knock and ask permission before entering some one's bedroom.

  • Always thank whomever cooked your dinner every night. If they cooked, you do the dishes.

  • Do not always hog the remote. Ask others if they have a special show or movie they may want to watch.

  • Be quiet if someone in the room is on the phone so they can hear.

  • Practice neat Bathroom manners every day. Leave it cleaner for the next person.

  • Try not to control the conversation and everyone in the room. Give others a turn.

  • Ask a family member how their day went. They will appreciate the asking!

  • Use your magic words, (please, thank you, may I) every day. They are called magic for a reason.

If you are fortunate, different members of your family will be with you throughout your lifetime. Some people have large families, others have friends as family. Friends and family are forever. We all dissappoint, we all make mistakes. We all let down the ones we love from time to time. Forgive, forgive, forgive, every day. Value those you love every day. Try to be consistently kind, non-judgemental and giving. As corny as it may sound, who doesn't want to be around someone who is always positive?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Quick Traditional Wedding Anniversary List

Happy 2010 !

Because it is wedding season, here is a quick list of traditional gifts one can give for anniversaries!

1st - Paper ......................................14th - Ivory

2nd - Cotton ...................................15th - Crystal

3rd - Leather ..................................20th - China

4th - Flowers ..................................25th - Silver

5th - Wood ......................................30th - Pearl

6th - Candy ....................................35th - Coral

7th - Copper ...................................40th - Ruby

8th - Bronze ...................................45th - Sapphire

9th - Pottery ..................................50th - Gold

10th - Tin ......................................55th - Emerald

11th - Steel ....................................60th - Diamond

12th - Silk .....................................75th - Diamond

13th - Lace

Good reading and good luck choosing a lovely gift!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Transitioning from the Kids Menu and Finger Foods to Using a Fork and Knife Properly

Having spent the Christmas season eating out with my grandchildren, I have noticed most restaurants have a "Kids Menu," mostly consisting of chicken nuggets, popcorn shrimp, french fries, and other "Finger Foods." Eating within a 'food box' of sorts. Finger food is fine for young children, but what do parents do when their kids reach double digits? How do parents easily transition their children from "Finger Foods" to adult foods and mastering the knife and fork? No wonder I have had a slew of college scholarship contenders in the past few years who needed help learning how to hold their forks. Literally, their forks. At least these talented teens knew they did not know!!
The current trend among many colleges and universities giving out scholarships is to invite the scholarship contenders either to a group lunch, or private lunch and scrutinize their table manners. If you are asked to pass the salt and only pass the salt, you DO NOT get the scholarship. Why not? In passing only the salt when asked, you were giving the other person what they wanted, but you did not see beyond what they may have wanted or needed in the future. Anticipating the person's next need, even if they don't know they may need it is what separates the top 5% from the other 95%. If you missed this easy courtesy, the person giving out the scholarship, and future employers, wonder what other courtesies you have missed. Never mind not knowing how to hold a fork or cut food with your knife.
Maybe I sound like an old curmudgeon, but, my generation grew up without mac & cheese, without chicken nuggets and without "Kids Menus". As young children, my sister and I sat at the dining room table at least once a week (usually Saturday Brunch as my father travelled all week) and ate a fried egg with our knife and fork on a china plate, so we learned not to "clank" our silverware against the china plate. We buttered our own toast with our butter knife over our bread and butter plate, so we did not spill crumbs all over the table. We learned that sitting up straight at the dining room table with the adults was fun, especially when my father would place his entire fried egg yolk whole in his mouth then puff his cheeks out and pop it slowly with his fists, mouth still closed, and make a face. My mother would roll her eyes, while we laughed and laughed!
It was not an expensive, labor intensive chore for my mother to make a few eggs (and maybe some bacon) and a bit of toast. Just an egg on a china plate and some toast on another small china plate. This important yet simple practice made a difference for my sister and I as young children. Then, we had the confidence to go to New York to visit our grandparents at 5 and 8 years old and eat out in fancy restaurants. We were also told we could order anything on the menu. This practice gave us the freedom to try new foods. Our practice at home gave us confidence out in the adult world. My mother was smart and right to help us with our manners as very young children.
Kids Menus are easy and convenient today in our fast moving, busy society, but so is having an egg on a china plate with your knife and fork every now and again! Thanks Mom!!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Wedding Questions - traditional and simple is better

A New Year and congratulations to all our new Brides! I have had quite a few phone calls regarding the reception, the rehearsal dinner and flowers. Where to spend the hard earned money, who pays for what and who should be invited to which.

My favorite reference book is: "The Amy Vanderbilt Complete Book of Etiquette." It is complete, covering all aspects of etiquette from weddings to family behavior to funerals and always verges towards the more formal. When in doubt, always verge toward the formal and more traditional because you will always be correct.

Answers to questions:

1. Question: Who pays for the Rehearsal Dinner and who is invited?

Answer: Traditionally, the Groom's parents pay for the Rehearsal dinner. To be very clear, the Rehearsal dinner is for out-of-town guests and the bridal party ONLY. The original purpose was to feed the out-of-town guests since they have traveled a long way to attend the wedding and to feed the bridal party after the Rehearsal at the Church.

In recent years, the Rehearsal Dinner has become a "Free-for-all" with slide show presentations and the entire wedding guest list. Not necessary.

2. Question: Should the Groom's Parents help pay for the flowers for the reception?

Answer: NO. The Bride's parents traditionally pay for the entire reception. Scale back on the flowers. No one will remember the flowers the next day. Try potted and hanging plants from a grocery store or big box retailer with some homemade bows that can be taken home or donated to a retirement home or hospital after the reception.
Home picked magnolia leaves (if available) are a nice alternative and a space filler. If one is lucky enough to have a few magnolia flowers, they are SO fragrant and can be placed in a simple bowl of water on a few tables. Flowers are a waste of money!
Spend the money instead on good liquor for the bar!! People remember and appreciate good liquor at the bar. Nothing worse than cheap bourbon at a reception! Receptions are also less expensive (and more fun) than sit down dinners. Freedom to mill around and speak to whomever one wishes as opposed to getting stuck at the "Singles" table. Freedom to nibble on whatever "heavy hors-d'oeuvres" one wants as opposed to getting stuck eating a heavy 3 or 4 course meal.

In this new economy and society, simpler is better. Simple, small, thoughtful and elegant, like Chanel.