We would like help with how to improve our children’s table manners. My husband’s parents live in the south and we are spending the holidays with his southern relatives. We’re New Yorkers and our children’s table manners aren’t as good as they could be. We’re two working parents who have slacked off on enforcing good manners. Would you kindly give us some tips as to what is absolutely essential to know about children’s table manners. By the way, the kids are adorable and bright! Hope we’re not too late to try! Thank you in advance.
–Working Parents, Brooklyn, New York
- Help the child find the chair they may be assigned to sit in at the table, after making sure they've gone to the bathroom and washed their hands. They would not sit down until the host asks everyone to be seated.
- Whether an adult or child, if you are unsure of what to do and when to do it, follow the lead of the host(s).
- Once seated, lay the napkin on your lap and unfold it so that it catches any food or drink that might drop or drip onto their lap and soil their clothing. The napkin is also useful for wiping hands so that the child doesn't wipe their hands on their clothing, or wipe them on the edge of the tablecloth.
- Good posture, sitting up straight is also helpful in keeping food from falling on clothing or in the lap.
- Start eating when the host starts eating, or when the host announces that everyone should eat.
- Whether drinking soup from a soup spoon or eating turkey off your plate, raise the utensil up to your mouth, and never bend down over your plate, the way a dog eats out of a dog bowl.
- It is entirely OK to pick up a turkey leg and eat with your hands. Much the way you would eat an ear of corn.
- Knives, forks and spoons are not waved in the air like flags at a parade. Keep the utensils on the plate when you aren't actually eating. Once a utensil has been used, it never goes back onto the tablecloth. Rest them on the plate.
- To cut up a piece of meat into bite size pieces, stab the meat with the fork in your left hand tines down to stabilize the meat from sliding off the plate. The right hand with the knife cuts the meat into bite size pieces. Then put the knife down on the plate, return the fork to the right hand and with the fork tines pointing up, raise the fork to the mouth.
- Asked for salt or pepper, pick them up and pass them both together, but set them down together, as a pair, for the next person to pick up and pass. It's a silly superstition to never leave one or the other behind.
- When the bread basket is passed your way, offer the basket to the person on your right to take a roll before taking one yourself.
- Never butter bread/roll in mid air. Rest the bread/roll flat on the plate and spread the butter while the bread/roll is resting flat on the plate.
- When finished eating, place the knife and fork side by side at a slant that looks like four o'clock, approximately. That way it is easier for the server to clear the plate without dropping the flatware.
- If asked to clear the plates, don't stack them because the bottoms get yucky.
- After dessert, try to wait patiently while everyone catches up with you (a good reason to eat slowly), or ask if you "May I please be excused." Getting through a plate of food is not a great race, because you just end up having to wait for everyone else to finish.
- Leave the napkin loosely folded on the table and push in your chair as you leave the table.
- Remember to thank your host when it's time to part ways.
- When a fork falls on the floor, don't pick it up at that time, but do ask for another fork.
- When the water glass tumbles over because the person next to you has hit it waving their arm, simply, loosely fold your napkin and place it over the spill. After the water has somewhat absorbed, the napkin can go back on your lap or stay on the table.
- When there is a piece of gristle (a chewy, inedible part of the meat) or something else you don't want to eat, discreetly, put your napkin to your mouth to catch it and place the gristle on the rim of the dinner plate.
- When there is a food you don't like, take a tiny bite and then spread the rest of it around the plate. Never complain about the food.
- Keep your shoes on.
- Excuse yourself to go to the restroom by simply saying, "I'll be right back." Leave your napkin on the table and push in your chair.
- Never rest your head or hands on the table or wave hands or arms in the air as you talk. Simply place your hands in your lap when not drinking or eating.
- Never pick your nose or your teeth, especially at the dinner table. Ask to be excused when you have to blow your nose. That goes along with don't lick your fingers. Use the napkin.
I am attending a Newport Wedding at 6:00 PM on the waterfront. The invitation says Summer Cocktail Attire. Can you define a women’s selection? Assume not a sundress or formal either. Printed dress okay? Ceremony, cocktail, dinner and DJ.
There have been so many Holiday Etiquette 2022 concerns–all timely and important: a present that you know is a regift; a gift that costs way too much and how to reciprocate; a gift that is the same as their gift to you last year; what to do if someone gives you a gift and you didn’t get them anything? And other uncomfortable situations: What about the guest who clearly has had too much to drink? What about the would-be guest who didn’t receive an invite his friend’s holiday party? To mask or unmask or stay home?
–Didi Lorillard, Newport, RI
- What if you know that a certain gift is a regift and you say to yourself, "Why do you think I would want this? People want to be understood, if you don't know what to get someone, go to their Pinterest or Instagram account to find out what interests them: dogs, sailboats, golf, food, books, and start from there. You want the person to know that You get them. Never acknowledge it was a regift. Who Cares? It's OK, you can give it to someone else whom you know will like it: Reduce, reuse, recycle.
- Remember: A gift is a gesture. It says Happy Holidays, if you don't want it, pass it along. Respond with gratitude.
- What do you do when the gift costs way too much, how to respond: Say, "Thank you!" Don't ever make a big deal out of the fact that it must have cost them a bundle. Gift giving is a ritual. Allow the gift giver that pleasure. It is not about the cost or where they got the gift. Don't feel you have to reciprocate at the same spending level, because they don't expect you to.
- What to do when the gift is the same as last year, for instance I was given the same purple sweater two years in a row by the same person? It's OK. You don't need to call their attention to the faux pas, to their mistake. Thank them with as much authenticity as you did last year. It's all good. It's not abut the gift. It's about the ritual. If there is a gift receipt, exchange the sweater for a different color or get something you'd rather have instead.
- What to do when someone gives you a gift and you're caught off guard because you didn't get them anything? What do you say? "Thank you so much," and add at least one reason why you like the gift, and move on. How do you reciprocate? Say, "What I want to give you is an experience. I'd like to take you to lunch (for coffee) or buy you a drink after work, just choose the day."
- Some people don't send cards.
- FOMO: Some people feel left out if they didn't get invited to a Holiday Party they assumed they'd be invited to; it may have been a simple oversight.
- Show up at family gathering but consider the weakest in the bunch, the babies, toddlers and the elderly, whose immune systems may be down. If you think you're coming down with something, don't go.
- It's one thing for the 30s-and-40s-something age groups to gather unmasked, but when it's a gathering of the clan and there will be all ages in attendance mask-up or stay home.
- We don't know at this point just how bad this Tripledemic will get. This season respiratory sickness from Flu and RSV are breaking records, and Covid is climbing.
- Covid Fatigue lingers on: The experts say the winter season ahead is uncertain. As there's a lot of winter and holiday gatherings ahead, be smart about when to mask-up and when to stay home.
- Savor the Holiday Season despite the fact that the economy is wacky.
- Recycle, Reuse, Regift
- Kindness always wins
- Give people your time, give an experience instead of a material gift.
PEACE, LOVE & JOY
My question is about finding a mother of the bride dress for a summer wedding shipboard.
My daughter’s being married on a yacht in Newport in August. Needless to say, I won’t be wearing a long dress and high heels onboard. Would you please give me some suggestions. The options in the bridal department stores didn’t seem to fit the bill, so to speak. I need a more sophisticated yet casual look. Like what I’d wear on a yacht in the Mediterranean. Dressy Casual. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
–Loretta, New York City
These four photos are curtesy of Maria Pucci at Gramercy Atelier.
HELP! As I am a working mother, I have no time to shop for a mother of the groom dress and my son is getting married next month. Everyone keeps asking me what I’m wearing and I’m embarrassed that I don’t know. My son said the color is purple and that the mother of the bride will be wearing a lavender cocktail dress meaning knee length. Can you recommend a dress that would end just below my knees that is not sleeveless or backless, please?
–Elizabeth, Boston, MA
- My best advice is to go onto the website of a store in your area and click on dresses, after that you can click on color, hem length and sleeve length, and, of course, click on a price range. When you find a couple of choices that suit you either order a couple (if they are returnable) or visit the store in person and seek out a friendly salesperson.
- Your outfit should look as good from the front for the wedding photos as it does from the rear when you're walking back down the aisle after the ceremony.
Have fun! It's your special day, too!
My niece is getting married at the end of May in Los Angeles at a beautiful old Hollywood style boutique hotel. She is wondering if she should wear a single or two layer veil? Is there a significance to either? She is a beautiful, romantic and stylish woman.
–Lynda, Boston, MA
- The most popular veil drops to the waist: the waist length is 54 inches long.
- The second most popular is the fingertip length that's 72 inches to mid-calf.
- The chapel length is 126 inches long.
- The Cathedral length is 144 inches long.
- If your niece's dress has lots of intricate details and is highly decorated, it would be chicer if she wore a simple veil with a clean raw edge.
- On the other hand, if her dress is simple as in a sleek sheath, the veil can be ornate with detailed embellishments or floral accents.
- For instance, with a sheath: the veil is slightly longer than the hem of the train of the chapel length or floor length dress.
–May Bride & Groom, New England
- Two weeks before your wedding send out an email blast to all the guests on your wedding website who accepted your invitation to your wedding with this request under the subject COVID. "On your phone, please, send a photo of your CDC vaccine card to this number: _____ by such and such date" (before the first date of an event celebrating the wedding couple).
- Then make it clear that on the day of the first wedding event they are attending (perhaps the welcoming party/rehearsal dinner), all guests have to report to the below address to be tested for COVID before joining the wedding festivities. At that time they will also be asked to show their actual CDC card.
- Those who test negative will go forward on the guest lists for all the wedding activities. It's awful to have to do this, but in order to protect all of your guests testing negative, obviously, those who test positive won't be admitted. (In other words, they won't find a place card with their name on it.)
Didi, what is the etiquette these days for inviting friends to a wedding shower but not inviting them to the actual wedding? Due to Covid our daughter’s wedding had been postponed. We are trying to keep everyone safe by keeping the numbers down and the wedding will be outside under an open sided tent for ventilation. Before the wedding weekend we are planning a wedding shower in our former home town to invite friends to meet the wedding couple, but we’re concerned about the wedding etiquette that says a guest invited, for instance, to the engagement party is always invited to the wedding. Is that still the proper etiquette?
Does that etiquette apply to a wedding shower?
Would it be alright to have a wedding shower that includes some guests that are not invited to the wedding?
There was an engagement party last month in the city where the wedding couple live and work for those who probably wouldn’t be making the trip to the wedding this spring. We’re trying not to leave anyone out and we want our many friends and family to know the wedding couple.
–NPW, Portsmouth, RI
On a wedding invitation, whose family crest should be displayed? The bride’s or the groom’s? The bride’s family is paying for most of the wedding – if that matters here.
–EG, New York
Our question is about holiday party invitations, entertaining and mask-wearing.
Today is the day we had planned to send out our holiday party invitations and order a Vermont party ham, but we have no idea what to do because the new Omicron variant of Covid is spreading like wild fires in the USA, and we need to know how to party in this time of the Omicron variant? The usual suspects had been advised that we were hoping to continue our ritual holiday party – having suspended it the year before. Sadly, the biggest problem is that some potential guests are not fully vaccinated, many of whom travel around a lot. We invite mostly people from the neighborhood and close friends, but some commute into the city.
Dr. Fauci and the WHO say to only have small gatherings, mandatory mask wearing for those not vaccinating and good ventilation, and distancing. Well good ventilation isn’t possible with a fire burning in the fireplace, the thermostat up to 69 degrees, and the social awkwardness of asking people to wear a mask. We’re all sick of wearing masks. We can’t ask people to show us their CDC vaccine status and their most recent Covid test result! Do we wing it and have faith that anyone sick or who has been exposed decides not to attend our holiday party? Or do we simply call the whole thing off for another December? Everybody wants to party, especially the kids.
–Linda, Greenwich, CT
My question is about restaurant dining etiquette. At a restaurant, is it considered rude to keep talking in front of the waiter when he brings the food or is it rude to interrupt the conversation?
- Garçon is the french word for boy and these days one would never ever address a server using boy. A waiter is usually an adult.
Didi, we are vegan and we are in the midst of planning our vegan wedding reception dinner menu. Understandably, not all of the guests are vegan–especially those guests of our parents’ generation. We’re not redneck hippies about food, but we want to adhere to our principles about food. Do you have any recommendations for us? We’re looking for a festive menu for a seated wedding reception dinner that will appeal to 150 guests. Or least be palatable to most. Do you have any suggests?
–C & W, Boston, MA
(Guest's name in a large handsome font.)
macomber turnip and apple soup
roasted heirloom baby carrots, hazelnut pistou
grilled marinated cauliflower steak
shoestring onions, vegan demi-glace
sweet corn polenta cake
baby kale, caramelized onion, piquillo pepper
shallots, lemon, herbs
orecchiette with vegetarian meatballs
caramelized onion, arugula
local green salad with herbs
romanesco cauliflower, endive, fennel and turnip
saffron poppy seed dressing
sweets and dancing, dancing, dancing
Date of reception
CHARLOTTE & WILLIAMC & W, please, do let us know--if you do use any of this above menu--how it worked out so that we can be helpful to other vegan hosts. Have fan at your fantastic wedding!
Vegan wedding care and sweets.
Photo credit: VG Patisserie, Paris, France
Are interruptions rude? In a real life conversation can’t an interruption sometimes enliven the discussion? At a recent dinner party of eight friends around the table the conversation at one point got rowdy in a jolly way, with everyone putting in their two cents on a particular topic. It was all in good fun and didn’t get out of hand. No one was mean or critical.
- Isn’t it far better–and more fun–to have real life lively conversation rather than too many dreary dead silences?
On a professional level, when our company team is problem solving on a Zoom and colleagues start interrupting, we often find that the conversation becomes more constructive and productive. Really, are all interruptions rude?
–Diana, Newport, RI
- Social anxiety, on the other hand, manifests in someone who is speaking way to much and way to fast. Like a nervous tic it can be annoying for all. They need to slow down.
- Zoom conversational hijackers are rude.
- Add to the what the speaker has to say, do not negate the speaker.
- The reality is that some people are just simply oblivious to other people.
- You can say, "Please, don't interrupt me." If the rude interruptions continue, that's not cooperation,
First of all Bonjour! A conversation never starts in France without saying “Bonjour” first. A good European Manners Tip. I have a question for you!
What do you do when an ‘almost’ friend has painted a portrait of your dog and it is the worst painting you have ever seen. To boot, I have a collection of professional painters that have painted my Violette and they are hung in my long entrance hallway. I can’t hang this one. Honestly, not to hurt her feelings what do I do? I’m attaching a photo of my favorite painting of Violette to date.
–Cynthia, Uzès, France
- Be sure to first tell your new artist friend exactly what you like about her painting of Violette, before detailing exactly what you don't like.
- Even if that's a hard conversation to initiate.
Accepting A Compliment