Modern Manners + Etiquette: Destination Weddings + More

Wednesday, April 04, 2012


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Does it matter that the bride wants to walk down the aisle... in the Caribbean?

April's here in full bloom at and families are asking for the etiquette of planning proms with a hold harmless waiver and destination weddings that family friends won't witness. Colleagues want to know how to match make with class!

Dear Didi,
It's prom time and with it come the after parties. We want a safe place for our son and his friends to hang out after the prom and we're ready to provide food and music, but a lot of people in our community are litigious and we're wondering how to cover ourselves. For school trips and birthday parties where rough games are played, we've had to sign a waiver in order for our son to go on these trips or to these parties. What is the etiquette for saying "I'm not responsible if your son gets drunk somewhere else first, has booze in his car, or gets smashed when he leaves our house?  Would it be rude to have each guest get a parent's signature on a waiver before putting them on the guest list?   J.M. Stonington, CT

Dear J.M,
States vary on how enforceable these "hold harmless" waivers end up being. Check with your local police station or your lawyer before you go through the trouble of making every guest's parent sign a waiver of liability. Every neighborhood has a community relationship officer who should be able to lead you through the process, either using their form or at least telling you how to find one. You might discover, depending upon where you live, that in order for the agreement to hold up (and be enforced by you) there has to one adult for every 15 teenagers - which means you might need to have your own party going on. You might also be able to print the form for free off the Internet.  ~Didi

Dear Didi,
What is the etiquette for a destination wedding? We, the bride's parents, live in Rhode Island, our daughter and her fiance live in CA and his parents live in Virginia; they have friends and former classmates from all over the country. Do we send invitations to close friends and family even if we know that due to health issues, cost, or fear of flying, they won't be able to attend? Is it rude to invite when you know they'll regret? Won't they think you just want the present? On the other hand, we've all at some time been the guest of some of these families at weddings they've given. Ideally, we would like to rent a tent and have the wedding in our backyard and invite everyone we know, but they've got their hearts set on a Caribbean wedding. Annie W., Portsmouth

Dear Annie,
I'm with you. There is nothing finer than an at home wedding. One of the funniest movies around is Father of the Bride, whether it's with Steve Martin and Diane Keaton (1991) or the original with Spencer Tracy, Joan Bennett, and Elizabeth Taylor (1950). Rent both to remind you why your daughter doesn't want to put her parents through such an ordeal. As you'll recall, it's not just about renting the tent. Most families end up repainting their house inside and out and redoing bathrooms and driveway! Unless you've made those upgrades lately, your daughter is doing you a big favor. And, yes, most of your friends (and theirs) won't get to see your daughter walk down the aisle, but you will - and unlike the father in the film, this dad will experience it first hand. As much as we Mums think it's our last task as their mother, it's not.

Why not offer to pay for the local videographer. That way you'll be assured of always having a front row seat to your daughter's wedding. Then invite your friends for cocktails when the newlyweds come to town and have the video running on your flat screen TV. They can watch the parts that bring tears to a mothers' eyes. Your guests might even want to know where the wedding couple is registered.  ~Didi

Dear Didi,
Recently I was walking with a bachelor colleague in the lobby of our office building when we ran into four woman associates, three of whom are single. I forgot to introduce them when they said hi to me and by the time I realized my mistake they were starting to walk away and I felt stupid. John's newly single and seemed interested in them. What should I have done? Should I have just apologized to him and let it slide or tried to introduce him? G.R., Pawtucket

Dear G.R.,
Not to worry, you can usually backtrack before it's too late. Next time say something such as this:

"Hey, I'm sorry, I thought you knew John. John, this is Helen Ross, Suzanne Green, and Amy Brown, John Wilson is a colleague from work." You use your body language to designate which person is which. Either just your eyes or your eyes and gestures. Always the eyes.

When you backtrack you can mention what the person does or give them anything to ease the conversation along. A peg to put their hats on. By assuming that your associates know John, you are putting everyone on the same level or one might say, the same playing field. You could say, "John Sherman, here, is our new lead counsel." Then, one of the associates will pick up the conversation and say, "Where were you before, John?" You want someone—anyone—to start asking questions that will bring John into the conversation.

On the other hand, if you and John are on the run to get to a meeting, you say, "Sorry, we're running late for a meeting, John Sherman, this is......  " Then excuse yourselves. If you're not really running late for a meeting, you can tell John that you drew a blank on one of the women's names, which is why you didn't introduce him to your associates.

When you've drawn a blank on one of the associate's names and therefore cannot introduce John to anyone, then say to the gathered group, gesturing toward John, "You know John Sherman! Then the associates have to introduce themselves to John one by one."  This is my favorite solution because then everyone starts talking amongst themselves and I can relax. ~Didi

Dear Didi,
I'm pleased to have just been hired by a very classy company, and I don't know how it happened! Can you give me some tips to on how to fit in to my new life?  F.C., Woonsocket

Dear F.C.,
Talk to everyone you meet, whether in line for coffee or on a plane.
Keep personal life separate from your work. It's OK to talk about your family and kids, but nobody needs details.
If something's not working, deal with it and move on.
Politely writing thank-you notes and emails opens doors.
Return phone calls and messages promptly.
Don't be afraid to show you're human.
Keep good people around you. If someone isn't a team player, let them go.

Someone sent me this lovely quote that might inspire you :
Class is an aura of confidence, of being sure without being cocky. Class has nothing to do with money. Class never runs scared. It is self-discipline and self-knowledge. It's the sure-footedness that comes with having proved you can meet life. - Ann Landers, born 1918

Didi Lorillard researches trends in manners and etiquette at Or find her on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest, after you've read her earlier GoLocalProv, some of which are listed below.


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