Newport Manners + Etiquette: American Flags As Tablecloths + More

Wednesday, July 03, 2013


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It may be festive-looking, but is it appropriate to place the American flag on a table for decoration? Didi considers a patriotic decor query.

Questions about U.S. Flag Etiquette are in the wind. Wedding Gift Etiquette asking how much to spend? And dress code for a summer cocktail party, were all topical questions into Didi Lorillard at NewportManners this week.

Dining off the American flag

Dear Didi,

We want to use a giant American flag as a tablecloth for our Fourth of July backyard barbecue. What is the etiquette on flag usage for this? Is it OK? J.D.,  Exeter

Dear J.D.,

A breathtaking idea that will either insight your guests to salute you—or snub you. The problem is that no matter how patriotic you may be, you would never want to offend any of your guests. You wouldn't like to watch a guest choking on one of your delicious ribs after noticing the juxtaposition of the stars and stripes covering your buffet table.  

It's OK to have a red, white and blue tabletop. Here are some ideas from my favorite tabletop wizard Jimmy Ng:

Happy Fourth,  ~Didi

Torn + Tattered American flag

Dear Didi,

Our neighbor runs a party house across from us with college boys in winter and beer-bellied balding men with very young girlfriends frequenting late at night during the summer. The worst part of it is that his big American flag is in tatters after all the bad weather. It seems disrespectful, but he doesn't seem to care. What should we do?  Concerned neighbors, Newport

Dear C.N.,

If there was a barking dog howling through the night, wouldn't you speak up? Leave a note in the mailbox: Tenants, please, take it down or replace the flag, because it's not sending a patriotic message. ~Didi

How much to spend for a wedding gift

Dear Didi,

We're not attending my nephew's third wedding, how much should I send as a gift? J.V., Westerly

Dear J.V.,

Send about as much as you estimate it is costing the host to pay for each guest. If you're a couple, then double it. However, if you're not attending your nephew's third wedding, then you are not obligated to send him anything but a card congratulating them on their marriage—in order to sustain the relationship.

Alternatively, find out where the wedding couple are listed online and send a 'token' gift from their bridal registry. At least it would be something they signed up for. Whatever number the wedding, it is not about how much you spend, but that you're giving them something they want.  ~Didi

Dress code for a museum cocktail party

Dear Didi,

I was invited to a "Business Attire" cocktail party at a Boston museum. I'm 19 and I've never been to anything like this. Don't want to be too casual or too dressy or look too young. And if I wanted to wear a color, what ones are okay to wear? Thanks! Sophie, Wellesley, MA

Dear Sophie,

Colors trending summer of 2013 include fuchsia, red, rust orange, goldenrod, lilac, purple, sky, crayon blue, electric blue and ink, to name a few. Black and white statement stripes and graphic print short dresses are very chic and very short this summer. Bold shapes and even bolder combinations of color are just as trendy as metallic sheen and of course anything floral goes in summer. At athrift shop any style from the sixties will work. Online shops for you are Asos, French Connection, Mango, Monsoon, Zara, and how about the 'Moto Heart Fitted Dress' from Topshop?

Take a look at the website Rent the Runway to see trending fashions. Click on 'Occasions,' then 'Cocktail Party' and you'll find a variety of fun and flirty short dresses. Renttherunway will give you a good idea of what is available in the stores right now, as well as the option to rent a dress for one night. ~Didi

We like hearing from you at and if we use your question, we can withhold your name and address. Didi researches etiquette and all matters of manners for her book, "Newport Etiquette." Or ask it on Didi Lorillard's Facebook page or Twitter. Prior weekly GoLocalProv columns are listed below and can also be accessed through search. 


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