Newport Manners & Etiquette: Broken Halloween Promise, How to Complain & Forgetting Names

Wednesday, October 25, 2017


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What to do when dad breaks a Halloween promise, how to complain at a restaurant, the length of the wedding toast, and what to do when you've forgotten a guest's name were all questions to Didi Lorillard this week at NewportManners.

Make a promise, keep a promise

Q.  My dad promised he would take us trick-or-treating. Now he says we're too old to trick-or-treat. He thinks it's just an excuse for us not to do our homework. How do we get him to keep his promise?  JW and PW, Cranston, RI

A.  A promise made means everything. Keeping a promise to yourself and your loved ones is essential. Your dad must know that. Why not try the following:

Be kind to your dad. Make him a Halloween card. Ask him if he'd like to do something else with you and your sibling instead of going trick-or-treating. 

If that doesn't work: Get him to talk to you about what he did as a kid on Halloween. Be curious. Listen to his stories. Help him to remember good memories by asking questions. What Halloween costumes did you wear when you were about my age? 

  • If that doesn't win your dad over, ask him to spend time with you on a day he has off from work. Make it about dad spending fun time with you and your sibling and don't make it about Halloween. 


Who knows, perhaps your dad had a really bad experience when he was your age. Or that his family simply didn't recognize Halloween as a fun family activity. Find out his reasoning. My point is that he made a promise knowing you might have homework. Why did he break his promise? He owes you a better answer.


How to efficiently make a complaint

Q.  What's the most efficient way to complain about poor service and food in a restaurant? We know the owners, but don't want to go there even though we think they should know our complaints.  Name and location withheld

A.  A recent British survey found that 38% of those asked would never think of making a complaint in a restaurant, even if something was dreadfully off. Chefs have been known to throw out a quest who complained or, say, asked for ketchup to doctor his ceviche. Never order something that is unfamiliar to you and then complain that you didn't know it was raw fish. Ask before you order. If the chowder is cold or the steak is not rare enough, speak up.

When making your position known:

  • Be clear, calm and concise in verbalizing your complaint. Then be patient - mistakes happen. Allow for the error to be rectified.
  • Be straightforward, don't wait to complain about a dish until you've practically cleaned your plate.
  • Speak up immediately. Once you walk out of the restaurant door, it's over. Good manners would be to let your waiter or management know of your complaint before exiting the restaurant - and not through social media. Although if you made the reservation through sites like OpenTable, you can send a private message to the restaurant when you receive their follow up survey.
  • Don't ask to be compensated for your discontent. Any good restaurant will want to turn your criticism into a positive complaint and will probably offer a complimentary dessert or after-dinner drink as a reward for your patience. 


Totally surprise guests with the timing of your fabulous wedding

Q.  We went to a family friend's wedding this past weekend and the father-of-the-bride lectured us for 45 minutes about his wonderful, brilliant, beautiful daughter. The best man spoke for at least half an hour about how much he admired the bride and groom. When the groom got up to take the mic, we had had enough already. The groom went on and on for another half hour. As the mother of a bride to be, I'm wondering what the timing for the toasts should be and how to enforce limits for my daughter's upcoming wedding?  Susan, Westport, CT

A.  Here is an appropriate timeframe for a wedding that is followed by a dinner reception:

Wedding Timeline

5:00 pm Wedding

6:00 pm till 7:30 pm Drinks and Canapés

Dinner and Dancing: Welcoming toast by the father/mother-of-the-bride, best man/woman toast introducing the groom, followed by the groom's toast introducing the bride

Send out a memo to the speakers/toasters: Speeches during dinner are to be absolutely no longer than ten minutes each -- and much shorter if it's a toast that asks guests to "stand and toast." Five minutes per speech/toast - or less - is the ideal length of time.

  • Toasters that go over that timing are not delivering a toast, but a lecture.
  • Toasts and speeches should be loving, humorous and respectfully short. 
  • Wedding toasts are not the time for roasting the honorees. (Roasting takes place at the welcome dinner the night before the wedding.)


How to recover from having forgotten your guest's name

Q.  What do you say when you're having a lapse in memory and can't remember a guest's name when he arrived for dinner, and so you don't know how to introduce him to the guests who are already there? I was mortified.  GP, Brooklyn, NY

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A.   Be a chicken. You should have ushered him in to meet the other guests then quickly excused yourself to "tend to something in the kitchen." With you out of the room they would have been forced to introduce themselves while you eavesdropped at the door to refresh your memory.

Entertaining can be stressful. No matter how much you love the company of friends, there is much to do in preparation. Stress can certainly cause you to forget names as easily as to neglect to put butter with the bread or a pitcher of ice water on the table. It happens to us all. Once I was having such a good time I forget to bring out the salad course!

  • Next time you entertain: Rehearse your guest list ahead of time by repeating the names out loud over and over again. It will help you not only to learn the names but remember them as well.


Didi Lorillard researches manners and etiquette at NewportManners for her forthcoming book.


Related Slideshow: 25 Things You Must do This Fall in New England - 2017

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Book a Weekend Getaway to Twin Farms

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