Newport Manners & Etiquette: BYO Parties + V-Day Marriage Proposal

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


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The etiquette of making a Valentine marriage proposal.

The etiquette of making a Valentine marriage proposal, hosting a BYO surprise birthday party, support your sweetheart through a funeral, and Do I really have to wear hose? All questions to Didi Lorillard this week at

Getting in the mood to propose

Dear Didi,

Is it proper etiquette to ask my boyfriend if he wants to get married? He's invited me to an awesome restaurant to celebrate Valentines and I know he's bought me a present. We've been a couple for three years, live together, talk about getting married, and I want to get married, so is it alright to propose? By the way, we're both in our thirties. A.F., Providence

Dear A.F.,

Absolutely. Mind you, I'm not suggesting you get down on your knee and ask him to marry you in the restaurant, but I've another idea. Surprise him. Go to a store that specializes in over-the-top black lace lingerie and buy the sexiest combo of brassiere, garters and panties you can afford. When you surprise him in private after a romantic dinner, you will be impossible to resist. Then you can get on your knee and propose, but you've got to make the moment rather special. ~Didi

Hosting a BYO party

Hi Didi,

I'm hosting a surprise birthday cocktail party for my husband, hiring a bartender to mix cocktails, and wondering how to word the invitation to include: In lieu of present bring a bottle to help contribute to the night. I want people to dress up more than our usual casual attire of shorts/t-shirts but don't feel the need to go overboard -- I'm thinking slacks and shirts for the men but not thongs or ties. How do I convey that we are not serving unlimited drinks and guests should bring their own alcohol as we have estimated 6 cocktails per guest to be in our budget? N. G., Tampa, FL

Dear N.G.,

In organizing a BYO surprise cocktail party for your husband, much like a pot luck supper, you want to be sure that guests don't all just bring whiskey. You have to know what they're bringing and the size of the bottle. You'll need a range of beverages, which is why when they RSVP your invitation they should tell you exactly what they're bringing: a six pack of beer, a 1 Liter bottle of vodka, gin, etc. Who supplies the mixers and what will you be offering those who don't drink alcohol? Once you have a headcount, ask the bartender exactly what he needs for the number of guests attending.

Since it is a cocktail party, use the dress code 'Cocktail Attire' or find an invitation with a man (or couple) wearing the cocktail attire you're hoping for and use that as your image. Take a free photo off the Internet to use on your e-vite by searching: free image cocktail party.

Remember, when you're asking people to pitch in to pay for the party, which you're doing by asking them to bring a bottle, you can't then tell them it is a cash bar after six drinks unless you give them each six tickets at the door. The tickets will signal that after they're used up, they pay the bartender (and he won't be taking credit cards of checks). Asking guests to bring additional alcohol would be too complicated unless they bring it voluntarily.

Remember guests won't read a complicated invitation, so simplify, simplify, simplify.

Here's a sample of wording for your invitation, centered on the page/card:

It's a SURPRISE 40th Birthday Party for
Michael Wilderstein
Come celebrate with family and friends!
Saturday, March 2nd
6:00PM to 9:00PM
2345 Ocean Avenue

RSVP __________
Dress Code: Cocktail Attire
In lieu or a gift, please let me know what beverage you're bringing to claim your six drinks per person tickets at the door, then it's a cash bar.


Romance and funerals

Dear Didi,

This started many years ago. I'm 43 now. When I was 18, I had a relationship with an amazing girl my age. We lived together for a couple of years until our relationship took a turn for the worse. I found out 20 years later she had gone to a party. after being out at bar, and was brutally assaulted by a group of men and her beautiful self-esteem was destroyed.

Then she hooked up with a man 9 years older and she says now that she had a very low opinion of herself. (I have been very supportive of helping her through this as she has kept this bottled up for over 20 years....many tears weve shed!!!) This man cheated, lied, abused drugs and completely screwed her over. She had 2 kids with him, now 18 and 20. After 10 years she left him and he's never given her a cent in child support for her or his two kids. She worked two jobs and was abusing alcohol. I also had two children, now 13 and 16, in a loveless marriage. I moved on and we've been a couple now for almost a year and living together for 6 months.

My question is: Her ex is very close to dying of cancer. Only recently did he tell his kids (He has a pitiful relationship with his daughter, who lives with us, but a better one with his son, as he can smoke pot, drink, womanize and do whatever.), even though he has known for over a year or more.

I believe my sweetheart should go to the funeral out of town with her daughter out of respect for his family who never hurt her. Honestly I have no respect for him or even met his family, but I will be available to the kids as a friend and possible step-father down the road. Is it wrong of me not go to the funeral? My close friends say I do not have to go. I appreciate your response as this column is very enlightening and I find solace in reading your responses. Regards, P. H., Location withheld

Dear P. H.,

I understand your sweetheart is going to her former horrible husband's funeral in support of her daughter, but who will be supporting her emotionally? A whole lot of repressed anger is going to seethe out toward the louse. She will most likely not only act out but also be depressed. Now that she has made the decision to stay away from abusive relationships, it would help her feel better about herself if you were there for her. That's what partners do.

Also, you would be a buffer between her and her children, if they act out and things became unpleasant or even toxic. If you're in a committed relationship, you are in this for better or for worse. If you don't go, she may return bitter and withdrawn and angry that you hadn't been there to help her when she needed you. ~Didi

Do I have to wear pantyhose?

Dear Didi,

Is it appropriate to go without hose when attending a Black Tie Optional affair and wearing a short black dress? J. H., Location withheld

Dear J. H.,

It depends upon the climate and the shape of your legs. If it's chilly out because you live in a cold climate, you will feel the cold going outside to and from the car and inside the car before it warms up. When your legs are buff and shiny, you can usually get away with not wearing legwear. You don't have to wear those nasty pantyhose your mother wore. Legwear today can actually enhance the look, feel, and shape of your legs. Look online at brands such as Wolford and find similar legwear in a department store near you. Wear legwear that is a shade lighter than your skin tone with a bit of shimmer and shine to it and they will dress up your legs. ~Didi


Do you have a question for Didi? Visit her at We can withhold your name and location. Didi researches etiquette and all matters of manners for her book,"Newport Etiquette." Previous weekly columns can be found by typing in Didi Lorillard in the above righthand search.


Related Slideshow: 10 Valentine’s Day Gifts for Her

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A Charming Gift

Show your special someone that you cherish them this Valentine's Day by giving them a unique gift from Alex and Ani. The popular Rhode Island retailer has outdone themselves this Valentine's Day season offering a variety of gifts -- including bangles, wraps, and earrings. You can even personalize your piece with a cupid or heart charm.

Price: $28 and up

Buy it from: Alex and Ani, Providence, Cranston, Newport, East Greenwich

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Comforting Cashmere

She adores it so why not indulge her? Pink Pineapple carries the best cashmere in the chicest styles. Choose a stunning black tunic to wear with winter boots or a bright sweater in a Palm Beach color to lift a dreary winter mood. Go ahead...make her Valentine's Day!

Price: $120 and up

Buy it from: Pink Pineapple, Newport, Portsmouth

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Evening Barrettes

Today's mini clips and barrettes are yesterday's glamorous 40's hair combs. The most fanciful and sparkly are at Karol Richardson. Just one of these irresistible little hair charmers will throw facets of light back at your smiling face in thanks. You'll love the candy counter experience so cast a spell with one (or two), made in France with Swarovski crystals.

Price: $4 and up

Buy it from: Karol Richardson, Newport

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Lacy Chemise

Lingerie is a traditional Valentine's Day gift but forget granny gowns and opt for an exquisite chemise in a sumptuous color. Blush of Montreal's Sweetest Sin chemise works for all women with its covered lace and quarter wire for support. The beauty of lace is that it draws attention but reveals little.

Price: For prices, click here or call 401-884-9333

Buy it from: Staci's Place Fine Intimate Apparel, East Greenwich

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Silvery Hearts

She'll love an iconic heart in sweet shimmering silver. Green River Silver Co. has outdone themselves with pendants, bracelets, and earrings of whimsical hearts to cherish. Better choose two as she'll surely want one close to her heart.

Price: $18 and up

Buy it from: Green River Silver Co., Bristol, Providence, Wickford

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Luxurious Body Care

Thymes Goldleaf bath products make a stunning impression. Besides the packaging being festive and pretty, the jasmine, rose, and hyacinth draw a tapestry of scent on her skin. Put together a combination of bath powder, lotion, and soap and then give her an hour to herself, no questions asked. Your Valentine will find one hundred ways to thank you!

Price: $13-$49

Buy it from: Kate & Company, Bristol

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Valentine's Day Dinner

End Valentine’s Day on a romantic note this year with a spectacular dinner in Seasons at the Ocean House. Ocean House chefs will take you through five palate-enticing courses, each highlighting the best of the New England bounty. Celebrate one another and the passion that you share over a decadent dessert. What are you waiting for? Click here to make your reservation.

Price: $95/ per person (plus tax and gratuity); Wine pairing is an additional $40/ per person.

Buy it from: Ocean House, Watch Hill

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A Beautiful Bouquet

Nothing says "I love you" on Valentine's Day like a wonderful bouquet of flowers. Express your love Valentine's Day beautiful and affordable flowers from A New Leaf. From romantic roses to impressive modern bouquets, A New Leaf offers nearly 50 unique Valentine's Day special that are sure to please even the most discerning eye.

Price: $34.95 and up

Buy it from: A New Leaf, Providence

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A Music Lover's Dream

Does your Valentine have an affinity for Opera music? How about taking her to the Blithewold Mansion on Valentine's Day for a concert she'll never forget. Opera Providence will present “A Happy Valentine’s Day Concert” on Friday Friday, Feb. 14th, at 7pm and Sunday, Feb. 16th at 3pm at the Blithewold Mansion. The event features the voices of the Opera Providence Ensemble.

Price: All concert tickets are $40 per person. Tickets for the entire concert series are $75 per person.

Buy it from: Click here to purchase tickets or call 401-331-6060.

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The Perfect Perfume

It's no secret that roses and Valentine's Day go hand in hand, but what about rose-scented fragrances? Think outside the box and get your special lady an all natural botanical perfume blended with real rose petals from Providence Perfume Company.

Price: $30 and up

Buy it from: Providence Perfume Co., Providence


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