Newport Manners & Etiquette: Children at Weddings + More

Wednesday, October 08, 2014


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What to do when cultural values within extended families collide?  Etiquette for children as wedding guests? Death étiquette is questioned. Black velvet in the shoulder season? Do the groom's mother and sister wear the same color dress? All questions to Didi Lorillard at NewportManners this week. 

Children at Weddings 

What age is appropriate for children, under the age of 18, to attend a 4:30pm wedding and reception afterwards, in a large country club? And what should a girl of 10, and boys wear for this event?  Lynne, Location withheld

In my humble opinion, children under 21 do not belong at grownup parties where alcohol is being served. Even children who are part of the bridal party, such as ring bearers and flower girls, after attending the ceremony and photo shoot should be taken home. An exception would be a big family wedding where activities have been organized and caregivers are on hand to supervise. For insurance/liability reasons, country clubs have become careful (with good reason) about not allowing children into areas of the club where alcohol is served. Signs at the bars say, No Children in

The Bar Area. Children means anyone under the legal drinking age of 21. Teenagers should be forewarned.
If it is not an adult only wedding and your children have specifically been invited by name, then the club has agreed that children can be present and are taking on the liability. If you are not sure, call the host to ask a couple of questions: Will there be other children my children's ages? Will there be accommodations at the reception just for children? For instance a children's table and/or a separate room showing a movie such as 'Frozen'? In other words, how will children be entertained over the course of a three, four or five hour reception that includes a cocktail hour, dinner and dancing?

Now that that's out of the way, let's dress the children. When the wedding invitation does not specify Black Tie or Formal Attire, you can assume the dress code is Suits & Dresses. A teenage lad would wear a suit, or at the very least a jacket/blazer, with dress khaki trousers or grey flannels, a collared-shirt and handsome tie. That is the dress code for boys ten years and older. A ten-year-old-girl would wear her best party dress, tights, and party shoes.

We do need to caution you about bringing children to a large country club wedding. If there are not any children their age, they may not have a good time. At any rate, you'll have to keep a constant eye on them when you should be having a good time yourself.  ~Didi

The Modest Funeral

My mother just passed away. She was a very private person and did not want a public funeral service or obituary. My brothers, sisters and I have respected her wishes. She lived far away from all of us, so we all met at her hometown, and honored her privately.

A member of my wife's family sent out a mass email to her extended family (cousins, etc.) announcing that my mother had passed away. None of these people knew my mother. My wife says this is customary and that people need to know so that they can send condolences. That's the way she was brought up to think and act. I'm sure her family meant well, but this feels like our desire for privacy wasn't respected. Is it really OK and "customary" for people other than the immediate family to send out announcements of this sort?  E.B., Location withheld

When cultures clash in extended families, social nuances are not always recognized or understood. Your wife's relative acted from the emotions of her culture where families encourage a lot of comforting through condolences and sympathy cards. It is a culture that does not reflect your mother's request for a private mourning.

Your wife's relative took a misstep in your mother's culture, but in your wife's culture her family would have felt slighted if they had not been informed and allowed to send their condolences. Funerals and burials are so emotionally charged that we have to make allowances for everyone to mourn the deceased in their own way and in their own time. Even if they didn't even know the deceased. Don't forget, your wife's family strongly believe that condolences are obligatory. On the other hand, you cannot keep this resentment bundled up inside of you. Take your wife out for dinner and have a relaxed evening talking about your mother and explaining how in her culture she took great pride in being modest and unassuming, because she didn't feel the need to call attention to herself--in life or death. If you feel as she did, tell your wife you would like her family to honor these beliefs going forward. Be sure your wife learns from your explanation and doesn't just reply with a lot of meaningless words--albeit well-meaning. It is important that she learns the significant nuances of your culture---and you of hers. You're the only one who can teach her.

Of course, the condolences from her family will have to be acknowledged. Let your wife mourn your mother in her own way by having her write the thank-you notes to all of her family members who sent expressions of sympathy.  ~Didi

Black Velvet in October 

Is early October too soon to wear a long sleeved, long black velvet dress to a Black Tie event? Thanking you in advance. ~Lisa, Boston

October is the in-between season for deciding whether or not to wear a long-sleeve evening dress, especially if it is velvet. Let's put it this way. Do not wear it if the dress makes you look all buttoned-up because there is snow outside. In other words, if the long sleeved velvet dress has a low décolletage, a scooped out back, a 3/4 length sleeve, is midi length, or has a lengthy slit up the side, it is less wintery. Or if the sleeves and shoulders are lace or chiffon. A solid, thick, luxury velvet, may look rather wintery in a ballroom. Nevertheless, it is more about comfort and having you look comfortable, than it is about being fashionable. If it is cold enough for a warm coat, then wear your luxurious, long velvet dress.  ~Didi

MOG + SOG Dress Code

Should the mother and sister of the groom wear the same color dresses as the bride's attendants? Name withheld, Providence

Traditionally, the mother-of-the-bride sets the dress code for the 'mothers' (mother-of-the groom, grandmothers, aunts, godmothers, sisters, and other women family members). You should take her lead in terms of style, length, and color hue, but still find a dress that flatters your shape. Usually, the MOG wears beige or blue. The groom's mother and sister do not wear the same color as the attendants, because the bridesmaids should be identified on their own. Think of the wedding photos, the groom's mother and sister don't want to be mistaken for bridesmaids. Wear a color that goes with and doesn't clash with the wedding colors. The attendants are usually dressed in one of the wedding colors. The wedding couple choose two wedding colors and the groom's mother and sister would not wear either of those colors. Find out the wedding colors. Google 'pantone fashion color 2015' and click on 'Women's' and you'll find colors that pair well with the wedding colors. For instance there are four wonderful blues: scuba blue, dusk blue, classic blue and aquamarine. The MOG and sister could each wear one of these shades of blue, if it isn't being worn by the bride's mother or the attendants.  ~Didi

Do you have a Question for Didi? Visit her at, where Didi researches étiquette and all matters of manners for her book, "Newport Etiquette." If your Question is used, we can withhold your name and/or location. Do explore Didi Lorillard's earlier columns listed below.


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