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Newport Manners & Etiquette: Condolence Letter Dos & Don’ts

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


How do I write a letter of condolence? Wedding etiquette for the RSVP reply card. What do I do when the mailed bridal shower invite had a faux pas? Making a 30th birthday party Dutch Treat? All questions to Didi Lorillard at NewportManners.com this week.

What to write in a condolence letter

When writing a condolence letter to the family to whom do I write and should I include his or her spouse in my greeting? D.T., Newport

Traditionally, you address the envelope and write the salutation to the deceased's spouse/partner. When there isn't one, the closest blood relative that you know best: their brother, sister, grandparent, child, aunt, uncle, cousin, or the person's best friend. If the spirit moves you, it is fine to write to more than one of the deceased's survivors.

The places to mention the survivor's spouse/partner's name and your spouses name, or both, are in the greeting or/and the closing. The greeting might begin with, "Allison joins me in saying we are deeply sorry for your loss". Then in closing, you could write, "You and Bill are in our hearts and thoughts (prayers)," before signing your name.

Unless you have a great anecdote to tell about the deceased or feel you have to fill in relationship background (She was the best roommate ever in college.), make the note three short paragraphs. A greeting saying you're writing about their loss; a sentence complimenting the music, wake, service, ceremony, or speakers; closing with a final descriptive word about the deceased (He was the most honest man I knew. She taught me all about roses and made the best brownies.) followed by your closing sentence, "Kenneth and I send you and Lisa our fondest regards and deepest sympathy."

The survivor is in the fragile state of mourning, and you don't want to say anything that belittles their feelings with cliches. Such as, "Time heals all wounds," "He's in a better place, "She is no longer suffering" "It will get easier with time." "It must have been his time." "It was God's will." "At least you still have ....."

Instead, write a closing that is genuine and sincere such as, "John will remain in our hearts forever," "We will all miss Janet," "We send you thoughts of peace and courage," "May you be comforted by the outpouring of support that surrounds you," "May your heart and soul find peace and comfort," "Sent with love and remembrance," ~Didi

Filling in the reply card

My boyfriend and I were invited to his friend's wedding. I have never met them. I'm sure they will need both of our names filled in on the RSVP card, right? Help please! I don't know the proper way to fill out the name portion on the RSVP card! G.T., Providence

You may need to use more space at the bottom of the reply card. Just draw an arrow down to add the second name. List both of your names connected with the word 'and.' If you are eighteen or older you are, for instance, Ms. Susan Smith and he is Mr. John Brown. They would fill out their names on the reply card starting after the line that begins M_________:

Ms. Susan Smith and Mr. John Brown


It's my party

Hi, my 30th Birthday is coming up & I plan on renting a limo & taking it to a club & inviting 9 friends. The limo costs $435 though & I was wondering if it is polite to ask my friends to contribute whatever they can afford to the cost of the limo instead of gifts. How would I word this on the invitation? Lauren, Location withheld

Great idea for a 30th Birthday! In your email invitation all you need is one subtle line that goes something like this:

In lieu of a gift, you are welcome to pitch in any amount toward the cost of the limo and driver for the evening. Thank you!

Lauren, Happy Birthday and have a safe night clubbing with your friends. ~Didi

Bridal Shower faux pas


I omitted the time on my bridal shower invitation and am sending out a postcard with the time on it Is there any fun sayings I can send out? V.M., Dover, MA

Never over-explain or over-apologize, because it can sound insincere, and make it seem a bigger deal than it is. It was merely an oversight. Use a line such as this with your own information:

A reminder that Caroline Dubar's bridal shower is at six o'clock on Tuesday, May 10th @ my house 847 Ocean Drive, Newport.

Alexandra Wilson (sign your name)

Being too cute about an oversight isn't the way to go. That's why you would send the postcard out as a 'reminder.' You didn't omit the time on purpose, even if it did give you an excuse 'to remind.' ~Didi

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


Related Slideshow: 5 Organizing Blunders

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Kristin Carcieri-MacRae

Kristin Carcieri-MacRae, the founder and owner of Organizing in RI, has always enjoyed finding creative ways to streamline the environment around her. She has appeared on air on Patricia Raskin's Positive Business Radio and her articles have been published in the Rhode Island Small Business Journal and New England Home Life. Kristin's CD, Organizing Basics, is a 1-hour guide for the person who wants to get organized but doesn't know where to start. She is also available for organizing workshops. Tune into her weekly radio show, Organize, Energize! on Mondays at 8:30am on www.talkstreamradio.com.


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