Newport Manners + Etiquette: Handling Children’s Food Allergies

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


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One in every thirteen children has a food allergy, make sure that your child's teacher is aware of the seriousness of your son or daughter's allergy and knows how to respond in the event of an emergency.

There's more to the back to school routine when you're allergic to peanuts. To invite or not to invite children to a wedding? What are first time wedding etiquette rules? And dressing the boss for an 'Employee Recognition Party,' all topics from question-inquirers to Didi Lorillard at this week.

Being proactive about peanut allergy

Dear Didi,

We admit to being helicopter parents of a first grader who is allergic to peanuts. Peanuts are everywhere and this is the first time he's taking his lunch. What can we do to make people, as well as his classmates, aware of the seriousness of his allergy? The school health clinic has his EpiPens and we hope he's prepared for a life threatening emergency, to the best of his seven-year-old ability. D.S., Providence

Dear D.S.,

It sounds as though you've prepared the school and your son for an emergency. Hopefully, most schools understand the seriousness of the problem. According to the advocacy group FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education), one out of every thirteen school age child have a food allergy. Lunchrooms should be monitored, cafeteria food nut free, and epinephrine auto-injectors known as EpiPens (containing adrenaline for emergency treatment for anaphylaxis--a traumatic reaction that can cause death within minutes) are on hand. You're right in fearing that your son may be on the school bus, in the playground, at another child's house, or at a birthday party when he's given peanuts in some form. Whether or not you send him with an EpiPen sealed in a ziplock bag tucked into his backpack, only you can train him to know what to do. Tell the grownup in charge about the seriousness of the allergy and where to find the EpiPen. Having unexpired EpiPens in school and at home are a must, but I don't need to tell you that.

Aside from what you already know, lobby your congressmen to support national legislation in the form of the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act, which would require schools to stock prescribed epinephrine and allow authorized staff to administer it. The bill was passed in the House last July and will be voted on in the Senate this fall. ~Didi

Inviting children to a wedding

Dear Didi,

I have received a number of RSVPs to my rehearsal dinner invitation, which is being called "The Night Before The Big Day Barbecue," indicating to me that the guests will be bringing their children, ranging in age from 2 to 14. I am certain I did not include these young people on the invitation or addressed them on the envelope. Don't the parents understand that each head is counted in the number for which I will be charged, not to mention that the dinner is an adult event where alcohol will be served? Call me old-fashioned, but I don't get it. How rude is that?! And of course, I wimped out and lied that it was my pleasure to have the little urchins. What would you have done in this case, Didi? I can't believe that I am sounding like my mother. C.H., Location withheld

Dear C.H.,

Ahead of time you could have found out how many children attending the wedding were from out-of-town. Meaning the parents would have to bring those children to the BBQ, unless you stipulated otherwise. To dispel the idea that children might be brought along, you would have included a line on your invitation such as this:

We are unable to accommodate children due to the 21 age requirement, but are happy to provide numbers for babysitters.

Hosting adults with children is tricky, but in most cases parents will be grateful for a night off. Mothers nursing babies are an exception, but the baby wouldn't be counted in the head count for the BBQ. The problem is this. If the children were included in the wedding invitation to an out-of-town wedding, parents will assume that the pre-wedding and post-wedding events would include their children as well. At this point It is what it is, but all will be fine. Try to negotiate with the caterer a cost per child. Ask them to prepare hot dogs and ice cream sandwiches for kids and try to estimate the number.

You're right about the alcohol. Children clearly don't belong at parties where alcoholic beverages are being served because it is too easy for a child to pick up a half empty glass and get buzzed. A possible lifelong addiction should be nipped in the bud. ~Didi

Guidance for first time wedding guests

Dear Didi,

I'm going to a wedding this Saturday afternoon at 3pm. The wedding is taking place in a church but the bride and groom are both fairly laid-back people, also, this is the first wedding I'm going to with my boyfriend and I want to know if there are any rules for that too? B.W., North Truro, MA

Dear B.W.,

Don't be late. Arrive 15 minutes early. Dress nicely in a suit and dress. Don't talk on your cellphone or text because it is disrespectful to the bride and groom as well as to the other quests. You'll be given a program of the service to follow. If an usher or groomsman doesn't escort you to a pew, then sit midway in the church on the side that looks the least filled. You can hold hands, but don't hook up because it will distract the guests seated around you. Don't leave the church until after the bride and groom have walked back down the aisle in the recessional. The aisles empty out one at a time starting at the front of the church and working back to the front entrance. If the bride and groom don't take off in a car right away, you can approach to congratulate them.

Don't take a wedding present with you because it could get misplaced. Instead, send a gift from their bridal registry. If you don't know where they are registered, ask other guests. You can also look up their registry online at and the, using either the bride or groom's name, which will be correctly spelled on the program. The cost of your gift should be what you estimate the host spent on your food and beverages at the reception. Send a thank-you note to whomever hosted the wedding reception. ~Didi

Dressing up (or down) when you're the boss

Dear Didi,

What to wear to a work party "employee recognition"? I am a partner in a medium-sized professional firm. It is a dinner banquet at a local "bistro" restaurant followed by dancing in a small to medium-sized rural beach town. Mid-forties but fit, I look very young for my age. I don't want to look too sexy or too dowdy. Name and location withheld

Dear Ms.,

The key word that you gave me was "bistro". Meaning your outfit should be slightly fun and playful, not too serious, but you still want to look like a professional. Here are some ideas for easy timeless dresses perfect for a party at a bistro that are neither too young-looking, too sexy, nor dowdy. The price point is good because you don't want to give your employees and partners the message that you spend a lot of money on your clothes.

If you're preppy, go to J. McLaughlin,, and look at their 'New Arrivals,' specifically: Sage Dress in 'Cheetah' and in 'Autumn' and the Cooper Dress In 'Chiaroscuro.' I also like the Nola Dress in 'Navy/Green Blazer Stripe.' Under 'Dresses,' look at Devon Dress in 'Metro' and in 'Moroccan,' then see the 'Maria Halter Dress.'

For other ideas, go to Maria Pucci for a special occasion jacket or tunic at or to Halsbrook,, for a more tailored dress. ~Didi


Do you have a question to ask Didi? Email it to [email protected] or visit her at 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." Prior weekly GoLocalProv columns are listed below. More topics can be accessed through a search.


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