Newport Manners + Étiquette: Handling Dutch Treat Invitations

Wednesday, September 04, 2013


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They want to invite the family to celebrate their father's birthday, but how do they make it clear that they won't be footing the bill?

Wedding étiquette + the girlfriend-of-the-father-of-the-bride, how to word a Dutch Treat invitation to dad's birthday, dress code for a Boho-Chic wedding + christening and what to do when step-mom absconds with the funeral loot? All étiquette questions to Didi Lorillard at this week.

Dutch treat birthday for dad

Dear Didi,

My sister, brother and I are taking my father out to dinner for his 70th birthday and would like to invite his siblings, nieces and nephews, but we cannot afford to pay for everyone. What we would like to do is cover the expense of the dessert and coffee. How can I put that on an invitation so they would understand they would be responsible for their meals and we would take care of the after dinner dessert and coffee? M.K., Providence

Dear M.K,

The first thing you should consider is this. If you're inviting guests to pay for most of their restaurant bill, you cannot expect them to also buy your father a birthday present. Call it a Dutch Treat 70th Birthday Party for your father, but below the RSVP information line, put something such as this: In lieu of a gift, separate checks for dinner, but cake and coffee are on us. ~Didi

Mother-of-the-bride meets + greets ex's girlfriend

Dear Didi,

My ex-husband and I divorced 3 1/2 years ago. He is living with a woman whom I haven't met. He is bringing her to our daughter's wedding. My question is: what is a good response when meeting her for the first time? I want to be respectful, but I don't want to say, "It's nice to meet you." For my own self-respect I want to be pleasant. Do you have a phrase that would be appropriate for this first meeting? S.J., Newport

Dear S.J.,

When the divorce was by mutual agreement, some former wives make their former husband's new partner their 'new best friend.' Others keep their distance, but for the sake of their children together they put their personal feelings aside and focus on being good role models. 

Personally, I don't use the expression, "Nice to meet you," because how do I know it is nice to meet someone when I'm meeting them for the first time? If your daughter really likes her father's girlfriend, greet with something such as this, "My daughter has nothing but good things to say about you." Or, "My daughter speaks highly of you." If the girlfriend has contributed to the wedding in a significant way, such as helping with the wedding gown, arranging for the photographer or makeup artist, finding the caterer, giving airline miles for the wedding trip, or paying for the champagne, then lead with thanking her for her contribution to your daughter's wedding. 

On the other hand, if you handled the arrangements and paid for the entire wedding, or most of it, then lead by thanking her for coming to your daughter's wedding. "Thank you for coming to Caroline's wedding." ~Didi

Dress code for 'Bohemian Cocktail Chic' 

Dear Didi,

What is bohemian cocktail chic - the occasion is a wedding and christening in one? L.G, Brooklyn, NY

Dear L.G.,

Boho-chic fashion is a an off-again-on-again holdover from the sixties rooted back to Virginia Wolfe and the Bloomsbury group. The term is used to describe creative women's fashion with bohemian and hippie elements--going back to the pre-Raphaelites in the mid-19th Century. Popular again in the early 1990s, it had a resurgence in 2004 for about a year. In the sixties the skirt was long and floaty, now it is short and flirty. Model Kate Moss was famous for her boho-look picked up more recently by Sienna Miller.

Translated to cocktail attire in 2013, it is trés chic. The fabric and design of bobo-chic clothing are about quality and creativity rather than about brand names and logos.

Bohemian Cocktail Chic, means Boho Chic Haute Hippie. Your hosts want you to be creative and wear happy attractive clothing of good quality--but don't try too hard because bohemian means being socially unconventional. Thrift shop style is boho, as is stressing love and equality. A man could wear a black suit and shirt without a tie. A woman could mix and match pieces she has that mirror Sienna Miller. You wouldn't wear flip-flops, cargo pants, socks, sneakers, dayglow, neckties or bow ties. ~Didi

Step-mom takes funeral loot

Dear Didi,

My father passed away recently. His wife (our mother passed away after 33 yrs of marriage) left the viewing early and took all the donation envelopes. I could care less about the money, but when we went to write the thank-you notes she wouldn't tell us who gave what. Was this all hers to take? Seems an odd thing to do at best. E.W., Old Greenwich, CT

Dear E.W.,

I should say. The person you should talk to about this is the executor of your father's estate. Because he/she is going to be handling the estate and therefore the taxes. The executor may need an accounting for the IRS of any monies brought into the estate. Your step-mother many not have made a list of the the people who gave money or/and she may not have known them. The money would have been given to help pay for expenses accrued during the funeral and burial. 

Offer to write the thank-you notes for her on behalf of the family. If she hesitates, then say you don't need to know the amount, just the names and you'll find the addresses. Aside from that and talking to the executor, there really isn't much you can do. I am sorry your loss is compounded with this unfortunate situation, but things like this happen. Sadly, it is what it is. ~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 étiquette and all matters of manners for her book,"Newport Étiquette." Prior weekly GoLocal columns are listed below. More topics can be accessed through a search. 


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