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Newport Manners + Etiquette: Houseguest Etiquette

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


Visiting another family, naturally you want to be the best and most gracious guest possible. Follow to tips to make sure you don't fall prey to these faux pas!

Dos + Don'ts of family Houseguest Étiquette, Beach Étiquette for crying babies and loud music, wedding invitation etiquette and wedding dress code + capris, were all heated question this week to Didi Lorillard at NewportManners.com.

Taking the family as houseguests

Dear Didi,

What are some dos and don'ts we can take with us when our family of four visits another family in August on the Cape for the weekend?
A.W., Brookline, MA

Dear A.W.,

The worst thing you can do is to arrive with your pet-the-uninvited-fifth guest. Spare your hosts the inconvenience and hire a dog walker or send him to your local doggie spa. Unless Lassie has been specifically invited and you can assure your host that she's flee-less and tick-free, don't assume she'll be welcomed.

The second worst thing you can do is to NOT clarify your exact time of arrival and departure. Your hosts need to be prepared to welcome you with food, libations, fresh towels and toilet paper and you wouldn't want them to run short.

The third thing you don't want to forget is to arrive with a thoughtful gift. If you're coming from a city, bring good cheeses and pastas they may not be able to find locally. In other words, don't consider your favorite Scotch, that only you may end up drinking, as your houseguest present. How much you spend isn't as important as giving something that is useful–or unusual.

A weekend guest should offer from the start to take the hosts for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Letting the hosts know in advance gives them something to look forward to. Encouraging the hosts to choose the day, time, and place should be your first question after, "Where do we dispose of dirty diapers?"

The best houseguests are self-sustaining guests. They plan ahead of time things to do on their own (and perhaps taking the host's children along, too), whether it's visiting a farmer's market, glassblower, vineyard, yachting museum, bird sanctuary or farm with baby animals: ask for recommendations and make yourself scarce when there are no plans. Never expect a full weekend itinerary. For every meal, try to contribute something, whether it be a gallon of local peach ice-cream or a couple of bottles of rosé.

Before you leave, don't forget to strip the beds and take to the laundry area all bedding and towels you've used. This is not a hotel and towels should be used sparingly. With babies and toddlers, wrap tightly and dispose of all diapers directly into the designated garbage can. Lastly, whether your thank-you note is emailed, handwritten on your finest Smythson stationery or it's a Hallmark card from CVS, send it.

Being houseguests is an ideal opportunity to encourage good manners. ~Didi

Crowded beaches + crying babies

Dear Didi,

The beach is getting really crowded, even during the weekday. We bring the kids early, the baby naps under the umbrella and we get the rest of them away from the heat and hot cement. How can I get others who set up camp for the day around us to turn down their music volume without feeling like a jerk. Cathy, Providence

Dear Cathy,

You can't. It is not possible. You can recommend headphones and explain that your baby is sleeping, but it sounds as though it's party time. What you can say is this: "Would you mind turning the volume way down or wearing earphones while my baby naps from noon to two, please." The key here is to make it about the baby, not about you. ~Didi

Talking too much about weight

Dear Didi,

I love my bff don't get me wrong, but every time we hang out he brings up the same two topics: dieting and exercise. I try to change the subject, but he'll bring them right back. He's obsessed with every pound, every inch, and over-eating. Bottom line is I either can't hang with him, or I need to figure out how to tell him. I don't care how much he weighs or how often and hard he exercises, it just isn't interesting to me. J.P., Manhattan

Dear J.P.,

The next time you're with him alone and he's given you his weight in pounds and exercise in hours, say, "Stop, I really don't want to talk about your weight and your exercising regime any more than I want to talk about mine." Then change the subject. If he brings up the topics again, say, "I just said that I don't..." ~Didi

Wedding guest code, no capris, please

Dear Didi,

Must one wear a dress to a 10:00 AM Church Wedding in August or would linen capri pants with silk blouse and sandals be appropriate. Also, should one wear a hat at this hour? L.G., Worcester

Dear L.G.,

You're not going to like my answer. I'm not going to give you permission to dress badly. I don't think you should wear capris pants anywhere, except to a backyard cookout in your own backyard. This is a church wedding. Out of respect for the bride on her wedding day, wear a knee-length dress or a linen skirt with your silk blouse, beautiful shoes–but only if they are pretty strappy sandals or wedges. A morning wedding screams for the topping of a lovely hat. However, a hat will never go with the capris. ~Didi

Using Senior or Sr. after the name

Hi Didi,

I am getting married in December and finalizing the wedding invitation. I looked through the questions on your site (and hope I didn't overlook it!). I am marrying Edward Anthony Bromley and he happens to be a Sr. He was married once before and his first son is his namesake and a Jr. They both still live at the same residence. Would we put "Senior" on the invitation? I wasn't sure about this. I don't want anyone to think I am marrying his son! Thanks, S.B., Location withheld

Dear S.B.,

Yes, by all means use Senior or Sr. after your groom's name because your situation is precisely the reason Sr. is used. Either spelled out or abbreviated, identifying the father as opposed to the son is always good wedding étiquette. That said, Sr. can also mean Sister, because the sisters of religion are often addressed as Sr. In your case, for your groom you would use Senior–spelled out and not abbreviated. ~Didi


We like hearing from you at NewportManners.com and 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." Or ask it on Didi Lorillard's Facebook page or Twitter. Prior weekly GoLocalProv columns are listed below and can also be accessed through search.


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