Newport Manners & Etiquette: New 2014 Wedding Etiquette + More

Wednesday, January 08, 2014


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What Is the New 2014 Wedding Etiquette?

What's new in wedding etiquette for 2014? Addressing a family with several different last names, who to send the condolence to, and help! Does anyone know how to teach a three-year-old table manners? All questions to Didi Lorillard starting off the new year at

Inviting ex-family to the wedding

Dear Didi,

My daughter is getting married and would like to invite my sister's ex-husband and his new girlfriend, but I feel it will be very uncomfortable for my sister. (I knew it would be!) What to do? KR, Providence

Dear KR,

I should say! Inviting the bride's aunt's ex-husband and his new girlfriend would be uncomfortable for more guests than just your sister. The first thing you have to remember as the mother-of-the-bride is that you only want to create good memories. Beautiful memories of the wedding that will be everlasting. So, you don't want to make a bigger deal out of this than you have to. Got it? No drama. Since your sister is the bride's blood relative, the bride's first duty is to protect her from feeling uncomfortable by not inviting her former uncle and his new girlfriend. Try to gently broker a compromise with your daughter by suggesting she invite her former uncle without his plus one. If he agrees to attend solo, that's fine. Although he can only come with the understanding that he is not to bring a date. ~Didi

Addressing divorced families

Dear Didi,

My college-age daughter has several friends with divorced parents. In all of these cases, the mothers are the custodial parent, and have chosen to use their maiden names since divorcing. How should I have addressed their Christmas cards? This year, I used:

The Smith (the mom's maiden name) and Jones (the children's last name) Families on their envelopes for our cards, but I can't seem to locate a source that would identify this as being correct. Can you help me? Thanks so much! J.M., Princeton, NJ

Dear J.M.,

Happy to help. Next Christmas address the envelope to:

The Smith and Jones Family

(Their address)


The Smith & Jones Family

(Their address)

Addressing them as 'The Smith and Jones Family' sounds more normal and friendlier, rather than making the word 'family' plural. Don't you think? ~Didi

Funeral étiquette for condolence cards

Dear Didi,

If you have a friend who has lost his father, and you do not know the father's spouse, do you send the condolence gift to the friend or the deceased's spouse? J.C., West Warwick

Dear J. C.,

Look up the obituary of your friend's father online and/or in your local newspaper to find out where gifts are to be sent. As the son is the blood relative of the deceased, it wouldn't be wrong to send him a gift in memory of his father, if gifts haven't been designated otherwise. When the obituary doesn't give that information, then contact the funeral home to find out how gifts are being handled. The funeral home acts as the clearing house for such matters. ~Didi

Teaching a three-year-old table manners

Dear Didi,

My step-sister-in-law seems to think that my three-year-old should have better table manners. How exactly do you teach table manners to a child that young? C. B., Portsmouth

Dear C.B.,

When teaching a three-year-old table manners, give them one lesson at a time until you feel they've rote learned it into their routine. For instance, a three-year-old no longer needs to sit in a high chair, but s/he has to quickly understand that they have to remain seated until after dessert. Before then, they can ask to be excused and take their plate to the sink. Once they're excused, they cannot come back to their seat. (It goes without saying that they've been to the restroom to wash their hands, etc., before sitting down to eat, and that all the plates would be cleared at the same time. None of this clearing of the plates and leaving Jacob to sulk over his unfinished dinner.)

At this age they know they should eat with their child-size knife and fork or spoon, even though they cannot always manipulate the utensil. This is the lesson that takes patience on the part of the parent/caregiver. The child may not yet be able to manage his/her utensils until s/he has broken the food down and felt it's consistency. Like a scientist s/he will dissect the food into the tiniest of crumbs in order to get a feel for how best to conquer the task of using the utensil.

Out of the corner of your eye, it is so interesting to watch them trying to figure it out. They'll chop, say, a piece of corn bread into crumbs with their child-size knife and fork. With the fork they'll try lifting lots of tiny crumbs up to their mouth, which falls off most of the time. Then they try the spoon. It works. That's when you pipe in with a piece of corn bread in your hand to say, "Corn bread is so crumbly, you can eat it with your fingers one bite at a time." They also discover on their own that they cannot eat yogurt or ice cream with a fork. This is all part of the process. Patiently allow her/him to experiment in a controlled setting in order for them to find their manners at the table. Once s/he takes command of their utensils, they'll proudly use them, much to your step-sister-in-law's delight.

As for dinner conversation, it wouldn't be about the experimentation that is on-going. The child will be so engaged that s/he will not feel needy for attention – for a least a couple of minutes. It is best not to discuss table manners too much while eating experimentally or they will become so self-conscious that they'll lose interest too quickly in exploring the possibilities. As I said, let them experiment with their food and, yes, they may need a rubber child's tray under their plate, and you may need to place a cloth on the seat of their chair as well as underneath to catch all those minuscule crumbs before calling in the dog to lick them up. ~Didi


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


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