Newport Manners + Étiquette: Wedding Dilemmas + More

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


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They've been chatting about their sons' weddings...but will they make each other's guest list?

As wedding étiquette becomes more complicated, wedding invitation dilemmas are on the rise along with too many menu choices this upcoming wedding season. Can my daughter be a pallbearer? And what does the dress code Low Heel Shoes mean? All questions to Didi at this week.

Can a woman be a pallbearer?

Dear Didi,

Is it ok for my daughter to be a pallbearer at her father's funeral? Name withheld, Providence

Dear Anonymous,

Traditionally, in western cultures pallbearers are male family members, close friends or colleagues of the deceased who 'carry' the coffin. In some cultures the pallbearer is a ceremonial honoree who just carries a tip of the pall (the cloth placed over the casket) or the pall's cord. My question to you is this. Should the daughter's memory of the funeral be of her role as one of the pallbearers who helps carry the casket––or should it be of some function equally as important? 

It seems to me that a gentler role would be to have the daughter initiate a family ritual in which she carries long stem red roses to the burial and hands them to those closest to the deceased. Then she is the first to gently toss her rose into the grave and onto the casket. 

Unless, say, a teenager is adamant about serving in a pallbearing role, think twice. Women should be chosen as pallbearers and there is no rule stating that they should not accept that role when offered, but that choice should be up to the woman, and should not be forced on her.

More and more, often at funerals for dignitaries where representatives from the military carry the coffin, a woman is included. ~Didi

When the dress code is 'Low Heel Shoes' 

Dear Didi,

I've been invited to a luncheon by someone I don't know in their home. She is the mother of my daughter's boyfriend. The invitation says, Dress: low heel shoes. I understand that to mean "casual." Is that correct? K.C., Newport

Dear K.C.,

Not necessarily. There are three other reasons––perhaps more likely––why you are being asked to wear low-heeled shoes. High heels, especially stilettos, can leave marks on wooden floors as well as on floors that have been recently refinished. For instance, you would never wear high heels on a yacht because you could leave indentations where you walked. For a business meeting, even if the business is charity, the dress code would include low-heeled shoes. Lastly––and probably the most likely––if the luncheon is being served on the lawn under a tent, high heels would sink into the turf, possibly causing you to take a tumble. If the host went to the expense of a printed invitation and is calling it a 'luncheon,' then it may not be all that 'casual': you wouldn't wear flip-flops. Let's put it this way, sacrifice the high heels and wear a lovely hat. ~Didi

Solving wedding invitation list dilemmas

Dear Didi,

I am in a quandary about what to do. I have been working together with a woman for 25 years and both our sons are getting married 3 months apart, my son first. She is orthodox Jewish and I am Episcopalian. We are having a smallish wedding in Connecticut and she is having an elaborate wedding in New York. My question is whether or not I should invite her and her husband to the wedding. We do not socialize together but do have a very good relationship. I have never met her son and have only met her husband once many years ago. If I invite them, I feel she will be obligated to invite us. We have been talking about our respective wedding plans but not mentioning invitations. I do not want to offend her or make her feel obligated. What is the best thing to do? Thanks so much for your input. N.E., Manhattan

Dear N.E.,

It sounds as though you and your coworker have been walking on eggshells tiptoeing around the issue as to whether or not you're inviting each other to your sons' wedding. The trick is to figure out four things. Does she want to go to your son's wedding? If she isn't invited, will she be hurt? Then you have to ask yourself, do you want to attend her son's wedding? If you're not partial to attending, will you be hurt if you don't receive an invitation? If you think she will be hurt, then have her invited to your son's wedding. Should she not accept, don't expect to be invited to her son's wedding. Here's a hint that may help. Since I don't know the time sequencing here, if you don't receive a save-the-date card, you aren't on her list.

On the other hand, if you are not interested in going to her son's wedding, then tell her that your son's wedding is very small and you personally can only invite immediate family or friends who are close to your son, such as a neighbor or godparent. Don't think about it so much. Invite her and if she is not planning on inviting you to her son's, then she will regret your son's wedding. Since your son's nuptials are first, I'm afraid you'll have to take the lead. It may be that whatever you do, she'll do. You've spent a lot of time over the past 25 years forging an effective relationship and you don't want to hurt her feelings. ~Didi

What to do when information is missing from your wedding invitation?

Dear Didi,

Our wedding invites went to print with an oversight on our part. The food selections were listed on our rough draft as beef, chicken, vegetarian when we had wanted to detail the actual dishes i.e. filet mignon, chicken piccata ... Is there a way we can reasonably enclose something to pass this info on? Maybe with a little humor? S.J., Brookline, MA

Dear S.J.,

I would leave it alone and make up a lovely menu card for the individual place settings. Look at it this way, the person choosing vegetarian is not going to care about the filet mignon and chicken piccata. To people who don't like chicken, chicken is chicken no matter what you do to it, and most men prefer a nice hunk of steak no matter what you call it.

In other words, there is no reason to call attention to the oversight by over-explaining. Guests love menu cards because they can see exactly what they ordered and what else is being offered. If they decide they would rather have the chicken, then they can always tell the waiter. Most caterers are prepared with extras and there are always no-shows. 

Menu cards are very popular right now because they also give you an opportunity to list the champagne and wines being paired with the different courses. 

Unless you have a pocket invitation that makes it possible to add an insert such as you propose in to the invitation, it could be costly and most people may not even notice it or care. When guests have to order a meal six weeks out in advance, they don't invest much time thinking about it. There are always picky eaters, but the word vegetarian should work for them because it usually means no dairy, gluten, salt, or nuts.

Focus on creating a great menu card and you'll be glad you moved forward and away from what you perceive was a problem, but really is not. The only problem I see is that you misspelled piccata. ~Didi


Do you have a question for 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 GoLocalProv columns are listed below. More topics can be accessed through a search. 


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