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Newport Manners & Etiquette: Wedding Toasts + Diamond Dress Code

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


When it comes to giving a memorable wedding toast, it's all about timing. Photo: Flickr/Zach Beauvais

Wedding host needs etiquette for controlling toasts, and dress code questions about diamonds and black velvet, along with pondering the death of a former mother-in-law were all questions to Didi Lorillard at Newport Manners.com this week.

A toast is not a speech

Dear Didi,

How can the hosts of the wedding diplomatically control the amount of toasts given at a wedding? When it is time for the toast....what is the appropriate amount of time that someone should speak...including the Father-of-the-Bride, and the Best Man? J.S.J., Location withheld

Dear J.S.J.,

The groom and bride select a guest to be the master of ceremony (or hire an MC). Often the bandleader will MC. With you, that person controls the number of toasts, the length of the toast and who toasts. The cheesy and silly toasts are usually made at the bachelor and bachorlette parties and at the rehearsal dinner by groomsmen, bridesmaids and random guests such as the groom's godfather, uncle, football coach, the bride's first cousin, and perhaps her mentor, etc.

For the wedding reception you are correct about setting boundaries. Along with the MC (best man, or brother, etc.) set the stage. Make two lists. One for those toasting at the rehearsal dinner and the other for the reception. At the reception, the MC will announce who is to toast next. He will also quietly remind the toaster he has two and a half minutes to speak and that after three minutes the band will start up and the toast won't be heard above the music. There is actually a protocol: who toasts is based on their relationship to the wedding couple. Since the protocol usually names the best man as the MC, it's his job to reiterate that a toast is a toast and not a speech: absolutely no speeches.

Corralling in the toasts sounds more complicated than it is. Nevertheless, if you are organized, trust the MC, and stick to the two to three minute time limit for the toast, you'll be fine. Of course, you'll have to have the MC signal to the bandleader, who knows only full well when to interrupt the garrulous toaster. If worse comes to worst, you give him the hook. In other words, the party planner or maitre 'd gracefully puts their arm through his and elbows him off his stage.

On the dinner menu, in the wedding couple's wedding website, and through word of mouth you can get the word out that the toasts are preplanned and there will be no rouge toasters. If a guest really wants to make a toast, he or she should contact the MC. Who can gently but firmly say, "I'm sorry we've too many toasts already."

Work as a team and you can make this a smooth reception. ~Didi

She wore black velvet

Dear Didi,

I have a night wedding, black tie affair, on March 21. Can I wear a black velvet gown or is it too late in the season for it? S.L., Manhattan

Dear S.L.,

You can definitely wear a black velvet gown on March 21. Velvet is the ultimate luxury winter fabric. Look at it this way. If it is too warm to wear a mink coat, you wouldn't wear velvet. ~Didi

"Diamonds for The Ladies" dress code

Dear Didi,

We have been invited to a 70th birthday dinner in the evening, and the invitation says the dress code is "Diamonds for The Ladies." What do we wear? Should my husband wear black tie? Caroline, United Kingdom

Dear Caroline,

When the dinner invitation doesn't specify "Black Tie" or "Formal Attire," you can assume the dress code is "Suits & Dresses." The diamonds don't have to be real; you can get away with a lot these days with the bling. Such as wearing a fake diamond cocktail ring or earrings.

The dress code for "Suits & Dresses" is best dark business suits for the men and knee-length cocktail dresses or dressy curvy skirt suits for the women, with beautiful shoes and carry a small clutch bag. The exception would be if the dress code dictated "Diamonds & Ballgowns," then you would know your husband should wear black tie. ~Didi

Former wife not invited to ex-mother-in-law's memorial service

Dear Didi,

My ex-husband, after a wonderful 38-year marriage, is so guilt ridden he never speaks to me. His mother just passed away. I am not invited to the memorial service even though his family still adores me. I am sending flowers. What should I write on the card? Would I make them aware I am hurt? M. J., Providence

Dear M. J.,

Sorry to tell you this but the memorial service is not about you. It is all about your former mother-in-law. It is not about you being hurt. When the memorial service is held in a house of worship, anyone can attend. You wouldn't have to be invited. The reception afterwards is another story, as you would have to be invited to that.

What you're telling me doesn't add up. If you really had 38 wonderful years of marriage then why did you get a divorce? Why do you still care about going to the funeral of your former mother-in-law? Not to be unkind, but it sounds as though that chapter of your life is finished, so you may want to try letting go and move on.

On the card write,"Kindest regards" and sign your name. ~Didi


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


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