Newport Manners + Etiquette: Wedding Gift Etiquette

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


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Maybe she just came for the cake? This mom wants to know why her niece came empty-handed to her son's wedding.

Summer brings parties lingering over topics needing to be changed. Same-sex funeral etiquette when you're the executrix. How to angle a wedding gift out of someone who hasn't given one? What to do when your boyfriend's father dies. Questions of summertime blues to Didi Lorillard this week at

Changing the subject

Dear Didi,
At a long and leisurely lunch outside overlooking the beach with four friends, I found myself in an annoyingly agonizing place when they started bad-mouthing someone I'm rather fond of and have a lot of respect for. I felt trapped. Finally, after five minutes of listening quietly to the negativity I piped up, "You know I really like her." It stopped the conversation, but didn't have the effect I was hoping for–of tolerance and compassion. What would you have done in my sandals?  E.W.,  Nantucket, MA
Dear E.W.,
It may have been safer to have totally changed the subject by saying, "Does anyone know if the Red Sox won last night?" Don't misunderstand me, you did the right thing. Nevertheless, saying anything further would have been whistling into the wind.  ~Didi


Angling in the wedding presents

Dear Didi,
My niece attended my son's wedding and did not give a card. Should I ask why?  K.N., Woonsocket
Dear K.N.,
No, don't ask why. There is no rule carved in stone that states every guest has to give a wedding present. Don't demean yourself by acknowledging your cousin's bad manners. Believe it or not, some people are clueless. Also, she has up to a year to give a wedding gift, so they may get one from her yet. ~Didi


What to do when your boyfriend's father dies

Dear Didi,
My boyfriend of five years lost his father on Thursday, the wake will be on Sunday and the funeral on Monday.The problem is that I had a large vacation planned with my parents and my friend from college, all of whom are pressuring me not to cancel. The trip includes a cruise so if I don't board the ship on Monday I might as well cancel the trip. Which I would cancel if my friend was not attending. My boyfriend is so disappointed. His family is first generation and they have a protocol for these types of situations, of which I'm breaking the biggest rule. I am so torn up over this, I feel like he will never forgive me. If I do not attend, do I send a card to each sibling as well as his mother? Name and address withheld
Dear Anonymous,
Yes, send them all cards. Go ahead with what could be an adventure of a lifetime. After all, you're young, aren't married–or even engaged–so take your trip in good conscience. The time when your boyfriend will really need you is after all the commotion and fanfare of his father's funeral has settled down and he is left with the reality that his father is dead. Then you can spend quality time with him asking him questions about his father and encouraging him to tell you about the good times they shared together. Later is when he'll need you most to be a good listener.  ~Didi

The executrix thanking mourners

Dear Didi,
I am ashamed to say I have not written one thank-you card to anyone that sent flowers, attended the service, gave money toward the final expenses, etc. for a more than dear friend. She passed a year and a half ago. I am and have been terribly grief-stricken.
We shared each other's lives for about 35 years.
I think I am ready to start the acknowledgement process. Do you have any suggestions? I know it's never too late to acknowledge someone's kindnesses and/or gifts. I need something to say that is quick, short, to the point, and as painless as possible.
In addition, I want to reach out to her family and just say something like, 'glad we're family.'  
This task must be a 'less is more' activity and I'm reaching out to you for guidance and in a sense–support.  
I am the executrix of her estate and as such am responsible for her final expenses. She has family and they were very close. Relationships, as you know, can be difficult. W.H., Providence
Dear W.H.,
Please, don't feel ashamed or chastise yourself for not doing what is perceived to be the right thing. You are still in mourning.
A really civilized way to handle this would be to have a small card or piece of notepaper printed up. As the executrix of the estate, this would come under estate expenses. Since you are more than family and friend, this would express your relationship to the deceased and account for everyone else. Then you could add a handwritten line or two to thank the recipient for a particular good deed or, say, wreath of flowers or check, before signing your name. In most instances, just writing "thank-you" and signing your name is enough.
The family and friends of
Elizabeth Wilson
deeply appreciates and gratefully
acknowledges your kind 
expression of sympathy
You can be creative with a thin black border around the note card and with the font you choose. Center the above lines on the card or fold-over notepaper and handwrite your short message on the back or inside. The fact that you've taken the time to craft a thank-you note will say it all and then some.  ~Didi
We like hearing from you at and if we use your question, we can withhold your name and address. Didi researches etiquette and all matters of manners for her book, "Newport Etiquette." 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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