Newport Manners: Is Wedding Etiquette Crumbling?

Wednesday, January 25, 2017


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What to you do about the softening of rigid, old-style wedding etiquette, the Honey Register, response cards, and replying to a wedding website? What about the death of penmanship and cursive writing? All questions to Didi Lorillard about what's the latest scoop on upcoming weddings at Newport Manners.

What people are talking about

Q.  What is this business with what they call the Honey Register? We've been invited to the wedding of our good friends' daughter. The bride and groom are asking guests to put money into their honeymoon wedding trip registry! I should add that my husband and the bride's father are in business together. Nevertheless, buying the bride a piece of silver for her pattern or a set of towels or a toaster oven is one thing, but giving them cash to go to the Maldives is outrageous. Do we have to give in to this request, or can we send her a set of embroidered guest towels?  Frugal in Crosby, Maine

A.  "The times they are a changin,'" as Bob Dylan reminded us decades ago. No, you do not have to contribute to the Honey Register. A register asking a guest to contribute money for a honeymoon, a downpayment on an apartment, or for a house restoration is merely a suggestion. Nowadays, because many couples are living together longer before getting married and marrying later in life, they've already set up housekeeping and thus own the requisite toaster oven, towels, etc. 

What the wedding couple are telling you is that they don't want or need: a candy dish, ice bucket, measuring cups, or a blender. What they're asking for is an experience. A memory they can Snapshot and Instagram and talk about with their friends, and children, one day. If they fit the profile of the modern working couple, then they would probably benefit from a vacation.  

There are no rules carved in stone dictating you have to give the wedding couple what they are asking for, because any kind of a bridal register is not de rigueur.  ~Didi

The death of penmanship

Q.  Our daughter and her fiancé are insisting on including a reply card with their wedding invitation. It has a cut-off date for responding and a list of entree preferences: vegan, filet mignon, or halibut. Since the invitations will be received six weeks before the reception dinner, how do guests know that far in advance what they'll want to eat? If they came to our house for dinner, they certainly wouldn't be given a choice of three entrees!

As the hosts, we should be able to serve one entree and have the caterer prepare a smaller amount of vegan entrees for those who don't eat meat. Why do we even need a reply card? Why can't the guest write us a short note telling us whether or not they are attending? If they can't write us a polite note, do we really want them at our daughter's wedding?  Anonymous, Savannah, Georgia

A.  People are talking about this. The problem runs deep. Don't get your knickers in a twist. The millennials (a third of the US population born between 1980-2000+) simply don't know how to write a note in longhand. This generation, also called Generation Y, was never taught penmanship as we know it. It was not part of their school curriculum; they were taught how to type instead of learning cursive writing, the Palmer Method.

The purpose of the cutoff date is to give the caterer an accurate headcount. If you tell the caterer you are feeding fifty guests and only forty-two actually show up, you will be charged for eight uneaten dinners. Why? Because the caterer will have to buy the food and arrange for waitstaff in advance.

About having an entree choice. It is about waste. It is about pleasing your guest. Making sure they are fed so that the alcohol is absorbed before getting in their car and driving home. 

Your guests who have strict dietary concerns know how to deal with this. Beforehand they will let you know that they have an allergy to seafood or nuts. Those dealing with sugar, salt, dairy, and gluten restrictions will snack ahead of time, and eat what part of the meal being served they can digest properly.

You're hosting guests who, predominately, have the 'me first' mentality. The host and the caterer are best served, if they know ahead of time who eats what.   ~Didi

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What to do about a wedding website....

Q.  We received a save-the-date card which has a link to the couple's wedding website. Apparently, the invitation will be on that website two months prior to the wedding. We even reply to the website, and all the information (dates, times, accommodations, bridal registry, dress code) is on that website. Our problem is that we are organic farmers and don't use or own a computer. My son is actually writing to you for me, so that we can find out what to do. The groom is my husband's nephew, so we want to do what's right.  Helen

A.  Write to the address on the save-the-date saying: We don't have access to a computer. Then ask if you can be sent a printout of the pertinent information that's on the website. 

Or ask your son if he would respond for you and relay the information to you. Because you will want to make a reservation ahead of time at one of the lodgings that is being recommended in order to qualify for a reduced rate. Usually a block of rooms is reserved for wedding guests, but there is a cutoff date. This is something you might want to take advantage of by calling the motel as soon as you know its name. You'll need to use a credit card to book the room.  ~Didi

Didi Lorillard researches all matters of manners and etiquette at Newport Manners. Your questions can be answered anonymously or privately.


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