How Much Food To Serve

I’ve found that I’ve been  asked this question in one form or another several times. Here is one version that I think accurately reflects the worries that some folks have about entertaining.

Dear Lady Hooper-Brackett

My son is being married at the church of his fiancee, which happens to be in New York City. We live in Boston as do many of our friends and family who are invited to the wedding and reception. We will all be carpooling or taking the train to NYC (which you can imagine is costing the group of 48 both time and money) The bride and her family have decided to serve only “light refreshments” at the reception. And by light she means tea-time finger sandwiches, champagne, and small dainty desserts in addition to the wedding cake. Am I wrong to feel that they should serve something a little more substantial? Especially with the groom’s family numbering so many and traveling such a distance. I’ve offered to contribute and they politely refuse.

Starving Mother of The Groom

Dear Starving Mother of The Groom

First I will say what you want me to say: HOW AWFUL! They should be ashamed at serving such meager cuisine.

Now I will say this:

Traditionally, the bride’s family hosts the reception and provides the apres-nuptial bounty. In our modern times, there seems to be more cost-splitting going on, but this is the traditional role that the bride and her family play. Basically, what they are serving is perfectly acceptable. Even if they would choose to serve only the wedding cake and punch or champagne, that is entirely correct.

NOW, with that being said…as you have been rebuffed in your efforts to contribute to the food kitty, I advise this:

Since all of the starving Bostonians are traveling together anyway, after the wedding reception, find a restaurant in the city where you can play hostess, pay for the cornucopia of vittles, and eat as much as you like. Your relatives will have full tummies and can travel home in comfort.

Best Wedding Wishes

The Lady Hooper-Brackett

Manners for Wedding Guests

I love a good nuptial celebration…and realize that some people may need to take a refresher on what is considered good etiquette for wedding guests (or prospective guests) Let us take a look a few general guidelines:

  1. Answer all invitations promptly. A general rule is to respond within a week of receiving the invitation.
  2. Although I see formal invitations sent less and less, should you receive one that is written in the third person, it must be answered in the same way. If a reply card is enclosed (which to me means that it is semi-formal) you indicate your acceptance or regret on the card.
  3. It is bad taste to ask to be invited to a wedding even if you feel you have a close relationship with the bride or groom.
  4. If, after accepting an invitation, it becomes necessary to cancel, call the bride or groom and explain why as soon as possible.
  5. Asking to bring a friend to the wedding is bad form.
  6. Do not ask to bring your children if they haven’t been invited. Even if they are invited, consider their maturity levels before accepting for them. One of the worst things to deal with at a wedding is the bored or hyperactive child who runs around hell-bent on annoying people.
  7. It is rude to skip the ceremony and only attend the reception.
  8. You are not obligated to send a present if you simply receive a wedding announcement. However, if you are given an invitation to the wedding, customarily you are expected to send a gift (even if you do not attend.
  9. Remember that the day belongs to the happy couple. It is especially important not to do anything that will take attention off of them. (No inebriated toasts!)

Best Guest Wishes,

The Lady Hooper-Brackett

Choosing a Honeymoon Destination

Someone posed this question and it took me a day or so to come up with answer. But I think my opinion might have been helpful to these folks!

Dear Lady Hooper-Brackett, 

All of the preparations for my wedding are going smoothly except for choosing where to go on our honeymoon. My fiance is an outdoorsman and wants to have an active honeymoon with fishing and hiking. I would rather go to museums and relax. I’m not saying this is actually causing us to fight, but my fiance has made the point that this is the only vacation he will get this year (he just started a new job and is limited on his days off). Help, please. Do you have any suggestions?

Harried Honeymooner

Dear Harried Honeymooner,

I empathize with your problem because, quite frankly, I went through the same thing with Lord Hooper-Brackett. You ask for help and suggestions…here they are:

  1. You should choose something that you will both enjoy. This trip begins your married life together and should be one of pleasant memories and not the first battle of wills in the marriage. Remember: manners and consideration are more important than ever in a happy household.
  2. You do not say if you wish to stay in the United States or go abroad, but I suggest France as a destination that will fit both of your interests in nicely. Paris a large walking city (hiking!!!) and is filled with museums to satisfy you (not to mention the wonderful food) and then you may take a day or two so your groom can indulge in fishing in Brittany.
  3. If the United States is your choice: Savannah, Georgia and Newport, RI offer fishing and cultural experiences. Actually any coastal city on the East Coast (by virtue of being part of the original colonies) should have a mix of history and recreation which will satisfy both of you.

I could exhaust myself making suggestions. My best advice: make this trip a reflection of you both as a couple. And try the fishing excursion. Even if you only sit on the boat and cheer him as he reels one in, your togetherness is all that matters.

Best Honeymoon Wishes,

The Lady Hooper-Brackett

Thoughts on Showers

I’ve attended many showers in my life and have been asked about the planning of countless others. Here are some of the more common answers to questions I receive about wedding showers.

Display or acknowledgment of gifts of money: I realize that at showers, the bride-to-be opens the gifts of those attending, but to open each envelope that might contain a check or cash and to announce to those gathered how much someone gave is quite gauche, in my opinion. To announce that someone gave you a modest amount after someone gave you a large amount can cause undue embarrassment. It is better to avoid public discussion of money at all costs.

Multiple showers or engagement parties: I caution against having too many parties. Should you have an extravagant party announcing your engagement, any showers given by friends should be small affairs. The financial strain placed on those who feel obligated to give multiple gifts is too great.

Work gifts: In many places a group gift is generally what is given by the coworkers of the engaged. Usually, not everyone in the department is invited to the wedding, but is it necessary to give an individual gift if you have already contributed to the group gift? I say no.

Family as hosts for showers: In the past it was frowned upon for the family of the bride to host a shower due to the appearance of the family asking for gifts for the bride. I realize that times have changed. A better suggestion would be for the host to be a friend of the bride and for the family to perhaps contribute ‘behind the scenes’ by supplying the food or decorations.

Cover charge to attend a shower: Believe it or not, I was once issued an invitation asking for a contribution to pay for the buffet supper served at a shower. This is completely improper. You do not charge your guests for the privilege of attending your shower and giving you a gift! (The HORROR!!!)

Best Shower Wishes,

The Lady Hooper-Brackett

Addressing Invitations ‘And Family’

It is often asked of me if it is acceptable to add ‘And Family’ or ‘And Guest’ when addressing invitation envelopes. Etiquette-wise this is a no-no and I personally abhor this practice. When I was a young lady, many invitations used to come to the house inviting my parents to weddings and on all of the envelopes, the words ‘And Family’ were included. This made me sad because it seemed no one cared enough to remember that I actually had a name. Do you wish to make someone feel that you don’t care enough to remember their name but sincerely request the honor of their presence on your big day? The message is incongruous.

Also, your idea of what constitutes family may not be the same as the one receiving the invitation. The person receiving the invitation may invite their second-cousin twice removed just because there will be an open bar. Being specific on your invitation is much smarter.

I advise the following when issuing invitations:

For couples not living together or married, address it to the party that is best known to you. For example, if it is your cousin Cathy that you are close to address it:

Miss Cathy Cousin and Mr. Alfred Smith

followed by Cathy’s address. Do not write the impersonal ‘And Guest’

Send a joint invitation to married/cohabiting couples. Should they have daughters living in the home that you wish to invite, you may include them on the couples’ invitation. The outer envelope is written out in the format below (names and addresses are fictitious)

Mr./Mrs. and Mr./Mrs. Phoebus Cornelius Bicuspid

The Misses Bicuspid

1313 Mockingbird Lane

Quahog, RI 02896

If there are sons living in the home, they get their own joint invitation, with the outer envelope written as below:

The Messrs. Bicuspid

(same address format as above)

On the inner envelope (the one in which the actual invitation and reply card are safely housed) you would write out each name, as below

Mr. Phoebus Bicuspid

Mrs. Fiona Bicuspid

Miss Esmerelda Bicuspid

Miss Ann Bicuspid

and for the sons’ inner envelope:

Mister Figaro Bicuspid

Mister Jack Bicuspid

The bottom line for me: only invite those that you mean to invite and know the name of those you invite.

Best Invitation Wishes,

The Lady Hooper-Brackett