Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Tying the Knot with Personal Style and Panache

Kelly's and Casey's first dance as a married couple.
Though the statistics tell us that fewer couples are getting married these days, and are merely cohabitating, my calendar and my Twitter feed paint a different picture; That tying the knot and weddings in general, are more popular than ever now. The most recent wedding I attended, was by far one of the most fun and the most unique weddings I have ever been too.
The Casey's groomsmen's waistcoats were ordered from the UK, as that was the only place my sister in-law and niece could find his family tartan.
Being a family member's wedding, my niece's to be exact, I thought it would be rather similar to my nephew's wedding back in March.  Both were at beautiful, beach locations (my nephew's wedding was at The Resort at Pelican Bay and my niece's at The St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort and both were fortunate to have unseasonably warm weather). Both had Irish and Italian traditions woven into the ceremonies and foods. Both my nephew and niece were marrying a "Casey." Both weddings were lovely. But that's where the similarities ended.
Kelly, with my big brother, at her engagement party and then dancing with her at the wedding reception.
Now, my older brother and I have always shared the same sense of humor. He shares it with his daughter as well. This wedding had Kelly's personality and sense of humor written all over it, along with her mother's excellent taste.
From the moment we arrived and were greeted with champagne, complimentary sunglasses (this was scheduled overlooking the beach at sunset) and took one look at the cover of the program, I knew this wedding would be fun. It was also a wedding at which we felt the hosts and bride and groom were actually honored by our "presence," (as the invitations generally read) and not simply our "presents," as so many weddings these days tend to make the guests feel.  
We mingled with family members we hadn't seen for ages, and by the time we sat down and looked through our programs, I knew we would remember this particular wedding very fondly.
Listed under "the cuteness" in the programs, were the ring bearer and flower girls. As one of the bridesmaids bowed out after becoming pregnant and realizing she'd have a 3 month old and wasn't quite sure what size she'd be for her dress, etc..., the bride's mother came up with the idea of having the new baby be a very young flower girl, with her "Flower Momma Escort" carrying her while escorting the next youngest flower girl who was only 4 years old. This was a first for me. Adorable!

The  "early drafts" of their "personalized vows" were funny and everyone was commenting on the Mad Libs... before, during and after the wedding ceremony.
The program's"early drafts" of their vows...
Exchanging the real vows (above) and the parents of the bride, Peggy and Kevin (below)

Not only was the reception dining room beautiful, but according to the enthusiastic St. Regis employee who showed us the way to the room, "Everything was brought in for this wedding! It's really something. Even the furniture in this lobby area was brought in! It is normally pretty empty, other than large potted plants." He then took us into the dining area, which was still being set up. He said he had wanted to see it after it was done, and he pointed to the two large family crests hanging on the wall. "Those were brought in specially for this wedding too. It's fantastic!" I had to agree. When I had lunch with my sister in-law and niece a few weeks back, they confirmed what I had been told about everything they had carefully chosen to suit them, right down to the furniture. 
The place settings were not only beautiful, but correctly done! Bejeweled menu cards corresponded to what each guest had picked for his or her main course: Red was for beef, a blue~green was for fish, etc... I loved the note of thanks to each guest at the table on the personalized place cards. Those were a nice touch!
Kelly and her mother, my sister in-law Peggy, went out and chose comfortable furniture to be brought in for those guests who wanted a break from the music or just wanted to relax peacefully after dinner, and away from the merriment. My brother and his wife had chosen seating for the eldest family members (the grandparents, great aunts, great uncles and such) so that they would not be sitting by any loud speakers blasting music at them, and so that they had easy access to and from the dining area. 

Large baskets with complimentary flip-flop sandals, in every imaginal size and color, were out in the lounge area after the dancing started, so that we could relieve ourselves of uncomfortable heels and dress shoes and really enjoy ourselves. "Alice in Wonderland" inspired treats and beer for guests to drink and nibble on, had tags hanging from them, reading "Drink Me" and "Eat Me" out in the lounge area too. Kelly and her mother, Peggy, really did think of everything to make their guests feel comfortable.
The Irish Ale was offered up with miniature cookies decorated with the Italian family crest.
But that was after a delicious dinner, along with entertainment by traditional Irish dancers, the traditional father daughter dance (my brother's speech and toast to the couple, was funny and touching... I really loved it) and a dance with the groom and his mother, the tossing of the bouquet and garter, a most unusual wedding cake of assorted goodies (Irish porter cake, Italian almond cookies, spumoni flavored macarons, chocolate, pistachio and cherry chocolate fountain and dipping bites), a taco bar, a cigar bar, and my personal favorite of the evening, grilled cheese sandwiches with thick cut bacon that were brought out by the wait staff to each table later in the evening. Those were delicious!
I asked Cliff, who often judges wines at local and international competitions, if he liked the wine choice and I got this goofy grin. I guessed that was a "yes."

With beautiful and carefully chosen floral arrangements, personal touches including nods to both the families' heritages, and every effort made to make sure the guests all were comfortable and had a good time, the O'Brian wedding experience is one that many a memory will treasure.
The bride and groom share a laugh before cutting the cake. I don't think I have ever seen my niece looking so happy and relaxed.
Dancing the night away.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Pitfalls of First-Time Dinner Parties

David Copperfield attempting to carve at the table, but failing miserably as his wife, helpful dog right beside the meat, and his guest look on. Utensils and plates fall from the table, the dining area is in complete disarray... I guess maybe we have all had some miserable first attempts at hosting a dinner party. Here's hoping everyone's Thanksgiving dinners and celebrations come off more smoothly!


Charles Dickens’s picturesque story of the life of David Copperfield is a classic tale. When Copperfield marries his childlike bride, Dora, they set up housekeeping. Dora has few domestic skills and very little common sense, however. One of their first attempts at housekeeping was to invite David’s good friend Tommy Traddles to dinner. Dickens’s description of the ensuing scene is one of the most amusing dining scenes in English literature. Copperfield starts to recount the evening: “I could not have wished for a prettier little wife at the opposite end of the table,” but the table, and the entire room, are hopelessly cramped and cluttered. Their dog, Jip, is another distraction:
I could have wished ... that Jip had never been encouraged to walk about the table-cloth during dinner. I began to think there was something disorderly in his being there at all, even if he had not been in the habit of putting his foot in the salt or the melted-butter. On this occasion he seemed to think he was introduced expressly to keep Traddles at bay; and he barked at my old friend, and made short runs at his plate ...

All of this is quite hilarious and is captured in the illustration. Another problem in the ill-fated meal is that Copperfield fails in his attempt to carve the “boiled leg of mutton.” Carving was most often reserved for the master of the house or for distinguished guests. All gentlemen were expected to know the exact way to carve any dish before them. Etiquette books at that time were full of carving instructions for every type of fowl or animal. As he struggles with the joint of meat, Copperfield asks Dora about another dish at the table. Dora had innocently purchased a little barrel of oysters. In the mid-19th century, oyster-knives, and all other appropriate flatware, were laid on all of the best tables to suit a host's and hostess' menu. Alas, the Copperfields “had no oyster-knives—and couldn’t have used them if we had; so we looked at the oysters and ate the mutton

The Personal History of David Copperfield was originally published in London in serial parts in 1849-50.

Friday, July 25, 2014

New Coed Teen Etiquette Course

The RSVP Institute of Etiquette’s newest coed “Teen and ‘Tween” Course for ages 12 and up, at the Historic Graber Olive House in Ontario is in the evenings, starting Tuesday, July 29th and ending Wednesday July 30th. The fee for the two, 2-hour classes is $55.00 per student. Classes are from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. The fee covers the classes, foods & handouts. 

The classes focus on:
• Key Skills~ Basic Manners, including; Introductions & Responses
• Dining Skills & Table Manners (w/foods to practice dining skills) 
• Manners; Home & Abroad, Cultural Diversity, Respect for Others 
• Deflecting Peer Pressure, Tech Etiquette, “Thank you" notes
Social Media Manners, Cell Phone Manners, Text Manners, etc... 
• Making Eye contact, Developing Great Posture & Good Grooming

   Questions? Email rsvpinstitute@gmail.com Call RSVP Institute: 909 923-5650 

 The Graber Olive House is located at: 315 E. Fourth Street, Ontario                             Phone  909-983-1761   
Registration forms with fee must be returned by July 28th to secure registration! For a form, please stop by the Graber Olive House or email Maura Graber at rsvpinstitute@gmail.com

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Etiquette of Responding to Invitations

This will sound strange, I am certain, but I would like to invite you to  a large party with some very important people. There will be fabulous food and scintillating conversation. Will you be able to attend?"
Imagine you are standing face to face with a friend, coworker, neighbor, relative, in-law, whomever... You invite your him or her to your _____________ (birthday party, wedding, anniversary party, all expense paid vacation to some delightful destination... you fill in the blank). This person can hear you.  This person is not blind, nor mute. However, this person stands speechless there in front of you. In fact, there is no discernible response on his or her face. It gets uncomfortable. 
"Look, Violet, this is getting a bit weird. Whatever our differences, I know you will enjoy this party! It is important to me that you join the family there."
You restate the invitation, adding, "I really need to know if you can come, as there is ____________ (a lot of planning involved, a lot of expense involved, a limited guest list, a short amount of time to get your passport and visa in order... you fill in the blank). This person still does not respond. You walk away confused, hurt, angry or _________ (you fill in the blank). This is exactly what happens when people do not respond to written invitations!
"You haven't had a stroke or something, have you?! I just saw you blink. Will you attend the party, or not?"
When I train new etiquette instructors, I encourage them to somehow incorporate their biggest etiquette pet peeve into their new business' names. My reasoning? It will be a constant reminder of why they embarked on their new careers and it is a great conversation starter. I learned both of these things when I started The R.S.V.P. Institute of Etiquette in 1990. 

I had always assumed that people were lazy by not responding to RSVP requests, or simply rude by responding that they'd be coming and then not showing up, or vice versa. As it turned out, I found the majority of people are ignorant to the actual meaning of an RSVP request. After starting my business, I became used to queries like, "I can never remember what RSVP means... Am I supposed to call if I'm not going? Or if I am going?" Even cashiers who took business checks from me would often ask (and some still do) similar questions. 

Then there was the mother of twins who invited my daughter to their birthday party. The mother repeatedly asked, "Is there a problem?" each of the 3 times I stated that I was RSVP'ing to the invitation. It was like playing a bizarre round of, "Who's on first?" I finally said, "On the party invitation there is a preprinted 'R.S.V.P.' and you wrote your phone number next to it. Right?" her baffled response, "Yes. Isn't that where my phone number is supposed to go?" Or the times my siblings and I hosted 75th birthday parties for our parents. For both occasions, invitees had 3 ways to respond to them; reply to me at my rsvpinstitute email account, mail the response card (already stamped and addressed to me at The RSVP Institute of Etiquette), or call me at 800-891-RSVP. Yet I still frustratingly had to call several people to ask, "Will you be joining us?"

So with that in mind, here are some wise words and advice from other etiquette enthusiasts on responding to invitations:
“When we receive a written invitation, we must answer immediately whether we accept or not, although silence may be considered equivalent to an acceptance. In the latter case, we should give a plausible reason of our declining, and do it with politeness. When the invitation is verbal, we must avoid being urged; for nothing is more foolish and disobliging; we ought either to accept or refuse in a frank and friendly manner, offering some reasonable motive for declining, to which we should not again refer. It is not allowable to be urged, except when we are requested to dine with someone whom we have seen only at the house of a third person, or when we are invited on a visit or other similar occasion. In the former case, if we accept, we should first leave a card in order to open the acquaintance. Having once accepted, we cannot break our engagement, unless for a most urgent cause.” From Elisabeth Celnart's “The Gentleman and Lady's Book of Politeness and Propriety of Deportment, Dedicated to the Youth of Both Sexes” 1833
“A well-bred man, receiving an invitation to dine with a friend should reply to it immediately, whether he accepts or declines it.”  From Cecil B. Hartley's “The Gentlemen's Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness / Being a Complete Guide for a Gentleman's Conduct in all / his Relations Towards Society” 1860 
“The answer to invitations to dine, accepting or declining, should be sent immediately, and are always addressed to the lady. If, after you have accepted an invitation, anything occurs to render it impossible for you to go, the lady should be informed of it immediately. It is a great breach of etiquette not to answer an invitation as soon after it is received as possible, and it is an insult to disappoint when we have promised.” From Arthur Martine's "Martine's Hand-book of Etiquette, and Guide to True Politeness” 1866 
"Balls, evening parties, soirees, receptions, or whatever else they may be called, are entirely arranged and controlled by Fashion and her administrators. The hired master of ceremonies, the upholsterer, the florist, the pastry-cook and confectioner, are, in fact, the dispensers of modern hospitality, if we may be permitted the sacrilegious use of that sacred word in such a connection. 
The ordinary evening parties or balls of our large cities are so much alike, that a dame whisked off, in the old mysterious way of the fairy-books, from one to the other, and set down within the arms of a fresh cavalier, would hardly be conscious of a change even in the pair of mustaches by which her cheek is titillated in the waltz. 
Cards are generally issued from ten days to four weeks before the ball or dancing-party to the various persons on the fashionable list, supplied by a Brown or some other hired undertaker of public ceremonials. This is the usual form of invitation, engraved upon a card or written upon note-paper:"Mrs. A. [or B.] requests the honor [or pleasure] of Mr.T's company on the evening of __, at half past eight o'clock. R. S.V.P." 
The hour is more frequently left unmentioned; and, even when specified, the guest is not expected to be punctual. None but the most intimate friends think of going to a formal and fashionable party, where there is to be dancing, before half past nine or ten o'clock, and an invited person may enter with propriety at any hour, however late, during the night. 
Whether an answer is requested or not by the letters R.S.V.P. (repondez, sil vous plait—" answer, if you please"), it must be sent in a day or two, and written in the same formal style as the invitation, the acceptance of which may be thus expressed: "Mr. T. accepts with pleasure the polite invitation of Mrs. A. for the evening of _______ ." 
A refusal should be written as follows: "Mr. T. regrets that he can not accept the polite invitation of Mrs. A. for the evening of ________."When an invitation is accepted, it must be, if possible, faithfully complied with. It is not seldom that an invited person takes an uninvited friend to a ball or evening dancing-party, but he ought not to do so without first asking permission of the giver of it. As he is not likely to be refused, he must hold himself entirely responsible for the character and conduct of his companion, who, previous to and after the party, should send a card.  From "Bazar Book of Decorum" 1870              

Well-bred people do not use R.S.V.P. on dinner invitations. Your guests will have sufficient politeness to reply without having their attention abruptly called to it." From "Mrs. Rorer's New Cook Book" 1898
“As to the use of "R.S.V.P.," or any of the phrases now preferred by many, as, "Please reply;" "The favor of an answer is requested," etc., this may be said: some authorities claim that all invitations should be answered; and that therefore these requests for a reply are a reflection on the good manners of the people invited. But such is not the popular understanding. All invitations that are plainly limited to a certain number of guests, as dinners, card parties, and certain exclusive receptions, should be answered at once, in order that vacancies may be filled. Whether the invitation is accompanied with the request for a reply or not, all thoughtful people will recognize the propriety. But on many occasions where numbers are not necessarily limited, only the hostess can say whether the reply is urgent or not; since it is a question of her personal convenience, the limits of house-room, or some other individual matter. As no one class of entertainments is given always under the same conditions, it is well to allow the hostess to choose whether she will add or omit the request for a reply to her invitations. Meanwhile, the punctilious may reply to every invitation of a strictly social character, and even if the host or hostess did not expect it, such reply can give no offense; whereas, the neglect of a necessary reply might prove very awkward and annoying.”  From Agnes H. Morton's “Etiquette” 1919
Formal Acceptance Or Regret Acceptances or regrets are always written. An engraved form to be filled in is vulgar—nothing could be in worse taste than to flaunt your popularity by announcing that it is impossible to answer your numerous invitations without the time-saving device of a printed blank. If you have a dozen or more invitations a day, if you have a hundred, hire a staff of secretaries if need be, but answer "by hand." From  Emily Post's “Etiquette” 1922
Judith Martin, aka "Miss Manners"

Issuing and Honoring Invitations

"Reply early and win a prize!" this exhortation was reported to Miss Manners by a gentleman of her acquaintance who found it not on the back of a cereal box, but on an otherwise conventionally engraved and worded wedding invitation from respectable friends. Oh. A new social form. A new version of "The favour of a reply is requested" or "Répondez s'il vous plaît" No doubt, it will soon catch on and be abbreviated as "R.e.w.p."

A width of smelling salts soon restored Miss Manners, and she was kindly helped up from the floor and into a chair. When she was feeling quite herself again, she reflected that such is the logical outcome of a situation she has long been following with dismay.

Traditionally, social invitations contained no instructions whatsoever about replying. Common sense and common decency so obviously required allowing party givers to know who would attend that it would have been insulting to point this out. How much humanity does it require to recognize the callousness of friends' ignoring your hospitable overtures? However, it is gotten harder and harder to insult people assuming that they have no manners or consideration, and so the "R.s.v.p." was born -- the discrete reminder in the corner of the invitation yes, we really do care this time.

This conceded that it was not worth the effort to get replies for certain types of parties, and so hosts would concentrate their forces on the important ones. The trade-off was a willingness to pay for wasted cocktail party hors d'oeuvres if they could get a head count for expensive dinners. It wasn't successful, and even more coercion was attempted. The horrible preprinted "R.s.v.p." card, already stamped, was included so that the guest wouldn't be taxed with the job of writing. Telephone numbers were supplied. Then there was "Regrets only," an oddity that puts the host in the amusing position of assuming that everyone who refuses regrets having to do so.

None of these ploys works, as Miss Manners is constantly hearing from desperate hosts. All she can advise them to do is telephone the people they invited and politely state, "We do hope we'll have the pleasure of seeing you next Saturday". Miss Manners' confidence that this would produce shame, or at least results, in the delinquent guests seems to have been unfounded. People who have tried it report that the supposedly cornered guests reply airily, "Well, we'll try to make it."

That bribery is now being attempted in order to force people to answer wedding invitations should not be a surprise. Miss Manners is only waiting to hear about lawsuits in which hosts will attempt to recover from prospective guests the expense of providing for those who refuse to indicate whether they will attend. From "Miss Manners' Guide for the Turn of the Millennium" 1983
Letitia Baldrige
The late Letitia Baldrige once said, ''Entertaining is the most basic part of human communication. It's the way we please each other.'' And when it comes to the RSVPs for entertainments we are invited to, as a society, what we have here is a failure to communicate. 


This is one French expression that just about everyone who has ever gone to a special event knows. In the world of etiquette, it's right up there with 'please' and 'thank you.' 

When An RSVP Is Unnecessary

Formal or informal invitations to cocktail parties or teas don't require an acceptance unless an RSVP is included. For these events, many hostesses may even indicate "regrets only" as a way of keeping a rough head count.
Among close friends, it's fine to call and RSVP to an informal event or holiday gathering. From Kate Spade's "Manners" 2004
"A timely response to an RSVP is vital because the hostess plans the menu around the number of people to serve." From Sue Fox's "Etiquette for Dummies" 2011

Offering timely responses to RSVPs 

The RSVP has always been a request for response, and it still is. An invitation warrants a response, usually by a specific date. When people are planning an event and honor you with an invitation, show the same respect by responding to their invitation. Let people know you received their invitation and either accept it or decline it." From Donna Fisher's "Professional Networking for Dummies" 2011

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

From Etiquipedia: Etiquette and the History of Forks

Etiquipedia: Etiquette and the History of Forks: An assortment of fork designs, for everything from Victorian green corn, to baked potatoes, bread, butter, ice cream and cheese ~ Thomas ...

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Praising Amy Vanderbilt's Etiquette

Sooner or later, everybody needs Amy Vanderbilt!

This article that I wrote, first appeared in a Southern California magazine back in 1993.  I decided it needed an update, and the following is the result.

Today's lifestyle requires a whole new set of manners. There's a book on my shelf that I've long considered my "business bible." I didn't buy it at a seminar or online.  In fact, I didn't even know I was buying the book.  It came with my "starter kit";  four cardboard suitcases of crystal, china, and a metal folding table.  That kit gave me the title of "Crystal Consultant."

I received my kit in January of 1975, while still a senior in high school.  I decided at age 17, that my future was in home-party-plan crystal sales and signed up.  The book was the sample, and I was supposed to take sales orders for it, though I can't ever recall selling one.  In fact, at one point, the book just seemed to be added weight to the rest of my kit, so I put it away on a shelf.

The book is Amy Vanderbilt's "Etiquette: The Guide to Gracious Living." it was, at the time, and probably still is today, the most complete book of etiquette ever written. Amy Vanderbilt happened to be, according to the catalog of crystal glued into the book's front cover, the company's "Special Advisor."  There was a special message from Amy, along with her photo. I was mildly impressed, and had heard the name, but that didn't stop me from trying to sell the book at garage sales over the years. No, my book really didn't mean too much to me until 1990, when it suddenly took on a new dimension in my life and simply demanded the respect it deserves.

Now I'm truly glad it's stuck with me. Not only is my book a gold mine of information that I delve into on a regular basis for my business, it is also a melancholy look at the past and how America used to behave and the rules by which one attempted to live.

The first copyright on the book was 1952 ; the last, 1972. Not so old chronologically, yet ancient in terms of social customs.

A thick book, covering babies to bidets, my favorite passage is on page 232 : "In greeting a woman friend in the street or in some public place, once she has bowed first, a man actually lifts his hat from his head, turning his head slightly towards the woman and smiling, if he wishes, but not stopping unless she stops first."

Now I have never bowed to a man that I can remember and I don't know if a situation will ever arise that I will be called to do so; however, I like the part about the man not stopping unless I stop first.

So much of our daily lives has changed since 1952 copyright, the only about half of my business bible is really usable in its current context. With our modern gadgets and hectic lifestyles, not to mention role reversal of the sexes, new rules need to be written and new manners, combined with a sense of social obligation, are in order.

So with that in mind and Amy's book back on my shelf, I have a few suggestions, 

From copyright 1993: Sunglasses
Take them off briefly, or lift them, when you are being interviewed, talking to others, etc...
When outdoors, say meeting someone on the street, after conversation has been established, casually lift or tip them, while smiling momentarily, in an attempt to establish eye contact. This should signal to the other person to do the same if he or she is also wearing sunglasses. Once eye contact has been made, readjust the glasses properly on your face.

When indoors, especially when being interviewed on TV, please remove the glasses completely, unless you have good reason to be wearing them. Blindness or other eye problems are good reasons. Celebrityhood or an over inflated ego or not.

And now, copyright 2014: 

Read the above

Copyright 2014: Google Glasses

The newest social pariah?
If you own them, congratulations. You are now part of an elite group of people - the newest social pariah. When outdoors, say meeting someone on the street, before conversation becomes established, remove the Google Glasses while you chat . Also apologize and make a quick vow not to record anything while you are talking.

From copyright 1993: Car Phones

You have an obligation to others in your car and to those sharing the road with you.

Most of us are born with two eyes, two ears and two hands. To attempt to defy Mother Nature by making three have any of these necessary is not only foolish, but risky as well. Trying to manually downshift, drink from your Big Gulp and talk on the phone all at the same time is pushing it.

You have an obligation to others in your car and to those sharing the road with you. Be polite and limit your other activities while driving to just one at a time, please.

From copyright 2014: Mobile Phones

Read the above

From copyright 1993: Fax Machines
If you must solicit business by fax, at least call in advance and ask for permission to send a fax.
Think about how you would feel if you had to pay for telemarketers' phone calls to disrupt your dinner at home, or the postage for the junk mail delivered to your mailbox. Now you have a good idea of how recipients of unsolicited faxes (hi tech junk mail) feel. They foot the bill for the paper, electricity, toner, and wear and tear on the machine itself all for the honor of receiving those faxes.

If you must solicit business by fax, at least call in advance and ask for permission to send a fax. The response others will give to such an unheard-of gesture might really surprise you. Politeness in business is rarely forgotten.

From copyright 2014: Fax Machines

If you still use fax machines in 2014, read the above.  And if you believe that fax machines are unimportant in this day and age, guess again.  Fax machines are still extremely important in Japan. Almost all resumes or CVS are faxed after they are written by hand. 

Good penmanship is valued in Japan and fax machines can successfully transmit your beautiful penmanship to the company that you are applying for a job from.

Actual "Hi Tech Junk Mail" of 2014?

Keep it to yourself! And that includes all you out there who knows some prints or some millionaire and you need my help to get his money from out of Nigeria or whatever country you are claiming to be from.

From copyright 1993: Video Cameras

Always ask before videotaping others.
Contrary to popular opinion, not everyone is dying to be videotaped simply because you have a camera in hand. Ask before videotaping others, unless you know ahead of time that they won't mind. Not only are you being polite, you are avoiding potential embarrassment, anger, or worse, lawsuits.

From copyright 2014: Video Cameras

Contrary to popular opinion, not everyone is dying to be videotaped simply because you have a camera or cell phone in hand. Ask before taping others. I know you want to be the next big thing on YouTube. Or you're angry at your neighbor, ex, teacher, coach or cop who just pulled you over. The tables are about to be turned back in another direction. People are getting fed up. Before you realize it, the taping of anyone without their approval is most likely going to be legislated. As it is, many celebrities are banning cell phones and videos from being taken in their presence. And just like anything else what celebrities do it trickles down to non celebrities and the general public. People are fed up. Get ready in advance and stop taping people without their permission.

One fun bit of trivia; Andy Warhol did artwork for Amy Vanderbilt's books. He was usually listed alongside one or two other artists, as having done the artwork for the books, however he was the only artist listed for the artwork in Amy Vanderbilt's 1950's cookbook.
From Amy's Complete Book of Etiquette:
"Who needs a book of etiquette? Everyone does. The simplest family, if it hopes to move just a little into a wider world, needs to know at least the elementary rules. Even the most sophisticated man or woman used to a great variety of social demands cannot hope to remember every single aspect of etiquette applying to even one possible social contingency. The human mind is so constructed that even if a person were to read through a book such as this from cover to cover he could retain only that information that had interest for him at the time of reading. Consciously, at least, the rest would be discarded as irrelevant to his way of life. But let some new way of living open up for him a move from city to country, a trip to a new part of the world and his etiquette book becomes his reference book, ready to piece out his own store of information.

You might imagine that the writer of an etiquette book would certainly know everything in it and therefore have no need for it as reference or guide. But even this is not the case. After ten years as an etiquette adviser, four years of writing this book four years of interviewing dozens of authorities in their own fields for material to be incorporated here I, too, can remember only those details that have or have had relevance to my own way of living. If you asked me, for example, some detail of a wedding in a faith other than my own, I might have to refer to my own book. The information is here the result of my research but in the writing of such sections I made no attempt to memorize all these details. However, in this book, I, like you, have such information in simple, complete form all in one place, and it can be readily found if needed.

The word "etiquette" for all the things I have tried to discuss is really inadequate, yet no other will do. It covers much more than "manners," the way in which we do things. It is considerably more than a treatise on a code of social behavior, although all the traditional information still of value has, I feel, been included in a way that is simple and concise, shorn of mumbo-jumbo and clearly learnable. For we must all learn the socially acceptable ways of living with others in no matter what society we move. Even in primitive societies there are such rules, some of them as complex and inexplicable as many of our own. Their original reason or purpose is lost, but their acceptance is still unquestioned."  

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Etiquette of Greeting and Seating Visiting Royalty

With the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, along with the little Prince George, visiting New Zealand and Australia, I thought now would be a great time to write about this again. I had originally written a blog post about this seating chart back in 2011, but accidently deleted it in 2012 while trying to correct an error I spotted. Fortunately, I had most of it copied into an email, so I retrieved the text and photos to post again.

Original seating chart for the State Dinner held on November 23, 1934 in honor of a royal visit by Prince Henry, The Duke of Gloucester

This is a fun and wonderful piece of history that I found on Ebay several years ago. It had evidently been folded up and stuck in an Australian drawer for over 60 years. I was actually looking for vintage Australian etiquette books on Ebay Australia when I stumbled upon the listing.

It is the original seating chart for the State Dinner held on November 23, 1934 in honour of a royal visit by Prince Henry, The Duke of Gloucester. He was in Australia from October 4th until December 11th of that year, and when I researched it later, I found it had been an important state visit by the Duke at the time. I was the only bidder on the item and won it for about $4.50 total. I had it framed and it hangs in my dining room.

Prince Henry, the Duke of Gloucester ~ "Generally, the people found him, as they found his brother the Duke of York, a little shy and somewhat embarrassed at the overwhelming nature of his reception."

You may be wondering, "Who is Prince Henry?" or, "Huh?" if you are here with me in the United States. He was the Queen’s uncle, and his son, the late Prince William of Gloucester, who died young in 1972, is who the Duke of Cambridge (aka the current Prince William) was named.

The Aussies know very well who he is however, so over the years I have been tempted to send this interesting historic document back to them. It should possibly be in a museum or with a historical group in Australia. Or, maybe mine is one of several copies they made for the 1934 event. Either way, I enjoy it and find it fascinating. Like I wrote in my book on mango forks, the Australians are the nicest people to do business with on Ebay, so I keep thinking I may just pop on over to visit there myself some day.

Note the "Capt. S.S. Bonham Carter" at Seat 2, a distant relative of actress Helena Bonham Carter.  He was later "Admiral Sir Stuart Bonham Carter", and had served in the Royal Navy in both World Wars and rose to the rank of Vice Admiral. 

I find it interesting who sat where at this dinner. Of course the Duke was seated in the center at the head table, labeled "A", along with local Australian dignitaries flanking him on either side. The Consul-General from Germany was at Seat 8 at Table B, and fairly far from the center of Table A, where the Duke sat. But he was 4 seats away to his left from the Consul from Poland and 4 seats away to his right from Captain S.S. Bonham Carter. Behind him, to his left just 2 seats away, seated at Table C was the Consul-General to France. In just 5 years time, Great Britain and France would be declaring war on Germany, due to its invasion of Poland.

Seated at tables C, D, E, F & G, were Consul-Generals from China, Spain, Norway, The Netherlands, Finland, Brazil, Paraguay, Czecho-Slovakia, Italy and Denmark, along with the U.S. and other assorted countries. Representatives from the church, Reuters, The Telegraph, The Sun, Labor Daily, and others were also seated throughout the mix. Some printed names had been crossed out, with new names written in by hand. Others were just listed as "Official." Notably absent? Women!

I love this photo of a young Prince Henry at Eton.  What a charming looking young chap!

Now back to the Duke... In 1934, the Duke of Gloucester was Prince Henry. Born on March 31, 1900, he was "Henry William Frederick Albert". He was the third son of George V and Queen Mary, thus he was the uncle of Queen Elizabeth II.

The Australian National Archives has a wonderful page devoted to him and his 1934 visit. The following are a few passages I found interesting...                                                                                                    
Prime Minister Lyons first announced news of the tour in Parliament:

"I have great pleasure in intimating that since the last meeting of this Parliament His Majesty the King has graciously given his consent to the visit to Australia of a member of the royal family on the occasion of the centenary of the state of Victoria. As honourable members are probably aware, His Majesty in the first instance approved of his son, Prince George [the Duke of Kent], visiting Australia. Later however, advice was received to the effect that His Majesty felt that Prince George, after a strenuous tour of South Africa, should not, in the same year, undertake another tour. Consequently, His Majesty approved of the substitution of His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester. 

From the Courier-Mail’s reporting of the event, it would appear that the Duke’s visit to Queensland at least was a wild success:  

"A dignified figure in a cavalcade of pomp and pageantry that struck an Imperial note, the Duke, his face browned with Queensland’s sunshine, made a truly Royal progress through bannered streets that echoed with the crash of band music and the skirl of bagpipes, and in which cheering thousands formed living colonnades, so densely packed that they seemed a solidified mass, vital and vivid with its pulsating loyalty, pouring forth with mighty voice its affection for the King’s son."

I was especially amused by this passage:

It would seem that the only negative incident of the Duke’s tour took place during his visit to Toowoomba:

A remarkable incident was associated with the Duke of Gloucester’s final hour in Toowoomba, when, at supper at the Citizen’s Ball, he was requested by a fireman to cease smoking a cigarette! The Duke was momentarily dismayed by the unusual nature of the request…
The incident, which was witnessed by a number of people near the principal table, was exceedingly regretted, as it was the only unfortunate happening in what was regarded as the most brilliant social gathering ever held in Toowoomba...When seen later, the Mayor said it was the most monstrous incident of which he had ever heard.

Under the heading of "General Correspondence relating to the Royal Visit, Canberra 1934-1935" you will find this recollection:

"In Queensland, the Courier Mail compiled a list of hints for citizens planning to celebrate the Duke’s arrival in the city. The newspaper stated, ‘Police and ambulance officers, remembering incidents of other royal visits and experiences in southern capitals, have issued these “Don’ts” to Brisbane citizens who will be in the city to welcome the Duke today.’

The list of ‘Don’ts’ include the following suggestions:

• Don’t let your pet dog follow you to town where he may be hurt or lost in the crowd
• Don’t let your youngsters wander away from you – if you can  help it
• Don’t go out without your hat
• Don’t expect the conductors to change a pound note.

When Prince Henry's brother, George VI, came to the throne in 1936, Henry was required to stay in the United Kingdom.  He had been appointed a potential regent for his niece, so until she came of age, in case her father died, Henry was needed there if she ascended the throne as a minor.

He was also the 11th Governor-General of Australia, from 1945 to 1947 and when he died in 1974, he was the last surviving Knight of the "Order of St. Patrick" and the longest surviving child of George V and Mary of Teck.

In 1934, the Duke and Australian Prime Minister Lyons, and Mrs. Lyons
The Current Duke of Gloucester is 
a grandson of George V and a first cousin to The Queen. He became heir to his father's titles following the death of his elder brother, Prince William of Gloucester, in a flying accident on 28 August 1972. He succeeded his father in June 1974.

Born Prince Richard of Gloucester on 26 August 1944 at Northampton, he was christened Richard Alexander Walter George. When he was four months old he was taken by his parents to Australia, where for two years (1945-47) his father was Governor-General.
HRH Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester

Modern Etiquette for Meeting Royalty-

There are no obligatory codes of behaviour when meeting The Queen or a member of the Royal Family, but many people wish to observe the traditional forms.

For men this is a neck bow (from the head only) whilst women do a small curtsy. Other people prefer simply to shake hands in the usual way.

On presentation to The Queen, the correct formal address is 'Your Majesty' and subsequently 'Ma'am'.

For male members of the Royal Family the same rules apply, with the title used in the first instance being 'Your Royal Highness' and subsequently 'Sir'.

For other female members of the Royal Family the first address is conventionally 'Your Royal Highness' followed by 'Ma'am' in later conversation.