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Didi’s Manners & Etiquette: Dutch Treat Family Dinners + Wedding Updates

Wednesday, June 24, 2015


Organizing family and friends to chip in for a family Lobster Bake or simply taking the kids to a BBQ restaurant. Wedding etiquette updates about instructing the photographer and what's with bouquets, corsages and boutonnières?

Sharing cost of parents 50th anniversary

With our spouses we want to celebrate our parents' Fiftieth Anniversary and invite their closest friends. However, my parents' five children are not all in the same financial position. My sister and I are willing to foot most of the bill for a Lobster Bake in their honor, but we think our siblings should pitch in and pay for themselves and their children instead of bringing boxed gifts to the party. Our parents are downsizing and don't need anything. Celebrating with the entire family would mean more to them than material objects. How do we work this out to make all the families feel we're on a somewhat level playing field? I might add that travel expenses will be incurred by many of us.

~Anonymous, Narragansett

Make a list of all the ways that your siblings can contribute to the celebration with toasts, songs, flowers for the centerpieces, or by baking the anniversary cake. Find out who has what to offer in terms of airline miles to bring one of the family members home for the celebration. Or does someone live near the New Hampshire line and can buy inexpensive beer and wine at one of the state's liquor stores, while someone else is assigned to making up cheese plates. 

Handle this as a team effort. Look for ideas and resources as to how the other three families can contribute in a meaningful way. Maybe one of the families can write and sing a song to your parents. Put one of your siblings in charge of putting together a music track that includes your parents' favorites. Another could be in charge of decorations and making up placards for the seating.

Yet another sibling can be keeping track of who is doing or bringing what so that you don't end up with too much craft beer and no ice to chill it. Find a volunteer to put together a chronological assortment of family photos over the past five decades. Another creative type can design the invitation and send it out after assembling a guest list.

As the paying hosts you and your sister should figure out the cost to host each person, including guests, partners, and dates attending the Lobster Bake. Be sure to negotiate a reduced price for children under sixteen. Let's estimate the cost of the Lobster Bake to be $65 per adult. Then ask your siblings to pay that for their own dinners, saying you will be covering your parents and their friends. Encouraging your siblings' families to pitch in by creating other expressive ways to celebrate your parents anniversary will assure success.


Wedding bouquets and boutonnières

Our daughter’s big day is coming up and we’re wondering about wedding bouquets, boutonnieres, and corsages. How to choose them and how to distribute them? Do we take them to the church? Do the bridesmaids and groomsmen pick them up from us on the way to the church?

What colors should the boutonnières be, or what color should they not be?

The bouquets are white with shades of blues, and pinks.

Likewise, who beside the bride, bridesmaids and mother of the bride and groom’s mother carry bouquets or wear corsages, and what colors should they be?  

~MOB, Westport, CT

Let’s talk about the hours leading up to the ceremony and wedding bouquets and boutonnières. Having the formal photos of the families and the bridal party taken ahead of time, prior to the ceremony, is popular for practical reasons. Because you want everyone participating in the photo taking, looking their best with their bouquets and boutonnières, and not disheveled before they’ve had something to drink.

Choosing a picturesque location along the route between the house of worship and the reception for the formal photographs is ideal. It can even be outside the church, or on the grounds of the reception venue.

After the reception begins swinging, nobody will want to be responsible for rounding up the bridal party for formal shots. Least of all the mother of the bride.

Corralling the wedding party into formal photos after the ceremony, and before the reception, can be problematic and tiresome. When everyone is driving in different vehicles to the reception, there can be holdups delaying the arrival of the wedding couple at the wedding. For instance if they stop at a location along the way for the formal photos, it is easy to forget guests are waiting at the reception.

Have the photographer start with the bridesmaids gathering around the bride ceremonially in her home or hotel room to “dress” the bride and check one another’s hair and makeup over ice tea and tea sandwiches. The groom meets his groomsmen there as well, and the family joins some of the shots. The ushers are at the church ahead of time where their boutonnière is either inserted into the buttonhole of their lapel or secured with a pin signifying they're ready with the programs to escort guests up the aisle.

The mother of the bride arrives at the church at about that time to supervise and she is the last person in the bridal party to be escorted to her seat. As the saying goes, the mother of the bride "shuts" the church door.

Boutonnière is the French word for buttonhole.Traditionally they were worn by men for special occasions, less often now except at weddings and funerals, to distinguish members of the wedding party from the the guests. If a guest needs information, he looks for a groomsman or usher wearing a white, red, or blue cornflower in the button hole of his jacket’s right lapel above the handkerchief pocket. A green flower is worn to declare homosexuality. Making sure a straight pin is included with the boutonnière is helpful. Pushing the pin from inside the jacket out and in again tightly will secure the flowers' calyx to the jacket.

It goes without saying that any male guest can wear his own style of boutonnière. The ones you’ll be providing (or the groom will be responsible for) are for: the groom, his father, his best man, his groomsmen and his ushers, as well as for the bride’s father. Grandparents and uncles are optional, because when extended families extend to step-parents and their parents, it can get pricey.

A white boutonnière is the most formal and certain holidays call for a specific color flower, but nowadays anything goes for a wedding. Personally, I like the blue cornflower, although they are often difficult to find.

Wedding bouquets naturally reflect the flowers of the season and the bridesmaids’ bouquets are a smaller version of the bride's bouquet. In winter the flowers are deeper in color, in the fall they are the colors of autumn and in spring and summer you’ll see anything from pastels to the brightest pinks, blues, yellows, and purples.

More than likely the bridal bouquet includes at least one of the wedding colors, which is also found in the bridesmaids bouquets, boutonnières, corsages, table centerpieces and then again decorated on the wedding cake.

Personally, I’m not a fan of corsages. I don’t like making pin pricks in my clothing to attach them or having them crushed while dancing cheek to cheek. I wouldn’t wear a wrist corsage either unless I was reliving my junior prom. 


What to tell the wedding photographer

We've just received a form from the wedding photographer and we're trying to figure out our priorities in terms of whom he focuses on and when. Of course the bride and groom only want photos of their friends, but we would like the bigger picture with photographs of everyone. They have a video photographer who will most likely focus on on a large group, which is fine. What tips can you give us about how to preserve the glorious wedding day?

~ T.O., Falls Church, VA

There are so many sweet spots during the course of the wedding day that capturing everything would take more than one photographer. Having the photographer start with the dressing of the bride by her bridesmaids is a lovely way to begin because the excitement is contagious. It is highly recommended that the formal photos of the bride and groom with their families and bridal party are taken before traveling to the church.

Why? Forget superstition. There are no statistics revealing that marriages where the groom saw the bride in her bridal gown before she walked up the aisle on her father's arm are less likely to succeed. Picking the perfect setting for the formal photos is important. However, it means that the bride has to be dressed two hours before arriving at the church. If the dress is so gorgeous, why not photograph it early on before it is crushed and wilting. 

Having the photos of the bride arriving at the house of worship with her father are a prelude to the sweetness of him walking her up the aisle, whether he's her biological father, brother, or uncle. But hold that shot for a minute because you really want the photographer just inside the church door taking photos of couples and families entering, because those opportunities may not raise again. During the dancing, if the photographer doesn't know they are not a couple or related, the photo may prove meaningless. Suggest that your friends and family are photographed one shot at a time entering into the church.
Think of the photos of the ring bearers as the perfect thank-you present to the parents for arranging such a special element.

The rest of the photographs are pretty standard: the bride and groom walking down the aisle and out of the church, the receiving line, toasts, first dance, cutting of the cake, tossing the bouquet. What you want to do is to focus on people from the start, before the subjects become disheveled from too much wine and champagne and the tables look messy with too many glasses, half-eaten rubber chicken, and soiled napkins. You don't want a lot of shots of couples dancing with the guest of a guest.

One notation you may wish to add is the dress code for the wedding, because you don't want the photographer arriving in denim jeans when the restaurant where the reception is being held has a jacket and tie dress code. 


Sharing the restaurant bill

When we meet other families at a family style BBQ restaurant for supper with our kids and they have more kids than we do and we don't drink, how can we not split the bill fifty-fifty?  

~C.M, Atlanta

Approximate what your family will spend and be ready with cash to rush to pay your share. Be sure to include tax and gratuity. Alternatively, when you're ordering your food letting your waiter know exactly who you're paying for will undoubtedly result in a fairer chit when it comes to pulling out your credit or debit card. 


Do you have a dilemma about love, family and life in general for Didi? Go ahead and "Ask Didi."  If your Question is used, we can withhold your name and/or location.


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