Advise: Etiquette

Dear Dee,
It isn’t very long until my wedding and my mother just informed me that it’s very important to her that I have the “something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue.” The something new is easy – I purchased a new wedding dress – but could you help me with some ideas for the others?

Edith Capitan

Though it might seem to be an outdated tradition, incorporating these objects into your wedding day will not only help to make your mother happy, but there are also ways to add some very special touches to your special day.

The “something new,” as you wrote, is easy: your dress is something new, as can be your lingerie or even a present from your groom.

For “something old,” the traditional touch is a British sixpence worn in your left shoe for luck. As an alternative, consider wearing wedding bands from chosen matriarchs in your and your groom’s family on your right hand.

“Something borrowed” can be as simple as incorporating a piece of heirloom jewelry (as in the bands mentioned above) or carrying a handkerchief of your mother’s. For a different idea, why not ask your maid of honor if you can wear that pair of earrings of hers that you’ve always admired or borrow a cufflink from your groom and attach it to your garter?

The last, “something blue,” is the most straightforward one for the modern bride to make her own. From wearing blue shoes to painting your nails and/or toenails blue, from carrying a peacock feather in your bouquet or wearing one in your hair to embroidering your wedding date and initials onto your dress lining in blue or even wearing a pair of pale blue underwear, the options are limited only by your imagination.

Dear Ms. Lane,
I am so honored that my best friend in the world has asked me to be her maid of honor. She and I have been friends almost all our lives and I know her family very well. That’s what worries me: While my friend isn’t very traditional, her mother is. Before everything starts getting very busy, please tell me what the responsibilities of my position will be so that I can be prepared.

Alicia Kanton

First, let me say congratulations! Serving as maid of honor for someone you truly care about is one of the most exciting, sentimental, loving, frustrating and, often, expensive positions a person can have. But it doesn’t have to be all these things.

I suggest that you take the list below and have a talk with your friend. Offer her my suggestions and any of your own, and then ask her what she foresees that she might want you to do and/or in what she might want you to take part. Then, put it in writing. Acknowledge that these takes and opportunities will most likely morph and change as things progress, but having a list in front of you both will keep many misunderstandings from occurring.

At this point, depending on your friend’s feelings and your relationship with her mother, you might consider going to lunch or having coffee with your friend’s mother so that the three of you can celebrate and discuss what’s to come.

Below are the traditional maid of honor duties; beyond these a maid of honor is typically the person to whom the bride comes when she’s stressed, scared, angry, happy, excited and experiencing every emotion in between. It can be a very stressful place to inhabit, but if the couple is a good match, and if you truly love your friend, it’s among the most special honors you can be given.

Maid of honor duties traditionally include:

• Hosting a luncheon or shower for the bride (or couple) – often along with the bridesmaids.

• Attending all pre-wedding parties and showers possible. (Tradition states that the maid of honor isn’t required to bring more than one – typically small – gift to each shower.)

• Attending the rehearsal – making certain to take note of any instructions in case the bride forgets – and the rehearsal dinner.

 • Being “head bridesmaid” on the big day, checking in with the other bridesmaids to make sure they arrive on time and have all of their accessories (and appropriate shoes and undergarments) with them and in place.

• Helping the bride dress and making any last-minute adjustments to her attire (and her attitude, if needed) before she walks down the aisle.

• Holding the groom’s ring during the ceremony if there isn’t a ring bearer, or if the ring bearer needs to be relieved of his duties after he walks down the aisle.

• Acting as an official witness by signing the marriage license.

• Standing next to the couple in the receiving line (if they’re having one).

• Sitting at the head table and offering a toast to the couple.

• Bustling the bride’s gown and making any adjustments needed to her outfit for the reception.

• If possible, making certain the bride eats something and that she always has something to drink (that isn’t always alcoholic).

• Helping the bride change into her going-away outfit (if one is chosen).

• Assuring that all of the pieces of the bride’s day arrive to her hotel room or home after the event.

Dear Dee,
My fiancé and I are starting to receive wedding gifts, which is so exciting and a little overwhelming, but we’re running into some problems. A couple of the presents arrived broken and a good portion of the crystal that we registered for is on backorder. What do we do?

Sandra O’Connor
New Orleans

Those are two very difficult situations to handle properly, and the best ways in which to handle them are changing as technology progresses.

If a gift arrives broken, the first thought is to just throw it away and write a nice thank-you note to the sender. However, if the person who sent you the gift sent it to you on his or her own, through FedEx Ground for example, only he or she can file a claim that might allow for the gift to be replaced at no extra charge. In addition, you can often check to see if a present was insured or if the store at which you registered has a policy for such things.

Thus, your first step should be to call the store and ask customer service what they can do. The phone number should be listed on the package or on the gift receipt (often there’s also a website listed, and you can frequently send an email to customer service through it or through your registry login). Explain the situation and inquire what can be done.

If you’re unable to determine from whence the present came, you’ll have to make a judgment call. The traditional answer is that telling the sender that the gift arrived broken would be distressing to the giver and make him or her feel as though they should spend additional time and money to purchase another present – a large no-no. If you are not close to the giver and/or if the gift is inexpensive and will most likely go unnoticed (a horrible thing to say, but sometimes a true one), I-would suggest sending a thank you note and staying quiet about the whole thing. If, however, the gift means a lot to you and if it comes from someone you feel you can be honest with, I would suggest calling him or her and being gracious and grateful. Be very careful in what you say. Express your love of the item, how thoughtful it is and how much you appreciate it but that, for example, the cut-crystal vase in your grandmother’s pattern arrived chipped. Ask what the two of you can do together to remedy the issue. If this is your choice, be prepared to offer to pay part of the item’s cost yourself and to go out of your way to assist the giver in any way he or she might need.

If you know that an item has been purchased from your registry but you haven’t received it because the item (or set of items) is on backorder, the best thing to do is to send a thank-you note immediately, within a week of receiving the notification. Then, when you do receive the gift, you can place a phone call or send an email thanking the sender and telling them how wonderful the gift is in person.

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